Sunday, December 31, 2017

A year of health and happiness to all.

Ostrich an unusual main course for the New Years eve dinner in the local cafe. This morning, ahead of the great event, service at the cafe is a little slow but the PONs are finally rewarded with a bowl of water and a shared half croissant. Tails wag enthusiastically. 

The bollards in the little market town bedecked in ever so slightly scary seasonal faces and red bonnets. Hundreds of them. Who thinks of these things ? Bob is put off his stride by their presence and hurries back to the car without going through his usual 'christening' routine.

Home to find the kilt and sporran in readiness for Hogmanay. That special time of year when Gaels cast care aside and remember what's gone before and relish the innocence and excitement of what's to come.

For all visitors to The Rickety Old Farmhouse may 2018 find you with a loyal companion alongside to stare down the wind when the weather turns stormy .....

.... and a trusted friend to fearlessly guard the front door .

A year of health and happiness to all. May your world be a properly virtuous and humane place.

To usher in the start of what is likely to be a remarkable 2018 here's Auld Lang Syne as it should be sung :

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mobbed by goldfinches.

It pours. The sort of rain that falls in dollops rather than drops. Clever rain that knows how to find its way behind the collar of your jacket and run down your neck. At the storm drain the sodden PONs and their equally sodden master turn around and head home. ' Must be that good old global warming that's causing this weather ' says Angus. Bob and Sophie mull this over in silence. Putting the world to rights will have to wait until tomorrow.

Despite the downpour there are scores of goldfinches on the bird feeders. Bob dutifully follows me across the squelching lawn to fill the trays with sunflower seeds. Goldfinches en masse are a joyous sight. Why there are so many of them this year is a mystery. Perhaps the relatively warm winter has boosted their numbers. Its not every day you're mobbed by goldfinches.

After a second morning walk , in which Sophie's coat absorbs at least her body weight in water, the PONs are towelled dry and told to stay indoors. Sophie is reacquainted with her orange haired friend kindly donated by the lady in Georgia. Most toys have squeakers that are destroyed in minutes. This one squeaks and squeaks and squeaks. In fact it seems indestructible.

In the afternoon the black skies disappear. Blue skies take their place. We head off to the little market town. The PONs are intrigued to find a municipal workman standing in the street shouting instructions up to a lady in a third floor apartment. He's still there twenty minutes later when we head back to the car.

Despite the weather the PONs have enjoyed themselves. Sophie has supervised preparations in the kitchen. Bob has helped Angus talk to men in dark suits. Quite possibly the best day ever.

What better way to start a Saturday ? :

Friday, December 29, 2017

A loud crash.

After the storms the day dawns bright and clear. For thirty seconds the sun peaking above the horizon bathes the church and the village trees in gold. The luck of being in the right place at the right time and with the i-Phone to hand. 

Angus was woken at 1:02 by a loud crash. He thought the swaying Jesus might have rocked away in the 85 mph winds. This morning it's still there. The cause of the disturbance has yet to be discovered. Later I'll check the tiles on the church roof.

Sophie is in an affectionate mood today. She plants a kiss on her brother.

Surprised, he plants one on her in return.

Much of the morning and a large part of the afternoon is spent on the stump seat observing the tykes.

No less than six different varieties of Pomelos in the greengrocers. Whoever knew Pomelos were a French thing ? Come to that whoever knew Pomelos were such a thing ?

This map shows journey times from London in 1881. How travelling has changed.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Over the holidays Sophie has amazed us by demonstrating a liking for cucumber, pear and celery. Less surprisingly she also likes caviar, blinis, turkey and Roquefort. Bob likes turkey and Roquefort.

This morning it's chilly but blue skies lure us out.

Halfway down the High Street the wind picks up and the sky turns black.

When it starts to hail we take shelter in a most unwelcoming little cafe. The patrons eye up the foreigners and their canine companions with a suspicion bordering on disdain. No bowl of water of croissant crumbs here. 

Strong winds and grey skies signal a day at home. We think of clearing up the dining room in readiness for Hogmanay. Angus decides he'll do it tomorrow.

The PONs are told they're either in the house or out in the garden. Bob settles on a compromise. He lies at the front door, nose out , tail in. As gusts of arctic wind deposit wisteria leaves in the hall he is informed by ' The Font ' that lying in the door is not an option. So much for diplomatic compromise.

Despite, or perhaps because of the weather, the tykes are out and about on their motor bikes. By this stage of the holidays their mother must be at her wits end. In the evening there is a great gathering of white vans outside the village hall. The local hunters are preparing for their New Years Day hunt. Angus hopes it snows for them. The hunters here are better than the ones we encountered in Italy but they still have a swaggering arrogance that says this place is mine. One wouldn't want to get in their way.

Sophie's coat has got to the stage where something needs to be done about it but 'the something' can wait until warmer weather.

This article from the London Review of Books is an acerbic tour de force . Royalists look away now :

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

School holidays.

Sophie has a new orange haired 'political' toy kindly sent from Atlanta. She contentedly savages it.

Her oaf of a brother is not allowed near it.

The two tykes start practising their trombones at ten in the morning. Their father has bought a third hand mini bus to transport the ever expanding family. 'The Font' wonders if this purchase is a sign that the mother is pregnant again. The man with anger management issues has his eleven year old son staying. The eleven year old has been bought a hover board. He hisses past us on Sophie's trip to the village green. Sophie is unimpressed and shows it ... or more precisely voices her displeasure. The eleven year old spends his day hovering over the village speed bump. 

In the afternoon the two tykes stop their tromboning and race their motor bikes up and down the lane. They do wheelies. The bikes don't have silencers. Anglo Saxon parents would be apoplectic. 'The Font' decides the father must be of the ' Why worry? There'll be another one along in a minute ' school of parenting. In the evening the tykes and their father let off rockets behind the Salle des Fetes. The father drinks beer and chain smokes. Bob is alarmed by the rockets. Sophie savages her orange haired friend through them.

Blogland is a window into many esoteric and charming places . This is one such place. The translated line 'Angels often appeared to men under the old law' is a beauty :

A toe tapping golden oldie with a really clever 'hissing - screeching - whooping' sound ( which Sophie loves to howl along to) on the backing track. :

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Two lucky dogs.

Last month two sweet affectionate young dogs came to the gate. Bob and Sophie, who are noisily ( if ineffectually ) territorial, were uncharacteristically welcoming. Sophie in particular was keen to play with them. We thought they were dogs that belonged to one of the plumbers 'lads'. They arrived at the gate when the plumbers arrived and disappeared when the plumbers left twenty minutes later.

During our get together on Saturday evening The Old Farmer brought out some Polaroid pictures of the same dogs. It seems that they are two young sisters of about eight weeks old. By happenstance they were found sitting in the middle of the road by one of the farmers in the valley. No collars. No chips. Someone drove into the village and abandoned them. The farmer who found them has taken them in. They sleep in the warm barn with the other farm dogs, have had a thorough check up at the vets and are being well looked after. The farmer hopes to find a home for them. If not they'll act as back up to his existing dogs. 

It never entered our heads that dogs could be abandoned in this way. The fact they weren't run over, were found and are now safe and well is in its way a small canine Christmas miracle. The way The Old Farmer carries around photos of them to show to potential owners is somehow touching in a French village way .

This is happy music :

And something for Brussel Sprout lovers to chew on :

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas.

6:00 am Christmas morning. No sign of the PONs in the upstairs hall.

Nor the downstairs.

They have taken an executive decision to sleep in the kitchen and guard the turkey and mince pies. How's that for selfless devotion ? Bob does his best to pretend he's not just woken up .

No Silent Night for the owls who have spent their night chatting on the gutters outside the bedroom window. They head off with an irritated screech as the front door is opened. The owls circle, then settle on a branch of the plane tree on the other side of the lane. ‘ Come and see this ‘ I shout out to ‘The Font’ and so we start our Christmas morning standing in the doorway laughing at six round street lamp lit faces peering back at us.

Dogs and master head off along the ridge. That particular once a year Christmas silence undisturbed by the distant roar of aircraft or the sound of cars. The PONs roll on their backs in the frost. We pause to greet the  donkeys in the field, the cows by the crossroads and the horses by the pond. Something ‘right’ about being with cattle, donkeys, horses and ( of course ) sheepdogs on Christmas day. All hint at our shared place in the cosmos. Gentle intimations of a world beyond agency and prediction.

Bob sits next to Angus on the storm drain and is told that this is his country. He's then told that this is a day when the angels of mans better nature are allowed take wing. A day when kings and wise men learn from poverty and innocence. Bob seems to like that thought and leans into me. Sophie heads off after something decidedly unChristmasy in the drainage ditch. For her solemn stillness and angels with harps of gold can wait. This morning there's a chance of finding a pre-breakfast dessicated vole .

So starts a Christmas morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.

A very merry Christmas to one and all from the two and four legged at The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

' Installez-vous comfortablement ' .

Although it's still dark Bob and 'The Font' have just set off to collect the Christmas turkey and brussel sprouts from the market. Sophie and her master are left behind to tidy up.

A smaller group last night. The German billionaire in a red romper suit, mustard jumper and green running shoes. A  grown up version of toddler chic. His wife in a perhaps slightly too short dress topped by a red cape trimmed with white fur and covered in what might be sequins but to the untrained eye might be also be diamonds. Monsieur le Comte arrives in a off white coat creation that comes to his knees and is fastened at the front by five leather toggles. It has the look of being absent mindedly knitted by his wife who this evening sports an unseasonally severe grey check suit and frilly white blouse fastened tightly at the throat with a black cameo brooch. Our gathering is completed by the architect from Toulouse, the man who works for Volkswagen, the lady who is the secretary for some big shot at Airbus, the retired nuclear warhead designers from Paris and a smattering of others.We should of course not forget The Old Farmer and the Belgian Lady. The Old Farmer is spending three hours a day on his exercise bike. He pedals while the Belgian lady reads the newspaper aloud to him. This has done wonders for the muscles in his bad leg. They are both delighted to be invited out , which is the purpose of the get together. The Belgian lady has dressed in something black and glittery. The Old Farmer is wearing a freshly washed, but not pressed, green plaid shirt.

The billionaires wife congratulates us on having made the charming little house so comfortable. He talks about Frankfurt becoming Europes capital  ''. Everyone's moving from London to Germany because of your Brexit " . This is said perhaps just a shade too breezily.

While our guests arrive we think of keeping the PONs in the downstairs kitchen. The sound of howling indicates that they don't agree. They are allowed to mingle. Bob is on his absolute best behaviour. Sophie, who has found something indigestible in a drainage ditch, passes wind frequently and pungently. The guests pretend not to notice. She knows she's not allowed to beg so she sits and stares at people and bombards them with PON ESP - ' Drop that vol au vent. Drop that vol au vent '.

Recognizing that no more emmenthal twirls are coming her way Sophie retires to the library for a doze.

The Scandinavian cellist is still playing away :

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Round 1.

Bob and Sophie know something is afoot. They spend much of the day watching 'The Font ' work in the kitchen. In the afternoon they join their master for a trip to the traiteur in the local market town where the two stylish young gentlemen from Paris have prepared Christmas finger food for sixty. This is collected. The PONs sit behind the dog grille and salivate.

The villagers are supposed to arrive at six. They arrive at seven. The exception is the man with the anger management issues and his girlfriend who arrive at six thirty. The girlfriend, dressed from head to toe in black, is an upholsterer ( upholsteress ? ) by training but is currently working behind the reception desk at the undertakers. She looks at the chairs in the drawing room and trills " I could be kept busy dealing with this lot !'' Angus wonders if this is an advert for her skills or an indication that our furniture looks tired - or both.

The villagers are offered champagne, wine or spirits. The women folk all opt for champagne as do the men folk with the exception of two youngish farmers in green overalls who have come straight to The Rickety Old Farmhouse from a days ploughing. They each down two glasses of MacAllan as if it was going out of fashion - this is quite understandable after a long day in the frozen fields. '' Good whiskeee M'Ongoose " they say in unison. Angus is told that they may have to grub out their plum trees next year. '' The French don't buy prunes like they used to and the foreigners don't have the taste for them ". The 'remarkable' Christmas tree with its 600 flashing lights is much admired.

The last of our neighbours leaves at nine thirty. Madame Bay looks for Bob in order to give him a Lily of the Valley scented cuddle but can't find him. He's sensed what is about to happen and has 'disappeared'. With the house once again empty the PONs embark on a nose to the floor search for dropped blinis or mini foie gras burgers.

Round two tonight with the German billionaires, the Count and Countess, the weekenders and of course the Belgian Lady and The Old Farmer.

This is an unusual sound. I don't think it's a cello :

Friday, December 22, 2017

Longer days ahead.

The winter solstice behind us Sophie is ready for longer days and more time outdoors.

Bob is put on his lead. Yesterday he lost his footing on the frosty grass and slipped,nose first,into the small pond. Of all the places in the world Bob could possibly drink from the pond by the horse field is his absolute favourite.

After her walk Sophie slumps into  deep sleep on the upstairs hallway floor. She keeps her back turned on the 'remarkable Christmas tree and its 600 flashing lights. It can't be a threat if you can't see it.

An unexciting display at the bakers. We pick up some quiches for tonights first gathering of the villagers at The Rickety Old Farmhouse. The PONs get some pastry which is enthusiastically received.

The hardware store has a seasonal special on food blenders.

We check out the local restaurants lunch menu. Pigs ear and snail starters give it an unmistakeably French flavour.

Italian television is very keen on broadcasts like this. Non -Italians might find a number of things interesting not least the near universal use of mobile phones. Why bother seeing the Pope when you can catch him on camera ? The security men seem remarkably relaxed about aggressive 'snappers'.