Friday, July 31, 2015

The frou-frou lady.

It rains in a desultory ' I can't really be bothered' type way. The small army of melon pickers in the field at the crossroads seem delighted with the break in the heat. We wave. They wave back. Bob and Sophie bark.

The wrens nesting in the wisteria are also rejuvenated by the fresher weather. They chirrup happily away. Sophie sits for hours glaring at them. Bob wonders what she's glaring at.

The village fete on Sunday. The lady in the purple hat who sings the Marseillaise on Armistice Day has set out a variety of plant pots along her garden wall. The pots are colour coordinated in a rather frou-frou way.

In the afternoon the council workmen deliver crowd barriers. These are stacked up behind the war memorial. An unbiased observer might wonder if arranging for crowd barriers is wishful thinking on the organizers part. On our evening walk Bob christens them.  

Just another of those days with dogs, too uneventful for a diary but too important to be completely forgotten. 

The heat returns tomorrow. The mayor and The Old Farmer will be getting the replica 16th century pottery kiln ready for its annual firing.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The red trousered man returns.

This morning I open the shutters to find that strange half light that hints autumn's on its way. Not that this bothers Bob. He's awake and up the stairs as soon as he hears footsteps. '' I is Bob and I is here to help ". He prods me with a cold wet nose in case I'd failed to notice his presence.

While Angus checks the post Bob takes up position on his stump seat. Sophie lends encouragement from below. Both dogs exude that happy assurance that comes from knowing they contribute mightily to the smooth running of the household. Their owners may disagree with this assessment. Satisfied there are no intruders Bob clambers down, wanders into the hallway and points at his harness. Sophie saunters, hopefully, into the kitchen.

Mid-morning the red trousered kitchen designer arrives to drop off the stools we ordered two months ago. ''Just the right amount of colour. Not too much and not too little " he opines. He then, somewhat theatrically, claps his hands as if he's clanging cymbals together. 

The red trousered man has brought a sheaf of invoices, some anticipated, others not. '' Could you give me a cheque for the whole amount ? I'm closing for the holidays tomorrow and won't be back until mid-September ". Angus can't help but notice that Monsieur pantalon rouge is now driving a new very large and very shiny Mercedes van.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The turret.

Bob has one tremendously long white whisker that sticks out from the side of his muzzle. This remains steadfastly immune to being trimmed. Sophie's muzzle remains coated with mud.

There is a rugby match on Friday night. Who, in their right mind, would play in this heat ? Barring the arrival of arctic weather Bob and his master will  not be going.

We park and walk to the bakers. A chance for Bob and Sophie to savour big city life. We pass three cars, four bicycles, two delivery trucks and one of those vehicles with rotating brushes that wash the kerb. Sophie isn't taken with the latter. Bob is too busy christening a fire hydrant to be bothered.

On the corner of the street an old house, once very grand, today fast fading towards demolition. The wrought iron gates showing as much rust as paint. The tall, too thin turret looks as though it contains the tiniest of staircases; perhaps it's a survivor from the convent that stood on the site in the middle ages. Two doors down a marvellous example of 1920's shop architecture. Completely unchanged both inside and out. Prunes soaked in armagnac and coated in chocolate stored in large glass jars. At one time the lilac cladding must have raised provincial eyebrows. With more and more of the tradesmen moving to the new shopping centre on the outskirts of town the prune stores days must be numbered. The shops on either side long locked and shuttered.

We stop for a coffee on the Square. The waiter, unbidden, brings a bowl of iced water and places it on the floor. Bob settles down under the table. Sophie keeps a wary eye on a gentleman in a beret selling potatoes. Clearly a trouble maker. The waiter returns with two small biscuits. The PONs immediately look angelic.

And so we spend another quiet, sunny day in deepest France profonde. A record of those little mundanities that make up life and can be so easily forgotten.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beat that for exoticism !

Hot and humid. Sophie doesn't do humidity well...

... nor does Bob.

A detour to McDonald's for a bowl of iced water. The girl behind the counter brings out a croissant, a coffee, a large jug of iced water and a stainless steel bowl. She pours the water into the bowl and stands and watches as the ends of the croissant are torn off and distributed to the PONs. She laughs as their tails go into overdrive. Bob gives her his ' we'll be back to this establishment' look.

Less humid in the afternoon. The PONs are happy. A dollop of coconut ice cream to cool them down.

Affectionate observers of France can sometimes be amazed by the number of strikes the French are willing to put up with. Air traffic controllers, ferry operators, train drivers. Today it's the farmers. Something to do with export sales being down and the government not supplying enough subsidies. A further €600 million described by a radio spokesman as ' a joke '. To get their point across they've blocked the motorways with tractors. In the little market town they've tipped twenty tractor loads of cow dung in front of the supermarket. Not surprisingly the aisles are quiet. In the exotic foods section Heinz Baked Beans and cans of Dr.Peppers make an appearance. Beans on toast washed down with a glass of Dr.Peppers . Beat that for exoticism !

And here's a fuller explanation :

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nothing short of miraculous.

The man at the local computer store comes up with a solution for the defunct DELL. He tinkers with an old computer, pulls out the video card and sells it to us for €39. 'Take the old one out and just slide this new one in ". We leave unconvinced but after much installing it works. 'The Font' considers this to be nothing short of miraculous. It should be noted that the desktop now makes a deep burbling noise as it works.

We buy some fresh macaroons. The PONs put on their 'we're starving routine' but the young lady behind the counter is clearly not a dog person. Sophie lets out a yelp of annoyance and is reprimanded. As I close the tail gate there is no doubting the family diva is in a frump. Bob, as always, is happy.

The German billionaire has house guests. They wear shorts the same colour as the macaroons we've just bought. The man in Framboise, the woman Pistachio.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The jury is out.

A hot Sunday morning.A pre-breakfast walk down the hill and across the fields to the waterfall. Bob charges ahead overcome with excitement. Sophie, distracted by something that might be edible, lags behind. Finding she's been left alone the family diva lets out a loud yelp and rushes to catch up. Master and brother receive a ' Don't you know it's rude to ignore a lady ? ' frown. Then she's off again. Lured away by some dried deer poo. Very lady like. Fifty yards on there's another yelp, another mad rush to catch up and another frown. 

The whee lhoo whee call of the suddenly everywhere Orioles; a Nuthatch, invisible on the ground, soars out of the stubble, gold and blue feathers caught in the rising sun. Is there any greater luxury in life than to be out early with two healthy dogs ? The things you see, the sounds you hear, the excitement you share. I clamber back up the hill laughing. Sophie follows on, frowning.

The desktop still broken. The laptop, despite its claims to speed and competence, painfully slow at downloading pictures. It has an aversion to blogging. Unbidden, the nice young lady at DELL e-mails to say she's run a diagnostic scan on the old machine and the problem is the video card. '' Perhaps you might find a replacement on Amazon ? " A new computer with Windows 10 and a QWERTY keyboard ( as well as a French keyboard which is obligatory in France whether you want it or not ) will arrive sometime in the next two weeks.

'The Font' finds a field mouse peering out ,affably, from the cupboard under the sink in the downstairs kitchen. It looks up, then clambers down and rushes out of the door that leads onto the terrace. Has it just wandered in ? Has the repointing  done anything to stop them building their nests in the walls ? Does another year of finding stashes of berries and nuts carefully hidden in shoes and slippers lie ahead ? The jury is out. Naturally, neither PON is aware of the presence of this four legged creature yards away from them.

Friday, July 24, 2015

An interruption.

The Dell computer gives up the ghost. The delightful young lady at the help desk tries to sort it out but after forty five minutes of telling me which buttons to press finally says its clinically dead. ' It is four years old ' she says in a tone of voice that makes it quite clear that spare parts are no longer produced.

It is impossible to order a replacement with an English keyboard. For delivery to a French address a QWERTY keyboard is 'out of policy'. People, apparently, really do speak like that. There is no arguing with 'out of policy'.

Until a replacement can be sourced blog posts over the next few days may be less regular than usual. 

Bob and Sophie are in fine form. These are days for dozing, playing savage your brother and generally chilling out.

Tonight there is a 'Cinema in the Open Air' showing of a classic French comedy on the plastered wall of the Salle des Fetes. The mayor and The Old Farmer have strung a web of power cables across the car park to the projector mounted on the cemetery wall. It is also International Week of the Horse borne Pilgrim. This explains why there are horses everywhere. 'The Font' says thousands. Angus would settle for hundreds. Whatever the number you have to be careful where you walk. Very careful.

Normal service will be resumed asap. After dinner the PONs have some coconut ice cream to cool them down. Life is good.


Bob and Sophie start their day enthusiastically and it sort of grows from there. They exude contentment like radium exudes energy. Bobs 24/7 waving tail and Sophie's gloriously wet nose objects of amazement to their owners. Today is a morning for hurtling into the lavender beds. This causes the butterflies to pirouette into the air. Priceless. 

We saunter across to the church, Bob in the lead, Sophie trailing behind. The man with the beret and the bad tempered Yorkie is installing a new grille in the porch. This allows passers by to see the frescoes while stopping anyone from stealing the statue of the village patron saint. The grille is excellent for looking through but it has a flaw. The village cats can squeeze under it and the pigeons from the bell tower can fly over it. 

Yesterdays rain has dislodged some tiles over the transept and a large damp patch stretches across the floor in front of the altar. '' I'll have to go up and sort it out " says the man with the beret, matter of factly. The evil Yorkie makes threatening noises at the non-plussed PONs. Sophie stands behind my legs with an alarmed ' Lordy ! Is that a growling rat ? ' look on her face. We wish beret man well and leave before Sophie tests out her hypothesis.

The builders are busy re-pointing the stone work on the side of the house. Sophie may be bewildered by the Yorkie's animosity but she has no hesitation when it comes to vetting the builders. She walks up and glares at them. They give her a piece of biscuit. Bob also gets a piece. The PONs then roll in the pile of sand by the cement mixer. Before he goes Bob christens it. He sports a serious '' You can never be too sure when it comes to dealing with sand " face.

So passes another day. The sort of events too small to be recorded in a diary but too interwoven with life to go totally overlooked. Dog owner days.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Singing in the rain.

The day dawns with blue skies and a gentle wind. Two horse boxes appear on the village green. Four riders saddle up their mounts and trot off towards the Holy Well. Equestrian pilgrims. Within half an hour the skies cloud over and it starts to rain. A brief shower and then whooosh ! an almighty downpour. A sheet of water flowing along the lane towards the ox track where it makes a right angled turn and disappears down the hill. It takes one of the spring planted geraniums with it. Then, as suddenly as it came, the rain goes. Strangely there's no thunder.

Bob watches the downpour from his vantage point at the front door. Sophie steps over him and wanders out into the orchard. She's called back inside. She turns, looks at me and then trots off to the far reaches of the garden. Bob follows her. The two of them cavorting under the deluge like canine versions of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. 

The rest of the day is spent drying out, lazing in the sun and watching as latter day pilgrims and their rucksacks are loaded in the car and driven off to the station to get the afternoon 'connecting' train to Paris via Bordeaux. 

Today the builders return for two days to do some rendering . A trail of twigs and hazelnuts an indication that the field mice are starting to build their nests in the walls of The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Perhaps the rendering will stop them coming in. Perhaps it won't.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Unrequited love.

Bob hasn't got the hang of house guests. He feels the need to be up to greet everyone. He also feels the need to say goodnight to everyone. The net result is his sleep is foreshortened. This morning I come downstairs and find him snoring away. He wakes looking squiffy. Sophie has a different approach. She only feels the need to greet house guests if they have food in their hands. The rest of the time she ignores them. 

On the other side of the valley the clouds are building up over the mountains. Accuweather says ' rain in 71 minutes '. Two hours later it announces ' rain in 117 minutes '. Wherever the rain is falling it's not here.

Over lunch MIT boy regales us with tales of unrequited love. Besotted with a French girl with the face of an angel he takes a porters job in a €750 a night boutique hotel where she works as a receptionist. Staff accommodation is in an unairconditioned apartment shared with two chain smoking Bulgarian sous chefs. They teach him card tricks. His job involves getting up early and taking the hotel van to the discount supermarket to pick up what's needed for the 'fresh every day' breakfast buffet . Each morning he witnesses a miracle. Between the discount store and the fancy hotel buffet the Aldi ' Family Price Buster - 4 for €2.60 ' melons transform themselves into ' Local Cantaloupes from the hills above Mougins '. Sadly, it's soon apparent the girl with the face of an angel seems to be less impressed with him than she is with the Russian with the red Ferrari. Unrequited love. Time to dust down his Eurail pass .

Bob catches up on lost sleep from his vantage point at the front door. Later there will be games of 'throw the furry fox'. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A triumphant marriage.

The PONs and their master head down through the sunflower fields to the stream. We dream of rain. The clouds on the horizon have other ideas. They remain in exactly the same spot throughout the day. Lazy clouds.

Bob observes while I pour 50 kilos of salt into the pool. Why anyone ever has a pool is beyond me. An eternity of adding chemicals and checking PH balances all for a few brief weeks of use.

Afterwards, the wooden table is power washed. Bob opts to use it for a few minutes shut eye. Being the family guardian and pool supervisor is tiring work.

By late afternoon the clouds have melted into an all encompassing heat haze. We amble rather than walk down to the waterfall. Even the young Texan comments on the particularity of the heat. From the corner of the ridge a view of sunflowers stretching far into the distance. Bob and Sophie contentedly sniff scents.

The Old Farmers impromptu tour bus is sporting a new roof. The mayor had some spare plastic sheeting. This has been stretched over the Fords bare metal frame to provide commodious shade for the village elders. Their enthusiasm for the daily wind-in-the-hair excursion to neighbouring villages shows no sign of waning. The decision to only visit village halls which have functioning WC's a triumphant marriage of practicality and scheduling.