Saturday, December 15, 2018

The tree is up ! and Christmas song #12.

This morning Sophie's 'bangs' are near perfect. Outside it's cold and chill and misty. The PONs love it. Let's hope it clears up for the young garagistes wedding at eleven.

We're early at the bakers. No cakes at all this morning. Being early has one advantage - the croissants are still warm from the oven. The PONs are doubly grateful for warm croissant slivers. When he finishes Bob emits a tiny sigh.

We toy with the idea of going to Jerusalem for a few days - a place we've never been to.  'The Font' thinks it might be fun to stay here : The kennels can take the PONs for three nights next week but the return trip is a nightmare. It would require flying at four in the morning. By the time we've allowed for check in, security and the drive from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv airport we'd have to check out of the hotel at midnight. The killer is a six hour layover in Frankfurt for the connection to Toulouse. Seems the PONs routine will not be interrupted.

Angus puts up the eight foot tall Chinese artificial Christmas tree which comes fitted with six hundred pre-installed lights. These seem to have some form of installation malfunction that makes them flash on and off, violently, in rapid succession. 'Goodness' says 'The Font' when observing this remarkable design feature for the first time. 

Sophie sniffs the tree and soon gets bored with it. Bob, by contrast, wants to become intimately involved in its decoration. He is 'encouraged ' outside before he can run off with the baubles.

Christmas song #12 . A very Danish affair :

Friday, December 14, 2018

Home and Christmas song #11

After being closed for a month the local motorway pay booths are open again. The gilet jaune protesters have moved to a muddy encampment by the roundabout. It looks remarkably cold and uncomfortable. This may explain why their numbers have dropped from more than a hundred to around a dozen.  Those that are left are collecting wooden pallets and old tyres in case they need to rebuild ( and set fire to ) the barricades.

In the greengrocers a 'special' on tamarind. 'The Font' uses tamarind sparingly in Indian cooking but to not enough to buy it by the half kilo box .

Local carrots for the PONs. As treats the angelic duo get either carrots ( cut into four length ways ) or rice cakes. The ingredients label on the supermarket brand dog biscuits hints that this might be a wise choice. The PONs love carrots. Bizarrely, they also love rice cakes.

Sophie is delighted to welcome me home. She shrieks.

Angus has laid a plastic sheet over the louvred swimming pool cover. This stops the leaves working their way through the segments and into the water. Sophie  loves to stick her backside in the air and drink from the water that's collected on the plastic sheet. She seems oblivious to the fact that this is inelegant behaviour for a family diva.

Christmas song #11. These people all seem very happy. I'm guessing they come from some sunny state :

Only in America. KFC scented firelogs would drive the PONS insane. It's on the website so it must be real :

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Visa less journeys and Christmas song #10.

Gone are the days of visas being issued overnight. Starting this week there are new regulations which require fingerprints to be taken and a full list of  previous visits to be written down in exhaustive detail. Background checks require at least four full working days. The trip is delayed until the New Year. Angus quietly curses the visa agency for not having found this out sooner.

There are seats on the first flight back to Toulouse. At 5 in the morning London is quiet but the flower stall is ready for business. Who buys flowers at 5 am ? 

At the airport a young lady is unpacking a large cardboard box containing the hire car company's Christmas decoration. '' It's a sheep with horns " she tells her colleague as what appears to be a quarter size albino reindeer emerges from the packaging. Angus refrains from pointing out that a sheep with horns would be a ram. What she's holding would appear to be that rarest of beasts - a sheep with antlers. The young lady toys with putting it on her desk. It proves too big. She finally opts for a position on the ground as far away from her as possible.

The sandwich shop in the departure terminal is doing a roaring trade. The staff all seem rather jolly. Some are in red Santa hats. Others in head scarves. Very cosmopolitan.

In the airline lounge guilt ridden parents on business trips have the chance to enter a competition to win an enormous bear. The enormous bear is the sort of thing that one might get tired of very quickly. In fact Angus has to wonder what you would do to get it through the front door ? Any toddler finding this under the tree on Christmas morning would probably lose the power of speech for a week.

Song # 10.  The girls in the choir, being Swedish, are quite unperturbed by all the naked flames :

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The creche and Christmas song # 9

A beautiful morning. We stop on the storm drain at the edge of the ridge and watch two foxes slink across the long grass into the safety of the hawthorn thicket. Bob and his sister are both clipped onto their leads in case they are tempted to give chase. On the way home a long drink  from the water filled ditch by the horse field. The under 10's school bus slows so that the children can press their noses against the windows and wave at Bob and Sophie. I wave back. 

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the creche is brought out of the basement and carried upstairs. The collection of Christmas tree lights ( put in an obvious place so they couldn't get lost ) are rediscovered after a gap of three years. There are a lot of them.

'The Font' starts setting out the angels and the wise men. Angus rushes off to change. He has to go to China and is going to London to have his fingerprints taken for the Chinese visa and booster injections for Yellow Fever, Hepatitis and something else which he forgets.

' His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame '. Surely one of the most beautiful lines in the English language.  From Bloomington, Indiana a rather medieval sound

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday morning and Christmas Song #8

Bob starts off his day looking presentable. Sophie, who has excavated something tantalizing to eat, less so.

The yellow jacket encampment at the roundabout is a shadow of its former self. A white tent, a solitary car and a blue and black tarpaulin are all that's left. Many of the protesters seem to have got bored now the weather has turned colder. We were hopeful that the demonstrations might be coming to an end but breakfast radio informs us that the farmers are about to start blockading the roads. No one seems quite sure why.

Our morning croissant a masterpiece. Crispy outside, buttery  on the inside. The PONs get the curly ends.

The first Buche de Noel make an appearance. Angus buys two secure in the knowledge 'The Font' will take half a forkful and pass the remainder over to him.

The cafes Christmas lunch menu looks appealing. The new wallpaper less so.

' A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices '. Christmas Song #8. All the components of every French villages chaotic carol service are in this video. Some things are universal. The serious youngster aiming for the high notes ( how everyone prays as the top note draws near ), the errant toddler at the 2:00 mark and of course the draw for the Christmas raffle. The singer demonstrates great kindness and what might best be described as an 'emotive' style. Elvis never had to deal with this sort of thing :

Monday, December 10, 2018

Plastic gnomes and Christmas song #7.

One of those days when it can't decide whether to rain or pour with rain. In the end it decides to do both and add in a little sleet for good measure. The PONs are in their element. Nothing like a hint of sleet to get the day off on the right foot. Their master is less enthused about the sleet which is of the variety that manages to work its way through the outer layers and down the back of his neck. This morning we stand at the storm drain and look out into low cloud. The donkeys are just visible standing under the oaks in the middle of their field in a circle. Angus tells Bob about Rick Ayers and Mark Meadows but the family PON isn't interested.

Bob uses the occasional dry spells to stand on his stump seat and guard. Sadly, there is little to guard against today.

More of the citrus fruit mousse cakes have appeared in the bakers. The young lady behind the counter is unsure as to whether they're apricot or lemon or a combination of both.

Two types of chanterelles in the greengrocers. We decide on the yellow ones for a dinner time risotto.

The little department store is open early after being closed on Saturday. The staff weren't able to get through the yellow jackets picket line. A line of early rising shoppers has formed. The PONs are loaded into the back of the car and are soon sleep. Angus goes in to buy a wedding present for the young garagiste and his soon to be bride. He is surprised to see a large black plastic lizard for $150 and a wide variety of plastic gnomes in pastel colours. He opts for a coffee machine. A middle aged lady tries to sell him one where you have to order the capsules online but this doesn't sound like the sort of thing the young garagiste would do. I make sure that he can come in and get a refund or change it if he wants to.

Christmas song #7. Remastered as a wide screen spectacular :

Sunday, December 9, 2018

All's well and Christmas song # 6 - in Gaelic.

Cold wet weather seems to have discouraged the protesters. There was violence in Bordeaux but everywhere else things were relatively peaceful. Saturday in Toulouse was calm and abnormally quiet. The motorway pay booths are still blockaded but everything else is working smoothly. 

This morning a quick trip to the florist that doubles up as the undertakers.

As we leave the car the sun just catches one of the large village houses. We pass it nearly every day and don't give it a second glance but today it's looking rather handsome - and comfortable.

Another feature I'd been too busy to notice ...

... the hinges on the neighbouring villages church doors are very fine affairs with a suitably stern head of Jesus in ironwork. This is presumably a design feature to let you know what sort of building you're about to enter - as if you could be in any doubt.

Bob and Sophie are quite disinterested in the iron work. They are keen to get to the cafe and a reviving croissant sliver.

Christmas song # 6 in Gaelic :

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Batten down mode and Christmas song # 5.

We're staying close to home today. The Security Police raided the yellow jacket encampment at the local motorway exit last night and found 30 Molotov Cocktails, 3 pipe bombs and 5 bottles of acid. Not a day for venturing out. There are 89,000 police on duty nationwide in case of violence. Pity the poor shopkeepers who instead of having one of the busiest weekends of the year are in batten down mode. The government doesn't seem to have realized that demonstrations without a leader and without a specific grievance are of the most dangerous kind. The heavy rain and cold winds are the best hope for things remaining calm.

The PONs are oblivious to human anger. For them it's another day for high adventure.

At first light we take the little car ( yellow vest positioned on the dashboard in the hope any protesters will think we're supporters and wave us through ) and drive to the bakers. As we pass the American style hamburger restaurant we note that they're serving a Jingle Bells burger. If that doesn't appeal then there's an Exotic Duck Burger.

The bakers offerings are a bit more seasonal this morning although the predominant colour remains an unfestive brown.

In the greengrocers large juicy pomegranates are a sure sign Christmas is getting close. A tiny splash of freshly squeezed Pomegranate juice adds a pleasant tartness to Champagne.

Christmas Song # 5 sung on the steps of a snow bound Finnish railway station. It's not really a Christmas song but there's a Christmas tree in it and lots of warmly dressed Finns and is beautifully sung:

Friday, December 7, 2018

Polar Bears and Christmas Song #4

Three large trucks arrive on the village square. They've come to relay the tarmac around the war memorial. This was supposed to have been done for the Armistice commemoration last month. Better late than never. Sophie observes their arrival with keen interest. 

By the smaller village pond (where the carp live ) there are more workmen hard at work. The German billionaires are building again. This time its another garage with an inspection ramp so that their fleet of vintage cars can be serviced. Part of the old Roman defensive ditch has been built on. The good news is that they've started to repair the old farm buildings which have been derelict for generations as part of a new yoga centre for his wife.

In the supermarket a young woman assistant is dragging a trolley of sequined white Polar Bears along behind her. She spends a long time consulting a clip board.

The young woman frowns,  rummages around in the pile of bears and finds a solitary penguin to put on the fish counter.

Exhausted with her hard work she leaves the trolley of Polar Bears blocking the vegetable aisle and wanders off. Angus watches as three women stop, examine the bears and pop one in their trolleys. People will buy anything - even if it's not for sale.

Wet weather does little for Sophie's coat.

Here's a reflective Christmas song #4 :

And a stern warning from the Shanghai-Beijing Bullet Train :

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The garagistes wedding present and Christmas Song #3

The sun rising as we head off on our morning walk. Bob trots along by my side. We chat as we go. Sophie runs ahead of us shrieking. Why walk quietly when there are invisible things for a girl to chase ?

By the time we've made it to the end of the ridge the early morning fog has started to lift. It's going to be another balmy day. We sit on the storm drain and watch the sun rise. Bob listens while Angus describes Brian Mulroney's eulogy at the Bush funeral. The young garagiste stops to tell me he's not spoken to his girl friend about the wedding present ( he's forgotten to ask her ) but he thinks it would be '' really nice if you could get us an ornament ... or something ". 

Angus starts the slow process of putting up the Christmas decorations.  After some searching he finds the little glass Christmas tree in a box in the cellar. This is very fragile and it is something of a miracle it has survived.

The tall, oversized, Shaker candlesticks bought in San Francisco forty years ago are put on the dining table. Every year we wonder why we bought the things. A box with glass bells and blue baubles is found. There are presumably two of these as the first box only has enough ornaments to decorate one candle stick. The gremlins that move the Christmas decorations into impossible to find places have been busy.  

Tomorrow, when 'The Font' returns, we shall start on the Christmas tree.

Bob and Sophie do an excellent job of guarding.

Bob spends much of the day with Lamb on a Rope clasped firmly in his jaws.

The most Swedish of carols . You really can't get any more Swedish than this :

This is a sign of civilization :