Sunday, July 31, 2016

It'll soon shake your windows.

Thunder growls around in the small hours. Hail pounds against the windows. Bob and Sophie sleep through it all. By the time they set off on their morning walk the sky is cloudless, the earth is drying out and the growing heat is pointing to it being a barnstormer of a day.

We wander down the lane stopping as we go to look at the horses, the donkeys, and the cows in the fields by the stream. Each of them is examined- carefully and with an element of surprise - for fifteen seconds. Then, as if satisfied that these strange creatures present no threat, the PONs hurry on. This ' stop and stare' routine is followed every morning so there must be some canine logic to it.

Sophie has been bumping into things. The thick fringe of hair over her eyes is trimmed so she can see. This has left her with a long at the sides hair style that will hopefully 'grow out'.

Bob also benefits from a haircut but manages to emerge from the experience looking exactly the same as he always does.

The mountains on the far side of the plain are shrouded in heat haze. PONs and owner sit on the drainage ditch and look towards where they should be. Bob and Angus chat. Sophie hunts for lizards. The passing builder and the young 'garagiste' wave.

The local newspaper informs us that we've got important visitors in the neighbourhood. It's certainly the place to come to if you want a quiet vacation.

And here's some Sunday morning music. Performed fifty years ago, it's as relevant today :

Saturday, July 30, 2016

All the colours.

By half past six the sun is up and the heat beating down. The sunflowers in the valley are at their peak cheerfulness. Let's hope the Village Fleuri judges are keen on sunflowers.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse, Loic, the heavily bifocaled gardener, is busy tidying up the driveway in case the judges decide to wander into the garden. The PONs 'help' him , then get bored.

The bench on the village green that was a rather feminine blue has overnight received a second coat of green paint. It now matches the graveyard gate

The post of the road sign by the new speed bump has also been painted , as has the metal cover for the old weigh bridge outside the town hall. This is the ' have can of paint , don't know when to stop ' syndrome of beautification.

The judges arrive not at ten, nor at noon , but at twenty to three. '' Gascon time " says the mayor with a gallic shrug of his shoulders. The Village Council are out in force. The mayor is resplendent is his red, white and blue sash, grey crimplene trousers,peach coloured short sleeved shirt and his red and green plaid pork pie hat. The judges are younger than one would imagine. I have they feeling they might be regional government fonctionaires who've volunteered to judge village plantings in order to get out of their offices on hot summer afternoons. They're due to spend thirty minutes in the village before heading off to their next appointment. They spend forty five. A good sign ? The results will be known in three weeks time.

It is scorchingly hot. Bob emits a indifferent 'woof' as the judges pass by . If it was ten degrees cooler he'd watch them from his stump seat. His sister lies in the shade of the downstairs hallway. From time to time her tail wags to indicate she's ready to guard her flock at a moments notice.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The day.

The day when the regional judges are due to come and judge the flower beds. Will they decide that the village warrants a rosette ?

The mayor and the ladies of the Beautiful Byeways Committee are up early. We see them filling watering cans as we return from our early morning walk. Bob is also keen to help water the plants but is dissuaded from doing so.

There is some uncertainty as to whether the judges will arrive at ten or at noon. The little lady in the purple hat took the message but she can't be found. The assumption is she's gone off to the local market.

Melons - en masse - make an appearance in the greengrocers.

The variety of onions on offer continues to grow.

Munster cheese with Cumin seeds. They seem to add Cumin seeds to all sorts of cheese. Must be one of those old country things like Chicory added to Coffee to make it go further.

So starts a day of great excitement here in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

At peace with their lot.

The apple trees on the other side of the valley have been covered in netting to stop the birds from eating the fruit. The nets glint silver in the morning light. Sophie chases something small with a furry tail but soon gives up. I suggest that screaming with excitement may be a counterproductive hunting technique. She ignores me. Bob concentrates on the minnows in the stream. He tries the pouncing PON technique - heavy on action but light on results. We settle on the storm drain for our morning chat. Angus comments on the propensity of politicians to lie. Bob has difficulty in understanding what a lie is. We head home.

Sophie is full of life.

Bob is also full of life. Dogs like six year olds have that magical ability to never get tired. After a walk up the hill their owner is in need of a cup of coffee.

Chilled carrot is on offer in the kitchen. Bobs body is ( almost )  still but his tail waves backwards and forwards as if possessed of a life of its own.

The sun bakes down on The Rickety Old Farmhouse . At lunchtime its occupants are reunited with 'The Font'. Ten minutes of enthusiastic PON welcome follows. After lunch a deep silence, interrupted by the gentle sound of snoring, tells us the PONs are at peace with their lot. Outside on the village green the mayor and the villagers are busy 'sprucing up' ahead of the Fridays judging.

So passes a quiet day in deepest, deepest France profonde. Air France cabin crew have opted for a weeks strike, starting today. It is only the peak holiday season so who could possibly suffer ?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A sense of excitement.

Bob and Sophie are managing to survive despite 'The Fonts' absence. Much of the morning is spent running up and down the outside stairs chasing lizards. Bob chases in silence. Sophie howls.

Bob finally wanders inside to inform me that one of his flock is missing. 

The village news letter arrives. This is either quarterly, bi-annual or annual depending on the year, the amount of information to be dispensed and the mood of the mayors unsmiling secretary. This edition wishes us a happy summer and tells us when the street lights are going to be switched off as an economy drive. It also urges us all ( a chacun un petit effort ) to beautify our gardens before the arrival of the regional jury for the Village Fleuri judging.

The flower beds outside the church have been replanted after the donkeys ate the delphiniums that used to be there. 

The bench under the lime tree has been painted a rather feminine blue ...

... and the metal gates to the churchyard have been painted a peculiar shade of green.

Neither the colour of the bench nor the cemetery gates match anything else in the village. Could it be these were two 'special offer' cans of paint at the hardware store? 

I'd like to say a sense of excitement has gripped our little corner of paradise but this is not the case. The sun beats down, the bees buzz, the frogs croak and a honeysuckle scented torpor covers the village. It is after all high summer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Free spending.

Through the sunflower fields down to the stream. The morning air fresh. Sophie finds a piece of pizza crust that someones thrown out of a car window. Angus notices it has two pronounced bite marks in it. Before he can say '' Sophie ! Leave it alone ! " the pizza crust has disappeared. Sophie exudes happiness at this fortuitous culinary discovery.

The Regional Village Fleuri Committee are coming from Toulouse on Friday to judge whether our little bit of paradise deserves a rosette and the title of ''one of the most beautiful villages of France ". Some villages get one rosette, a limited number two and a green fingered few, three. The village used to get two rosettes in this annual competition but following 'the scandal' it entered a lengthy rosette free period.

We know little about 'the scandal' but from what Madame Bay has told us in unguarded moments it related to the misappropriation of the gardening committees funds, a dinner in Toulouse, expensive wine and 'women'. The
word 'women' is said in a judgment laden French way that suggests they were Scarlet Jezebels. All of this happened before we arrived. Today's gardening committee has an average age of eighty . Their free spending,womanizing, predecessors were presumably younger .

Our Way home from the bakers is blocked by the two noisy little dogs that belong to the woman in the cottage at the crossroads. ' Belong ' is perhaps too strong a word to describe the relationship these road guarding pooches have with her. They seem blissfully unaware of danger and refuse to move from the middle of the tarmac. This necessitates driving very very slowly past them. The PONs howl.

Bob spends much of his morning on the stump seat watching passing traffic.

'The Font' heads back to London. Due to the State of Emergency Schengen passport free travel has been suspended. Everyone boarding an aircraft now has to go through passport checks. Despite the sixfold increase in travellers the number of passport booths remains unchanged. Today a third,ie two of them, are staffed. Fifty minutes to the airport in the car. Ten minutes through security. An hour and a half in the non airconditioned passport line. Thankfully, the plane is twenty minutes late coming in. For once the air traffic controllers aren't on strike.

This mornings French news leads with this :

Monday, July 25, 2016


A group of a dozen or so teenagers arrive on the village green around nine at night. They have a picnic. Three of them have guitars. Two have bongo drums. The girls have something of the 'flowers in their hair' look of 60's era Berkeley students. They sing. Then they 'canoodle'. Being French they sing and 'canoodle' all through the night. 

It's darker, if not cooler, in the mornings now. The sun just peeping over the crest of the ridge as Bob and his master set off on their six o'clock walk. At the Y junction we stop and look at the fields of blue corn flowers. Bob is told, as he's told every morning that this is his country. He greets this information with a lick of my ear. We start to discuss Hillary's hacked e-mails but uncertain what to make of the affair we head home.

As we return home we notice that the' young people ' have fallen asleep on the grass.

Bobs sister, who has stayed behind to clean out 'The Fonts' yogurt carton, is loaded into the back of the car. Getting Sophie in the car first prevents any potential ' Bobs in my space' crises .

Seems as if everyone in France is away on holiday. The traffic unusually light as we head towards the bakers. 

Bob and Sophie get a chance to run along the river bank where the pollarded lime trees provide deep shade. They also get croissant crumbs.

The guitar players on the village green bestir themselves in the late afternoon. Another picnic magically appears. Wine bottles are opened. It looks as if they intend spending another noisy night outside our windows. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016


The heat building again. The swimming pool pump, replaced last year at great expense, has stopped working. I have no idea why. The engineer says :  ' I'll be along some time this week .... or maybe next '. Imagine my delight when he shows up, announced, in the late afternoon. When things like this make you happy you KNOW you've become your father.

As readers of the blog will remember The Old Farmer has decided not to take his venerable motor home to Lithuania. Instead he's going in the equally venerable silver Mercedes. '' It's more comfortable ". Angus looks at the drivers seat , which is rapidly losing its foam stuffing where the fabric has worn away, but decides to say nothing. The Old Farmer reckons he can do the journey to Lithuania in two days. '' I'll stop and sleep for four or five hours in a lay by outside Strasbourg and then do Berlin and Warsaw and onto Vilnius in one go . Today he is setting off on a two day journey to Nimes. '' Want to make sure the new brakes bed in properly ".

The authorities have informed the mayor that the village hall, the church, the town hall and the village hall lavatory ( a hole in the ground affair ) must all be made wheel chair accessible. The mayor asked the local mason to come up with a quote for installing concrete ramps. The masons quote was E2,650. The quote was turned down by the Prefecture. The regional bureaucracy informed the mayor that he'll need to have an accredited architect draw up plans. The architects quote for the design is E7,500. Village economies are going to have to be made. It is suggested that the street lights be turned off completely in the summer. Rumblings of discontent are already stirring from the horse farm and the widow with the cottage by the crossroads.

Bob and Sophie have a hectic day. A group of 30 or so Croat pilgrims walk through the village. The PONs bark - the pilgrims ( unaware of the ferocity of the beasts watching them ) sing something Slavic and wave .The special needs children hold a danceathon on the village green. The noise and the approximation to dancing keep the angelic duo mesmerized for an hour. Before dinner the lady who's bought the old Presbytery by the church comes to borrow a screwdriver ( Sophie gets tickled on the head - Bob gets called 'Beau' ). Oh, and of course the pool man requires careful monitoring.

11.00 pm. At the end of a long day Sophie can be found, on her back, in the middle of the hall carpet, snoring happily away.  She's oblivious to the world. I feel like telling her how indecorous this is but sometimes a family diva should be left alone to dream of derring-do.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Welsh Valley Genius.

A day of short, sharp mountain storms. One squall following the other. Flashes of lightning and savage growls of thunder. The PONs get soaked to the skin.

Finally, Bob and Sophie opt to stay indoors. They're not frightened by storms but have a country dogs understanding that there's danger in the air.

Rug surfing , touch rugby and savaging 'Lamb' fill  their day. There is also the occasional nap.

'The Font' has tracked down an early copy of the poem In Parenthesis as a birthday present. Words as music. Penned by David Jones, a poor Welsh Valley boy, gifted with a one in a billion mantle of genius. 

We sit out late. I read aloud. Bob, convinced we're talking to him, lies by the pool - eyes closed - his tail waving. Sophie, ever independent, stares up at the young owls sitting on a high branch of the oak tree. They look bemusedly at her. She glares at their audacity. We laugh.

Here's Richard Burtons daughter talking about her fathers love for the poem.  

Passing villagers on evening strolls quietly wonder at these laughing poetry reading foreigners with their shaggy dogs. 

*** Blogger doesn't not want to behave today. Have had to post as an add on to yesterday. Apolgies for the varying text sizes.