Thursday, November 30, 2017


The PONs return from their St.Andrews Day walk to the waterfall and are loaded into the back of the car. Bob takes his place on the right. Sophie on the left. This morning ' tweets ' have been the subject of Bob and Angus's storm drain conversation. Who could possibly benefit when NATO's two closest allies fall out ?

Sophie has been busy searching for moles on the river bank.

She wears her mud caked inquisitiveness with pride.

The family diva is unloaded from the car and given a thorough muzzle clean with a warm flannel. Bob also gets out of the car. On the lane outside the two tykes head off to school and shout out ' woof-woof ' as they pass the gate. Getting the PONs back in to the car has to wait until the school bus and the two delightful brothers have gone.

Later we go to the hardware store. The projectors that we saw in the Walgreens in DC have made their way to France. They project Christmas trees and Santas and other festive images onto your outside wall. In Walgreens they were $30 or so. Here they're close to three times that.

In the greengrocers cranberries appear.

When was the last time you heard a mandolin being played ? Who ever knew the Dutch had a National Mandolin Orchestra ? :

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


6.00 am. Sophie joins me in the kitchen. I could say something about her appearance but don't.

Her big brother looks more 'presentable'.

Over the years we've always had male PONs. Sophie is our first female. The males have , in their own way, been essence of dog. Patient, affable, humorous, great listeners, always ready for a tickle, displaying as much energy as robust teenagers. Sophie by contrast is a law unto herself. Her motto : '' You want me to do what ? ". One very strong willed, fiercely independent and very smart lady. An iconoclast or perhaps more aptly an iconoPON. Both brother and sister, in their very different ways, make us laugh constantly.

After our morning walk there is 'paw' evidence that someone has been digging up bulbs.

The nearby Galeries Lafayette is closing. The local version of Macy's. What will they do with these huge 19th century buildings when they shut ? If they had any sense they'd put a restaurant in on the ground floor and turn the rest into loft apartments. There again loft apartments might come as a shock in this part of deepest deepest France profonde. 40 staff gone here, another 40 there. 

The owner of this Chinese hotel saved eight thousand  1000 year old trees and scores of 500 year old buildings and shipped them 500 miles to Shanghai. Remarkable.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The worst job in the world.

Seven minutes past midnight. Angus becomes aware that a male PON is sitting silently by the bedside. Two amorous cats are canoodling on the doorstep. Bob is wondering what I intend to do about it. Finally, he wanders off into the darkness to guard alone. Thank heavens for sheepdog commitment. His tail thwack-thwack-thwacks against the furniture as he leaves.

This morning the PONs are waiting for Angus to take them on their early morning walk. It should be pointed out that they are waiting but they're not waiting patiently. Bobs tail is still waving.

Bobs hair is showing the first , almost imperceptible, signs of turning grey. He'll be 5 on January 9th. That must be 35 in human years. '' Like master, like dog " says The Font delphically when this is pointed out.

'The Font' is still cutting back the roses. The more they're pruned the more they bloom.

Bob and Angus discuss the royal wedding . President Obama wants to attend . So does his successor. Angus thinks being a protocol officer must be the worst job in the world. Bob thinks a cat herder might be worse .

This morning the display of cakes at the cafe rather humdrum. Angus gets a coffee. His shaggy companions share a bowl of water and some croissant scraps.

France Musique is in festive mood. The radio announcer describes this piece ( at the 1:20 mark ) as the most theatrical tune ever written. He could be right :

I knew this about De Gaulles daughter but not realized he's laid to rest beside her. There's something about the incongruity of this photo - the hat on the beach, the tie and the loving interplay between the two that gives it warmth and charm .Never judge a book by its cover there is nuance in the pages:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Brass and glass.

Warm and mild. Winter, for a while, on hold. A line of cloud over the mountains. 

Bob and Angus sit on the storm drain and put the world to rights. Angus observes that President Trump has spent more time with Japanese Prime Minister Abe than any other world leader. A quiet pivot to Asia.  Bob leans into me and is told ( as he's told every morning ) that this is 'his' country. We wave at the young garagiste on his motor bike. Sophie finds a twig that she's keen to show me but not share.

Back at home the family diva sits on the garden table and is groomed. The hair round here eyes is cut so she can see. Sophie lies on her back , waves her legs in the air and emits loud banshee howls. This is her way of letting us know she's happy. 'The Font' observes that this is most unladylike. Sophie does a reprise of her slaughtered pig impersonation. Her hair is in one of its growth phases. It seems to be adding an inch a week.

'The Font' uses the good weather to start cutting the rose bushes back. Vases are filled with blooms. The house awash with scent . A strangely religious looking vase is found in the cellar. Neither of us can remember ever having seen it before. The body is made of glass, the inside of the neck and the base made from brass. The picture on the front is some form of transfer - surely it can't have been painted on ? It's difficult to tell whether the image is a religious one ( there's a serious figure in sack cloth looking skyward ) or very pagan. Most of the figures seem to be drinking or in the process of what a younger generation might term ' making out '. The art of pouring bronze into glass to make the neck and base surely a difficult one. We give up trying to work out the processes involved in its manufacture.

To the chocolate shop for an advent calendar.

And a difficult decision between an Opera and a Caroline. We choose the Opera.

Bob and Sophie get to share a wholemeal biscuit which, all things considered, is a pretty good start to the day.

A cure for that Monday morning feeling :

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday in a French village.

At first light the two horrid tykes start practising the 'C' scale on their trombones. They haven't mastered it yet.

There are pigeons nesting in the holm oak by the front door. Sophie finds their presence to be an affront to her role as household guardian. The pigeons are not as much of an affront to her dignity as the wrens that nest in the wisteria. She stands and glares at them. Her glare time is divided roughly 30% pigeons, 70% wrens.

Bob, who has been up late celebrating Scotlands win in the rugby, goes for a lengthy power walk round the lake with 'The Font'. Sophie prepares for a sniff every shrub and drink from every puddle tour of the village with her master.

The Old farmer and the mayor are up early.They're standing outside the church laughing. The recently buried villager has had his tomb stone installed. It says Monsieur Duffaut 1900-2017. An improbable age. ' Dying at 117 would have made the national news ' says the mayor jauntily.  We can only assume that when the order was placed the family was asked by the undertakers : " When was the deceased born ?''. They presumably replied along the lines of 'Nineteen hundred and something . I'll get back to you with the exact date'. Nineteen hundred was duly entered on the order for the tombstone and no one ever did ' get back to them' with the correct date - 1922.

The Roman saint is put up on the staircase wall. Something to brighten it up.

Opposite him hangs '' Heroic women of the 6th Guards Tank Army bathing in the waters of Sevastopol : 1944. ". An unlikely pairing but  an interesting one.

Great views of Hong Kong and a jaunty tune  :

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Thick Atlantic cloud - layer upon layer of it - makes for a somewhat gloomy start to the day.

The donkeys barely visible in the darkness.

Later, when it's brighter, the plumbers dogs come a calling. Sophie once again demonstrates the warm and welcoming side of her nature.

Banana jam in the greengrocers. Horrible.

The greengrocer has placed packs of Christmas chocolates next to the cash desks. A harried young mother with three exceptionally energetic boys is ahead of us. Her three year has an atomic meltdown ( of the fall on the floor, kick your legs, become a dead weight and scream variety ) when told he can't have a chocolate Santa on a stick. His big five year old brother silently eggs him on. The little one year old brother, seated in the back of the shopping trolley, feigns innocence but files the scene away for future reference and embellishment.

In an unrelated development Trumpet of Death mushrooms make their seasonal appearance. 

Is frying a turkey an American thing ? :

Friday, November 24, 2017

What a musical day.

The sound of singing draws me to the window. The Old Farmer can be seen walking back from the Belgian lady's house. He's wearing his brown cut off dressing gown jacket and is clearly very happy with life. No simmer frame today just the walking stick.

Two very affable dogs appear at the front gate. Sophie far from being territorial is keen to make their acquaintance.

Bob stands on his stump seat and whimpers with excitement. The dogs belong to the plumber who is installing a new kitchen in the house belonging to the matron of the Old Folks home. The plumber comes out onto the lane and hollers for the dogs to come back and join him. They go but cast longing glances back to Bob and Sophie. Perhaps tomorrow ?

Music for turbulent times. France Musique offers up this deeply unfashionable but very beautiful piece by Mendelssohn this morning . The flautists moment in the sun ? The Nazis banned it. :

Thursday, November 23, 2017


After the freezing fog of the last week it's a delight to head off for our morning walk in glorious conditions.

Sophie is in her 'punk' mode.

Bob is never changing Bob.

We ordered some standard roses from England for the war memorial. A deep pink bordering on crimson. They were delivered to the mayor last week. Today he and his grand daughter are planting them. A man from the commune digs the holes. It is clear that the mayor enjoys the company of his twenty something grand daughter. As I wander over the two of them are joking and laughing away.  He looks years younger. The mayors dog is sitting, guarding, in the back of his owners little white van. It gets down and wanders over to make sure I'm not a threat.

I tell the mayor the roses look 'correcte' . He tells me they look like pallbearers at a catafalque. Not a word you hear every day. 37 of the villagers were killed in the 'Great' War. '' What nobody talks about is the 70 others who were injured " he muses. '' It changed things forever ". Only three of the 109 boys who left returned 'complete'.  After the end of hostilities there was no one to run the farms. Immigrants from Poland and Italy were brought in by the government in the 1920's to help work the fields. By the ruined windmill there is still a gentle old Italian farmer who arrived from Udine as a child in 1924.  He sits outside in the sun and nothing makes his day like a visit from Sophie. We speak Italian. His carers say this makes him happy. A kind of full circle happiness.

In the forenoon a van and a truck draw up outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

What they are doing is any ones guess. The PONs monitor them closely. As the church bells chime twelve the PONs wander in for lunch. Dogs are wild things who really thrive on family routine.

France Musique played this today. A sound I'd never heard before. Music for Thanksgiving :

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Realms of glory.

Last night the PONs had chicken casserole with their kibbles. This was devoured enthusiastically. Bob and Sophie think it would be a good idea if it was also served for breakfast.

This morning The Old Farmer and the Belgian lady are driving off in the silver , 1970's era, Mercedes to Angouleme. It's the Belgian lady's birthday. '' We're going for lunch to a little place by the cathedral " says The Old Farmer. He's wearing his shiny grey trousers with the elasticated waist band, sandals with black socks, green check shirt and his brown cut down dressing gown jacket. As it's a chilly morning he's also wearing a flat cap. Angus wonders if the 'little place' has a dress code. The Belgian lady is wearing a royal blue broad brimmed hat, a chunky amber necklace and what appears to be a red and white striped tennis dress. Whatever it is it's remarkably short considering the cold morning air. Neither of our neighbours, it would seem, wish to age quietly.

The PONs have a grand old time playing in the leaves. They find, then savage, the Furry Fox that's been buried in the laurel bushes. They then go chasing round and round the garden barking at invisible things that only they can see. Unlike humans angels and PONs live in a realm of glory. Bob and Sophie consider the chasing of invisible things to be their invaluable contribution to the family's safety and well being .

Finally, it's time to get in the back of the car and head off to the cafe for a bowl of water and a shared croissant. Then we'll go onto the airport to pick up 'The Font'. Bob will wave his large furry paws in front of the sliding doors motion detector and marvel at the wonder of life.

Whatever happens this is already shaping up to be the best day ever.

Whatever happened to Mary ? :

Heard this on the radio this morning.  Gretry is a composer I'd never heard of :

By barks alone.

'The Font' cracks a tooth and is taken - with the PONs - to the airport. The kind, gentle London dentist will take care of it first thing . It's good we opt for the last flight. On the PONs morning walk there's thick freezing fog that would have made a pre-dawn journey down the motorway a nightmare.

On the return journey Sophie realizes that she and Bob are alone in the car with Angus.

This can only mean one thing. A radical deterioration in the standard of her cuisine.

Sophie cannot hide her inner anguish.

Dogs do not communicate by barks alone.

The things one learns :

For lovers of Japanese television this clip from the game show '' slippery stairs " is addictive :