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.
Friday, June 30, 2017
Canny be blown out.
It's a perfect day. Sunny with a slight breeze. The convoy of Senegalese melon pickers, the young garagiste on his motor bike, two farmers in old Peugeot vans and the late running school secretary wave as dogs and master head along the lane. While Sophie hunts in the donkey field Bob and Angus sit and discuss the news that The House of Commons has decided that male members of parliament can attend debates without wearing a tie.
We didn't bring many things from Scotland with us when we embarked on our odyssey to Europe. One thing we did bring was an old picture found by 'The Font' under layers of dust in the attic of the family home. It must have been there for centuries. Four years of restoration work by an enthusiastic curator at the National Gallery brought it back to life. These pictures of Protestant reformers were churned out and smuggled into Scottish ports in the 1530's and 40's wrapped in bundles of cloth. They provided moral support at a tumultuous time when burnings and hangings for dissidence were commonplace. Across the bottom of the picture are Luther's words in old Scots : The candle is lighted it canny be blown out .
A German museum wants to borrow it for a 'paintings you could have died for owning' exhibition. The curator is charming but vague about how we'd get it packed , shipped, insured and cleared for customs. Angus muses on the fact that political uncertainty is something families have coped with for a long time. Some people say that PONs first arrived in Scotland in the 16th century on boats from the continent. A nice link with the painting.
Pending some practical advice we decide to prevaricate and leave the painting , for the time being, hanging in a dark spot in the hall.
Sophie goes on a lengthy walk round the village. By lengthy I don't mean to suggest it's a long walk. Rather, it's a short walk taken very, very slowly. Every flower is sniffed. every puddle tasted. The garrulous frogs glared at.
Bob rediscovers an old friend that's been buried , paw sticking out of the ground, in the rose border.
The bark now peeling off the trees in ever larger sheets.
All those little things too unimportant for a diary but which fill our days.
The choirs hand movements are intriguing. Thomas Selle a little known composer. The minute following the 1.15 mark is heaven: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7tSHMeNV38
For dog owners : https://twitter.com/dodo/status/880486790708076544
Thursday, June 29, 2017
The week was supposed to be wet and windy. So it's proved to be. Meteo France forecast 110 km/h winds.
The electricity supply to The Rickety Old Farmhouse has been maintained . There have been brief interruptions but the power company has got everything working again quickly.
The PONs are completely oblivious to the storms. We've always had at least one PON that would have a 'moment' at the mere hint of thunder. These two don't seem to notice. We put this canine sang froid down to the first twelve weeks of their lives being spent at a farmhouse far out in the country.
Bob, sensibly comes inside for a nap if the weather's bad. When the skies get dark and there's lightning about Sophie has to be encouraged into the house. She is completely untroubled by torrential rain, wind or thunder.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
It's bright and calm here this morning but there's something about the clouds across the horizon that tells me that weather mischief is on the way.
We walk down to the little waterfall which is just that - a little waterfall. The stream now shrivelled to a three foot wide strip of barely moving water. A month ago the waterfall splashed and trilled like a mini Niagara. Now it dribbles into the water pool below. The dragon flies seem to like these conditions. A flock of them ( swarm surely not the right word for these lapis lazuli beauties ) congregate in the shade of the willows. Sophie watches them in silence. Bob looks - unsuccessfully - for minnows.
Into the little market town. I load up a print we bought in New Orleans as impoverished students in the 70's. It's been in the garage with a broken frame for the last five years. Amazing its survived. The PONs leads are held in one hand, the rolled up print in another.
Sophie likes the framers workshop. She wanders off to explore dark corners. I order her to sit still. She feigns total deafness. Bob settles down on the mat at the front door. I suggest the framer phones me with a quote. Being French he wants to measure everything and give me a quote ( and take a deposit ) while I'm there. Dogs and master wait.
Afterwards a trip along the street to the cafe on the square. En route Bob dethreats a variety of car tyres. The cafe owner greets us. Bob ignores him. Sophie, who has learnt that the owner sometimes dispenses biscuits, wags her tail and looks uncharacteristically angelic. Today, the man falls for the charm offensive and she is given a small portion of croissant to share with her brother.
Back at home Bob settles down on the front door step in the muggy sunshine. The weather forecast says there are going to be 80 mph winds this afternoon as a storm front moves across the frontier with Andorra.
As I take down the garden umbrellas the man with the Yorkie drives by in his two cylinder 1962 Panhard sports car. I wave at him. He takes this as a cue to stop for a chat. The man speaks with the French version of a Arkansas tobacco farmers accent. A mixture of heavily accented bar room Spanish wedded to the local language of these parts - Oc. Everything he says I have to translate into French or Spanish or both and then into English. This means I have a 'measured' response time. This 'measuredness' may be why the villagers treat M'Ongoose as if he's a sandwich short of a picnic and repeat everything twice. '' What a lovely car " I say by way of opening the conversation. 'Lovely ! It's magnificent ! ' he replies. He then repeats himself.
Here's a story with a happy ending : http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.4173147/they-were-not-very-happy-says-man-who-helped-remove-nearly-100-000-bees-from-ontario-home-1.4173150
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
The latest craze.
The mayor is out early watering the plants on the village green. All this pre-dawn activity in readiness for the 'Beautiful Village' judging on July 3rd. He's hopeful that the village will re-gain the second rosette that it lost ten years ago. We're greeted with a cheerful 'Bonjour'. The PONs wander over to see him but thankfully don't sit on the petunias.
There is a combine harvester hard at work in the field beyond the orchard. The lightning and heavy rain that were forecast somehow passed us by. Our local farmers are rushing to bring in as much of the wheat as they can before the next mountain storm sweeps down towards this little corner of paradise. Bob watches the large machine in spell bound silence then comes over to tell me that there's an intruder close by.
His sister joins him. Sophie is not convinced that I've understood that there's a monster in the field throwing up clouds of chaff. She bravely leads me over to the hedge so that I can see for myself what's going on. Satisfied that she's done her duty she lets out three barks before turning and heading into the house for breakfast. A PONs work is never done.
Into the car for the morning trip to the bakers. For lunch a mille feuille for Angus ....
..... and something ( supposely ) light and fruity for The Font.
Croissant portions for the PONs.
That latest craze - hand spinners - make there way into the window of the local mobile phone shop. A reminder that not even deepest deepest France profonde is immune to what's going on in the rest of the world. Angus has no idea what you do with them - which is another sign he's turned into his father.
Amazing and beautiful photo :
Monday, June 26, 2017
No swaying today.
The village has had a busy weekend.
One of Madame Bays great grand daughters has a birthday party in the village hall. Monsieur Bay arrives early to blow up white balloons. He does this all morning. By the time Sandrine, the hairdresser daughter, and the other Bay offspring arrive he has blown up at least a hundred of them. They are attached to the doors and windows by masking tape. A large barbecue is set up by the public loos. This is not the stainless steel Weber barbecue of Anglo-Saxon dreams, but three layers of corrugated iron suspended across breeze blocks. Underneath a raw fire sends plumes of smoke and sparks spiraling into the air.
We return from lunch to see Madame Bay dancing on the village green, surrounded by a group of adoring four year olds. Her arms pump the air while her feet maintain a slow upwards and downwards motion. Madame Bay is wearing red cowboy boots, a voluminous, above the knee , white dress ( that looks as if it may be related to the net curtains we threw out last year ) a denim jacket edged in white lace and a turquoise Jane Austen style bonnet tied under her chin with more net curtain. 'The Font' usually maintains a diplomatic silence with regard to Madame Bays dress sense but mutters a barely audible '' Goodness ".
A group of pilgrims arrive in a mini van. They seem oblivious to the dancing four year olds or the cinder spitting barbecue . They look expectantly at the swaying Jesus. There is not the faintest breath of wind so they depart disappointed. No swaying today.
This morning we're woken at 4:30. The combine harvesters are out in force. They have to rev their engines hard to get over the speed bump outside our gate. Sophie howls. A mountain storm is forecast for tonight and tomorrow so the harvesting of the wheat has been brought forward. '' Two weeks earlier than usual '' says a young farmer in that offhand way we now discuss climate change.
Into the large market town with the PONs. We buy strawberries and wholewheat bread at the market. The croissants have all gone. The PONs are rewarded with slivers of brioche. They approve.
The store that sells rugby rugby tickets is very masculine place. The window displays of the minimalist '' tee shirt on a hanger " variety. Next door a new shop has appeared -Princesse Tam-Tam. This sells micro-bikinis. It too is minimalist but in a different way. A beauty and the beast retail pairing.
Back at home Bob has the sense to sleep in the shade of the orchard. Sophie has no sense whatsoever and would ( if allowed to ) sleep in the direct sun all day. She is encouraged into the shade.
Cats : https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/cats-are-an-extreme-outlier-among-domestic-animals/
Sunday, June 25, 2017
This is not what she wants.
The searing heat has gone. Replaced by cloudy skies and a sultry New Orleans type mugginess. What the Scots would call ' claggy '. Sophie rushes out of the front door in search of c-a-t-s and adventure. She can't help letting out a yelp of excitement at the start of what is going to be the best day ever.
Her big brother greets her affectionately with a big lick. This is not what she wants.
Before we head off in the car there is time for Sophie to sit, head craned skywards, and bark at the collar doves. Sophie cam spend hours watching birds. It would never enter her brothers head that there might be things flying in the sky. Squirrels up trees - yes. Birds in the sky ? '' You're kidding me ! "
An unadventurous display in the bakers.
In deference to the hot weather a new line has been added. Choco orange ice cream domes. Tomorrow I shall report on whether these were, or were not, a good purchase.
As befits the best day ever the young lady behind the counter shares some puff pastry crumbs with the PONs.
Angus starts on John Farrells biography of Richard Nixon. A reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Great plump things.
Sophie joins me in the office. She's seen a squirrel in one of the oak trees and wants to know what I intend to do about it.
Bob has had his whiskers trimmed. I must have taken off a pound weight in fur but he still looks as shaggy as ever. Thankfully, today is much, much cooler.
Wild strawberries make an appearance in the greengrocers. We used to grow them in Scotland but they were tiny things with the faintest hint of woodiness to their texture. Here the fraises des bois are great plump things. A quart sized flavour squeezed into a pint pot.
The sound of summer ( its being played everywhere ) and very difficult to get the words right . The speed of the delivery made all the more remarkable by the fact the singer used to have stutter : https://youtu.be/87gWaABqGYs
Friday, June 23, 2017
Is it Friday already ?
Bob is up at 5:00. He wanders into the bedroom, pokes a cold wet nose in my ear and then, satisfied I'm awake, walks out into the hall. This has now become an illicit daily routine. It is triply enjoyable for being illicit.
The mayor is out in the flower beds outside the church watering the petunias. He tells me it was the hottest night of the year. Or, he might have said it was the hottest night on record. My attention is distracted by Sophie screaming aloud as she hurtles after a pigeon that's perched provocatively on a flower trough. The mayor also says he's found someone to decorate the church porch. We bought the wallpaper and the paint last year but the first decorator claimed he had the flu and couldn't do the work. 12 months on and we're getting round to a second attempt. Everything in a French village moves at a less frenetic pace than in the Anglo-Saxon world.
The plane trees along the lane are shedding their bark in the heat. Sheets of it lying on the tarmac and the verges. It makes a very satisfying crunching noise as the PONs walk on it.
We took a couple of pedestal fans across to The Old Farmer after his return from the hospital. This morning he stands in his dressing gown holding on to the terrace railings and shouts out '' They were very useful . Do you want them back ? ''. I suggest he keeps them until the heat wave has passed. It seems the old man has had Phlebitis for the last four months. The specialist was horrified to find out that no one had diagnosed it. A district nurse will now come every day and give him an anti-inflammatory injection.
The school is still closed because of the high temperatures. As we pass the French teachers house she's opening her shutters. She cheerfully informs us how wonderful it is to have an unscheduled holiday.
We buy some whole wheat bread from the lady at the market stall then head to the cafe. Bob and Sophie share a bowl of water ( chilled with ice cubes despite it being barely dawn ) and share the end of a baguette.
The newsagent is stocking a new line in birthday cards.
Angus has a coffee and finishes a book ' American Nations ' describing the eleven tribes that make up America. These are not, as you might imagine based on race or ethnicity, but on the moral outlook seeded by the early settlers. Dutch commercialism takes root in the financial capital New Amsterdam, Quaker rejection of hierarchy and authority in Pennsylvania. The author doesn't much like the Scots-Irish in the Appalachia's who are considered to be war like and completely ungovernable.
We leave the cafe at seven just as a large Irish wolf hound called Gerald arrives. We would linger but sometimes there's no point in tempting providence. Diva + brother + large wolfhound called Gerald = one of 'those' moments. Geralds water bowl with ice cubes is put on the table rather than under it.
Here's a question that needs answering :
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Thursday morning heat.
Another scorcher of a day. The PONs are out with their master at 5:30. The mayor, resplendent in a pair of dungarees and his red plaid pork pie hat is standing in the flower beds outside the church watering the rose bushes. He greets Bob and Sophie. They, observing the hosepipe in his hand, maintain a respectful distance. The national 'Village Fleuri' committee are coming on their annual tour of inspection on July 3rd. The mayor is hopeful that we might get a second rosette. Last years attempt was ruined by The Very Old Farmers son who sprayed weedkiller over his lawn. This somehow leeched into the village pond and killed the water lillys. The judges were not impressed.
The school children have been sent home. The class rooms were redecorated over the Easter holidays and the electric fans, that were supposed to have been safely stored away, have been lost. New ones can't be sourced until next week. The temperatures inside the class rooms hit 40 degrees.
Bob and Sophie are grateful for the cold tile floors. The Rickety Old Farmhouse with its metre thick stone walls remains gloriously cool inside.
The PONs get two long morning walks and then, bar brief comfort breaks during the day, are inside until sunset and it gets cooler . They are adjusting to the new routine with relative good grace.
The first field of sunflowers is almost in bloom.
In the greengrocers local corn makes an appearance. The hot weather has again overloaded the air conditioning system . A thick bank of cold air condenses as fog which cascades out of the chiller unit onto the aisle. The PONs find this intriguing ... and refreshing.
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