Sunday, September 23, 2018
The cooler weather means it's time to put the pool to bed for the year. Last week the pump started to make that 'two plates of metal grinding together' noise. Yesterday the pump man came and replaced it. This morning the water level in the pool is low - a sign that there's a leak ? The hose pipes are unravelled and the water level topped up. Sophie is my companion on this unexciting task. She finds the unreeling of the hose and the sound of the water flowing into the pool to be riveting. She keeps on getting under my feet so is 'encouraged' into the house.
Bob emerges and gives his sister a morning kiss. This morning, as every morning, Sophie objects and lets out a ' hollering '. Villagers aiming to sleep in on a Sunday morning are by now, presumably, wide awake.
'The Font' has finished the course with the astrophysicists in Pasadena. The sixteen year old Chinese girls with three doctorates apiece will be carrying on with their quest for an electro-magnetic fourth dimension.
This week Angus and the PONs will have to fend for themselves for two nights while 'The Font' heads off to sign up for a new course. We go to the local frozen food store and lay in some Naans and microwaveable curries. Consideration is given to duck breast but this seems a culinary adventure too far.
This mornings croissant an 8.3/10. Light, flaky but ever so slightly stale. A batch made an hour ago. The angelic duo each get given an end. This is a cause for tail thumping happiness.
Sophie may have sussed out from the sound of packing that she's going to be left in a household with Angus as the chef in charge.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
5:58 am. A slight change to our routine. Instead of being woken by a cold wet nose pressed into his right ear , Angus is instead woken by a shaggy tail beating against his face. Bob has found a slipper on the floor and has turned around to check it out. Angus is up quickly.
Decidedly cool this morning. Cool weather = turbocharged PONs. The pre-dawn hurtle round the garden undertaken at super fast speed.
Angus and the angelic duo arrive at the bakers. The bakery staff clearly aren't early birds. This mornings croissant decidedly lacklustre. 6/10 - the dough unfluffy. The PONs think this score is miserly and would give it an 11/10 , if asked. Bobs tail is still wagging. Sophie drinks noisily from the bowl of water that the baker has provided.
Unappealing green things with brown marks at the front of the greengrocers display. They are examined, briefly.
The last of the melons. Can the year have raced by that quickly ?
Back at home 'The Font' is up and about and reading the Swedish papers and magazines brought back from London. That time of year when we start saving the papers as kindling for the fire.
Just another quiet Saturday with two enthusiastic and increasingly shaggy companions,
Friday, September 21, 2018
Cloudy and very windy. From the cranes outside the hotel window it's evident that Brexit is not ( yet ) slowing the London construction market.
Dog owners and American tourists coming to terms with jet lag are early risers . Buckingham Palace already attracting crowds at seven in the morning.
The City is quieter. The Guildhall almost deserted. Most folks are already behind their desks or in morning meetings.
Ten minutes early for a seven thirty meeting with men in dark suits. The dining room will be on the top floor and have wonderful views that no one will look at. The American men will toy with a pretzel and drink unimaginably strong coffee by the gallon. Angus will have sausages and bacon and ( as a sop to his cholesterol ) one egg over hard. City churches are always open early. While waiting I pop into one. Destroyed in the 1940 blitz and re-opened ( or should that be re-consecrated ? ) in 1958. Completely empty at this hour of the morning. My only companions four carved angels with fluttering wings on top of a wooden screen.
How can you mispronounce Nevada or Oregon ?
Four more angels with flamboyant wings , this time cast in brass, on top of an altar. If there was anyone around I'd ask what the high wings signify - but there isn't. I'll remember it as the church with the fancy angels. The brass angels have swords, the wooden ones don't. They must have been recreated from pre-war photos.
The young Jamaican guard on the train to Heathrow checks my ticket and yawns. ' Long shift ? ' I ask more out of politeness than interest. '' Another eleven hours to go " he replies. I'm incredulous. Seems he works a 12 hour shift, three days a week, to pay his way through college. ' I can't believe how lucky I am to have a job like this ' he adds. I think he's being facetious. He's not. Something uplifting about the lack of complaint and the enthusiasm for life.
An accident on the motorway home. What usually takes fifty minutes takes two and a half hours. One of those 'awful' moments when you have to avert your eyes. Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the PONs are delighted to have found their flock. There is a full ten minutes of unconstrained, joyful, mayhem.
Toe tapping music. Played on Radio Nostalgie this morning : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyZAJQgrXKk
Not all golfers have the same outlook on life : https://news.st-andrews.ac.uk/archive/golfing-legend-renee-powell-opens-student-hall-in-her-name/
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Gales in London. The last flight is cancelled due to high winds at Heathrow. Nothing unusual about the anonymous airport hotel room apart from the floors which are made not of wood but of faux plastic wood. They're strangely cold and bare feet stick to them. Why would you have plastic looking wood rather than the genuine article ?
The only reading material a French comic book about the battle of Tarawa. How odd is that ?
A five thirty bus to the terminal for the first flight. On the aircraft a couple from Austin. She's wheeled on and he fusses as the airport staff help her into the seat. Broad blue hat with red piping and matching pashmina. Hands stretched out straight on her knees. There's an old fashioned Grace Kelly look to her. After takeoff she leans across the aisle and talks to me with that American openness to strangers that's alien to their British cousins. An indecorous cancer. They've been travelling the pilgrim route to Santiago for two months. Something they'd always promised they would do. Their children said it was mad. He wheeled her all the way apart from the mountainous stretch where they hired a car. They'd stop at churches and if she couldn't climb the steps, he'd run in, video the interior and then they'd sit outside and look at the pictures on his i-Pad. '' Now we're proficient in Spanish and we made it to Santiago ! ". There were traumas getting replacement tyres for her chair when the old ones wore out. '' Don't get me started on the brake linings ". The kindness of strangers helped overcome all obstacles. Now heading home for what she calls 'another journey'. He rubs her knuckles with the tip of his thumb in that way long married couples do and whispers " Shoosh ! Don't say that ".
The most amazing stories can be found in the seat across the aisle.
At the train station a passenger with a dog. Interesting psychology. In the minute, maybe 90 seconds I'm there buying a ticket a man comes and tickles the dogs head, two girls stoop down to say hello and an old lady tells the owner how fine his companion is. Urban society slows and gives way to an older rhythm.
English bakeries have very different displays to their French counterparts.
Late in the evening after talking to men in dark suits I pass this new Rolls Royce parked outside the London hotel. The colour scheme perhaps not to everyones taste.
A record of some of those 'little' things too unimportant for a diary .
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Morning walk time. We're passed by three farmers in little white vans, the young 'garagiste' in his souped up Citroen, the farmer in the Toyota Land Cruiser ( with the manic Westie leaping from front seat to back window ) and this morning not one but two combine harvesters. I wave. Bob looks. Sophie is down in the donkey field hunting for badger poo so doesn't notice.
The sunflower harvest is starting. After that it's the hazelnuts and then the village slips into hibernatory mode.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
With two enthusiastic Polish Lowland Sheepdogs in the house ...
By seven thirty it's almost full daylight. For the PONs , who've been on the go since six, it's the start of the best day ever.
Monday, September 17, 2018
We spend Sunday morning at the open day for the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the local market town. Founded in July 1776 by a group of knowledgeable locals and still going strong. Ever since they've managed to publish a quarterly magazine without a single interruption despite revolution, wars and occupation.
An amiable older gentleman, who turns out to be the President, gives us a tour of this Aladdin's cave of mysteries. He is quite happy, indeed eager, to let us leaf through the original notebooks containing the first lectures . A wonderful display of original First World War posters is propped, haphazardly, against a wall.
On the staircase an enormous and particularly hideous 19th century painting showing the excommunicated German Emperor Henry 4th pleading for forgiveness in front of the Pope in 1077. Generations of school children will have been taught this is what happens to naughty boys and girls who stray too far from the church. The Emperor was made to wait in his bare feet in the snow and in the picture is looking decidedly chastened. He never forgot, nor forgave. One of the seminal moments in European history. None of us can determine who the stern looking woman next to the Pope might be. Not a picture I'd want to have above the mantelpiece.
Notebooks from the 1780's showing excavations made by a visitor from Paris - a savant theatrical impresario - who could see something and then draw it exactly from memory. The Roman remains he excavated and recorded are all now lost.
The academy building is an old medieval convent that belonged to the Ursulines. There were no less than 26 convents in the town at the time of the revolution. After the terror it was vacant and they bought it for a song. At some stage the building was divided and the neighbouring tenant became the El Dorado night club. Quite an exotic venue for an agricultural town. From the fallen concrete on the El Dorado's portico I assume it's long closed.
While 'The Font' chats to the 'senior' gentleman Angus talks to an enthusiastic lady who is writing a book on the subject of 'The role of women in the study of apricot and plum diseases in the late 18th century '. As a special treat Angus is shown a variety of scientific instruments and the notes made by a long series of worthy farmers wives.
How marvellous that such calmness, eccentricity and passion co-exist in equal measure.
On our way back to the car we pass a 19th century building . Down below an uninteresting front to the Prune store. Above a mass of architectural detail which could be Moorish or Gothic but seems undecided as to what it wants to be.
Who knew the Norwegian national anthem was the same as the British ? Here's God Save the King sung in that increasingly fashionable Benjamin Britten version I never know when to stand up for . The Swedish King and Queen look bemused : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jK-0AEFPbo
Some people got this Novichok joke. Others didn't. The comments are twitter humour at its best : https://twitter.com/richardosman/status/1040261999555497985
Sunday, September 16, 2018
It is National Patrimony Weekend. All sorts of places are open to the public that are usually closed.
We head off to visit to a 68 bedroom 13th century castle. Too big for use as a family home it was run as an ever less grand hotel until it closed in 2001. Now in a state of ever more glorious dereliction it is the haunt of Class A drug dealers from Toulouse. A fire has burnt down the stable block. The family that own it try to keep it standing but something this size needs a Jeff Bezos budget. What can be done with it ?
Onto a fortified medieval village. We park in the deserted square by a strangely shaped house with a double story entry way. What, if anything, would have been stored there ?
A little arcaded 12th century village house being renovated. No architectural purity here. The windows have been reduced in size by the insertion of three layers of floor tiles and plastic framed windows are being fitted. The external plaster has fallen off where the electricians have put in new ducting.
The village church - no bigger than a hut - has a surprise in store. A flamboyant 16th century altar screen. Baroque on acid. Quite out of proportion.
On our way out of the church we meet the Chatelaine of the local castle. She scurries across the street and invites us over. The building now a bare whisper of its pre-revolutionary size - but still enormous. The staircase is made of alabaster and as theatrical as a Cecil B. De Mille film set. It's carved with a delicacy that takes our breath away. The owner is completely batty ( in a grumpy type of way ), probably impoverished and lives in one huge room with painted ceilings and a four poster bed in the corner. There is no sign of plumbing. How I wish I'd taken some photos. She's invited us back.
Lovely shots of the Northern Lights and some Sunday Scottish fiddle playing :
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Both PONs were bathed yesterday. Such a short sentence but one that obscures a morning of trying to catch two wiley Polish Lowland Sheepdogs. They try hiding at the far side of the garden. Sophie dons her invisibility cloak and disappears under a bed in an upstairs guest room. Bob does his '' road kill attached to the floor by super glue '' routine. Bob gets bathed first. Sophie, who displays a remarkable turn of speed when cornered, is 'caught' an hour later.
During the proceedings Angus changes his shirt and trousers not once but twice.
Afterwards he receives the PON patented '' We thought we could trust you " look.
They get a guilt assuaging rice cake which seems to cheer them up.
A new Burger King has been built in the supermarket car park. It's gone up in two weeks. The French would have you believe they don't like fast food. Nothing, but nothing, could be further from the truth.
Gourds make an appearance in the supermarket. They are very popular with the North African crowd. Angus had never thought that pumpkins were a Maghreb thing.
Why is it crisp flavours always seem more sophisticated in French ?
Friday, September 14, 2018
A cold wet nose wakes me at 5:58 am.A reminder that the best day ever is about to start. The leaves from the plane trees now starting to fall. For the next three months Loic will be kept busy blowing them into piles. The PONs will be equally busy leaping into the leaf piles and redistributing them.
The Anglo-Saxon media is busy reporting the storm heading towards the Carolina's. Here the attention is on the French islands in the Caribbean.
The mayors secretary delivers a formal note concerning the village commemoration for the end of the 'Great' war. A rather sweet ending as a 'memory of the millions of young men of all nationalities who died at lifes dawning'.
This is what the war memorial looked like in 1922 shortly after it was unveiled.
Some of the houses in the background have gone but this is as it appears today. 'The Font' using the patience of Job has almost convinced the villagers that recreating the old wooden fence is a good idea. '' But what colour should the paint be ? " typical of the impedimenta still to be overcome. The stonework will be pressure washed next month to remove a century of dirt.
Guess what this article is saying is that life is a miracle and the parting from it a mystery. Dogs being sentient want to have someone to say farewell to : https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/vets-pet-put-down-final-moments-reality-twitter-facebook-euthanasia-a8532926.html