Thursday, June 30, 2016

The PONs liked her.

A sign for a fun fair has appeared on the lamp post outside the house gate. It was put up at five thirty in the morning by a man in a white Ford Escort. We know this because the PONs heard it going up. They invited the rest of their household to get up and see what was happening.

Hot. The PONs walk with me down through the recently harvested wheat fields to the waterfall. Both PONs follow the flattened tracks made by the combine. After a long drink from the stream Sophie watches the Kingfishers. Bob tries to catch the small minnows that dart around just below the surface of the water. In this he is comically unsuccessful.

Home for a long nap. Lunch. Then a long nap before a walk to the Holy Well, then a nap, then dinner.

Sophie takes over Bobs mat in the downstairs kitchen. Her brother is forced into sitting in her bed.

She adamantly refuses to move. He makes it abundantly clear to anyone that will listen that he is hard done by.

A retired English headmistress from a village some miles away, rings the bell at  the gate. '' Are you the Scottish gentleman ? " . She lives alone and is worried about what the referendum result means for her. A prudent  woman but concerned that she might be thrown out of her home. The anger of the television commentators alarms her. She'd heard that I might know what to do. Reassurance is provided. Her biggest worry would be the value of her UK pension if the pound falls further. She seems relieved by this. It's suggested she applies for a residency permit. This gives her the right to stay five years and then be renewed for a further ten years later. After a glass of champagne she departs with a sense of purpose. The orange cardiganed lady at the Prefecture will soon be having another visitor.

The lies of politicians have an impact on peoples lives far and wide. 

The PONs liked her.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where did the day go ?

'The Font' has been nagging me to go to the Prefecture and apply for a Residency Permit. Angus believes in the healing powers of procrastination but last weeks events give this chore an added urgency.  Bob and Sophie get walked at seven and I'm in the car and on the motorway by eight.

By ten to nine the lobby is already full with people waiting for driving licences, insurance forms  and all those pieces of paper needed in modern life. Residency Permits are in the same department as asylum seekers. I get ticket number 423. The digital sign at the reception shows that applicant 401 is being seen to. 

Off across the road for a coffee. When I return the queue has progressed as far as 404. Time enough to go sightseeing. In the peculiarly ugly cathedral yellow ribbons have been strung from the dome. No one seems to know why.

A quick check of the queue. They're at 407. 

To the book store. I buy a book on local history. The man behind the counter tells me I've made a commendable effort at speaking French with the local accent. Angus takes this as a compliment but it could just as well be waspish humour.

Back to the Prefecture. They're now seeing applicant 411. Five chapters of the local history book gets me through to 418. An attractive young lady hands out leaflets advising families on how to recognize Jihadists. Angus being an unlikely looking Jihadist isn't offered one. 

Finally, it's the turn of 423. 'The Font' had warned me to be prepared for a frosty reception from the ice maiden behind the counter - a doughty lady with a bun and an orange knitted cardigan who greets applicants with unsmiling formality. ''Why do you want asylum ? " she asks. I explain that I don't. A residency permit would suit me just fine. '' Don't you believe it. You English will all be asking for asylum soon ". With that she laughs, says the referendum shows the English are mad, gives me a pile of forms, tells me what to do ( this is done slowly with the words '' are you sure you understand ? " repeated three times ) and makes an appointment for me to come back for an interview next week. She smiles again when I thank her with that particular effusiveness used by those who have had unexpectedly pleasant dealings with bureaucracy. 

While Sophie and 'The Font' experiment with a new Bouillabaisse recipe in the kitchen Bob and Angus walk to the end of the ridge. We sit and watch the four adult donkeys and the young one eating the bark off a fallen oak tree.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The sparrows that nest in the eves of The Rickety Old Farmhouse shuttle backwards and forwards to the wheat field on the other side of the lane. A flight of 20 yards at most. They eat. Fly home. Then repeat the journey. Twenty or so nests of hungry young squeak excitedly. Sophie observes them from a shady spot under an oak tree. She could sit there for hours. Every twenty minutes or so she emits a solitary bark of the ear piercing variety. The sparrows are unimpressed.

She and her brother spend a portion of the afternoon chasing round the garden at high speed in pursuit of those invisible things that only happy dogs can see. Chasing cannot be conducted quietly. The PON duos volume level is set to maximum.

Shady corners are explored.

Ears are scratched.

France looks as if it might be in with a chance of winning the European Football Championships. For the male residents of deepest France profonde this is a truly important development in comparison , with say, Brexit. Who, in the broader scheme of things, is to say this is a misplaced sense of proportion ?

Monday, June 27, 2016

A gentle perambulation.

Monday morning. Bob heads off to the waterfall with 'The Font' at a cracking pace. Angus is left with Sophie. We promenade round the village at zimmer frame speed. Sophie stops to stare at the frogs in one of the  village ponds. We also watch the flowers, the cows, the horses, a heron in a willow tree and a variety of other ( to humans ) unexceptional things. Staring is interspersed with sniffing.

When we get close to the house - and breakfast - the pace picks up. Angus is given that unmistakable '' What's keeping you ? " look.

The angelic duo are loaded into the back of the car. What should be an easy task is complicated by the fact that Bob has decided to sit on the right side. This is his sisters side. She makes it plain that he has to move. This creates confusion. Finally, they are both ordered out, and then reloaded. The second attempt works like a dream. Bob moves to the left. Peace is restored.

The newspapers and broadcasters bile is now in full flow over Brexit. There can be no doubting that in French eyes the English ( British is a word rarely used ) are the most deceitful, ungrateful, untrustworthy group of charlatans ever to walk the earth. 'The Font' listens to the eight am morning news broadcast and observes that the condemnatory tone is 'a little shrill '. This is Swedish understatement for shrieking condemnation.

At the garden centre the nice young people who work at the animal sanctuary are collecting croquettes. They use a ton of croquettes a month. This week they are short of kitten kibbles. Angus is loaded up like a donkey and dispatched to the cash desk. When did animal food become so expensive ? The young people seem both surprised and grateful by the appearance of a foreigner weighed down with sacks.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Let the air circulate.

Hot and overcast. Best to sit on the wooden garden table and enjoy the breeze blowing through the slats. 

Then it's time to wander indoors. Sister sleeps on the stone floor. Ever watchful Bob guards with his nose out of the front door. The preparation of lunchtime Lamb Cutlets Milanese causes the pack to move in tandem to the kitchen

In the afternoon Bob settles down again in 'his' spot at the front door. Ever watchful might be a misnomer. On closer inspection it's difficult to determine whether big brothers on switch is in the on or off position.

The new calves and their mothers are enjoying the lush grass. Contented cows. Contented PONs. Life in deepest, deepest France profonde on a quiet Sunday morning. What a week it's been !

Let the air circulate.

Hot and overcast. Best to sit on the wooden garden table and enjoy the breeze blowing through the slats. PON common sense.

Then it's time to wander indoors. Sister sleeps on the cool stone floor. Ever watchful big brother guards with his nose out of the front door. The preparation of lunchtime Lamb Cutlets Milanese causes the pack to move in tandem to the kitchen

In the afternoon settles down in 'his' spot at the front door. Ever watchful might be a misnomer. On closer inspection it's difficult to determine whether big brothers on switch is in the on or off position.

The new calves and their mothers are enjoying the lush grass. Contented cows. Contented PONs. Life in deepest, deepest France profonde on a quiet Sunday morning. What a week it's been !

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Wisdom and age.

Sophie is not adjusting well to our early morning starts. A vision of something other than unalloyed loveliness greets me at the front door.

Different types of tomatoes are appearing in the greengrocer nearly every day. These come from near Toulon and were too succulent to ignore.

Pomegranates also make an appearance. On a hot humid evening Angus has started to drink champagne with a smidgen of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in the bottom of the glass. This adds hints of tartness and depth. The secret is finding pomegranates that are ripe and sweet rather than green and sour.

And so our day comes to an end. Angus has felt strangely unsettled by the unexpected referendum result. In fact both of us have. Rather like the tiredness that comes with a bereavement. Part of this may be due to the increasingly 'shrill' view of the perfidious English on French radio and television.

In a sense a revolution has taken place. Usually 20 year olds are considered as being the most likely revolutionaries. This time it's the 60 somethings who've risen up. What happens when the 20 year olds realize what has happened  (and what a difference it will make to their futures ) has yet to be seen. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Unexpected news.

What a shock. The UK is leaving the EU.  We've been up all night. Some decisions are just too important to sleep through. Sophie and 'The Font' sit in the orchard for a cup of coffee and a bowl of water while digesting the unexpected news. Bob and Angus head off down the ridge. Barely six and the combine harvesters are already hard at work. Clouds of chaff rising from the fields as they harvest away.

The fields at the far end of the lane already harvested. The straw tightly baled. Bob loves christening the hay bales . We take a five minute detour through the field on our way home.

At the crossroads no less than seven new calves have arrived in the night. Mothers sleep, guarding aunts glare . We pass by quickly. Bob knows better than to stare. Humans have their worries and concerns but could there be a more beautiful day to enter the world ?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Referendum Day.

Every morning at first light Bob and Angus walk along the ridge. Most days ( if it's dry ) dog and master sit on the concrete storm drain cover and chat. The PON is happy to discuss anything. Venezuelan politics, China and land reclamation in the South China Sea, Brexit. Angus talks, his companion listens. A perfect relationship. Today, we look down into the valley and watch three deer bound through the long corn. To our left a hare, going who knows where, stops - nose high, long ears back - and sniffs the air. Above us a kestrel hovers, playing the breeze, for an impossibly long time. Important things. 

The silence is broken by the early rising builder in his lilac metallic Mitsubishi pick-up. He passes and waves. The builder's followed by a farmer going the other way in his little white Renault van. He also waves. We know it's time to turn and head home when the mechanic at the Peugeot garage races by on his motorbike. He nods at us. A troubled teenager, he got a job doing what he wanted to do, working with cars, and is now the first in to work. Untroubled and happy and with his very own motorbike and the responsibility of opening up and of dealing with the first customers. A run of small victories in each 'and'. 

As the rasp of the motor bikes exhaust drifts away I scratch Bobs head. He's told, as he's told every morning, that this is Bob's Country. Routine completed, we head off along the lane at the double. While Angus thinks about the implications of todays referendum his companions thoughts have already turned to breakfast and the fun to be had savaging his sister. 

Those little dog owner routines too unimportant to be written in a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Man proposes......

At the crossroads there is a barn with a corrugated metal roof. The barn is usually home to four donkeys, one grumpy male and three females. Two weeks ago one of the females gave birth. Now there are five donkeys.

Today, the donkeys manage to open the barn door and make a break for freedom. I'm alerted to the fact that something unusual is going on by the PONs. Sophie is standing on her hind legs at the gate. Her high pitched squeak has modulated upwards by an octave. Bob, on the stump seat, with Furry Fox in his mouth , has been rendered speechless.

The donkeys amble down the lane. They eat the hydrangeas at the front gate before turning their attention to the Old Farmers hanging baskets. The dahlias in the flower beds in front of the church follow. Under the watchful eyes of the swaying Jesus the male makes short shrift of the rose bushes around the war memorial.

It's hot. The donkeys opt for a dip in the village pond.  The mayor is called. His donkey herding skills are limited. Other villagers become involved. Their donkey herding is also found wanting. The dip in the cool water rekindles the male donkeys amorous spirits. Shouts and whistles cannot deter him from what he has on his mind. At this point Angus decides he's done his civic duty and slips away.

Bob is convinced that he alone has prevented the house and garden from being overrun by these strange creatures.

Sophie demonstrates how brave she is by keeping close to me while I clean the pool.

Man proposes, God disposes and donkeys do pretty much what they like.

A day in the life of a French village. Recorded here because some things are too unimportant for a diary but are too life affirming to go completely unrecorded.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Without notes.

First light. I emerge from the bedroom to find a welcoming committee waiting. They are wearing their '' What's been keeping you ? " faces. Tails 'whump' against the floor. A morning sound.

Sophie has had one of those hair flattening nights .

The early sun strikes the window boxes.

Potatoes from Brittany have arrived in the greengrocers.

So have the first of the flat peaches. 

Some carrots are bought for Bob and Sophie . Since we've given up wheat based treats their 'itchy ear' allergies have almost disappeared.

Yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Commons opened the session, speaking without using notes. What could have been a maudlin affair was instead suffused from the outset with purpose. This two minute long  clip is posted , not out of sadness, but as an example of how dignified language can combat even the deepest darkness.