Monday, May 30, 2016

Two nights.

Off for two nights in the K-E-N-N-E-L-S while we go to London.

Today the trains are on strike. The airports close on Friday just in time to strand anyone who's been here for the half term holidays.

Normal PONblog service resumed shortly.

Monday morning.

The local paper announces that archaeologists have discovered the earliest indications of human life ever found in a cave by the river. The finds are apparently 176,000 years old. The paper says these most recent discoveries are 40,000 years older than anything found before. The rest of the article is rather vague as to what exactly has been found.

A flock of twenty young swallows squabbling contentedly away in the courtyard. The overnight rain has left some small shallow puddles. They squabble, drink, then squabble some more. Sophie tries chasing them but they're way too quick for her. 

Bob starts his day with a long, lengthy, satisfying scratch.

It's going to be a quiet day in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Unheard of.

The riot police have broken the blockade of the oil refineries. Not to be outwitted the staff inside the refineries are cutting back on production. Opinion is divided as to whether this will make buying petrol easier or more difficult.

The staff at the local school have been on strike. With nothing better to do the bored thirteen year old village males have been setting off firecrackers. One has been posted into the Belgian womans mail box. Her letters have been burnt. She thinks this is an escalation of the feud with the horse farm across the road.

For some reason some of the pink standard roses are reverting to their natural state. One has gone completely white.

Five others are in various stages of reversion.

I phone the suppliers in the UK. A rather haughty lady informs me that I must be mistaken. '' It's completely unheard of. Are you sure you bought them from us ? ". I was going to order some replacements and find out why so many are changing colour. The tart response means I'll buy them elsewhere.

We go to the motorway service station to buy petrol for the big car. The price is 15% higher but at least we know we'll get some. 'The Font' orders two cups of coffee from the buffet but is pointed in the direction of an automatic machine. The product , when it emerges, is of that granulated variety that refuses to completely dissolve. Dish water with intense caffeinated moments. 

In the gift shop there is a large display of porcelain thimbles. The number of thimbles never seems to decrease.

Sophie has had the other side of her chest trimmed. Although not expertly groomed her fur is at least in balance. The temperatures are rising and thunderstorms can be heard grumbling away over the mountains. As can be seen her teeth are in excellent condition.

Just another day in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Champagne season. At six thirty a group of villagers arrive with old photos from the 1920's. Illustrations for the village history that M'Ongoose has been tasked to write. The villagers aren't quite sure what is and isn't interesting so the conversation starts off tentatively. A second glass and the memories come pouring out.

In the first and second photos the village priest, a ghostly figure in cassock and black broad brimmed hat , can just be seen. He was so shocked by the death and mutilation of so many parishoners that he painted memorial frescoes on the walls of the church. A quarter of the village males were killed. A half wounded. We think this is one of only two churches in France still decorated in this 'naif' way. The priest died in 1923, within a week of finishing the last fresco. This helps with the dating.

The war memorial had a rather splendid low wooden railing running round it. The railing has long gone, replaced by box hedge. The two houses behind it have also gone. After the war, with all the young men dead and the lines of inheritance severed, the population started its decline from nearly four hundred to todays sixty seven. The empty farms were handed over to Polish miners and Italian immigrants. The Very Old Farmers family was one of the latter. He arrived with his mother and father from Puglia in 1924 when he was two.

This morning Bob and his master are up bright and early for a walk along the ridge. Sophie waits behind and has breakfast with 'The Font'. A bright, sunny, perfect morning. 

By the time we make it back home Loic the bifocaled gardener is hard at work. The chimney sweep has also arrived. The PONs supervise from the wooden garden table.

A wonderful day lies ahead.

Friday, May 27, 2016


The local nuclear power station has called a wild cat strike and cut output by 50%. The strike was supposed to be next week but they've called it forward. Angus thinks that a strike at a nuclear power station sounds alarming. Clearly, the strikers don't. The roads from the motorway exit to the airport have also been blocked. We're not quite sure why or by whom.

It's Ramadan. Bob and his master are at the greengrocers by seven but it's already full of ladies wearing headscarves. They stand in the aisles and chat away animatedly.

We head off in search of petrol. The supermarket has just taken a delivery. We fill up. The readout on the dashboard of the little Skoda says we can go 1150 kilometres. We also fill a can for the lawn tractor.

The Bozo's have finished. What was scheduled to take three weeks has been completed in two. The trenches across the courtyard filled in, the septic tanks landscaped and the stop cock ( demolished by a morose teenager on a mechanical digger ) replaced. They have even had time to sort out a troublesome cherry tree root under The Old Farmers kitchen.

Considering that we've had between six and fourteen people here, every day, for the better part of two weeks their 'amended' bill isn't too bad.

The PONs now have clear run of their garden. That is something worth celebrating .

The end of Persian carpets ? :

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hunting for petrol.

The church, after its restoration, is looking rather fine. The mural with Joanne of Arc peering heavenward and asking " Who will rid us of the dreaded English ? " is now in pristine condition. Before the restoration the damp had somehow contrived to give her a kyrptonite green face. She now exudes a ruddy glow.

The last of the money for the restoration ran out before the restorers got to the porch. It remains looking the worse for wear.

'The Font' tells the mayor that we'll pay for its decoration.The idea was to use fabric but the walls are too jagged and uneven.Instead the idea is to use wallpaper for the lower half and paint above. A meeting is held to finalize the plans.

'The Font' explains that a bee symbol might be appropriate for a country church. A bee is a symbol of the resurrection ( it disappears for 3 months but always returns ) . The lady with the purple hat remembers being told by her grandmother that bees are a sign of good fortune. They make the wax for the candles and without candles there could be no mass and without mass there would be no salvation. This answer is somewhat wasted on a Swedish Lutheran but all agree that it is a very charming thought. The purple hatted lady smiles.

Much time is spent deciding which of the eight wall paper samples would be most appropriate. Each is greeted enthusiastically. No decision can be made. The issue will be returned to at the next village council meeting. The man with anger management issues doesn't attend which makes the proceedings calmer if no less structured.

Bob and Sophie continue to enjoy the sunshine and the presence of starfish throwing drainage 'engineers'.

We spend much of the day hunting for petrol. Strikers are blockading the petrol refineries and the garages are running short. The air traffic controllers are planning an indefinite strike starting on Tuesday. We were planning to briefly go to London that day. To top it all off it seems the staff at the local nuclear power plant are going to stage a one day strike next week. This is presumably less threatening than it sounds.

Just another day in deepest, deepst France profonde.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Self grooming.

We groom the dogs at home.

This has nothing to do with cost or being unable to tear ourselves away from the little darlings. We've self groomed ever since Digby, a PON from a previous generation, escaped from the fancy groomers in the centre of Avignon by slipping through two sets of heavy glass doors left open by an absent minded post lady. He then charged across a busy road ( bringing the traffic to a halt in the process ) and making a beeline into an adjoining church.

The Gothic church was dark. At the far end there was a funeral underway. Digby headed for the funeral. His master gave chase. The groomers from Le Chien Galant followed. The priest did his best to ignore the dog , its master and two flustered French ladies zig zagging down the nave.

A decade on Angus still occasionally wakes at night remembering what the priest said to him. It was decidedly non-sacerdotal. Digby was cornered in a side chapel and carried, squirming, out of the church. '' We've never had that happen before " said the grooming ladies. The memory of the mourners faces adds to the shame induced night sweats. After that Digby was christened ' demon dog'.

There are some experiences in life you never want to repeat but your conscience doesn't allow you to forget.

Bob gives me two minutes of his time on the grooming table before disappearing. His rump is thinned out.

Sophie squeals and squirms but makes no attempt to escape. She adores the attention. We get a carrier bag full of hair from her sides and front. She's slimmed down considerably. Before I can even out her right side she's off. The allotted time is up.  A more balanced cut will need to wait for another day.

After wards there are treats, tickles and free rein to explore the latest drainage ditch. Bob also gets a lengthy Mano a Mano to let him know he's done good. The PONs may look slightly squiify but they're happy and so is their master.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sudden silence.

The gardens resound to the sound of pneumatic drills. Week two of the drainage works is underway.

In the afternoon there is a sudden silence. Not a cigarette break silence but an ominous calm .

By the side of the palm tree outside the front door the Bozo family have gathered in a group. They are peering into a hole. From the hole a jet of crystal clear water emerges, arcs through the air and lands on the courtyard gravel. One of the morose lads has found the village water main. In fact he's not so much found it as removed a length of it. In the process he's also removed our stop cock.

'' How serious is it ? " asks 'The Font'.  '' I'm sure it's not an intractable problem " replies Angus in his supposedly reassuring Captain of the Titanic tone of voice. '' That bad ? " comes the reply.

While we wait for the water board Angus and Sophie go for a walk on the village green. Sophie finds the shadows cast by the pollarded trees intriguing. She pounces on them in a peculiarly feline way.

On the grass verge by the churchyard she finds some fox droppings. Cue for rolling in the grass, legs in the air, not a care in the world. I suggest she stops. In return Sophie gives me her '' You should try it. Great for stress " look.

Sometimes dogs have all the answers.

The man from the water board arrives at four thirty. All the Bozo's greet him with a kiss on each cheek. Angus shakes his hand. The water board man looks in the hole and says ' Oh La La '. He then repeats himself. It starts to rain. '' You lot always do this to me on Mondays " he says to one of the morose Bozo's. 

By seven the water is reconnected. Before he goes the man from the water board tells me that his girl friend has set up a company to help foreigners with project management. He gives me her card. It says in English ' Josephine's Solutions. A company providing both property and related lifestyle services. Whatever the complexity of a problem we will make sure the management process is smooth and easy '.

So passes another day in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Bob and Sophie know today has been the best day ever. Who knows what adventures tomorrow will bring ?

Refering to growth in education in India and China this little snippet from the FT caught my eye :  'The number of people alive today with a degree is greater than the total number of degrees awarded before 1980.  It may seem difficult to believe at times, but our planet is growing smarter '.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Next year it will be sunny.

We have been blessed with cloudless skies and brilliant sunshine for the first week of the drainage works.

Week two starts with heavy rain and strong winds.

The mud and clay in the garden are transformed into gloop.

We do our best to keep the angelic duo away from the open ditches.

PONs are a highly inquisitive breed. 

A washed and brushed Sophie falls asleep in the hallway. Her position carefully chosen so that anyone going towards the kitchen has to pass her by. 

It's the village Saints Day. Horse riders from miles around converge on the church. The rain proves to be of the power shower variety.

Madame Bay and the ladies of the Beautiful Byeways Committee have laid on a lunch. There are few takers. Most of the visitors have left, soaked to the skin, after an hour. There is cassoulet for a hundred but only twenty show up. These kind gentle people for whom a Saints Day is such an important event try not to show their disappointment. '' Next year it will be sunny " says the mayor. The Old Farmer, resplendent in his fur trappers hat with ear flaps, dispenses home made wine from the stainless steel tea urn. Walter, the depressive physiotherapist, brings out his accordion. Fortified by the Old Farmers wine the little lady in the purple hat sings.

So passes a wet Sunday in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Quiet ?

It was supposed to be a workman free weekend. The welder, who promised to be here on Friday to repair the damage done to the gates by the morose lads , had other ideas. He shows up on Saturday night. He brings with him his wife and daughter. While he welds they set up a table and chairs in the middle of the driveway. A tablecloth is laid and a salad and bottle of wine produced. A scene of convivial soldering ensues. He solders a little, eats a little, solders a little, chats a little. The PONs are intrigued by the food but alarmed by the sparks.

Sunday. Bob and his master walk down the lane. The male PON is told, as he's told every morning, that this is Bobs Country. He accepts this. The female PON is too busy ferreting for unmentionable things in the hedgerows to be bothered about  philosophical constructs.

At the greengrocers dark green tomatoes. Not just any unripe tomatoes but ones with dark green marbling. They must be grown for a special purpose.

We buy some white asparagus for lunch.

Strawberries are down to 6 Euros a kilo. That's what sun and rain do to farmers margins.

Both dogs are in a happy place. They've dealt with drainage engineers and welders and kept their flock safe. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Adoring fans.

The Bozos are here in force. The new septic tanks are eased into the ground. The old ones are 'drained'. The experts come to oversee the installation of the filtration system. '' It'll handle ten thousand litres a day " says a man in a hard hat. Angus thinks ten thousand litres of effluent sounds a lot but there again his knowledge of drainage works is limited.

The attractive young lady from the water company arrives to issue a certificate of conformity. The French are very keen on certificates of conformity. Her arrival causes the morose lads to become less morose. She informs Monsieur Bozo that she can't issue the certificate until the work is completed. He tries to charm her. He fails. She leaves.

In the middle of all this Loic the heavily bifocaled gardener arrives . '' Having work done ? " he inquires jauntily. Loic is set to work weeding the lavender borders.

At the end of the day Monsieur Bozo comes to tell me '' we have a problem ". He's discovered another septic tank that no one knew existed. He kneels on the ox track and points to a hole with three pipes leading into it. Angus peers in. '' I hadn't budgeted for this " Monsieur Bozo says in a way that makes it clear that the estimate was just that.

The PONs are taking all of this remarkably well.

Sophie thinks the activity must be something to do with adoring fans coming to see her.

To avoid a repeat of yesterdays widdling accident Bob is taken for a walk every hour , on the hour.

We now have the weekend to ourselves before the onslaught starts again on Monday. Yesterdays eye watering odour has gone.