Thursday, December 31, 2015

For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.

This mornings sky a swirling mass of reds and golds and purples. 

The old year ending in exuberant party mood. For the briefest of moments Bob glows pink. This makes me laugh.

From all of us at The Rickety Old Farmhouse best wishes for a New Year overflowing with health and happiness. And for friends in less fortunate parts of the world, the simplest of hopes - May you have a year without fear. 

As for the PONs ( a breed not noted for introspection ) they know that this coming year will be the best ever. Any rain will pass. If it gets too hot there will be a shady corner. When the wind blows they'll bark back at it. Who knows ? There may be sausages. 

And here, sung as it should be, is a wee touch of Scotland to welcome in the New Year:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The dou-dou.

Off to the hardware store for sunflower seeds for the bird feeder. For humans a chore. For PONs high adventure. The lady at the check out insists on giving Sophie a dou-dou. A lamb on a rope. 

Sophie and lamb on a rope become inseparable. This may be because her brother didn't get one. 

Bob is told in no uncertain fashion to steer well clear.

By late afternoon lamb on  a rope has been forgotten. It has been savaged to shreds and discarded under the laurel hedge. Perhaps what's left of it will reappear next year.

Sophie basks in the sun. When asked where she's put her new toy she turns with a  '' Lamb ? What lamb ? " look.

The fickleness of a diva.

Just another quiet day with dogs in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Shred the bubble wrap.

A day for playing Throw the Furry Fox. The PONs employ their '' What do you mean you're busy ?" stare. It works.

Sophie chases blackbirds round the orchard , digs for moles, paddles in the stream  and then sunbathes on the wooden garden table. She drapes her mud stained rear paws decorously over the side. Film starlet style.

First 'The Fonts'  computer gives up the ghost, then the microwave, then the kettle. Angus orders a new kettle. It's delivered within three days. The nice young lady at the mail order company suggests a number of other 'must have' household gadgets to add to the shipment. Angus says yes to all of them . Nothing like the line " They're extremely popular this year but I think we've got one left in stock " to clinch a deal.

'The Font' unpacks a 'Stair Tidy Tote' and expresses surprise. Or more precisely 'The Font' says '' Goodness! Who would have thought we'd ever need one of these ? ". Indeed . The 'hanging' storage solution  ( ' no home is complete without one' ) and the dish that absorbs used fat   ( 'never face blocked drains again' ) are unpacked in silence.

Bob and Sophie shred the bubble wrap. This alone qualifies it as the best day ever.

Monday, December 28, 2015

An enduring mystery.

One of life's enduring mysteries. With the house full of freshly filled water bowls, why do the PONs choose to drink from a rusty old watering can ?

Bob continues to monitor the Christmas tree for signs of trouble.

Fresh pomegranates in the supermarket. The French call them 'grenades'. Tomorrow there will be pomegranate juice rather than orange juice for breakfast.

We look at the other produce but decide to leave it alone. As all Calvinists know '' If it's too exotic looking - steer well clear ". The PONs , it can be deduced, have not had a Calvinist upbringing.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Affable and not so affable.

The Boxing Day hunt. It's supposed to start at eight but retired farmers are still showing up at eight thirty. Outside the Salle des Fetes, The Old Farmer, sporting a Canadian style hat with ear flaps, dispenses Floc from the stainless steel tea urn. Around nine the horn sounds and the hunt sets off. The over excited hunting dogs race to all points of the compass. A pack of a dozen rush past the gate and head off down the lane - in the wrong direction. Half an hour is then spent trying to round them up. The liberal helpings of pre-breakfast Floc don't help. The dogs are having a whale of a time. They come charging back down the lane and head off up the German billionaires drive towards the chateau. By this stage any animal within ten miles has heard the commotion and slipped away.

Bob and Sophie are greatly taken with all this excitement. They view it as some sort of canine rave. We head off in the car. The morning walk with the PONs taken well away from tipsy septuagenarians and their shotguns.

The weather continues to be clear and bright. Not quite twenty degrees today but close. 

Bob remains happy. The most affable fellow I've ever known.

Affable is not a word you'd use to describe Sophie. However, her wet nose continues to astound as does her ability to generate mischief out of nothing.

Both are in need of a major trim but it can wait. Cold weather must surely be on the way.

Just another of those quiet, uneventful, days in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Self control.

A day of comings and goings. Mid-morning Madame Bay and her Parisian sister show up at the front door. Madame Bay is wearing a voluminous red velvet coat , a paisley pashmina and an almost matching paisley turban. As a seasonal gesture she has wrapped a length of gold tinsel around her turban.

On the PONs evening walk we notice that the gold tinsel on one of the yew bushes outside the town hall is missing.

Throughout the day Sophie displays angelic self control and resists smoked salmon blinis.

For the PONs dinner some turkey, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts and gravy. Hoovered up. PON heaven. At night we sit outside under the full moon watching the stars and laughing. Bob positions himself , facing out, at one end of the swimming pool. Sophie mirrors him , facing out, at the other. Herders and herded have had a wonderful day. It has been thirty eight years since there was a full moon at Christmas. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Joyeux Noel.

Out along the ridge with Bob. Sophie stays in the kitchen with 'The Font'. There is Brandy Butter to be made.

Every morning Bob and master stand and look across the valley. Every morning, in a now standard routine, I tousle his hair, tell him this is his home and ask him what he can see. Today's routine is no different except, as if in answer to the question, an emerald green and red woodpecker flies up the hill and lands on a tree not five yards from us. We both stop and stare at this exotic burst of colour. A sheepdog owners Christmas moment. 

The air is heavy with Christmas quietness. No cars. No planes. Not even a breeze to rustle the leaves . Easy to forget just how many doctors and nurses and others are working today. This year their number swollen by all those working to keep Christmas safe. They give us the gift of not having to think about 'such' things for a little while longer. Selflessness and duty the quietest of human virtues. 

And here's a Christmas carol from as far North as you can get, sung by a Saami shepherdess to Kings and Wise Men at a royal wedding. A juxtaposition of simplicity and grandeur. A reminder of what today is all about. Strangely beautiful. A Happy Christmas to you all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bring me the change.

The sunny, unseasonably warm weather continues. Blue sky and shirtsleeves for our morning outing. The central heating is on but barely ticking over. 'The Font' fills the little Skoda up with petrol at 94 cents a litre . Not so long ago it was a Euro fifty.

At lunchtime the mayors secretary can be seen decorating the three small yews outside the town hall. This is the ' Here's $5 for decorations. Bring me the change ' way to celebrate Christmas.

And here is a picture of a PON boy in that split second before he's pounced on by an enthusiastic sister.

No Christmas Eve would be complete without a clip from the wonderful world of Swedish television. Who is the man in the red velvet smoking jacket ? What is the happy lady with her enormous earrings ( 0.56) thinking ? What is going through the minds of  the characters at the second piano (2.04) ?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Two different moods.

Bob is in a ' I is a happy boy ' mood.

Sophie is in a ' Why is no one paying attention to me ? ' mood.

Sophie's mood music is noisier than her brothers.

The little market town humming. It's not only the Brits who stop work for two weeks over Christmas.

There is something in the Calvinist DNA that finds sitting out in the sun in December irredeemably  naughty.

On our way back to the car we're passed by a Santa on stilts, an unsmiling man in a top hat playing drums and a rather inept juggler. Surprisingly they don't ask for money. In fact they seem to be remarkably noncommercial.

In the window of one of those upmarket furniture stores a set of Alessi Christmas baubles. Hard to imagine you could do much that's new with tree ornaments but these are rather stylish.

At nearly $25 a piece they're not selling. We'll wait until they're in the January sales.

And here is a jolly little Swedish Christmas number to kick off the day with a smile :

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Less is not always more.

Sun just rising the PONs are loaded into the car. This morning Bob is on the right, Sophie on the left. Bob always sits on the left. Our departure is delayed until this issue is resolved. Sophie finally recognizes she's in the wrong place.

We drive to the crossroads, dismount and head down the hill towards the clutch of small lakes. At this time in the morning the preserve of herons, kingfishers and a feisty flock of Bullfinches. Bob and Sophie run on - heads down, rumps up, tails waving. Deer, badgers, foxes and heaven alone knows what else have recently been here. PON heaven.

After an hour owner and dogs ( or perhaps just owner ) are ready to return. We stop off at the cafe in the little market town. The waiter brings a coffee, gets paid and then disappears inside. He reappears wearing a coat and scarf. '' There's a funeral in the church. Sit here for as long as you want " he says before hurrying across the street. A young paratrooper in dress uniform pushes a pram from which his baby daughter throws his kepi. His wife picks it up and dusts it down. They stop in the middle of the street and being French, kiss passionately. Middle aged women in cars drop off ageing fathers wearing medals. ' You go in. I'll find somewhere to park'. A smart couple, she in dark blue suit with red handbag; he in black coat scurry past. '' Do you think it's started ? " . Within five minutes the town has emptied. All the shops shut. A throng of townsfolk scurrying towards the church . A strangely other worldly sight. There can't be many places left where everyone stops what they're doing to say goodbye.This majestic piece: ,played at full ear-splitting volume on the church organ as the family arrive. The cigarette smokers hurry in.

Sitting alone we listen to the music pound up the steps from the church. I pick up a discarded paper from the next table. An article in Le Figaro about the British Prime Minsters presentation at the latest EU summit. ''Perfect in form and brilliant in style ". A rare thing indeed for an Anglo-Saxon to be praised.

A pair of out of season pilgrims walk through the village. Bob and Sophie greet them.

Another uneventful day with happy dogs. A day of small things not important enough for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Almost a 'moment'.

Turbocharged. This is the only way to describe the PON duo's excitement at the start of a new day. Sophie hurtles out of the front door and disappears into the orchard in pursuit of something only she can see. 

Previous generations of PONs were enthusiastic but these two seem to  have the happiness bug on steroids. ' The Font' wonders if it's perhaps it's a sign that we're the ones that are slowing down ?

Off with the angelic duo to Toulouse.

There is a group of people outside the City Hall wearing Santa hats. We stand and watch in the belief they might be about to do something. We are disappointed. We wait five minutes then wander off. They continue doing nothing. 

A moment of high drama at the outdoor cafe on the Place du Capitole. A Poodle is sitting on a chair at a table. A very French scene. It observes the PONs arrival with haughty disdain. For an awful moment we fear Sophie is about to have a 'diva' moment. Thankfully, the waiter quickly brings a croissant. This diffuses what could have been a 'tense' encounter. The Poodles owners are oblivious to the excitement unfolding two tables away. They must be Parisians. Angus notes that there is a knotted little black plastic bag under the Poodles chair. One of those incidental things dog owners notice. Perhaps the 'Poo'dle isn't so haughty after all.

While 'The Font' and Sophie go to the market for smoked salmon Bob and Angus go to the fancy wine merchant. Bob is tickled under the chin by the staff. He feigns insouciance then settles down by the 'Grand Burgundies' for a nap. Angus is mightily impressed with his choice of where to doze.

Just another day with two healthy dogs . Events too unimportant to be recorded in a diary but too much part of life to be completely forgotten.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Slightly spooky.

A blowy start to the day. Sophie races round the garden barking at the wind. Bob sits on his stump seat and does his best to ignore her.

Bob joins me for an expedition into the cellar in search of the crib. Sophie continues to bark at the wind.

The crib is brought out , dusted and set up in the downstairs hallway. Bought at a time when Prague was still frozen behind the Iron Curtain.

Two of the angels wings have fallen off and have to be stuck on with super glue. Apart from that it's withstood the ravages of time well. Mary stands on one side. The stern looking lady in a blue dress on the other. There never was a Joseph. Was it some strange Biblical revisionism on the part of the Slovak crib maker who decided single handedly to write him out of the plot ? 

Today is also the day for the ladies of the village to set up the creche in the church. When they finish the church is locked. It won't open again until the New Year. Another of those French ' we've always done it, so why stop now ? ' rituals. Are we alone in thinking this tradition has a slightly Stepford Wives tone ?

The workmen who laid the tiles on the roof of the Salle des Fetes did a bad job. They have been called back and told to do it again. Good to know we're not the only ones who have 'issues' with the local tradesmen.

So passes a pre-Christmas Saturday in deepest, deepest France profonde.