Out with Sophie for our early morning mole hunt across the village green. It's time to have the laurel hedge trimmed. From the road The Rickety Old Farmhouse looks like a bungalow.
A trip to the cheese shop. 'The Fonts' favourite is Banon, a goats cheese from Provence that comes wrapped in a vine leaf and tied with twine. The name has recently taken on a different connotation. Bob gets a little Salers. His tail does its thwack-thwack-thwack routine.
Today the PONs are charged up and ready for anything.
The good news is that ...
Bobs paralyzed eyelid is now 50% operational... and improving by the day.
His sister is getting five walks a day.
Yesterday, the family diva managed to get on her hind legs and pull the pork chops off the kitchen table. By the time we'd noticed they'd gone, they'd gone.
We have pasta for dinner.
Mischief is returning, in spades, to deepest, deepest France profonde.
This made me laugh out loud. A Tweet from a very feisty retired American lady: https://twitter.com/madeleine/status/824320652278693892
Monday morning. Sophie is up and out early. She stops digging for moles and watches the sun rise. For the briefest of moments the fur on her flanks flames red against the darkness.
Later, on our way down to the little waterfall, Bob stops and stares at a Jay eating berries on a branch. Neither dog nor Jay are in a hurry to move on.
In a world of quarter truths the honesty of a morning like this and the chance to walk in beauty makes me breathe deep.
And were there ever words of Shakespeare so timely ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjEAeOshUGQ
The cold has gone. We wake to a mild and windy morning. All the leaves that Loic the gardener blew off the lawn have blown back. Bob stands by the door waiting for his harness to be put on. He squeals with delight ( a thing he does every morning ) when the door is opened. You'd think that his enthusiasm might have eased off after doing the same thing for four years. Not a bit of it. Dogs live their lives lost in a world of wonder and pending adventure.
The family fellow gets into the car on his third attempt. Attempt #1 was interrupted by the arrival of a blackbird on the lawn. Attempt #2 by a leaf fluttering down from the gutters. There are no distractions the third time round.
The chairs have been put out on the square. The cafe owners hopeful that the temperatures will rise and the crowds flock into town. We take a table outside. Bob gets brought a bowl of water and a biscuit.
The butcher is selling chicken and truffles en croute. We buy two. Bob gets a sliver of roast lamb. The family fellow emits one of his 'I has died and gone to heaven' sighs.
Six little cakes from the trendy bakers complete our shopping. Bob gets given croissant crumbs. His tail thwack-thwack- thwacks against the side of the display counter. The blonde young lady comes round and kisses him on top of his head.
In the village the mayor and the man in the day-glo yellow jacket are setting up trestle tables in the Salle des Fetes. This afternoon is the award of prizes to the winners of the beautiful gardens competition. A selection of the mayors wife's dried root vegetable arrangements have already been unloaded from the back of his car and sit, unguarded, in the middle of the petanque court.
So starts a Sunday morning in a France as far away from the bright lights of Paris as it's possible to get.
Here's something on dog flu : https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/research/blog/january-2017/scientists-develop-new-flu-vaccines-for-man%E2%80%99s-best.aspx
The clothes drier gives up the ghost. The stress of dealing with the mountain of towels generated by the PONs beyond its manufacturing tolerances. Off to the market town to buy a replacement. The teenage sales lady is keen to sell me something connected to the 'internet of things'. Angus is wary of the internet of things. She smiles patiently and informs him that her father has difficulty with technology too. ' He's forty nine ' she says as if describing Methuselah.
Sophie gets walked all the way round the village. We follow the track of the old walls - slowly. In fact very slowly. There are six months of missed scents to be caught up on. What should take ten minutes takes an hour.
Sophie rediscovers the lady like art of digging for moles in fields.
Bobs coat - which has been dry and wiry - is once again as soft as silk. Amazing what a recuperating sister can do for a brothers inner karma.
A man from the bank phones to say they're reducing the interest rate on deposit accounts from 0.25% to 0.05%. Technically this is known as reducing them from almost nothing to nothing.
The telco repairman shows up - unannounced - with a new connection box. He installs it and says there will be a $40 credit applied to next months bill as recompense for the inconvenience. The phone line to the computer now works - slowly - but constantly .
Here's something to warm up a Saturday morning.
Cold when we head out of the front gate. The air heavy, the ground hard underfoot. Bob thinks it's wonderful.
At the greengrocers a lady turns to me and says '' What lovely agrumi ". It's not every day you get greeted like this.
Lucky Charms appear on the USA section of the exotic foods aisle next to the peanut butter and marshmallow spread. I have no idea what they are. After studying the packaging I'm still none the wiser.
It's still frosty as Bob and his master head down the hill to the little waterfall.
Bob stops to stare at two late to bed owls sitting on a walnut branch. They stare back. A stand off develops. We are there some time.
Sophie is walked to the end of the ridge. She pauses, soaks in the view and barks at the donkeys. Not an aggressive bark. More an 'I'm back' bark. The French teacher stops her little Renault Clio and gets out to say hello. Sophie revels in the attention.
The family diva then sprints home.
Inconsequential to many but a 200 metre walk to the ridge is a big, big moment in the life of a four year old PON girl who's been housebound for nearly six months.
These are the little things that tear down walls and make the world turn.
So starts a chilly Friday in deepest, deepest France profonde.
Aude, the dungaree wearing bipolar decoratrice, comes to quote on painting the drawing room. She talks away happily to herself. Today she debates the pros and cons of candidates in Aprils Presidential elections .
Outside, on the lane, the man from the phone company has shown up early and is trying to find out why the internet is playing up. Some days it works, other days it works to rule, other days it simply doesn't work at all. He spends twenty minutes poking around the junction box then leaves. ' That's it all fixed ' he says jauntily. ' Fixed' in this case means there's absolutely no improvement. Angus phones the service line - again. The person at the other end promises to make a 'commercial contribution' to the next bill. This is what French companies do when faced with an irate customer.
While this high drama unfolds Loic the bifocaled gardener arrives on his moped and starts to blow leaves into piles. Loic advances, slowly and determinedly, across the lawn. The leaf blower clearing an arc of grass ahead of him. Sophie follows on behind leaping into the new piles and undoing Loic's hard work. Loic remains oblivious to the chaos being created behind him.
Bob recognizes that this is one of those mornings.
This is interesting psychology : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/01/25/we-asked-people-which-inauguration-crowd-was-bigger-heres-what-they-said/?utm_term=.e5910271fe8e
Sophie sets off for the vets. She's had the hair over her eyes trimmed for the occasion. A Sophie that can see is a happy Sophie.
There is a slight delay. Her brother wants to go with her.
He is removed from the back of the car .
The promise of spaghetti for dinner distracts him just long enough .
The family diva gets the thumbs up from the vets. The operation and the unexpected fracture both healing nicely. The specialists say she should be getting lots of little walks slowly extending in length, difficulty and range. Within a month the healing process should be completed and the leg as good as new. Leaping and stairs remain forbidden until the end of February. '' Having come this far there's no point in taking shortcuts and putting unnecessary weight on the joint ". It goes without saying the leaping and racing up and down stairs are THE activities that Sophie has set her heart on. After 5 months of enforced idleness she is 3 kilos overweight.
The oncologist asks after Bob. It's decided the problems were idiopathic. ' Unusual. It seemed the symptoms were very clear ' he opines. '' You don't know PONs " replies 'The Font'.
This morning Sophie is put into her ordinary canvas harness rather than the two piece '' Help Em Up " one. She is overjoyed. For her owners the day starts with laughter at the sight of a cavorting four legged family component.
Yesterday we took out online subscriptions to two American newspapers and The Guardian. Seems right.
While Bob and 'The Font' go for a power walk round the lake Angus and Sophie go for a gentle saunter on the village green. Sophie isn't so much interested in a gentle saunter as a high speed mole hunt. This afternoon she returns to the hospital for what we hope is the all clear on the surgery and the return to a normal routine.
Home for breakfast.
Bob gets a walk to the Holy Well and the Sacred Oak. Something about the light this morning that makes the grass very green.
Time to dig for small furry things in the high banks on either side of the lane. The small furry things once again outsmart the male PON. The squeaks of delight might give them pre-warning.
On the blackboard in the cafe lunch is advertised. Plat + Desert + KF for E11. Two old beret wearing gentleman demand to know what a 'KF' is. The young, new and social media savvy barman informs them that it's coffee. The old gentlemen look blankly at him. The barman spells out Kah Fay phonetically. They still look blankly at him. '' It's how you tweet the word coffee". The gulf in understanding widens. Time moves slowly, if at all, in deepest, deepest France profonde.
Another sign I've become my father. It took all of three minutes to work out what a 'home school shooter' is.
Sunday morning. Off to Toulouse. If we get there before ten there's no problem parking. Having waited for the statue repairing builder we're running half an hour later than usual. We finally find a parking spot behind the cathedral.
Sunday mornings in French towns strange affairs. As if a neutron bomb has gone off. The streets deserted. 'The Font'
window shops and looks at a sculpture of a herd of bulls. Thankfully, the gallery is closed.
The bread stall doing a roaring business. Now we know why the streets are deserted. The French can all be found in the market buying things for Sunday lunch.
Back in the village a large bus arrives. It's bringing all the special needs children from the home in the small market town to the Salle des Fetes for lunch. The children are taken out somewhere different every Sunday. Angus is once again amazed by the professionalism and love of the young carers. No hint of irritation or annoyance at their charges wild antics. A disco has been set up in the village hall but the children are soon spilling out onto the village green. Organized chaos. Their laughter fills the air.
Over the weekend I heard the words of a eulogy given for a very young and very brave Medecins sans Frontieres doctor who died in Syria. The eulogy given, in glorious and passionate and loving French. " There is such a thing in moral philosophy as the aesthetic category of the sublime, as applied to the highest mountains, raging oceans, the night sky, the interiors of some cathedrals, and other things that are superhuman, awesome, limitless. In this case it describes a life of a surgeon, a son, lived in the open. A man less concerned about his own life, and more concerned with others ". These young teachers and carers tend towards that category. Seeing them makes me hopeful.
Sophie is told that she can't go onto the village green and join in the dancing. It would put too much stress on her leg. She clearly disagrees.
First light. It's warmer this morning - no ice on the dog bowl by the front door - but there's a brisk breeze. Angus, Bob, the mayor, the man with the Yorkie, the Yorkie, the man with the day-glo yellow jacket and the village odd job man are standing on the village green. We're looking up at the crucifix in the churchyard and waiting for an expert to come and quote for repairs. Angus really doesn't want to be here but the mayor has requested his presence. 'The Font' thinks this might be because I can bring some experience to the situation. Angus wonders aloud what experience might prepare him to deal with a three ton swaying Jesus. This question is met with silence.
The statue has already been 'sorted out' by a friend of the man with the Yorkie but the repairs didn't work. The concrete infill between the brick wall and the wooden down post failed to set properly. Fresh action is now required. The expert arrives, ten minutes late, in a brand new Peugeot 4x4 with racy wheel trims and more LED lights than you would think a car could have. He wears a red velvet hat with a black band. This together with his camouflage trousers and leather jacket gives him a slightly menacing 'mafioso capo' air. '' Someone made a dogs dinner of this '' he informs us somewhat nontechnically from the top of his step ladder. The sway has increased. A health and safety official from the region has opined that if it gets much worse it might present a hazard to passing pilgrims. Two options present themselves. 1) Have a decent builder repair it and pay the going rate or 2) rope it off to stop it collapsing and killing someone.
The builder stays for 45 minutes. He jots things down in a note book and goes. '' I'll send on a quote . It won't be cheap " he says in a funerial tone of voice suitable when bidding for remedial work on swaying statues. The village 'technical' committee disperse. After the builder goes Sophie is allowed out onto the village green. She skips and screams with delight.
Bob is walked down the hill to the old Roman road. From here the steeple of the church just visible on the skyline.
When we get home Sophie is impatiently waiting for us .
So starts a quiet Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.
Ben. A nice name for a dog :
The drooling has gone. So has the lopsidedness. So too the swellings in his throat and neck that alarmed the specialist. 'The Font' continues to express hope about Bobs right eye.
The bakers wife suggests I buy a blue and pink amaretto cake. We opt instead for two coffee eclairs. Bob gets slivers of croissant. His tail does its manic metronome routine.
Hope takes many forms. A family diva walking lost in the moment, head down in the flower borders, is one of them.
Three quarters of the way through January and there are still rose hips in the hedge rows. Despite this weeks cold weather it must rank as one of the mildest winters on record. In the garden outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse red and green woodpeckers - at least eight of them - busy at work on the old oak trees.
A record of those little Saturday morning things that are overshadowed by those 'big' things. Whether its a blinking eye or a wet nose in the flowerbeds mans best hope rests in the little things. They act as a gentle reminder to preserve and defend what's important.