Saturday, December 31, 2016

“ Hope has two beautiful daughters ”

A grey and cloudy start to the day. Bob thinks it's simply wonderful weather. There's been rain in the foothills and the little waterfall is springing back to life. Bobs fishing skills remain inept.

The American boys find a burger restaurant. Angus blanches at the thought of a tuna steak topped with foie gras for breakfast. I think indigestion, they think 'great'.  Another sign I've turned into my father ?

One of those '' What are we going to do now ? " days when Bob is attached to my ankles.

Sophie makes it clear that she should be allowed to climb stairs. 

Angus busies himself finding his sporran which has been put away in that 'obvious' place where it can't possibly go missing. I stumble across the pottery that we bought at the 'fayre' in August as Christmas presents.

And so 2017 nears. A year to embrace with confidence. It may be a year when courage and patience will be much valued travelling companions. Calm or turbulent we are going where we've not been before, so let's be ready for the adventure. St. Augustines words come to mind : ' Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are '. I guess that's a way of saying have faith in the future and don't let politicians lies and half truths go unchallenged.

So, a simple wish from all of us at The Rickety Old Farmhouse; May 2017 be the brightest portion of your life . ''Let the New Year bring you health. For where there’s health there’s happiness and where there’s happiness there’s wealth beyond measure ".  

This is the best version of Auld Lang Syne. 
Sung as it should be and as it will be here at midnight: 

A wonderful New Year to you all.

A random aside for bagpipe lovers.
'The Font' claims to have heard Auld Lang Syne played at a funeral in Stockholm. Angus can't remember it. 'The Font' is right and here at the 48:48 mark is the proof. Most unusual -even more so as the notes to the Order of Service say it's an '' Engelsk folk melodi ".

Friday, December 30, 2016


Bright but decidedly chilly. I light a fire before Bob heads off with me along the lane.

The Old Farmer and the Belgian lady return from their Christmas tour.  All went well apart from a problem with water seeping into the ancient Fords alternator on their second day on the road. ‘' We spent a night in Perigeux and the engine started up as right as rain the next morning’’  says the Belgian lady with a healthy disregard for logic.

All morning the sound of cutting and hammering fills the air. The man with anger management issues is at home for the New Year. He’s putting up a new chicken coop. His errant , grub hunting, hens cluck contentedly away on the village green as he does so. The chances of the free spirited hens being confined to the new coop seem remote.

The village odd job man does some ‘work’ on the light in the church porch. We’ve given the mayor a three armed brass lantern to replace the hideous frosted glass demi-lune bathroom light that was there. Mid-afternoon there is the sound of swearing. All the power in the village goes off with the miraculous exception of The Rickety Old Farmhouse. The power comes on again at five.

'The Font' returns after a six hour layover in Barcelona. Sophie is overjoyed. Bob exudes the contentment of a herder who has found a lost sheep. There is little else in life that comes close to matching this level of 'contentment'.

There can be no doubting Bobs tongue has recovered from its recent paralysis.

Sophie sleeps a lot. The cold must be decidedly uncomfortable on her shaved extremities. I put her out in a sunny spot in the garden on a plastic sheet covered by a thick mattress , a towel and a blanket. She has soon turned the blanket into a nest from which only a very wet nose and the end of a shaggy muzzle sticks out.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A mischievous wind.

The Rickety Old Farmhouse, like many houses in these parts, was built with windows on three of its four sides. Seven windows on the East side, six on the North, four on the South and a solid, windowless, wall to the West. The West is windowless because this is where the cold wind blows from. At some time in the last hundred years or so a flight of steps were added to the upper level and a door and a small westerly aspect window knocked through. This morning it's bright and fair but there's a mischievous wind blowing from the West.

Bob is told, as he is every day, that this is his country. He settles down next to me on the concrete storm drain and surveys his domain. With a chill breeze blowing Bob is a very warm and comforting presence alongside. 

On our way home he squirms, not so much happily as ecstatically, in the grass at the side of the lane. Front and back legs stretched full out. He then rolls, head over heels, down the steep side of the drainage ditch into the crinkly, wind dried, leaves at the bottom. He does this eleven times then stands, shakes himself and looks at me as if to say '' Now where were we ? ". 

The paralysed eye is bright but there's little sign of the 'blink' function returning. Bob will happily turn on his back when 'The Font' applies his eye drops. When he sees Angus appear with the bottle of eye drops he disappears.

Bob and Sophie enjoy slivers of overcooked omelette with their dinner. They seem to think it was a culinary masterpiece. Thankfully, normal service will be resumed tonight.

Here's a brief video about caravaning in the Hebrides in winter. A truly strange thing to do. At the 1:20 mark you'll see a very happy dog asleep on the floor of the ferry to the Isle of Lewis. It must have been a very calm day.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Colour coordinated.

'The Font' heads off on one of those aging relative " Get on the plane now ! " trips. This is not an easy time of the year to arrange travel. Ahead of New Year everything is booked intractably solid. Just as we're despairing British Airways phone back with a solution. They have a special team for moments like these. Their kindness is noted.

Sophie, oblivious to the changed routine, demands to know why she can't go to the bakers with Bob.

Yesterday, for a second time 'The Font' claims to have seen some life in Bobs paralyzed eye.

I point out to Bob that he's colour coordinated with the black and white interior of the car. He doesn't seem impressed. 

The turkey finished. The same with the Christmas pudding. Now all that is left is an iced Christmas cake. We discover that Brandy butter is something that American college boys are very keen on.

All the neighbouring villages have Christmas creches. We find one that has a display celebrating the seasonal theme of hog slaughtering.

Across the road a restaurant that follows the 'why bother?' approach to Christmas decoration.

In 'The Fonts' absence culinary standards are likely to suffer a major setback. Bacon sandwiches for dinner tonight ?

I don't know who these people are but the dog on the beach makes me laugh.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A dishevelled angel.

We are up early. As Bob clambers into the back of the car in the half light you can see his drooly face. One side is definitely paralyzed and higher than the other. This gives him a rather reflective, whimsical look. No sign of an improvement in the eye but no need to worry. 'The Font' is much more observant in important things than Angus.

While I bring the rubbish bags out to the car the family fellow carefully monitors two grub hunting blackbirds on the lawn. A male PONs work of guarding his flock against avian intruders is never done. He is so immersed in his task he is surprised when I appear and close the tailgate. He gives me a 'Blimey! I wasn't expecting that " look.

Sophie is having a flat hair day.

She can appear like a dishevelled angel....

... but sometimes the i-Phone's camera can manage to record one of her '' oaf of a brother - don't go near my food " moments. The return of sibling 'savaging' we interpret as a good sign. Bob seems happy that normal service is being resumed.

So starts a post-Christmas Tuesday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Here's something brilliant from Trinidad. The accompaniment is not what you'd expect :

Monday, December 26, 2016

A permagrinned presence.

I head downstairs, turn on the lights and find Bob lying on the library floor guarding the Christmas dinner table. There is a Christmas cake on the table which may explain why Bob has chosen to sleep here. Hope springs eternal.

Dog and master head off for Christmas morning croissants. Yes, here in France,  bakers are open and doing a thriving trade on both Christmas and Boxing Day mornings.

There is an early morning children's 'event' arranged by the Rotary Club. Bob is somewhat surprised to come face to face with a six foot tall Mickey Mouse with a perma-grin . Bob observes this strange animal from behind my legs. His 'I'm here if you need me ' position.

Sophie may not have had as active a day as her brother but she's been in the kitchen watching lunch being prepared. Sophie dispenses with her Christmas lunch in four seconds. There is some discussion as to whether a machine could suck up a plate of turkey and roast potatoes as quickly. By contrast Bob is a careful eater. 

For the 'diva' a post lunch, trip to the wooden garden table for a lengthy grooming. She is so happy to be out in the sunshine. This enforced rest is now getting to her.

So passes Christmas in deepest, deepest France profonde. 

And here is a photo from a newspaper to show that not all politicians have a sense of entitlement. The accompanying story informs us that the Christmas 'splurge' was a large size box of Mon Cheri chocolate coated cherries.,jsPageReloaded=true.bild.html#remId=1542351827056089021

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas quiet.

Christmas Eve afternoon. The 'tikes' and their parents head off to the Pyrenees on a deeply discounted, spur of the moment, skiing holiday. '' I didn't know you skied " says 'The Font' to the mother. 'I don't but the hotels got a spa'  and then, after the briefest of pauses while she looks at her little angels, she adds ' and a bar '.

This morning the village is quiet. The Old Farmer and the Belgian Lady are on the road. The matron of the old folks home is working as is the teacher at the school for 'difficult' children. The uncomplaining duty of those who carry responsibility. At the crossroads the curtains on the mayors house are tightly drawn. The mayors wife is recovering from her third hip operation. I have high regard for the mayors wife. She never complains, Never lets on that she's in constant pain. Never fails to turn up for a village event. Never fails to laugh and smile. One of life's stalwarts.

As Bob and Angus cross the village green on our pre-breakfast walk all is still and small and calm. That special silence that only comes once a year -  Christmas quiet.  No cars, no planes, no voices. After a year of noise there's something sacred about the silence. An unspoilt world.

Donkeys, deer, ducks, calves, quail, partridge, pheasants and owls all observed by Bob. A red squirrel pirouettes off a branch , lands at our feet, and scurries off into the undergrowth.The male PON, briefly, considers giving chase but thinks better of it. It's Christmas.

'The Font' applies Bobs eye drops. Was there really a hint of movement in the paralyzed right eye lid ? Perhaps the tiniest of Christmas miracles ? And why not have a little faith?

Sophie is on her feet and ready to party. 

Later today there will be turkey and roast potatoes and brussel sprouts and gravy in the downstairs library. A room where Sophie can join us with no stairs to climb, or fall down. Such are the altered rhythms of a dog house on Christmas Day.

A very Happy Christmas from everyone at The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

And here's a piece of Bach to get Christmas started :

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A truly happy PON

Down to the covered market to pick up the turkey. We're there by eight and manage to get a parking spot on the fourth floor. Bob finds there are many 'intriguing' scents on the stair wells. He is 'encouraged' to move along with the words '' we don't have all day ". Dogs of course do have all day for the things that are important.

Surrounded by the smells of the market stalls Bob thinks he's in seventh heaven. Our bird is bagged and waiting for us so all we have to do is pay.

A Buche de Noel from the bakers ....

.... and some Capalleti to have with brodo to start the Christmas Eve dinner. We forego the chance of buying snails.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the creche is brought out.

Bob watches it being set up with great interest. He gently picks up one of the three Kings in his mouth but is apprehended as he makes off with it. Readers with good sight might just be able to make out the imprint of his slightly squiffy teeth marks on the top of the red wise mans hat. For male PONs life has its recompenses. A Texan college boy has left two pieces of shortbread on a plate while filling out his law school applications.  The shortbread disappears. Bob has the look of a truly happy PON - Christmas has come early.

Our post-modern creche lacks  Joseph but has instead a lady in a blue dress. Every year for the last thirty years we have marvelled at this rewriting of the Christmas story. Mary's mother ? Or is there a Slovak fable involving a blue, wandering lady ?

And here is a touch of Christmas Eve France profonde by Rameau :

Friday, December 23, 2016

Joyeuses Fetes !

A combination of low hanging mist, clear skies and the rising sun combine to start the day in spectacular style. Bob christens the fire hydrant, sniffs the box hedge around the war memorial and then looks up and stares at the 'swaying' Jesus. Content all is in order in the village he heads off down the hill towards the stream and the waterfall. Bob takes his morning rounds very seriously.

The village odd job man has put up a '' Joyeuses Fetes ! '' sign on the tympanum above the church door. Although not in classical good taste the sign neither flashes nor employs a rainbow of colours to get its jaunty message across.In contrast the odd job mans balcony now rejoices in a variety of lights in colours from the more hallucinatory end of the colour spectrum. To add further interest three snowmen in blue waist coats share the balcony with  a red twinkling Santa and his sleigh.

It threatens to rain all day. The first rain that's even been hinted at in a month. In the end all that emerges is a fine, chill, drizzle. Bob thinks this is glorious weather.

The farmer in the valley clearly thought rain was on the way. The cows have been confined to their stalls in the barn. Bob finds himself with no one to monitor.

While little sister sleeps in her pen downstairs, big brother installs himself in a bed on the upstairs landing.

Has the closure of a company ever been written about so eloquently ? There again not every company cast the Liberty Bell :

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Free spirits.

The magical weather continues. Mid-morning the Old Farmer and the Belgian lady set off in the venerable Ford Transit motor home for Christmas. ' We're free spirits. Who knows where we'll end up ? " he says. Hopefully, somewhere with a garage that'll be open over the holidays thinks Angus. The Old Farmer beeps the asthmatic horn three times as he heads, slowly, along the lane. The Belgian lady is wearing a heavily patterned red and yellow trouser suit with the jacket edged in black fur. A mass of swirls. ' We had a carpet like that in Edinburgh ' observes 'The Font'. The Old Farmer is wearing his brown dressing gown that has been shortened to provide a warm, if unstylish, driving jacket. He is also wearing his green and white checked fur trappers hat with ear flaps.

Bob and Angus set off to the little waterfall. Some days Bob hurries along. Today he's in a sauntering mode. By Christmas the birds have usually picked the berries from the trees. Not this year - the hedgerows peppered with rose hips. Pheasant, partridge and quail everywhere. They're enjoying the sunshine and the late season bugs.

Sophie is not happy at being corralled. She spends her day in the kitchen advising 'The Font' on how to prepare the perfect Bechemel Sauce.

Frogs legs in the supermarket.

Capons also make an appearance. The locals have Capons for Christmas lunch. We tried it once but reverted to Turkey.

In the cafe Buche de Noel have swept all non-seasonal pastries aside.

Our Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes arrive. Just in time. Thank heavens for couriers. The 'new' Postman hasn't been out to the village since Friday of last week.

The Christmas nativity scene carved from a walnut is brought out and put on the mantelpiece. Amazing it's lasted thirty five years.

Quiet rhythms of life with one drooly dog and one feisty 'recuperating' dog in the run up to Christmas.