Saturday, September 30, 2017


A Saturday morning walk to the stream. The PONs head off down the hill disappearing into the woods, reappearing then disappearing again. Tails wag. Swarms of dragon flies around at this time of the morning, bursts of lapis lazuli darting in and out of the shade.The beauty of a pair of Kingfishers tadpole fishing in the stream leaves me amazed. 

On some parts of the walk where the sun can't penetrate the covering foliage the air is chill and damp. Further down towards the stream the clay hills on either side of the path  retain the heat and channel it outwards. 16 degrees on top of the ridge, 25 down here. Half a dozen micro climates within a kilometre of The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

The orchids are finished but there are cornflowers and wild gentians and a score of others with names I don't know.

The wild roses heavy with hips. Their colour this year remarkable for its ruby intensity. In Scotland the farmers would view this as ' food for the birds'  a sure sign that a harsh winter is on its way. 'Nature always has a way of compensating '.

An architecturally marvellous mushroom or is it a toadstool ? A full five inches in height. Memorable not so much for its size but for the fact that it's growing on its own. The PONs are quite unimpressed.

Back at the house Bob is loaded into the back of the car. In the back of the car he's at just the right height to remove sticks, burrs and sharp grass seeds. He's covered in them. This has been an excellent outing.

Gannetts en masse :

Friday, September 29, 2017

If you're in a good mood.

At this time of the year 8:28 pm is the perfect time to watch satellites. The just below the horizon sun reflecting off their bellies as they saunter across the sky. The trick is remembering that they can come at you from all directions. Their slow  progress quite different from that of an aircraft. Bob and Sophie are delighted Angus is on his back looking at the sky. Sophie shows great interest in the glass of 2010 Pomerol that her master is carefully guarding. They both fall asleep cuddled into me. One on either side. Sheepdogs and their flock. Any passing villagers must wonder at the madness of a foreigner and his dogs lying out in the garden in the dark. Hopefully, they can't see the glass of Pomerol.

This morning it's windy. Sophie's hair reflects the change in weather. After a trip to the market , a bowl of water and a shared croissant she settles down for a nap. There is an unspoken contract between sister and brother. '' I'll nap. You guard ". Bob takes his responsibilities seriously.

The Old Farmer polishes the venerable Mercedes to an almost as new shine. He's taking the Belgian lady out for lunch. I ask him where he's going. '' To a little place by the motorway slip road ".  Then, to educate me further, he adds " It's an American restaurant called McDonalds. They're open from ten until ten ". He repeats the Mac-dough-nowld slowly to make sure I've understood. Angus raises his eyebrows and emits a soft appreciative whistle in what, he hopes, is a suitably impressed reaction.

'The Font' phones to say that we should have flu jabs. Angus has never had a flu jab. This years flu - for reasons that I would know were I listening and not distracted by Sophie chasing a spider with diva like theatricality - is likely to be severe. '' It's apparently best if you have the injection when you're in a good mood " says 'The Font' displaying a logic that Angus, after forty years, is still coming to terms with.

Never let it be said the Germans don't have a sense of humour :

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A romantic surprise.

With 'The Font' away Angus watches the recorded  rugby highlights with a pizza and a six pack of beer. Bob settles at my feet and snores. At 11.30 Sophie heads off downstairs. She gives me a decidedly huffy ' You stay up if you want to but I'm off to get some beauty sleep ' look. She might as well add ' And do try to keep the noise down ! '.

This morning we're up at sunrise. The PONs know that this is going to be the best day ever so head out of the front door at high speed. They reappear ten minutes later having completed their checks of the garden and the orchard. Bob has a largely destuffed pink and blue turtle in his mouth. Sophie has discovered a long lost orange thing that has an indestructible squeaker.

Today, we shall be putting the large plastic top sheet on the pool to stop the leaves from the acacia tree falling into it. The pool has a corrugated solar powered cover but the leaves somehow manage to find their way through the cracks between the slats and into the water.

We shall also be painting the ceiling beams in the library.

The PONs are keen to help. They are always keen to help where paint is involved. 

Yesterday a white mini bus from Portugal arrived in the village. A dozen ladies emerged and laid a bouquet of carnations on the pedestal of the swaying Jesus. I assume they were relations of the seasonal agricultural workers who are about to head home. The village odd job man went across to talk to them. Angus very much hopes he wasn't trying to sell them anything. The PONs kept up a running commentary from their vantage point at the front gate. On our evening walk I couldn't help but notice that the bouquet of flowers had disappeared. Could it be that the village odd job mans wife had received a romantic floral surprise ? Waste not, want not. Maybe a sudden gust of wind blew them away ?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Low cloud in the valley this morning. The first sure sign that autumn has arrived.

On our morning walk the goat, the three race horses, the donkeys and the cows at the crossroads are all individually greeted. The PONs roll on their backs in the dew covered grass. They seem satisfied that all is well with the village. The young garagiste and the farmer in his little white Renault wave as they pass. So do the children in the school bus, noses pressed hard against the windows.

The sausage counter commands the PONs attention. Boiled pigs knuckles a hint that there may be such a thing as heaven on earth. Nostrils flare. Tails wag. The cake counter a disappointment this morning.

Some langoustines for lunch from the fishmonger. Today he's doing a roaring trade. A fresh delivery from Arcachon.

The biggest ducks I've ever seen. Ducks on steroids. Finally, a coffee, a bowl of water and a shared croissant.

The things you learn from Scots diplomats. Anyone ever heard of a dish called 'Plov'  ? Anyone know that UNESCO listed food ? :

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

'' You certainly know how to choose a good pineapple '

Sophie enjoys a post walk carrot half.

The mayor arrives. He'd like to borrow the ladder to put up the flags on the war memorial. He was supposed to do it on Saturday but events somehow overtook him.  He shrugs his shoulders.

'The Font' has to go to the airport tomorrow. The big car low on fuel. Of course this has to be the day when the fuel delivery drivers are staging a national strike. The petrol station at the supermarket has a large handwritten sign informing customers that it hopes to get more petrol tomorrow.

Angus and the PONs head off in search for a functioning petrol station. Angus thinks this tedious. The PONs view a trip in the car much the same way a human might view a Mediterranean cruise. There is much tail wagging and excited singing.

There has been an incident on the road into town. We get stuck in a queue for ten minutes.

A group of militant fuel truckers have parked their lorries at either end of the bridge over the river. This blocks the traffic and creates gridlock. A man is standing on the parapet giving a speech. Angus mutters under his breath. The words he mutters aren't found in the Baptist hymnal. 

We find petrol and fill the tank. Angus and the PONs head off for a well deserved coffee, a bowl of water and a shared croissant. 'Meet the farmers day' has been  extended so the inhabitants of the special needs home can enjoy it. Bob and Sophie are hurried past the piglet, geese and miniature sheep. The farmers are at the bar. 

Zimbabwean oranges at the greengrocers. Another first.

At the check out the cashier rings up the oranges and a pineapple. '' You certainly know how to choose a good pineapple ' she says as if this is the most natural thing in the world to say. Angus is unsure how to reply. Is it a joke ? Is she serious ? How much skill can there be in choosing a pineapple ? The French often say things that sound bizarre to Anglo-Saxon ears. Angus opts to say 'thank you' and hurries out to the car. 

This is the most truthful description of Polish Lowlands I've read. Rather more honest than the ' ideal pet for an apartment dweller ' description we found in one dog book :

Monday, September 25, 2017


Monday morning. We're up early to talk to men in dark suits about the German election results. Everyone focuses on the right wing gains but forgets the new Foreign Minister will probably be Cem Ozdemir of Turkish descent and the Finance Minister will be a Liberal. Sophie heads out of the front door at high speed. Sophie is completely oblivious to the fact that it's still dark. She is, on some occasions, completely fearless. At others, she isn't.

Bob has his carrot stick then heads off into the dark after her. Bob exudes pre-breakfast happiness. As he rushes off he emits a wharromph rather than a bark.  '' Hold on Sophie ! This is going to be the best day ever ".

Some wooden pens have been set up outside the municipal offices. It's ''meet the farmers day'' for the kindergarten children. Teachers, parents and late to work employees of the special needs home are milling around. A goat has liberated itself from the pen and is happily mingling with some three year olds. The farmers are in the bar having an early morning beer and lamenting the low price of wheat. They offer Angus a glass of Pelforths. He declines. 

A detour to the pasta shop for some Gnocchi for lunch.

Then a trip to the locksmith. Is Serrurier the most difficult French word for a foreigner to pronounce correctly ?

California meets Scotland :

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Avoiding the petanque courts.

Sunday morning with two lively PONs. Sophie wants to get the day started. Bob is just happy.

After last weeks rain the morning is bright and sunny. The Old Farmer is up and about early. He's wearing his fur trappers hat and a thick red and black check fur jacket. Sophie sniffs his zimmer frame while Bob climbs the stairs up to his terrace in search of c-a-t-s. The intrepid duo find molehills on the old mans lawn. This is a cause for great excitement. The molehills are excavated amidst much high pitched whimpering and manic digging. The moles have long gone. The PONs don't know this.

Off into town to check on the time of today's rugby match. A step up in the excitement stakes from yesterdays game between two sets of local farmers. It starts off at a sedate pace and slows from there. In a pause in proceedings ( while everyone catches their breath ) the Sapeur Pompier and the young gendarme from St.Etienne have time to wander over and chat to us. ' Bonjour M'Ongoose. Bonjour Bhub '. Bob, who has been asleep on the bleachers, observes them with a mixture of interest and caution.

The cafe on the site of the old castle has put out a sign for todays petanque tournament. Angus makes a mental note to avoid the area this afternoon. PONs are keen participants in petanque games - an enthusiasm that petanque players tend not to reciprocate.

We check the Pilgrims Menu at the cafe on the High Street.

Finally, we make it to the cafe for a coffee and a bowl of water and croissant crumbs. There is much tail wagging.

Now you don't even need to go shopping :

And never let it be said that topical American humour is dead :

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Learning the hard way.

Sophie learns the hard way that overly ripe pears are sticky and can matt your hair.

The sticky juice also 'attracts' loose leaves .

Nothing that a warm flannel and a quick run through with a brush  won't cure.

Fresh dates in the greengrocers and a warm welcome, a bowl of water and a wholemeal biscuit at the cafe on the market square. Tails wag wildly.

Today the rugby season starts again. Sophie does not get taken to rugby matches. She can find the cheering and shouting alarming. Sophie, rugby and 'diva' moments are best avoided.

Amazing fact for the day :

Friday, September 22, 2017

Another victory.

Sophie watches as her brother picks up a partially destuffed lamb that had been hidden in the laurel hedge. He heads off into the garden with it.

She is not pleased that he has it and she doesn't.

Bob feigns deafness. A necessary brotherly trait when living with Sophie.

The village looking very spruce with its freshly painted speed bumps.

On our morning walk Sophie finds that the drainage ditch by the crossroads is full of windfall pears. She likes the overly ripe ones. I fear we may see more of the overly ripe pears as the day wears on. Bob, a more fastidious eater, sniffs the pears but leaves them well alone.

In the wine shop they've got a special on Bekaa Valley Lebanese Chardonnay. The wine shop has an international selection but it is usually entirely empty.  This is based on the view that if it's not French it's not wine. Today, however, they have the six bottle of Lebanese wine and a solitary bottle of Chianti. We feel sorry for the Chianti and buy it.

The matron at Loics home phones 'The Font'. Loic is fine, relaxed, his insulin levels are under control and he's eating again. His mother is still in the hospital. He gets driven over to see her twice a day. Loic insists on taking the phone and talking to 'The Font' . He says that he'll be back to blow the leaves 'just as soon as he's better'. This is another of life's little victories.

''You see a lot of smiles".  I'm now a fan of 3D printers . Make that a BIG fan :