Monday, February 29, 2016

Wanting to help.

Monday morning. The dishwasher plays up. A cryptic message ' E-5 ' appears on the control panel. '' What in heavens name is that supposed to mean ? " asks Angus. The manual has been put away safely in a place where it can be immediately found when needed. Or that's the theory. 'The Font' Googles 'E-5'. '' What model number is it ? " I'm asked. Ten minutes are spent looking for the non-existent designation. '' It says here you should switch it off, and then tilt it ". Angus bites his tongue and points out that the thing won't switch off. 

In the end the dishwasher has to be pulled out, the cupboard under the sink emptied, an access panel removed and the plug pulled. It then and only then stops pumping water.

Bob and Sophie watch the goings on with great interest. Tails wave. Sophie decides she wants to get under the kitchen sink and help. Bob 'biffs' the door magnets. 

The PONs are loaded into the back of the car. We are now heading off to get a replacement in the little market town. The juice squeezer has also died. The PONs are delighted with this sudden and early bout of activity. 

As far as the angelic duo are concerned this is already shaping up to be the best day ever.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Woe betide.

From the fresh hoof marks along the grass verges it can be assumed that a herd of wild boar with irritated tusks have recently wandered through the village.  Bob, much to his annoyance, is put on his lead. This doesn't stop him from leaping into hedges and over ditches in pursuit of boar scents. We pause by the field with the pony and two goats.

Sophie has stayed at home to oversee the preparation of the morning porridge. She licks her lips to signal how content she is. Porridge and honey. The prefect start to a PONs day.

Sophie always sits on the left of the car. Bob on the right. Some routines are carved in marble. Woe betide Bob if he forgets this basic rule.

In the little market town the dogs are greatly taken with the roadworks outside the 13th century arcades. How sensible those ancient townsfolk were. Shade in the summer and shelter from the chill winds in the winter. Bob christens a pile of paving slabs. Just the latest in a long line of dogs to have had the same idea.

On our way back to the car we pass a restaurant which seems to have a catholic take on cuisine. Italian, French, Spanish, American, Lebanese and French all under one roof.

In front of the covered market the young man who politely 'requests' money is without his two dogs. One four years old, the other eight months. 'The Font' asks him where they are. It seems there was an electrical fire and they both died. Angus , perhaps unjustifiably, thinks to himself this is what happens when recreational pharmaceuticals and dog ownership coincide. 'The Font', less judgemental, is simply sad.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

National background music.

Saturday morning. A week into the referendum campaign on Britain's membership of the EU. The commentators on Radio France are in no doubt how ungrateful their neighbours across the Channel are. Angus bites his lip while drinking the mornings first cup of coffee. Only another four months of this to go.

An unbridled vision of loveliness is keen to get her day started. The damp morning has done nothing for Sophie's hair.

Big brother somehow manages to look less disheveled.

The e-cigarette store has now turned into an Agence de Vapologie. How chic is that ? Bob christens the sign on the pavement.

Although it's a time of the morning when only dog owners are up and about, this song is playing, loudly, from the railway station public address system. You can't go anywhere in France without hearing this. It is the background noise of the country. It's quite enjoyable the first hundred or so times you hear it.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Angus plants bulbs.

The PONs follow along behind digging them up.

It is made clear they should stop.

Bob looks distraught.

Sophie puts on her ' what's it got to do with me ? ' face.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Truly remarkable.

Bob starts his day by rearranging the solar system fridge magnets with his nose. Saturn is nibbled. Venus falls off the door. Bob seems content with his handiwork.

His sister waits attentively for her morning yogurt. She wanders off to her special 'pot cleaning' spot under the library table. No dishwasher cleans  a yogurt carton as efficiently and as spotlessly as Sophie.

In the village :

The little lady with the purple hat is gradually recovering from the 'fit of the vapours' caused by the swaying crucifix. She has once again started to take her Yorkie on its breakfast perambulation across the village green.

The Old Farmer spends his morning working on the brake pads of the venerable '' it's good for another two hundred and fifty thousand kilometres " Ford Transit motor home. He has sent off for, and received, a three month Belorussian visa. Current plans call for a June 1st departure date.

More workmen have appeared to spray orange hieroglyphs on the tarmac around the war memorial. These remain incomprehensible to the uninitiated. There is still no sign of work starting on the raised zebra crossing.

Sophie demonstrates a somewhat indecorous way of sitting. This is a new affectation. 

The PONs continue to show a truly remarkable enthusiasm for life. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Similarity ?

'' Amazing how a dog can come to look like its owner " says 'The Font'. A hint that Angus should have his hair cut.

A moment spent smoothing down those wayward curls and the PON boy is ready for a trip into town with his master . Sophie stays behind to supervise the preparation of lunch.

Bob settles on the linoleum next to the sickly aspidistra. By the window an old farmer reads aloud from the local paper to two other old farmers seated on the overstuffed red leather sofa. They all agree the world is in a dreadful state. The barber and a group of his customers have hired a mini van and are off to Perpignan for the funeral of one of the towns retired firemen. '' He should have been buried here but he went to visit his daughter for a holiday and died. That's why we're going there " the barber tells me by way of partial explanation. In deference to the age of those going to the funeral the mini van will stop at each of the motorway rest stops for 'comfort breaks'. Crates of beer have been acquired. They have allowed five hours for what should be a three hour journey. The return trip may be longer.

'' That will last you a couple of months " says the barber to a surprised Angus who now sports a French Foreign Legion look. Whatever happened to the light trim ?

On our way home we pass The Palace of Garlic and say hello to the owner.

Then it's onto the cafe for a coffee. Bob gets a bowl of water. Two old farmers come over and chat to him. They're at that marvellous age where it doesn't matter who you talk to. Bob is delighted to reciprocate.

One of the old farmers has parked his car in such a way that no one is likely to scratch the paint work. It's positioned exactly in the middle of four spaces.

So starts our day in deepest, deepest France profonde. Little things too unimportant for  a diary but too important to be forgotten.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A dog day.

A day for applying Frontline and trimming beards.

Sophie adores being groomed. Bob does his best to become invisible. The promise of a rice cake causes him to break cover.

By 10.30 they're looking presentable. They are rewarded with a long walk through the fields to the waterfall. En route Sophie finds a plump dead mole. This becomes her companion for the rest of the morning. When we return home 'The Font' lets out an involuntary sigh when the heavily gummed mole is dropped, proudly, on the freshly washed kitchen floor.

For Sophie this really is the best day ever.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Not quite there.

The year is picking up pace. It's light early in the morning now. The school half term has started so there are no cars to disturb our morning walk.

Bob spies a gnome in a villagers garden. He is greatly taken with it. The villagers, like the French in general, are great gnome fanciers. At the latest count the village has a population of 17 gnomes.

The German billionaires multi-storey garage is having the terracotta floors taken out and a new grey marble floors put in. The marble will be less harsh on the tyres of his Ferrari collection. Bob christens all the flower pots arrayed outside. Non-verbal canine architectural criticism. The grey marble ( visible beneath the doors ) does not blend well with the limestone.

We go to lunch at a little restaurant in the hills. We've never been in a restaurant where the tables are so far apart. The menu is of the modern 'challenging' variety. All goes reasonably well until the dessert. Potato millefeuille with black truffle jelly and chocolate sorbet. This is not a success. 'The  Font' struggles for something positive to say and finally suggests that the technical skill required to pull it off isn't quite there yet. Whatever you do with black truffles there will always be an overpowering hint of garlic.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

It rumbles on.

Bob and Sophie are in particularly fine form. They exude happiness. As the sun sets they position themselves on the wooden garden table and watch the world turn slowly purple. 

One of the most wonderful of nights. Mild, no clouds, and not even a hint of a breeze. We traipse into the garden.  'The Font' takes out a telescope, Sophie glares at the owls roosting in the barn ( and they unperturbed glare back at her) , Angus nurses a glass of a 2010 St.Estephe and Bob settles down for a lengthy doze across his masters feet. The Space Station lumbers across the sky and a couple of Chinese (?) satellites cast parallel tracks above the big aerospace plants in Bordeaux before heading out across the Atlantic .

This morning we're up at the crack of dawn. The garden centre has taken delivery of two Vase d'Anduzes in the original colour scheme. Just what we've been looking for. Someone else has had the same idea. They've already been sold.

Am I alone in thinking that the orchids look as if they've had some DNA enhancement ?

Back in the village the saga of the rocking crucifix rumbles on. A builder has been called in. He spends an hour clambering up ladders and taking measurements. The mayor, various retired Gendarmes , the man who wears a yellow day-glo jacket , the Old Farmer and the village odd job man watch him. The builder suggests hiring a crane to lift the statue out while the brick plinth is repaired. It doesn't take long for the mayor and his coterie of helpers to work out that this implies cost. Maybe considerable cost. There is much shrugging of shoulders. Bob takes it all in from his position on the stump seat by the front gate. Angus can't help but feel we have a village crisis in the making.

Just another of those happy days too unimportant to take up much space in a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Loic, the heavily bifocaled gardener, arrives on the dot of nine.

Sophie considers barking at him but decides that she has better things to do. She'll annoy him later after he's swept the leaves into piles.

The bizareness of the weather reflected in the fact that it's mid February and the peonies are coming into bloom.

Brother and sister spend their day on the wooden garden table watching passers by. The riding club trot past en masse which causes great excitement and commensurate noise.

There are green bananas in the supermarket. Angus isn't sure whether these are merely unripe bananas or something special. He settles, again, for a pint of milk.

On the flight back from London 'The Font' spies the great actor. He walks down the aircraft aisle arms before him, hands turned palms upwards and announces '' It is wonderful to be back on board again. Simply wonderful ". The cabin crew look unimpressed. On the way home in the car 'The Font' does an impression of the scene . The word wonderful pronounced as if its being sung in the Hallelujah Chorus. A pronunciation that is not so much wonderful as glorious.

This take on American politics and the Trump phenomenon is interesting :

Friday, February 19, 2016

It sways !

The church door is open. Inside the mayor and a group of villagers are having a heated discussion. The life size crucifix outside the graveyard has developed a list. Not a major one but a list nonetheless. It's now leaning six or seven degrees to the right and four or five degrees forwards. The long dry winter followed by heavy rains have loosened the concrete that holds the wooden beam into the brick plinth. 

The discovery was made by the little lady in the purple hat who had the misfortune to be crossing the churchyard when a gust of wind caused the statue to lurch towards her. Somewhat traumatised she is now reduced to saying  '' I knew it would come to this ". The village odd job man suggests we charge pilgrims to come and see the swaying Jesus. The lady in the purple hat tells him he's a heathen. He tells her to get a life. At this point everyone starts to talk at once and Angus decides that it's time to make an exit.

Bob watches the comings and goings from his stump seat. Sophie stands on her hind legs, front paws on the gate providing encouragement.

Just another day of village life in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A judgement on cooking skills.

Difficult to say if this is synchronised nose cleaning or a comment on Angus's cooking skills. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Everything is off the charts with them.

Cold, overcast and windy. There's a thin layer of frost on the car windscreen. 'The Font' is flying to London for the day. We set off to the airport early, taking the back roads. The protesting farmers are again burning tyres and blocking the motorway. To add spice to the journey the frontier guards have started working 'to rule'. The lines at the passport desks spilling all the way back into the departure hall. The joys of travel.

Angus tries to arrange a family dinner in California. He phones his favourite restaurant in the Bay Area. A lady answers. '' It says quite clearly on our website that reservations can only be made a month ahead of time. Can't you read ? ". The surliness of the response catches me off guard. I mutter something apologetic and put the phone down. It's only later that a sense of irritation sweeps over me. Perhaps passive aggressiveness has become a trait of US 'fine dining' establishments. Angus makes a booking at another restaurant.

I'd like to say both PONs are deeply troubled by 'The Fonts' absence. Bob is. He searches the house high and low and finds it difficult to settle. Sophie, with a big brother doing all the work, has more of a 'wake me if you need me' attitude to herding.

Some poets have a way with words that brings the sunshine in. Here's a poem about dogs. Its telling of truth is nothing short of magical. It made me laugh.

If Feeling isn't in it
John Brehm

Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can't reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they're dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don't try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I've seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn't come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she's gone
and I'm tied to a post surrounded by people
who don't look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It's almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Haunted House.

The PONs leap into the back of the car. Bob has started to get wise to the fact that if he puts his carrot down it disappears. This morning he's determined to hold onto it. 

Sophie continues to be a keen 'recycler'. We've tried everything including pineapple in her kibble. All to no avail. The timorous wee thing of three years ago has turned into the sort of girl who'd kill for a rice cake. We've now moved onto Copronat. Three days in and so far it is having exactly zero effect.

Lamb on a rope has been recovered from its special place in the laurel hedge. Sophie settles down with it for a long conversation in the warmth of the sun. Bob wisely keeps his distance.

The circus has come to town. This morning it's eerily deserted. Bob christens the dodgems and then the Hall of Mirrors before finishing off with a flourish at the Haunted House .

Sophie wanders into the office for a chat. Bob will accept tickles at any time of the day. Sophie lets you know when SHE's ready for attention. I can't help but notice the family princess has large patches of dried mud around her nose. It would seem lamb on a rope has been reburied.

Serious men in dark suits phone from New York. '' Sorry to bother you at home on Presidents Day " says the most senior. Angus has no idea what Presidents Day is. Sophie turns on her back, squirms wildly, then falls asleep and snores. If only the men in dark suits knew.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Blue sponge ?

As soon as he hears Angus stir, Bob races up the stairs and sits outside the bedroom door. He makes it clear he's waiting to start his day.

Ten seconds later his sister joins him. She also makes it quite clear valuable time is being wasted.

There's been the most almighty storm overnight. Thunder and hundred mile an hour winds. Bob and Sophie being of good farm stock sleep through it all. Angus wakes when a large branch from one of the old oaks comes crashing down on the barn roof. 

Around ten Angus remembers it's Valentines Day. A trip into town with the family fellow. We are torn between a blue sponge made with Armagnac or  a chocolate praline concoction decorated with a large orange marzipan heart.

Bob is keen on the blue sponge but we finally opt for the chocolate praline concoction.

Just another of those quiet days. Too uneventful for a diary but too peppered with laughter to be totally forgotten.