Monday, November 30, 2015

Strobe lights.

A bright start to the day. Ideal weather for mole hunting ....

PONdering the state of the universe ....

and guarding the front door.

After lunch Bob and his master head off to the rugby match. Bob settles on the bench next to me and is soon asleep, chin on my knee. The affable crowd is composed of local farmers, their male offspring and family dogs. All presumably banished from the house so that mother can take a nap. 

We return to find that The Old Farmer has been busy working on his Christmas decorations. Today a string of multi-coloured lights have been added to his terrace. These join the star ( which glows for much of the year and has been resolutely beaming away since the start of the month ) and the green and red lights that run around his gutters and are connected to the motion sensor at his front door. The new lights on the terrace have settings. These enable them to sometimes glow uniformly before suddenly flashing on and off at annoyingly regular intervals. 

Late at night Angus settles down in the drawing room to finish off a chapter of a book. Such is the luminosity from across the lane that he doesn't need to turn on a reading lamp. Bob wanders upstairs to make sure everything is alright. Angus discovers that the Old Farmers new lights have a manic 'strobe' setting. 

Another of those quiet days with happy, healthy dogs. 'Little' events too inconsequential for a diary but too important to go entirely unrecorded.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Not of the old school.

Sophie is in a particularly boisterous mood. Before breakfast she's barked at a cat, dug holes and still had time to savage her brother.

On our morning walk we pass The Very Old Farmer. He's sitting in his wheelchair half in and half out of his front door. While the district nurse tidies up his kitchen Bob and Sophie and their master stop  and chat.

After lunch the mayor takes down the flags from the war memorial. The shield still hanging at a jaunty angle. On Friday there was a meeting in the Prefecture. All the mayors of the region were instructed to attend. They were told to 'uphold discipline, squash rumours and maintain vigilance'. A daunting task in a commune of 67 souls. 

For the PONs a day for exploring the field beyond the orchard. A place where the soil is soft, the molehills are fresh and the sun is warm.

And here, to prove the power of humour, is the Twitter feed of the French Ambassador in Washington. Not a diplomat of the old school. The tweet about champagne caught my eye.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The overbite reappears.

We're off on a shopping expedition to the departmental capital. 45 minutes down the motorway. By eight an impatient Sophie is in her harness and at the front door. Her brother, who is experiencing a joy overload at the thought of going in the car,has to be 'encouraged' into his harness.

It's another day of national mourning. The Prefecture is bedecked with flags. Five at every first floor window. Outside, in the spot where the SS hanged a group of resistance fighters from an acacia tree, a small memorial to the recent events has been set up.

We go to the fancy cheese shop. There is something about their cheeses that is exceptional. Is it the suppliers, the selection or the fact that they have a variety of storerooms to keep them in pristine condition ?

The lady ahead of us slowly chooses no less than nine separate cheeses. '' My daughter is coming for lunch. She loves cheese ". The bearded young cheese monger, sensing our impatience, walks out from behind the counter and gives Bob and Sophie some slivers of Tomme de Savoie. The angelic duos tails thwack-thwack-thwack against the door in delight. Bob has another joy overload. He does his soft shoe shuffle and shows his overbite.

Onto the wine merchant who insists we try a bottle of white St.Joseph 2014. The PONs are less keen on the wine merchant but are happy to be allowed inside to observe what's going on.

Just another quiet day with dogs in deepest, deepest France profonde. Events too inconsequential for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The eyes say more than words ever could.

Sometimes a brother knows that it's best not to comment on his sisters hair.

There again the eyes can say more than words ever could.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Now that's something to give thanks for.

Bobs nose hints at mole hills that have been excavated.

On a Wednesday the chocolatier makes a weekly batch of seriously adult chocolates. He refuses to make chocolate in the summer because it melts. The height of summer is of course the busy tourist season. This is French commercial logic beyond the understanding of Anglo-Saxons. Today, the chocolatier is in a particularly expansive mood. He has launched three new flavours :

Ganache of hay ( foin ) and milk

Safron jelly with orange

Jelly of Floc ( the local firewater ) with melon flavoured marzipan.

While we choose his wife bustles out of the kitchen and makes us a cup of coffee. The PONs get given some slivers of croissant. They are then allowed out into the back garden where they examine a collection of gnomes. The PONs owners are too polite to ask whether the gnomes are a seasonal thing or are there all year round. 

For Bob and Sophie it's shaping up to be the best day ever. A trip in the car, molehills to excavate, gnomes to sniff and some croissant slivers. Now that's something to give thanks for. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Is everything alright ?

Angus gets up to let the PONS out of the front door. They appear in the kitchen 20 minutes later. It's apparent that Sophie has been digging. Why did I ever think that a girl dog would somehow be more decorous than a boy dog ?

In the little county town the police are out in force. Traffic moved away from the the side of the market hall and redirected through the car park. Chaos develops when an elderly lady in a Ford ignores the frantic signals of the traffic police and follows the route she always takes. A group of retired gentlemen stand and observe.

The cause of the dislocation soon apparent. A 4x4 has had a puncture. The bearded driver doesn't have a spare. '' You should always have a spare " says one of the retirees somewhat unhelpfully. A tow truck is called. Bob and his master watch as the 4x4 is winched up and driven away. The youngish policeman informs us that the Police Municipale have been issued with guns for the duration of the State of Emergency. On the basis of his traffic management skills Angus is not reassured.

Late at night Bob wanders up into the drawing room and puts his chin on Angus's knee. Sophie is a fiercely independent creature. Bob isn't. Before he settles down for the night he wants to know that everything's alright. A mano a mano and a tickle and he's satisfied that all is well. What different characters the two of them are.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Minus two.

Minus two this morning. Frost coating the grass. Frost + PON paws  =  A very lively start to the day.

Bob discovers another old toy in the depths of the laurel hedge.

His sister 'liberates' it.

Bob 'liberates' it back. This goes on for some time . 

Finally, the angelic duo are ready for their morning walk. In the little market town the workmen are only now removing the black ribbons from the flags. The three days of national mourning finished last Tuesday. Quite why they're only getting round to unfurling the flags now, a week later, is a mystery.  

The Old Farmer, resplendent in his green tartan lumberjack hat with ear flaps, is busy in his garden. Bob watches him, closely, from the stump seat. The Old Farmer piles up leaves and lights a fire. The fire crackles. A crackling fire , viewed from the safety of a stump seat, proves to be of great interest .

On Radio France a breakfast interview with an 'expert'. He informs us that France and Russia are leading the fight against ISIL. The Americans and the British, he opines,  are doing 'nothing'. A reminder that part of the joy of living abroad is gaining a different perspective on life. The 'expert' also says the Belgians are 'inept'. He seems quite democratic in his criticisms.

Monday, November 23, 2015


'They' look like this before we even head off on our morning walk.

'' Why ? " asks Angus. The angelic duo look completely unperturbed.

Cue for a trip to the waterfall. They'll get wet but some of the mud should wash off.

En route we chat with the Old Farmer. His court case went well. The purchaser of the Mercedes truck never paid him so he can't be liable for selling faulty goods. He's even been awarded costs.

Afterwards a trip to the garden centre. Time for new dog beds. Hopefully, now that the angelic duo are older the beds won't be shredded so quickly. The garden centre has thrown itself into the Christmas spirit.

A state of emergency being in place the Sapeurs-Pompiers drive by. Bob barks. They wave. Bob comes into the house wearing his '' that frightened them off " look.

In the afternoon Bob unearths the squeaky starfish. A peerless treasure hidden in the box hedge and saved for the onset of winter.

Mud , intimidated firemen and a reunion with a favoured toy. Can a day get any better ?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The first fire of winter.

We light the first fire of the winter. A strong chill wind blows in from the Bay of Biscay. The sort of frigid weather dogs love, dog owners less so.

The Old Farmer returns from Strasbourg. He's driven overnight. Later today we'll find out how his court case went.

On our morning walk the PONs follow the old Roman road that runs in a straight line across the fields. Twenty minutes walk out. Thirty minutes back. Going out is always undertaken at supercharged pace. Coming back is less frantic. Time to re-examine all those exciting scents that were given a cursory sniff on the way out. At the crossroads Sophie remembers that breakfast is waiting in the kitchen. The speed picks up again - dramatically.

A day for keeping watch at the gate. The angelic duo can sit like this for hours oblivious to the cold.

An afternoon for racing round the garden. The moles are back so there is much digging.

From this weeks Economist. An ordinary man remembered at the end of an extraordinary week. Somehow a charming and inclusive gesture for the magazine  to write about real people.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I spent it in good company.

The PONs are up and about early in readiness for the best day ever.

At the supermarket a 1970's era Citroen DS is parked jauntily. The carefree owner oblivious to the relationship between lines and parking spaces.

Back at home Madame Bay is showing her sister from Paris the sloping cooker hood. The younger sister sports a duck egg blue velveteen suit with sequins around the collar. When it comes to dress sense the Bay family clearly have a shared sense of the remarkable. Madame Bays sister, being a worldly wise Parisian, dots her sentences with words like a-dor-ab-le , in-croy-a-ble and ex-quis-ite. Rarely has a cooker hood elicited such praise. Bob gets called 'mon pauvre petit garcon' . Sophie eye up the lace hanky that dangles from the velveteen sleeve. She is encouraged out of the kitchen before there are attempts to 'liberate' it.

'The Font' hears this sung outside an Irish pub in the Marais. The (mostly) young folk all seem to know the words. In the circumstances of the week a fitting if unexpected choice. In Scotland it was, and is in the western islands, sung as an alternative to Auld Lang Syne. A song of the Highland clearances and of long journeys.

It is more traditionally sung by this Dublin choir

Friday, November 20, 2015

Is there anywhere as quiet as a French village in mid November ?

A morning sitting in the sunshine reading a book on Belgian foreign policy. One of those I've started it so I'm going to finish it type books. Ever serious Bob guards the front door. Sophie snores under my chair.

Day 3 of the cat saga. Cat now recognizes me and wraps itself round my ankles. We're down to one tin of cat food and one bottle of UHT milk. Let's hope The Old Farmer returns from his court case in Strasbourg tomorrow.

 It clouds over. The first of the cold weather said to be on its way. I bring up some logs in case they're needed for a fire. A group of bereted pilgrims wander through the village in the late afternoon. The PONs bark. Bob seems satisfied that he's terrorised them. I don't like to dishearten him. 

The PONs also bark when a tractor goes over the speed bump outside the front gate.

Is there anywhere as quiet as a French village in late autumn ?