Everyday life in a rickety old Scottish farmhouse with a very happy Polish Lowland Sheepdog. A record of those unimportant little things that are too important to be forgotten.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Angus is off to Berlin for two days.
The PONs flock is set to shrink.
Sophie recognizes the travelling shoes. Sometimes a dogs face can say more than words ever could.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
A terrifying accessory.
Cool in the morning. Hot and overcast in the afternoon.
Sophie alternates between the wooden garden table and a spot on the stone floor in front of a fan.
In the neighbouring village the hotel is setting out tables for lunch.
The little pilgrimage church is empty.
Some churches are dark, mysterious places. This one is happily chaotic.
From the battlements where the chateau used to stand, before the revolution, we can look across a countryside peppered with little villages. Under the twin pressures of progress and population Britain has changed out of all recognition in the last 40 years. This view, with the exception of the new bridge, would be recognizable to any of the locals great great grandparents.
Bob spends much of the day watching Portuguese pilgrims pass along the little lane. Sometimes he stands with a soft lamb his mouth at others he stands and guards without the aid of this terrifying accessory.
Monday, August 29, 2016
The day dawns grey and overcast. On humid mornings like this the PONs take up position on their garden table 'roost'. The tables slats allow air to circulate freely to those parts that air needs to circulate to. They watch as I clean the pool. Bob watches in silence. Sophie lends noisy encouragement.
Off in the car to the market town. Below the cathedral we notice that someone is modernizing an attic flat. The modern window and the removal of the old shutters a hint that this is not going to be a 'sensitive' restoration.
At the bakers much discussion as to where you could find pastries like these in the US. Lake Shore Drive and Central Park South are mentioned. Angus is surprised to learn that inhabitants of Austin consider it to be more sophisticated than Dallas or Houston.
Bile. There could be a better name for this wine displayed in a local grocers window. It causes much amusement.
In the greengrocers it's now pumpkin season. Last week there were none.
This week we count a dozen varieties. The Americans are keen on pumpkin pie but admit that the only variety they know is the one that comes out of a can.
We find signs of some mite bites on Sophie's front paws. She gets given a bath with medicated shampoo. Bob, who is next in line to be bathed, disappears. Bob has learnt that if enough time passes between the bath being run and being caught then the chances of having to face this ordeal diminishes. It works. After twenty minutes of searching in vain we give up. He reappears.
No worries. Bob is mite free.
Chicken and rice for dinner. Then a lengthy bout of throw the furry fox. Bob settles down for a doze by the pool. Sophie 'circulates' amongst the guests to let them know she's ready to be tickled .
It's been the best day ever.
And here's the story of a truly world changing man : http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21705644-donald-ainslie-da-henderson-epidemiologist-died-august-19th-aged-87-man-versus-virus
Sunday, August 28, 2016
On one side of the ridge the rising sun paints the sky red. On the other side the moon casts a snow white light across the clouds. ' How beautiful ' I find myself saying out loud.
The PONs and their master sit on the storm drain for ten minutes watching the mountains turn slowly pink, then orange before they finally meld into the purply-grey heat haze. The PONs sit in silence. The itinerant Spanish melon pickers pass by in their convoy of little SEAT vans. The farmer in his little white Renault waves at us.
'The Font' has returned with the Americans. At night, in the mountains, the temperature dropped to a refreshing 11 degrees. 'The Fonts' timing was out by a day. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far. 41 degrees in the afternoon. Still 35 as we set up the table on the terrace for dinner.
The Americans discover that the little village is a way point for female Spanish students trekking up the mountains. The Americans become enthusiastic trekkers. 'The Font' enjoys glorious peace and quiet.
Over breakfast 'The Font' announces that it might be a good idea to rent a house in the mountains next summer. A perfect way to exercise the dogs ( and ourselves ) and escape the heat. Angus looks at the proposed rental and is less than convinced. Rusticity and comfort are often mutually exclusive.
On our way home from our morning walk we bump into the mayor who is replacing a dead hydrangea in the flower bed behind the Salle des Fetes. Sophie gets a tickle. I ask him about the three women who came to the front gate wanting to use our garden for aperitifs. The mayor has no idea who they might be. He says that there are no weddings planned for the rest of the year.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Under an umbrella.
Another scorcher of a day. Bob is waiting in the library when I come downstairs.
So is Sophie.
Out into the garden until the heat builds and it's time to come indoors. Angus trims the lavender, or, at least makes a start on it. There are still bees around so the lavender bushes that are still in flower are left well alone. Sophie takes to heart the lesson that a Princess should always doze under an umbrella. I try to explain that to avoid the sun the umbrella should be open.
The last field of sunflowers now past their prime. Their heads starting to droop. That only leaves melons and the autumn wheat to be harvested before the farms dotted along the ridge settle down for winter.
This is the CIA guide to dog training. The CIA clearly doesn't employ PONs : https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2015-featured-story-archive/cia-top-10-dog-training-tips.html
Friday, August 26, 2016
Angus sleeps badly. The Barn Owls decide to have a midnight gathering on the drawing room window ledge. When the owls flap their wings the security lights come on. Every time the lights come on the startled owls fly off - screeching. After the fifth episode Angus comes to the view that causality is a concept alien to Barn Owls.
At 3:41 the fire alarm downstairs has a 'moment'. It emits a high pitched ( and extremely annoying ) trilling noise. The PONs decide to howl just in case I've slept through the ear deafening trilling.
Angus comes downstairs, stands on a chair, unscrews the fire alarm cover and removes the battery. The trilling stops. A number of phrases that shouldn't be heard by children punctuate the process. The PONs think this is great fun.
Come 7.35 Monsieur Bozo arrives, unannounced, at the front gate to ask if everything is alright with the new septic tanks. '' By the way M'Ongoose. I had an additional bill from the water board for the work I did. Could I drop it off tomorrow ? ". I tell him tomorrow will be fine.
Next to arrive is The Old Farmer . He hopes to head off with the Belgian lady to Belarus next Wednesday. The Old Farmer chats away to Bob and Sophie. He lost his German Shepherd in the same car accident that killed his wife and youngest daughter. Sometimes I think he comes over not so much to talk but for some canine madness.
No sooner has he gone than the French teacher rings the bell. She's brought some green plums and some cherry tomatoes. Bob and Sophie like the French teacher but they don't like her bike.
Finally, the mayor 'pops round' to tell me that he's shutting up the town hall early. Why he should tell me this is a mystery. '' There's nothing to do today " he says breezily. The town hall is theoretically open for 2 hours on a Tuesday morning and 2 hours on a Thursday morning. Quite what it does while its open is unclear.
The PONs love visitors. Due to the heat Bob has changed his guarding routine. Instead of standing on his stump seat in the direct sunlight he now stands under the shade of the little Skodas tailgate and looks ferocious. I'm not sure he succeeds in this. His sister has given up guarding until it's cooler. She dozes in front of a fan.
So passes another day when nothing, absolutely nothing, happens. Bob and Sophie find it all highly exciting.
If you suffer from vertigo don't watch the last 90 seconds of this : https://youtu.be/gLDYtH1RH-U
Thursday, August 25, 2016
It's hot. By noon the readout on the little Skoda's dashboard shows its 39 degrees.
The seven seat Volvo comes into its own. 'The Font' heads off to the high mountains with the Americans. Up there amidst the snow it promises to be cooler.
There was some discussion about taking Bob and Sophie but the thought of a long drive in a full car, in the heat, with two lively Sheepdogs only had one possible outcome. Experience counts. The PONs and Angus stay behind.
Sophie, who initially greeted the newcomers as if they were mass murderers, has now decided that they have their uses. They can be cajoled into Throwing the Furry Fox at all hours. She is decidedly unhappy to see them go. Bob wonders who will play touch rugby with him after midnight.
From the top of the ridge Bob and Angus can just make out the Pyrenees peaking out from the heat haze. Sophie is too busy exploring in ditches to have time to look out for mountain peaks. She finds a pigeon skull which she crunches with self evident satisfaction. Angus says ' No ! ' to deaf ears.
The village is taking on that late summer look. The grass parched, the leaves on the plane trees turning brown. Two tractors roll down the lane in the morning and a small convoy of cars holding itinerant Spanish melon pickers rolls the other way in the afternoon. Sophie spends much of her afternoon lying in front of a fan, snoring.
So passes a quiet , high summers day in deepest, deepest France profonde.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
PONs have two sorts of days. Happy Days and Exceptionally Happy Days. Otherwise known as HD's and EHD's.
Today is clearly an EHD.
Sophie gets groomed. Sophie enjoys being groomed . For a full twenty minutes she, and she alone, is the centre of attention.
Her wet nose continues to rank as one of the seven wonders of the world.
After wards a tour of the village.
Then with the Americans to the cheese shop.
The Americans want to know whether it's correct to eat the rind on the cheese or to cut it off.
The cheesemongers answer to this question is neither clear cut nor brief. The answer may best be summarized as ' With some you do. With others you don't '.
Mid afternoon three women in shell suits arrive at the garden gate. A brief discussion is had with 'The Font '. The youngest is getting married in the town hall on Saturday and wants to use our garden for aperitifs afterwards. This would be fine by us were it not for the fact that we've never seen any of them before and they seem to view the use of The Rickety Old Farmhouse as an inalienable right . The bride to be informs ' The Font ' that '' There shouldn't be more than eighty or so guests and we should be gone by six ". The words ' may we ? ' or ' would it be possible ? ' are not used. The three women are despatched with a very Lutheran and definitive 'Non !'. This is a bizarre example of the effrontery of strangers.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Another of those perfect mornings. We tour the village in the half light. Bob stops to christen the four corners of the box hedge that surrounds the war memorial. He then christens the fire hydrant. This unchanging PON ritual presumably 'dethreats' the village. Sophie delicately sniffs the fresh pigeon guano at the foot of the church belfry.
Off to the greengrocers with the Americans. Half a dozen varieties of peaches this morning. We opt for a kilo of yellow and a kilo of the peche de vigne with their blood orange coloured flesh.
Never enough oranges for breakfast when there are twenty somethings around.
Being an all male shopping expedition we stop and look at a large green vegetable / fruit ? This is picked up and examined closely. Opinion is divided as to whether the vegetable / fruit is mega cool or gross. There is also some uncertainty as to what it might be.
Despite the added responsibility that comes with having to herd a large, noisy and hyperactive flock Bob manages to find a few moments to close his eyes and re balance his inner karma. This is best done with his nose out of the front door and his rump firmly in the shade.
Just another quiet day in deepest France profonde. There is some good news. The Old Farmer wanders over to let us know that the Belgian Lady's passport has been found by the Belarusian Embassy. It had been delivered to an office next door. The journey should start in ten days.
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