Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rejoice !

Time for celebration. Long lost friend lamb-on-a-rope is found buried under the laurel hedge.

There is much running backwards and forwards accompanied by a chorus of delight. Ears flap.

Sophie liberates lamb on a rope and then refuses to let her brother have it. Bob is not pleased. He gives me his ' Do something ! ' look. The PONs are loaded into the back of the car and driven to the bakers. This is known as a dog owners Solomonic decision.

After all the rain the onion fields looking grim. Bob and Sophie are discouraged from charging through the fields - the smell of onion clings to their fur all day. In this respect the garlic fields are even worse.

Half the seedlings washed away in the sunflower fields..... more weeds than sunflowers. And still it rains  ... or at least threatens to.

While eating scrambled eggs 'The Font' reads the morning news and provides a very Lutheran take on the latest twitter storm. ' If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea '. 

Music for an  almost the longest day of the year morning:

Monday, June 18, 2018

The malformed apple flapjack.

We're up at four to talk to Asian men in dark suits. Bob sleeps, head on paws, by the front door, Sophie lies across my feet. A busy week ahead. Mr.Kushner is in the mid-east arranging a Palestinian peace plan but not talking to the Palestinians. Mr.Trump has asked the Austrian Chancellor if he can meet Mr.Putin in Vienna next month before the NATO summit . The Poles have gone apoplectic. The German Foreign Minister let slip that he is prepared for a bad NATO meeting. To top it all a new book on the first family ' Born Trump ' will be released this week and is supposedly 'unflattering'. A Twitter storm awaits.

None of this is of the slightest interest to the PONs who are much more focused on the cat that is sitting preening itself on The Old Farmers balcony. Bob is not best pleased at this display of feline arrogance.

A walk to the waterfall, a trip to the bakers and then, as happens every morning, the ten minute blog writing routine. A chance for Bob and Sophie to catch a quick nap.

This mornings bakery choice was between an Opera ....

...... a Fraisier .....

.... and a couple of small Bavarois. We opt for the Fraisier despite the fact that it has a Fathers Day sticker from yesterday on it.

 Bob and Sophie get some crust from a malformed apple flapjack which they demonstratively ( and vocally ) enjoy.

The mayor shows up at the gate to borrow the step ladders. He's putting out the flags on the war memorial for the commemoration of the Appeal of 1940. 

This book tells us so much about what's going on : https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/review-divided-why-we-re-living-in-an-age-of-walls-by-tim-marshall-1.716014

Sunday, June 17, 2018

You know.

Sunday morning starts off pretty well ...

.... but when you head towards the car and the word 'bakers' is mentioned ....

...... You know this is going to be the best day ever.

This seems apt : https://twitter.com/Anthrofuentes/status/1008103278062649344

Sunday morning music : https://youtu.be/qSF5t-1IPD0?t=280

I'm not sure but this article seems to be saying that American exceptionalism is based on milk drinking : 

Saturday, June 16, 2018


The PONs are up early and keen to get their day started.

Sophie is in a playful mood.

Bob knows that spells trouble.

Sophie squeals loudly to make it plain she is the family princess . Bob does his happy soft shoe shuffle. The angelic duo then leap into the back of the car. Sophie has forgotten her toy so she has to get out again. Bob sits in her recently vacated place. Sophie won't get back up until he moves.Eventually, chaos is replaced by a vague semblance of order. We park down by the little river so the PONs can drink from the waterfall and observe the cows. Bob and Angus wonder whether the Warsaw Virginia penitentiary is a comfortable place. Sophie finds something repellent to eat in a drainage ditch.

The road repair gang is up and out early. After a month of heavy and near continual rain many of the back roads are suffering from subsidence. The road repair gang are in no hurry to clear the way for us to drive by. I consider winding down the window and saying something .... but don't.

At the supermarket a car has managed to park over the flowering shrubs. French driving is not as 'entertaining' as Italian driving but it's a close run thing.

Those little things. Too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

The lady at the 3:30 mark doesn't seem overjoyed to find a pipe band blocking the aisle : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd5SeKB91cE

Friday, June 15, 2018

Clip on lenses.

The clip on fish eye lens for the i-Phone 8 is easy to install. It takes all of 20 seconds to put in place. The fish eye option must serve some purpose but I can't see what it is. 

The wide angle lens is more useful.

Plaques and buildings are brought into focus. 

An artistic effect can be created ....

but the edge of the image gets blurry and the whole picture seems to lack the crispness found with the standard lens.

It certainly doesn't do anything for interior photos. Shooting towards light, even if it's diffused, is problematic.

The line '' Perhaps we should try for a girl ? " has its limits : https://eu.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/06/12/14-boys-no-regrets-michigan-family-schwandt-happy/693474002/

I have no idea who these people are but they enjoy rugby and have an infectious enthusiasm for life. It seems they're playing in memory of a team mate who has 'gone on ahead' :

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The dog saint.

Our first rain free morning in what seems like forever.

The village green is usually parched by this time of the year but after a month of storms the grass is Irish green and the tamarisk shrubs sparkling with dew.

This morning Sophie walks off the lead. Bob is on it.

The wild boar aren't far away. The ground has been pawed over. Sophie has enough sense to recognize and avoid danger. Bob doesn't. This is why he's shackled. Not that he's bothered. He's out on an adventure with his flock. He trots ahead happily with a spring in his step. Donkeys, cows and goats are all inspected. The three of us sit on the concrete storm drain and put the world to rights.

As we head back home along the lane we meet two couples from Lyon heading in the other direction. They're wearing those clear plastic rain capes. One of them greets Bob. ''Bonjour Guinefort". A name I'd not heard before.  It seems that Guinefort is the name of a Lyonnais Saint. A dog wrongfully killed for the death of a baby he had really been trying to save. St.Guinefort is an old assertion of the special links between shepherds and dogs - something readers of this blog will understand and others won't. This piece of information about a dog Saint is somehow both touching and unexpected. I'd never heard of an animal being so honoured.  

'The Font' , remembering the family divas devouring of an entire caulflower and a half kilo of broccoli, volunteers that Sophie is a most unlikely candidate for sainthood. Courtesy of Google here's the full story :http://mentalfloss.com/article/91855/st-guinefort-dog-venerated-saint

This says a lot about life : https://twitter.com/invisibleman_17/status/1006781780060405760

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The new art work.

A new art work has been installed on the ramparts of the neighbouring village. A large yellow polo mint aligned with nothing in particular. Presumably paid for by some government department in Toulouse tasked with providing cheerful culture for the masses.  A touch of Parisian chic in the provinces. What must the villagers make of it ? It's too high for Bob to christen. Sophie is head down and pursuing a malodorous scent so doesn't even notice the new arrival.

Maybe we'll be the next village to get a sculpture ?

A first . Progress is constructed with little things  : https://twitter.com/BBCNews/status/1006188423235940352

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In the dog house

Sophie is in the dog house. Left alone in the kitchen when 'The Font' answers the phone she :

1) Uses her bionic legs to clamber front paws first onto a stool - then focusing her superpowers she leaps onto the kitchen counter
2) On the counter she finds, then eats, an entire cooked cauliflower before turning her attention to
3) the broccoli that's been prepared for dinner
4) Sophie then retraces her mountaineers routine in reverse -bringing a roll of kitchen paper down with her.
5) As a final touch the kitchen paper is shredded and distributed round the kitchen.

And to think there was a time when we thought the two metal knees might hinder her movements. 

No blame can be attributed to big brother Bob who dutifully sits by 'The Font' for the duration of the phone call. Sophie's ' I cannot tell a lie. It was him ! ' routine doesn't wash.

On our morning walk the family diva evinces neither contrition nor signs of biliousness. She does however roll , at length, in the long grass. She emerges coated from nose to tail in tiny green seeds. On the way home she finds a festering vole pelt. This alone ( forgetting the cauliflower and broccoli ) qualifies today as the best day ever.

Angus is once again reminded of the words in the book on dog breeds : 'Quiet, unassuming and requiring minimal maintenance the PON is an excellent dog for apartment dwellers'.

I wish everyone would read this : 

An amazingly brave and spirited 8 year old : https://twitter.com/BBCScotland/status/1006161701656461313

Monday, June 11, 2018

Forty yards

At seven minutes past midnight all hell breaks loose. A storm cell has barged down from the mountains and centred itself directly over The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Angus is woken by  a flash of lightning followed by a floor shaking peel of thunder. Some roof tiles can be heard crashing on the ground. The view out of the window a curtain of hail - a total white out. The pandemonium lasts for exactly 13 minutes before it growls slowly away to wreak havoc elsewhere. 

Annoyingly 'The Font' and the PONs are completely unperturbed by the maelstrom. Angus's trip downstairs in the pitch dark ( the power has gone off )  to find a flashlight and collect buckets to catch the rain coming through the hallway ceiling undertaken alone. Bob opens one eye briefly but decides that his warm bed is the right place to be in a storm. Sophie and 'The Font' don't even stir. This morning 'The Font' looks at the buckets on the floor and asks if it's been raining. Angus thinks of replying that he's been up through the night arranging the buckets as installation art - but doesn't.

We're early at the bakers. No croissants yet, they're still in the oven. This is the third time this has happened. Angus has a coffee while he waits. The PONs share a bowl of water and have some grass seeds picked out of their fur. How can any dog get covered in grass seeds in the forty yards between the concrete car park and the bakers terrace ?

We fill up with petrol because the farmers have started to block the refineries in protest over low milk prices.

This is interesting : https://www.afp.com/en/news/15/spain-swears-mostly-female-government-doc-15o3vt9?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosam&stream=top

An example of Polish wry humour at its best : https://twitter.com/eucopresident/status/1005886097581363200

And the Chinese Peoples Daily compares the meetings of these two alliances. No guessing which one they think has been friendlier : https://twitter.com/PDChina/status/1005713165504557056

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Work done.

The British Airways 767 from London to Edinburgh flown and attended to by an all female crew. At the gate a number of American golfers in baseball caps and cashmere sweaters ask for selfies with the captain and first officer. '' Stateside we always have at least one guy in the cockpit " says one gentleman combining political incorrectness and condescension in one sentence. The first officer smiles but says nothing.

Up at the wee house the sliding doors from the kitchen into the drawing room have been rehung and appear to work. Downstairs Phil the joiners built in wardrobe looks very 'solid'. He's managed to match the wood with the other doors in the house. Painting the kitchen floor white before the builders had finished was a mistake. The painters will need to come in again.

The metal beams that support the AGA and form the outside terrace are checked and approved by the safety officer.  The house is connected to the fibre optic system. A landline is installed. 'The Font' has ordered some new garden furniture. This manges to combine style, flimsiness and excessive cost  Angus spends an hour assembling it and removing bubble wrap. Garden furniture is never properly protected but this is an exception and has been entombed in bubble wrap  by someone with wrapping OCD.

The video inventory and list of items are delivered to the university housing department. They will be checked by a team of diligent ladies this week.

Still a few students around.... but not many.

The street enjoying the rarity of sunshine and heat.

All the pictures are put in place and furniture 'shifted'. In the hall two photos of James Dean are put over the radiator. We bought them in a New York gallery when we were impoverished twenty somethings and they've been gathering dust ever since. The gallery owner also tried to sell us ten original 40's era Norman Rockwell posters but at $80 they were beyond our modest budget. How much would they be worth now ?

The only thing left to do is hand over the keys to the Texans when they arrive at the end of the month. Angus's work is done.

This chart is interesting :


Saturday, June 9, 2018

A good week for books.

A good week for books. Being in St.Andrews and having Toppings to browse in was a joy. To have read two very good books and one truly exceptional book in a week is a luxury.

Tuesday night. First book was Chernobyl. Written in a breathless and entertaining way by a Professor at Princeton. Read over dinner in the new ( and overly expensive ) steak restaurant at the far end of South Street. A former bar that's been reinvented as a Laguna Beach meets North East Fife dining experience. This, on reflection, is not a recipe for a culinary marriage made in heaven. Glitzy without the glitz or in plain English a $120 bill for a $30 meal. The wine list south of uninspiring - a fault compounded by a sixfold markup. The build up of suspense as Gorbachev comes to terms with the disaster and the knowledge that so many would die from radiation poisoning made the book unputdownable. The author combines political and technical detail with a fast moving style. What 'The Font' would call a book for a 'masculine' library. As for the restaurant - it's a candidate for a visit from Chef Ramsay , if it lasts that long. The final indignity was ordering a decaf espresso and being brought a cup of breakfast tea. ' The barman's just told me we're out of decaf coffee. I've brought you this instead ". 

Night two at Tail End the brilliant and reasonable fish and chip shop / restaurant on Market Street .They had Lemon Sole on the menu, caught that afternoon, which the chef was happy to grill. A $30 charge for a dinner that would cost  $100 anywhere else. The bookstore recommended Shape Shifters by a young doctor in Edinburgh. I wasn't sure but time being tight I bought it on the basis of how bad could it be ?

I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. A light Soave helps. An adult book that deals with the doctors experiences of the changes in life in an intelligent and kind way. Birth, sleep, jet lag - it's all here. He has a reassuring way of writing-  both wry and modest - that makes you understand why some rugby playing Scots lads are born with a stethoscope hanging round their necks. Many books aim to be intelligent. Few succeed. This is both intelligent and perhaps more importantly kind. The combination a true rarity. The author addresses issues that are rarely addressed and the volume is an unjudgemental delight.  Serendipity made an appearance. A young couple sitting across the aisle stood up to leave just as I put the book down. He a 30 something doctor at the nearby Army base. A life spent alternating between duty in Afghanistan and dealing with the aftermath back at home. He asks if I enjoyed it. I read out a passage on trauma. He laughs. '' That's just what I needed to hear ". He borrows the book and promises to drop it back through the letter box at the wee house when he's finished. His wife gives me the contact details for a woman who hires army wives as cleaners. They are as honest as the day is long, are delighted to make extra money, get off base and have something to do other than worry when their partners are on the other side of the globe.

Finally, the catalogue from the Grant Wood exhibition at the Whitney in NY arrives. Ordered through Toppings at the same price as Amazon. This readers companion over dinner in the restaurant by the town Kirk. A faux long established place  run by a Glasgow chain. The food so so, the service agonizingly slow. Angus starts with haggis before moving on to salmon. They had happily set up a table for one by the window which was a thoughtful gesture and as it turned out the high point of dinner.  As for the catalogue it's beautifully illustrated, the plates matt rather than gloss, the essays interesting and jauntily Manhattanish. The book cover shows Paul Revere's midnight ride - a witty and detailed work. My favourite this etching of ponies in the snow. A coffee table book you actually want to devour.