Sunday, April 30, 2017

Crossing the Atlantic.

Sunday morning. Sophie wants to know what we've got planned.

A good grooming is the first order of the day.

Her brother has his fringe trimmed. A PON that can see is a happy PON.

The newspaper forecasts a drought. Angus has to look up to see what 'nappes phreatiques' are. Lower on the front page there's an article about heavy snowfalls in the Pyrenees . Crazy weather

We went on a cruise once. From Vancouver to Alaska. The travel agent was reassuring '' It’s a very international clientele.The food and wine will be wonderful and the two of you will have a private table ''.

The cruise was populated by two thousand guests of a large liquor company and a coterie of off duty Delta airline stewards... and us. We were the only non-Americans on the ship. There was also rumoured to be a French diplomat and his wife on board. It seemed that after their first dinner at sea with some of the 'we're here to party'  airline stewards they developed a nervous ailment, locked themselves in their cabin and survived the next two weeks on room service. We never saw them so they may only have been a figment of shipboard gossip. Our dining companions ( the private table turned out to be a table of twelve ) were a group of Chicago night club owners and their wives/nieces. A cheerful crowd whose martini fueled behavior bordered on the ebullient. They called all the Filipino waiters ‘’Miguel“ in a friendly if politically incorrect way. The Norwegian ships officers would be greeted as 'Sven'. As in '' Hi Sven. Shouldn't you be up on the bridge driving this thing ? There's icebergs about ".

One of the mid-Western gentlemen suffered from narcolepsy which displayed itself suddenly and frequently. This was initially alarming. ''Don’t worry about Hank. He’s got some shrapnel in his head. He doesn’t know he’s doing it '' said his niece. The source of the shrapnel remained a subject that 'The Font' deemed best not to inquire into. In Hanks lucid moments Angus learnt some of the more arcane and possibly not quite legal details of running a profitable inner city night club. 

The wives/nieces spent much of their day jewellery shopping. Purchases would be shown off over soup with the beguiling and innocent mantra '' I know it was expensive but it’s all tax deductible ''. Our co-diners also had a penchant for choosing exotic deserts with names like Hawaiian Kahlua Bombe Surprise. Invariably these would come adorned with sparklers and be carried across the restaurant by a trail of waiters holding the spitting and smoking concoctions on platters high above their heads . Other tables would stop and look at us as if to say '' Boy ! That's a fun group ". Or possibly, like Angus, they were thinking something else. 

We have not been on a cruise since although 'The Font' has recently raised the topic of crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. This suggestion has been met by Angus with a noncommittal silence.

This article from Popular Mechanics ( of all places ) is what jogged my memory about ocean voyaging :

Saturday, April 29, 2017

World's Best

'The Font' heads off to Spain for the night to deal with Spanish bureaucracy and the aged relatives final paperwork. Angus discovers American Mac and Cheese in the supermarket.

A careful reading of the package shows that it's manufactured in a facility that processes dairy, wheat, eggs, soy, crustacea, fish and nuts. Quite how this ties in with it being 'handmade' is for more discerning shoppers to determine.

Angus isn't sure that it meets the 'World's Best ' test but Bob and Sophie seem happy enough with the spoonful that's added to their kibbles.

Some garden furniture arrives.

From a vantage point on their grooming table Bob and Sophie carefully monitor the arrival of the truck, the unloading of the boxes and the unpacking of the furniture. Both PONs decide that empty cardboard boxes are wonderful to hide in. Sophie is so delighted she emits high pitched squeaking noises. 

There is bubble wrap to pop. What a glorious start to a day.

Last night there was an election meeting in the village hall. A tall and excitable gentleman in a black suit comes to tell the villagers why his candidate will restore the honour of France. Twenty or so people show up. The turnout isn't so much a sign of political fervour as a reflection of the fact that apart from 'Chicago Fire' it's a quiet night on television.  All goes well until the visitor launches into an attack on '' Les Anglais installes dans la campagne francaise qui sans payer les impots en France profitent des largesses et de la qualite de notre systeme de sante ". Angus feels like pointing out that as a foreigner he is required to have health insurance and pays enough tax to keep a French frigate afloat for a year but decides to keep quiet. 

So starts a quiet weekend in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A rattling start.

Bobs new toy has been liberated and thoroughly de-stuffed. He turned his back on it over breakfast and next thing he knew it had gone.

It doesn't take inspector Clouseau to work out who was responsible. Sophie does her best to look innocent.  I explain that seasoned criminals usually move quickly away from the scene of a crime. She appears unimpressed.

Cooler weather brings out the pilgrims. Bob rises to the challenge and takes up his position on the stump seat to monitor the passers by. Bob could spend all day on the stump seat. Some pilgrims warrant a 'woof', some a double 'woof' but most are greeted in silence. Very occasionally he will see a pilgrim that makes him want to get down from his perch and run from one end of the garden to the other and then back again. 

The pilgrims wave and laugh and chat to him.

Sophie patrols the garden in search of mid-morning snacks. She disappears for lengthy forays into distant corners of the orchard. Her nose continues to sport a world class lustre.

This mornings clouds make a welcome appearance. On the other side of the lane The Old Farmer is out and about on his lawn tractor. The Belgian lady is there to keep an eye on him. The horrid little tike slopes off to school rattling a stick against the bars on the gate. He also whistles. How the PONs love a whistling, stick rattling start to their day. There is no such thing as silence in a PON household.

This is how you do stealth :

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Sophie is much recovered from her run in with the fox and the thorn thicket. The vet shaved the fur around the wounds and removed pieces of wood that had worked their way into her flank. Betadine is applied twice a day. Sophie licks it off within thirty seconds .

'' She's three kilos overweight " says the vet before adding '' The additional weight's not good for her new knees ". 'The Font' patiently explains that Sophie's rations have been cut but she remains a voracious 'recycler'. ' Have you tried the spray that you put on her food ? ' he asks. 'The Font' sighs and runs through all the things we've tried including following Bob around the garden with a torch and black plastic bags first thing in the morning and last thing at night. '' Oh '' he says in amazement as the divas enthusiasm for scavenging becomes apparent.

The gardeners come to put bark down on the rose beds.

Bob monitors what they're doing closely. Sophie tries to eat the bark but is 'encouraged' indoors.

Bob brings a collection of stuffed toys over to the gardeners. The inference is clear. It takes ten minutes to put down the new bark and fifteen minutes to sate the male PONs desire for a game of throw the partially shredded tortoise.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Sapotilles from Thailand make an appearance in the greengrocers exotic fruits section.

Beets seem to be more to the liking of the locals.

The newsagent has installed a counter that sells soft candies of a type that shout out 'tooth decay'. There is a already a queue of impatient seven year olds wanting to buy them as they wait for the school bus.

The baker has made Brioche Royale. The PONs give this 10/10. We don't buy a brioche but we do buy a raspberry tart. On our way home a stone chip flies up and creates a small but visible crack in the Volvo's windscreen. Is it my imagination or does it start to get larger ? This morning Bob and Angus will visit Car Glass. 

It rains. Soft, gentle, warm rain. The PONs charge round the garden in search of freshly watered scents. Sophie goes hunting for pheasants. The pheasants in the long grass have nothing to fear. She howls with delight.

The rain is followed by bright sunshine. The plants around the well seem to shoot up in front of our eyes. This year it seems we shall be following the flower beds as jungle approach to gardening. Bob guards his house and flock from the front door step.

So starts a quiet Wednesday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.

A European v US map of life expectancy :

Dog owners might find this story of a move to Oregon interesting . Sophie would seem to have a soul mate :

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A conversation opener.

Sophie chases a fox into a thorn thicket. The fox disappears unscathed. Sophie manages to get herself entangled. Completely entangled. Angus has to untangle her. She emerges with thorns and twigs embedded in her skin. The family diva makes it plain that she should not be in the care of a family that lets such things happen to her. Anyone in the village who thought they would sleep late is going to be disappointed. Sophie it must be said is not a 'quiet' dog.

While Sophie and 'The Font' head to the vets for some antiseptic skin wash , Bob and his master watch a family of hares bound down the freshly ploughed field towards the trees in the valley. A change coming in the weather. In the direction of Bordeaux and the Atlantic a bank of clouds stretching across the horizon. 

Sophie returns home. Surprisingly, she has been a perfect patient.

Spanish week in the supermarket.

To make sure we know its Spanish week they've set out not just one bull...

.... but two . 

An out of proportion matador is thrown in for good measure. On television matadors wear sparkly heavily sequined outfits. This is a budget version in black and white. On closer inspection the matador turns out to be the supermarkets all purpose mannequin. It is bare footed .

A sign the year is moving onwards. Easter eggs now 50% off.

In the wine section '666 - Secret of the Devils ' makes a jarring appearance . A bottle of Devils Secrets at the dinner table would be a conversation opener .... or stopper.

What a stylish hotel for such a remote location :

Monday, April 24, 2017

No surprises.

The first round of the election is over but the state of emergency continues. Outside the museum in the little market town two fresh faced soldiers stand on guard. Three ladies heading towards morning mass on their bicycles, the sort with wicker baskets over the handlebars, cycle slowly past them. The ladies ( tweed skirts and knitted berets and of a certain age ) dismount. They turn and walk their bicycles up to the boys and thank them for '' keeping us safe ". One little lady stands on tip toe and gives the shorter of the soldiers a chaste kiss. 'The Font' notices his attempts to look stern but he quietly wipes tears from his eyes. France is different.

The first round of the election results as expected. For once the pollsters have got it right. The PONs are blissfully unaware of the electoral drama that might have been. In the village a council truck comes and takes away nine of the eleven billboards. Two are left for the second round in two weeks time.

After our morning constitutional Bob lies soaking up the early sun. A PON in clover.

We choose a light Strawberry mousse cake for lunch.

White asparagus from the greengrocers.

A trip to the frozen food store that sells excellent ( made in the UK ) Naans to go with the dinner time curry. Dogs are not allowed in the frozen food store so the PONs wait impatiently in the back of the car.

Back at home a long walk down the hill to the stream and the waterfall. There is a PON attempt at fishing.

So starts our Monday morning.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Phew ! The mayor delivers the results.

Election day.

Dogs and master are up early. Another startlingly bright but chilly morning. The sky the perfect blue only seen in estate agents photographs. On our morning constitutional we pass the mayor opening up the town hall. His wife is  whistling while setting out a plate of honey croissants on the trestle table at the front door. Bob and Sophie are keen to say hello to the mayors wife and her honey croissants but are hurried along. The little lady with the purple hat is also there trying to open a thermos of coffee. She will be manning the 'security' table. Bees buzz, frogs croak and roosters crow. The sounds of a French Sunday morning. As we pass the mayor shouts out from the terrace '' I hope we don't vote for Frexit ! ". I laugh politely.

Amazingly, all eleven election posters have survived unscathed. The horrid little tike and his brother have resisted the temptation to draw horns and moustaches on them. There again even the tikes have understood that in a village of eighty seven souls it wouldn't take long to work out who the culprits were.

On our way home a small silver car drives slowly along the lane. Such is the peace of a Sunday morning this unexpected visitor is worthy of comment. In twenty minutes the combine harvesters carrying the young farmers will start to draw up on the village green in readiness for the opening of the Mairie and the start of the voting.

And here's a relaxing sound to start the day :

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Renegades and mutineers.

Strange weather. 25 degrees during the day slumping to barely above freezing at night. Overhead, the skies quite cloudless. The central heating, which has been off for six weeks, is switched on again. 

The dress rehearsal for Sundays Presidential elections goes according to plan. The mayor , resplendent in pork pie hat and blue dungarees, instructs the town councillors on their duties. His unsmiling secretary looks on. A table is set up on the town hall terrace and the furniture inside rearranged. The outside table is a new 'security' feature. Its purpose leaves Angus quite baffled.

Bob has shredded one of 'his' toys and scattered the stuffing across the garden. He is introduced to a replacement.

There is wild excitement and made charging around the garden as Sophie attempts to 'liberate' the new arrival. She employs her ' Bob ! Come over to the orchard and see what exciting things I've found ' routine. Bob falls for it. The PONs human companions laugh riotously at these madcap antics. Professional comedians would find it difficult to generate this much mirth.

The bees, which have been busy on the wisteria above the front door, are gradually migrating to the flowers on the tilleuil on the village green. We now live to the sound of stereophonic buzzing.

The special needs children have an afternoon discotheque in the village hall. The young staff show enormous patience and great love. Bob and Sophie watch on in amazement from the front gate. By the end of the day we've got to know this song well. It has a very strong bass line and from the number of times it's repeated is clearly a favourite. Gods 'renegades, pioneers and mutineers ' have had a great time dancing to it. Somehow it's strangely and touchingly appropriate :

Just another of those sunny days with dogs when nothing happens .