Another night. Another storm. This one catches us unawares. As Angus closes the shutters he disturbs a family of bats who fly in from the torrential rain. Two hours are spent trying to coax the bats outside again. For some reason 'The Font' isn't keen on sharing the house with a colony of winged visitors. Five bats leave relatively quickly, the sixth is reluctant to go. It swoops from one end of the house to the other. When tired it hangs, upside down, from the ceiling lights and squeaks. Despite the rain we open the windows at either end of the hallway and hope he'll fly out. We turn off all the lights and watch an episode of NCIS Los Angeles dubbed into French. The finer points of the plot escape us but it seems that a group of Russian sleeper agents have a bomb and a nefarious plan. Everyone seems rather trigger happy. The bat is still there at the end of this so we then watch a programme about some firemen in Chicago. This has a plot but, not having seen any previous episodes, it's difficult to determine what it is. By the time we've worked out what's going on the bat has flown off. Angus closes the windows and dries out the floor where the rain has come in. The PONs think this is a wonderful way to spend an evening.
This morning everyone is up early. Bob is keen to know if we can do that thing with the bat again.
Sophie is praised for her film starlet good looks.
There then follows five minutes of chaos as harnesses are put on, doors opened, car keys found and Bob and Sophie's respective positions in the back of the car found and adhered to. How easy it all sounds.
In the park some martial arts people are doing martial artsy type things. We observe them from a distance. Bob and Sophie are keen to join in.
Sophie is somewhat alarmed by two men dressed as sharks. Bob has noticed a cat and is completely oblivious to the presence of the two peculiar beasts. When he does notice them he howls. We head back to the car. En route we detour to the bakers for croissants, a baguette and two coffee Religieuse.
Overnight another storm. The power goes off . At two thirty Angus peers through a crack in the shutters and sees a solid sheet of hail blowing along the lane. More Siberia than France profonde. 'The Font' and the PONs are oblivious to the manic percussion above and around them. This morning the Internet very slow. The wireless antenna on the roof might have been hit by lightning.
By seven the sun is up, the ground is drying out and the PONs are ready for a day of high adventure.
Both Bob and Sophie run everywhere rather than walk. I wish I could remember if previous generations of PONs were as enthusiastic about life at this age. The things one forgets.
Bob has had a major beard trim. Today I can see that one side is longer than the other. Bob did not sit still for his beard trim so a degree of lopsidedness is not surprising.
On our way home from the morning walk we pass the mayor in dungarees and tartan pork pie hat watering the window boxes. For the centenary of the end of the 'Great War' Angus agrees to buy four 'Princess Anne' standard roses , one for each corner of the war memorial and some Noble Anthony's to make a rose border between them. The mayor informs me that as a twenty year old he stood at the catafalque in Algiers guarding the bodies of soldiers who were being returned to France.
I ask after the mayors wife. It seems she fell on her new hip on Saturday and again last night. '' She's in agony " he says with an almost invisible hint of emotion. The mayors wife is always smiling, always willing the mayor on, always at village gatherings. They are without a doubt some of the nicest people we've ever met. You would never know, walking stick excepted, that she was not fighting fit.
This morning the mayor will be putting up the official photo of the new French President on the wall of the mairie. At the moment it's wedged into a space behind the photocopier and his desk. It will be hung from a nail on the wall as soon as the mayor finds a nail. '' M'Ongoose. You wouldn't happen to have one ? And a hammer I could borrow ? ".
Village life in France profonde, or Scotland or anywhere far from the bright lights and sophistication.
Here's some indescribably beautiful cello playing for an unrelentingly hot August morning : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob2_kbwSZJs
Summer is going out in style. Ferociously hot and humid. This morning Sophie is given a bath. She's scooped up and put under the shower before she can complain. Surprise is the secret to dog grooming.
Bob celebrates his sisters misfortune by doing a jig with Furry Fox in his mouth. His sodden sister chases him round and round and round the garden. Within ten minutes she's completely dry and he's exhausted.
The old donkey is on his feet today. He wanders slowly, very slowly, over to the fence to greet us. I pat him on top of his head. The younger donkeys hold back but eventually summon up the courage to come over and stare at the PONs. Sophie stands behind my legs and stares back. Bob wanders off in search of some badgers poo. Tomorrow we'll bring carrots.
Red bananas in the greengrocers. Don't think red bananas have ever made it to Scotland.
Pumpkins also appear. It's going to be 40 degrees in the shade today and the radio is broadcasting heat warnings. The pumpkins are not selling well.
Some dogs have greatness thrust upon them : https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/french-president-emmanuel-macron-adopts-pet-dog-nemo-a3621591.html
The time of year when Paris based diplomats start to pack up their summer homes in the country and think about heading back North. A time of year when invites to '' we must see you before we go " gatherings abound. Angus who has spent a lifetime making small talk would quite happily avoid them all. He is told that this is 'standoffish'.
At one gathering there's a Fish and Chip van ( a practical way to feed the guests and cut down on the washing up) and Medieval Troubadours as entertainment. Purists might wonder if tricorn hats are medieval but it's the thought that counts. Half a dozen inflatable pink flamingos add an additional element of sophistication.
The Medieval Troubadours consist of two drummers, a man playing a penny whistle, a juggler and a young lady dressed as Gypsy Rose Lee . The young lady dances round in what might , or might not, be a lascivious manner or she may simply have a sore foot. Through the performance the young lady and the juggler cast what Barbara Cartland would have described as 'longing glances' at each other . They seem keen to get the performance over and done with as quickly as possible. As a finale the juggler produces two crescent shaped blades that he twirls distractedly above his head in a manner very small children might find spell binding. While the guests clap and the two drummers and the penny pipe player take a bow the juggler and the lascivious dancer skip away, hand in hand, into the shrubbery. Very French.
Along the lane the plane trees have shed all their bark on the side that faces the Autan wind.
Loic the gardener has returned , refreshed and relaxed from his trip to Narbonne Plage. He is well. His mother is well. In fact everything has worked out swimmingly. This morning he blows leaves into piles. The PONs follow along behind , unpiling.
Just when you think you've seen it all : http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/08/26/546049293/whats-making-these-dogs-in-mumbai-turn-blue
And a sad note. There aren't a huge number of PONs in the world and even fewer who appear in blogs. One brave fellow, Edward in Atlanta, has run ahead on the next part of his journey. A home without a PON is a strangely quiet place. We know exactly what Edwards family must be feeling. He was a family fellow. Do pop by if you have the chance : http://fromthehouseofedward.blogspot.fr/
The hot air driving up from Spain collides with the chill air from the Atlantic. Overnight we have another almighty mountain storm. The house shakes, the down pipes gurgle, shutters slam. Through it all the PONs sleep blissfully on, not even the rattle of hail against the windows wakes them.
For Bob and Sophie one good thing about spending your first twelve weeks at a kennels in the back country surrounded by goats and horses - storms hold absolutely no fears.
Now it's darker in the mornings we're not out until six forty five. Light enough (just) for any trigger happy hunter to see us and light enough for Angus to be able to use his pocket full of black bags ( dog owners will understand ). The aged donkey in the field at the crossroads has already made it out of the barn and is lying, legs tucked under him, on the grass. We stop and say hello. I used to bring carrots but getting onto his feet is now difficult. The PONs settle down on the grass verge as if greeting a donkey is something completely usual - which for them it is. From the look of the donkey, all aches and rheumy eyes and ribs, I'm guessing this will be his last summer. The first thing the 30 year old farmer does in the morning is open the barn door to let him out. The younger donkeys sleep on but this old one gets fed, stroked, then wanders out, settles down and watches the world pass.When the farmer was a boy the donkey used to carry him, and his brothers, on its back down to the stream. Old friendships count .
The decorator was supposed to start on the church porch last Monday. He didn't show. This morning the mayor is in the churchyard with the man with the bulbous red nose and the man with the Yorkie. The storms have dislodged some roof tiles, water has worked its way in and an alarming crack has appeared in the arch above the door.
The crack runs up into the bell tower. A builder will be called.
Music for a Sunday morning. This little Danish video is gloriously innocent :
Bob alerts me to the fact ....
..... that all is not well with his world.
In fact the very essence of the universe has been shaken .....
..... to its very core.
Sophie has stolen disemboweled Panda and run off into the orchard with it.
Sophie exudes saccharine innocence. She wears her '' Disemboweled Panda's been stolen ? You accuse Moi ? " face. The fact she's sitting on the Panda in question is ignored.
So starts a full on dog owners Saturday morning. For the family diva there's nothing quite like irritating an oaf of a brother.
Another night of thunderstorms and the banshee rattle of hail against the shutters. The sodden ground doesn't seem to bother the workmen who are hard at work cutting the grass verges as the sun comes up. A horrible job in this stifling humidity. They work for half an hour then park their tractor in the field outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse and head off for breakfast. Bob maintains a running commentary on everything that's happening from his observation spot on the stump seat.
Sophie is not enjoying the heat. She is encouraged into the cool of the kitchen.
Bob settles on the wooden garden table in the shade. He turns on his back and snores.
The Old Farmer wanders over for a chat. He doesn't like the physiotherapist who he thinks is too 'violent'. He's got an appointment at the teaching hospital in Toulouse. They have a department for muscular reeducation. Being an old soldier he moves to the top of the list and can start a course of therapy sessions next week. He's brought us a small gift - a bottle of cognac . The bottle doubles as a bust of Napoleon. The ungentlemanly might observe that prior to delivery the bottle has been opened and a small tumbler full poured.
On my walk round the village with Bob the man with anger management issues stops us. '' I know what you're doing " he says by way of greeting. Angus wonders if we've done something dreadful. '' I want you to know we're grateful " he adds. With that he holds out four tomatoes and two courgettes. '' They're from my garden ". Angus accepts them effusively. When in France the best thing to do is layer thanks or praise on with a trowel. Angus claims that courgettes are his favourite food - an outright lie as he viscerally hates them - but allowable, I think, in the circumstances. Neither Bob ( who observes this interaction with his head tilted ) nor Angus are any the wiser as to what it is we've done to deserve such a gift.
Two presents on the same day. Perhaps after nearly nine years here we've become honorary villagers ? Trust is gained slowly; loyalty finally returned.
In the cool of the downstairs kitchen 'The Font' , watched closely by Sophie, sets about making a fresh tuna, tomato and courgette flan. Sophie likes courgette. She also likes tuna. Pastry is a favourite. She doesn't like tomato.
So passes another August day in deepest, deepest France profonde.
A quick trip to a humid and overcast London.
On Tower Bridge a Chinese couple having wedding photos taken in the midst of the morning rush hour. The young couple are happily oblivious to the traffic. The commuters having to navigate around this unusual scene less so.
While Angus waits to see men in dark suits he explores one of the City's many churches. This, he can't help but recognize , is the sort of edifying thing his father would have done to pass the time constructively.
In a niche in the little courtyard a relief done by Jacob Epstein.
In an art gallery next door a humorous picture of man and dog catches his eye.
On the way back to the airport Angus is instructed to try out some new Scandinavian dining chairs in the Swedish furniture shop. Before ordering them 'The Font' wants to make sure Angus doesn't find the chairs are uncomfortable or designed for someone either two feet or twelve feet tall.
An attractive young Japanese lady speaks to me in Swedish. Her English is non-existent. Her Swedish with Japanese pronunciation 'challenging'. By a combination of linguistic guesswork and sign language Angus finds a chair that is comfortable.
At the airport a hologram instructing passengers on which train goes to which terminal. The hologram is annoyingly happy in that effervescent way that might incite air rage.
Although its the busiest travel time of the year the airport is strangely quiet. '' You're lucky Love. You've found a quiet time " . The check in lady then informs me that travel from the US to the UK is up 28% this year. '' It's all because of that Brexit " she adds with studied illogicality.
At the airport in Toulouse Bob is contentedly 'christening' tyres in the car park.
Schools start in a couple of weeks. The newsagent selling pens and notepads in readiness.
The home help for Loics mother will do gardening, laundry and also cook and share meals. The cooking and sharing of meals is a particularly French gesture.
A fine old house by the road junction. It's seen better days but must have been quite the thing in its time.
On a side wall a window with a roller blind. The window is five feet above the ground. What would it have been used for ? Why does it have a roller blind ? I stand and examine it but can think of no reason why it should be there or what its purpose was.
Back at home Bob opts for a doze in the now cooler sunshine.