Friday, March 31, 2017


Our first, achingly trendy, hotel had a design feature neither of us had ever seen before.

The bathroom, in addition to a walk in shower, has a bath tub. This, unusually, fills from a faucet in the ceiling.

Two features of this novel arrangement are immediately apparent. Firstly, water falling eight feet into the tub makes a deafening noise. Secondly, in the absence of a shower curtain, anyone standing under the stream deflects water everywhere. Angus thinks this great fun. 'The Font' is less impressed and is of the opinion that only an eight year old male or a water buffalo could dream up something so impractical.

The achingly cool hotel attracts a trendy LA crowd. Angus takes some time adjusting to being called 'dude' by the hotel staff. The rest of the time they studiously ignore him. The attractive young ladies at the front desk silently making it clear they would rather be doing anything else, absolutely anything else, rather than dealing with guests questions.

In the local pharmacy a mobile phone reduced from $39.99 to $4.99. Perhaps it's a fire hazard ?

The March 30 video on this thread tells you everything you needed to know about cats as quick learners. It's worth clicking on, turning up the sound and going full screen :

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Jet lag and kennel lag.

All seems well in the village. Late in the afternoon the Belgian lady comes to visit the old farmer. She announces her arrival with a loud '' Coucou mon petit chou ''. The Old Farmer opens his balcony window and demands to know what she wants. This less than passionate welcome can be put down to the fact that the old man is refusing to take his pain medication and is in a decidedly grumpy frame of mind.

Bob and Sophie watch from the front gate. Bob clambers onto his stump seat and barks. Sophie whimpers in frustration. She'd really like to be out and about amongst her devoted fans. The PONs excitement is fuelled by the fact that the Belgian lady is wearing a remarkable variety of metal arm and wrist bands with matching dangly ear rings. These clink, clunk and jingle as she approaches. The Cecil B Demille 'Pharaohs Daughter' approach to accessorizing. 

Nine at night. The PONs radiate happiness. They seem to have survived their two weeks in the kennels with no harmful side effects. They are however both very tired.Their owners have jet lag, they have kennel lag. Bob does his best to stop his eye lids from closing.

Finally, even the most diligent of guardians needs to rest.

By ten the house is quiet save for the snoring of two inordinately happy sheepdogs.

This morning 'The Font'  is up and about at three thirty. This means everyone else is up and about too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


The happiest creature in the universe is a Polish Lowland Sheepdog who's .....

...... finally found his flock. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Back in two weeks.

A cat wanders into the garden as we're about to load the angelic duo into the back of the car. A high speed chase, with howling, ensues. The cat finds refuge on a beam in the barn. Sophie soon gets bored waiting for it to come down. Bob doesn't. He decides to stare it into submission. The cat doesn't move.  The family fellow is finally 'encouraged ' into the car. We are ten minutes late getting to the k-e-n-n-e-l-s. 

A change of plane in London, twelve hours on a connecting flight and then we'll be half a world away. Angus finds a trip to the hotel bar is the best way of addressing jet lag.

This is the story of a wine that American Reagan served at the bicentennial state banquet for the French President.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The first strawberries of the season.

Locally grown Gariguettes make their appearance in the greengrocers. Proof that summer is creeping closer.

On the egg counter a note informs clients that due to the avian flu outbreak the chickens ' raised in the open air '  are for the moment '' confined due to the requirements of the authorities ''.

The PON duo are in fine form.

After a forty minute walk Sophie decides decides to recharge her batteries.

We are on a crack of dawn flight on Wednesday so tonight they are heading off to the k-e-n-n-e-l-s.  We tell ourselves that they'll enjoy themselves. This may not be entirely ( or even partially ) true. They will however be safe, fed and well cared for. Madame Bay volunteered to stay and look after them. We toyed briefly with the idea but the thought of doors and gates left absent mindedly open and visits by Hugo, the errant son-in-law, settled the matter.

This is a cheerful start to a day : 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Unplug and recalibrate.

The first round of the French Presidential elections a month away. There's a nervousness in the air about terrorist attacks. Armed soldiers are posted outside the doors of the basilica.

Little old ladies on bikes, heading back from Mass, stop and talk to the squaddies as if armed soldiers were an everyday sight. One lady tells a somewhat bemused soldier that ' this is no weather to be out and about in '. The soldiers are mere boys, the old ladies are polite and kind. A study in contrasts.

Bobs antidote to the febrile environment is to engage in a lengthy game of Throw the Furry Fox.

'The Fonts' answer is to suggest that we recover from next weeks 'event' at a health farm in the Rockies. A place , as the advertisement says, to unplug and recalibrate. 1400 vegan calories a day, no bar, no ESPN and group yoga sessions. Did I say no bar ?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

'N' for Nesquick or Nutella.

The sun beams down all day. The warmth brings with it pilgrims. Not the solitary sort but groups of them. They saunter along the lane chatting and laughing. Bob stands on his stump seat to see what is happening on 'his' turf.

Pilgrims wear red. Why this is I don't know. They stop and chat to Bob. He chats back.

We've bought a long piece of green astroturf so that Sophie can walk out of the house without her paws being bothered by the gravel.

She's not bothered by the gravel. She does however make good use of the astroturf,.  Not so much for walking on as a comfortable spot for sunbathing.

From the lustre of her nose I'd assume she's in a very good place.

The French have a foolproof way for vets to know the age of an animal. Each year is assigned a letter of the alphabet. 2017 is given the letter 'N'. 2016 was the letter 'M' which is why the Belgian ladys little dog is called Maverick Two. Dog owners are expected to give their animal a name starting with the letter of the year. Here's the list of suggested names for 2017.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


The grass under the bird feeder has been worn away. This is where Sophie goes ferreting for sunflower seeds. Her first morning port of call.

Aude, the  bipolar decaratrice, is late. She's put a can of Farrow and Ball 'Clunch' on the back seat of her little Peugeot. She's not secured the top on properly and as she turns out of the women's cooperative drive the can falls over. The back seat of her little Peugeot absorbs much of it. What isn't absorbed forms a not so small lake on the floor carpet. The lady with the cement mixer suggests they put sand on the paint to 'soak it up'. What sounds like a bad idea is aggravated by the fact they use wet sand.

The Old Farmer heads off to the cottage hospital for a check up. I see him walking slowly out into the middle of the lane with the aid of his zimmer frame. He's wearing a red check shirt and what appear to be a pair of grey nylon pyjamas. While we wait for the ambulance I chat to him. He didn't sleep much last night due to the pain. He then tells me with a directness and level of detail that is decidedly un-Anglo Saxon where it hurts. Mano a mano I sympathize profusely. I now understand why he's wearing a pair of loose fitting nylon pyjamas.

In the evening a band of clouds drift line astern across the sky.  What looks like moisture spikes hanging below. I've probably seen this a thousand times but never taken in the simple beauty.

If your going to be interviewed by the BBC never ever do it from home :

Friday, March 10, 2017

'' I just did ".

The Old Farmer sits in the sun on his balcony. Farmers stop their tractors and wander up to find out how he's getting on. Some passing pilgrims engage him in conversation. He also has two visits from the home help, two from the district nurse, three from the Belgian lady and one from the doctor. Bob watches all this activity from his stump seat by the gate. Sophie chases blackbirds.

The electricians arrive at ten. They wander round the house for an hour or so then head off or lunch. They return at three and go at five. The 35 hour week ( including travel time ) is alive and well in deepest France profonde. They promise faithfully to return. When pushed as to when this might be they remain suitably upbeat but vague. Bob and Sophie have taken a great interest in their activity.

'The Font' heads off to deal with the family 'matter' in Spain. At Malaga airport there's no one at the rental car desk but three young ladies, laughing and deep in conversation, can be seen in the office. Arm signals and a hearty '' Hello!' are ignored. ' The Font' finally walks round behind the desk and into the office. ' You can't come in here ' says an irate car rental person. '' I just did " replies 'The Font' with a Swedish literalism that perplexes  and annoys southern Europeans in equal measure. The young rental car ladies get their revenge by handing over the keys to a white Opel Astra with a dodgy gear box and unusual odour.

And here's a picture of the United Kingdoms ambassador to the Vatican meeting the Pope :

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Annual checkup day. We're at the vets by eight. One of those grey then sunny then grey again days that can't decide whether it's going to rain or not. Bob and Sophie are to get their injection and kennel cough booster before their trip to the k-e-n-n-e-l-s next week.

Bob is the first in. Bob hates going to the vets. He's well behaved in a masculine '' if you're going to murder me do it quickly '' way. He sits bolt upright on the examination table resigned to his fate. Sophie watches him go.

Then it's her turn. There is a moment of pandemonium as Bob leaps up and Sophie dismounts.

While we wait Bob stands rigid in the back of the car. He can see his sister through the plate glass door of the surgery. He doesn't take his eyes off her for a second.

Bobs devotion to his sister is something that even now we find worthy of note. Is this a PON thing ? Or, are all brother and sisters like this ?

Sophie loves going to the vet. She can be the undisputed centre of adoration. The vet is happy that there's no problem with either leg that's been operated on. She trots happily back to the car. An emotional reunion follows. Emotional on Bobs part. Less so on Sophie's. The family diva greets Bob with her ' don't bother me you big oaf ' yelp.

A trip to the little bakery by the vets for a baguette and some croissants . We don't venture to this part of town very often. That doesn't stop the teenage girl behind the counter from slipping some choux pastry to the angelic duo. The girl is rewarded by a kiss from Sophie and a lick from Bob.

So passes another annual 'dog chore'. An event too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

This is how the first female staff at Kew Gardens dressed a hunderd years ago :

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Gratuitous nudity.

So much for the unseasonably warm weather. We wake to solid rain and sixty mile an hour winds. The PONs are kept in the garden until there's a lull in the storm. The arrival of Aude, the bipolar decaratrice, signals it's time to head out.

Sophie is taken on a forty five minute cross country walk. No sign of pain or discomfort. What a relief after last weeks scare. Today she is in an 'up and at 'em' mood.  The family princess maintains a rapid pace until she decides that she's had enough of the damp weather. Her return journey is interrupted by leisurely exploration of the deer and badger runs and the scuff marks where the wild boar have been digging up the grass verges.

A happily tired Sophie is loaded into the back of the car for a trip to the supermarket. There are two small supermarkets in the little market town. The smaller of the two has a new manager who seems determined to take it up market. Angus is surprised to see that they're stocking bottles of rose at an eye watering E29.30 a bottle.

On a neighbouring shelf a bottle of ' La Belle Sandrine ' . This, the label informs us, is an Armagnac and Passion Fruit mix. There is a solitary bottle left. This unusual fusion of tastes is clearly popular with the locals. 'La Belle Sandrine' is in its way a classic of the marketeers art - competitively priced, bright in colour, potent in content and enlivened by a gratuitous use of nudity. Perfectly pitched for the aging farmers of deepest, deepest France profonde.

Bob returns from his power walk round the lake with 'The Font' looking as if he's been blow dried. 

No sign of the builders, electricians or joiners.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

These things make the world turn.

Bob and Angus go to the wine merchants. Bob usually has to wait outside but this morning the knowledgeable young lady suggests he come in out of the rain. Bob is grateful to be invited inside but is rather dismissive of the wine shop - there's little there to appeal to a PONs nose.

The next door cake shop is a different matter. Orange eclairs with saffron are considered ...

.... as are Passion Fruit and Mango eclairs .....

.... and raspberry tarts .

We opt for a fresh pineapple cheese cake.

Dog and master head into a cafe on the square for a cup of coffee and in the PONs case a bowl of water. Bob closes his eyes and against the sound of the background chatter is soon gently asleep. This being France total strangers wander over and ask what sort of dog he is. Today he's known as a Polish Snoring Sheepdog.

The couple who have bought our 'local' kennels call. We drive over to meet them. The woman is in her thirties and seems every bit as professional as the woman at the 'new' kennels.

Would the dogs prefer to go to a place they know even though the people they meet will be different ? Or, would a change of scenery and a clean break be better ? The existing kennels is a small place where the dogs are walked for half an hour twice a day. The new one near Toulouse is much larger, doesn't walk them but leaves them to wander round their own private 100m2 enclosure. I'm tempted to taken them back to the kennels they know.

The Old Farmer arrives home. He insists on walking up the stairs under his own steam. The ambulance men are told to leave him alone. " I'm not helpless ". They hover behind as he makes his way slowly up to the terrace.  A veterans little victory - a thing too inconsequential for a diary but something too important to go completely unrecorded. These things make the world turn.

This is an amazing photograph :