Four cars parked in the square. The orange tractor is also there. Attempts at righting the 'listing' Jesus are on hold.
No tourists in the little market town. We reckon 20% of the shops are closed or have 'To Let' signs in the windows. The recession was slow to reach France but is now evident everywhere.
Neither Bob nor his sister know it yet but later this morning they will be heading off to the kennels. We always agonize over whether we should get a dog sitter but the answer is always the same. A door not fully closed or a moments distraction and Bob would be out of the gate and gone. This way we know the would be wanderer can't wander. 'View it as a holiday' I tell them less than confidently.
And here's a cautionary dog tale from one of my favourite chocolate shops that will be visited in a weeks time : http://www.dandelionchocolate.com/2016/03/18/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog/#anchor
We'll be back on April 12th.
The forecast was for rain and strong winds. Instead Easter morning dawns bright and fair. An August day in March.
The clocks went forward by an hour overnight. This morning two mallards and four accompanying females stroll across the lane in front of us. They look surprised to see anyone up and about so early . Sophie looks affronted. She gives them her most territorial glare. The bees are already out in force . The wild honeysuckle thronged with them. The sound of happy, pollen drunk bees is the sound of South West France.
The local paper has picked up on the damage to the reconstructed 16th century pottery kiln. A banner headline on the front page points to an in depth story inside. The author informs us that 'the population are dumbfounded by this incomprehensible act. Sleep no longer comes easy in this paradisaical spot '. Even the most ardent francophile would have to admit that understatement is not part of the French character.
And here to welcome in this balmy Easter morning with its promise of better things is five minutes of mysterious and beautiful music. Best listened to with the volume turned up full :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuxlGxjfh9w
Joyeuses Paques to one and all and let's hope that in a Good Friday world we find some politicians with a hint of Easter about them.
Easter Saturday dawns bright and fair. Bob takes up his flock guarding position at the front door.
Sophie appears in the kitchen. It is one of 'those' mornings.
The crisis over the crucifix in the churchyard rumbles on. A man with a tractor arrives. He attaches a rope to the rear of the tractor and the other end of the rope to the cross beam. He tries to pull it upright. There is an almighty revving of the engine and a cloud of blue grey smoke rises skywards. When he eases off on the accelerator the statue sinks back. If anything the 'lean' forwards and to the side has increased.
The Old Farmer notices that the statue has started to develop rust stains. Only now does the recognition sink in that the thing may be cast in concrete and attached to the wooden beams with iron pins. The mayor takes off his red tartan trilby and scratches his head. The question of fragility had not been considered.
The gentleman who has moved into the apartment above the town hall and acts as village 'odd job' man directs the whole process with happy abandon. He tells the mayor that the village will soon be on the tourist map. The little lady in the purple hat is not amused. She sees the lean as divine retribution for having a Socialist President. 'No good will come of it ' she says, Delphically. Tempers become 'heated'.
Angus and Sophie retreat home. When you're a visitor in another country never ever become involved in politics or religion.
Our annual visit to the vets for vaccinations and kennel cough boosters. Bob bounds in. It's not until he's on the examination table that he realises this might not be a 'wonderful' experience. He's had his injections and is off the table before he can make his unhappiness known.
Sophie watches her brother disappear into the surgery. She makes modulating high pitched noises in the waiting room. She is 'encouraged' in to see the vet. Encouraged in this sense means picked up.
Bob exudes good health. Sophie is displaying allergic reaction either to the very high pollen levels or to the kibbles we've been feeding her. The vet thinks its probably the wheat in the latter. We'll change to Hills Ideal Balance. The symptoms ? Overactive tear ducts and a staining on a back paw.
As a treat Bob is given a long walk down to the waterfall.
Sophie goes with 'The Font' on a power walk round the lake. She then displays a keen interest in the baking of the Simnel cake.
Angus has booked rooms for the family in a hotel in California. He's not sure if the payment on the card has gone through. He calls the hotel. The receptionist answers with a less than welcoming '' I'm busy with guests right now. Call again later ". Angus says he's phoning from France. '' That's not my look out " comes the reply. The phone is then put down. This must surely win some sort of award for customer service ... or lack of it.
Hugo the malevolent Maltese is walking in circles on the Lane. He's still doing it as we return from our morning walk. A silver Peugeot brakes to avoid him. A white van, undeterred by the new speed bump, goes racing past. Hugo jumps when I come to pick him up. He's gone blind. Probably just had a stroke. His heart races but he makes no attempt to struggle. His mistress is matron of the Old Folks home in the market town.She often does the night shift and with the curtains drawn it looks as if she has let him out then gone to sleep. I open the front door and pop Hugo into the entrance hall then tip toe silently away. Madame Bay is dispatched to wake the matron and make sure Hugo is ok. His ridiculous yelping as The PONz stroll past has been a comical feature of our time here.
Both Bob and Sophie seemed to be aware that all was not well with their canine neighbour. Sophie was uncharacteristically silent. Bob examined Hugo with a gentle, concerned air. Animal interaction and communication can surprise.
Sophie settles down on the wooden garden table for a post walk doze.
Her brother exudes essence of shaggy dog.
'The Font' notices a rather alarming feature of the bar stools at the dog friendly cafe.
In the little antique shop on the square an 1820 print of dog grooming. The dogs appear to be asleep.
The sky above the cathedral has turned that unreal Southern France blue. A sure sign of a change in the seasons.
We have received a letter from the manager of the supermarket asking us to a special preview of the Easter wine sale. The letter informs us that the invitation is only for 'discerning customers'. 'The Font' wonders what constitutes 'discernment'.
Nothing like two lively dogs to get your day started. Bob sits on Sophie's side of the car. There is a 'discussion'. She gets out. He gets out.
They are loaded back into the car. Bob again settles down in his sisters space. Sophie complains. 'Complains' in the Sophie sense being an understatement.
The old adage ' third time lucky ' holds true. Everyone sits in their allotted spot. Happiness and silence return to The Rickety Old Farmhouse.
In the afternoon we go to inspect the damage done to the kiln. It doesn't take Inspector Clouseau to work out this is the work of bored pre-teens. A few broken bricks and the iron bars on the grille at the back bent out of shape.
In the supermarket the aisles blocked by staff restocking the shelves. When I say blocked I mean completely blocked. Angus points out the dangers of this situation to a young man. He gets a less than friendly look in return. However, the shelf stacker does clear a path so that shoppers can walk along the aisle. Angus has reached an age where he voices his grumpiness. The Victor Meldrew syndrome.
The Irish 'Easter' mannequin still holds pride of place in the aisles.
Just another of those quiet days in deepest, deepest France profonde.
Cloudy today. Bob races ahead to the end of the ridge and then turns to make sure that I'm following on.
The rest of the world may have celebrated St.Patricks Day last week. Not here . The supermarket has put out a mannequin in a bodice, green felt hat and black tights. Special offer beer completes the tableau. What this says about the French view of the Irish doesn't bear thinking about.
The Lindt Easter bunnies are out in force.
Sophie is in fine form.
As is her brother.
In the village the 16th century pottery kiln has been vandalized. Some of the bricks have been broken and the metal grille in front of the oven bent backwards. The gendarmes have been called. The villagers are in shock. In the UK a few broken bricks and a bent grille would signal pre-adolescents at work. The lady with the purple hat ( only recently recovered from her moment with the swaying Jesus ) wonders if it might be terrorists. She has been listening to the horrible morning news updates from Brussels. The mayor reassures her.
Sophie finds 'lamb-on-a-rope' in the laurel hedge. She exudes ( or should that be radiates ? ) happiness.
The new 'dog friendly' cafe is busy. The waiter shakes my hand. A sign that we've crossed the threshold and have become regulars. Bob settles down in front of my chair. Sophie behind it. I get a coffee. They share a bowl of water. People wander by, ignore me, but talk to the dogs.
Outside the newsagent a poster for Ici Paris magazine sporting a sombre photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and informing us that they are in the process of divorcing. The National Enquirers French counterpart.
With the advent of warmer weather Bob is on guard from sunrise to sunset . He now has three places to stand. His stump seat at the front gate. The wooden garden table. And now the low wall round the swimming pool. All our PONs have been climbers - Bob however is the champion for getting his feet off the ground . Must be a breed thing.
Bob sits on his stump seat looking ferocious. Or at least an approximation of ferocious.
Sophie has rolled, luxuriantly, in a liquid cow pat. She has been bathed, reluctantly and thoroughly.
In the supermarket dried 'Trumpet of Death' mushrooms make an appearance.
The old soldiers brave the chill winds for their Algerian War commemoration. They then head into the village hall for a reviving glass of wine. They're still there at 4:20 when we return from our afternoon walk. We meet the district nurse wheeling the Very Old Farmer back home across the village green. He tickles Bobs ear. Sophie , uncertain of the wheelchair, hides behind my knee.
Just another quiet day with dogs in deepest, deepest France profonde.
An overcast start to the day. It threatens to rain. Sophie appraises the weather before heading out of the front door. Her impatient brother waits in the shadows.
A busy morning for the mayor. Workmen arrive to install a new sign on the tarmac outside the church. A list of 'must see' things in the village and a map showing the whereabouts of the Holy Well, the 16th century pottery kiln and the roman road. Passing pilgrims will find it invaluable.
The mayor hangs out the three little flags on the war memorial. It's the anniversary of the end of the Algerian War in 1953. All the local farmers, or those of a certain age, served in Algiers as teenagers so for them it is a big day.
The Old Farmer loads his stainless steel tea urn into a wheel barrow and rolls it across to the village hall. Tomorrow, he and twenty or so of his old comrades will line up in front of the war memorial in their blazers, berets and grey trousers for a commemoration. Medals will shine. The mayor will say some inaudible words and the Marseillaise will be sung. After wards they will all retire to the village hall for a glass or two or three of home made wine. Madame Bay and the ladies of the Beautiful Bye ways Committee will serve cassoulet.
We buy more Gariguette. Not quite as sweet as they should be but not bad considering they're being harvested a full month early.
Tarocco oranges from Italy. Another seasonal delight. The morning juice literally tasting of sunshine.
We've reached that stage of the year when summer is fast approaching.