Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Not every day.

It's getting lighter in the mornings. At seven thirty the dawn is wrapping itself round the merest hint of a crescent moon.  Something untameably optimistic about this time of the year. Spring is whispering its arrival. This is an early rising dog owners secret.

Bob watches the six donkeys. Further along the lane the family fellow jumps out of his skin when he looks up and sees the two horses by the crossroads. This happens nearly every morning when he passes the horses. Bobs mind tends to wander. Today he and his sister find some wild boar droppings, These are rolled in and in Sophie's case, eaten. Angus informs his shaggy companions that they are a walking advert for cat ownership.

The angelic duo return home to explore the barn for threats.

Mid-morning Bob arrives to tell me he's happy. He is wearing his patented ' I is an happy ' face. He places a front paw on my foot to add conviction to his story.

So passes a day in which absolutely nothing happens in the village. For the PONs it has undoubtedly been the best day ever. Its not every day you get to roll in wild boar droppings.

Food rules for France. Angus breaks the one about bacon and croissants  : https://www.thelocal.fr/20171221/the-many-many-ways-to-commit-food-sacrilege-in-france

Monday, January 15, 2018

The argument.

Brighter and warmer.

The PONs are fighting fit and game for anything.

A mix up at the Salle des Fetes. A local granny is being given a 'surprise' 85th birthday lunch by her family. A quiet decorous affair.

The local hunters haven't bothered to check whether the village hall has been booked. At 2.30 they show up with three deer carcasses which they unload in the middle of the village green. The hunters expect to be able to use the kitchens to dismember them. The granny's family soon disabuse them of this notion. Angus is amazed at the virulence of the language. It would make even an inhabitant of the White House blush. When the French want to be rude to each other they take it to a level that Anglo-Saxons simply can't emulate. There is a 'heated exchange'. The grandmothers daughters give as good as they get.

The hunters finally pick up the carcasses and head off in convoy. They have the air of a group of mad as hell men who've just been out to vote for Roy Moore. They are not happy which perversely puts a smile on Angus's face.

The PONs are frazzled. They can smell the deer blood and hear the raised voices and the braying of the hunting dogs in the back of the hunters vans. I've never seen Bob and Sophie so agitated. Both of them seem to be able to sense violence. They remain on tenterhooks all afternoon. I call them in - they want out. When out - they want in. So it goes.

'The Font' returns. Bob and Sophie immediately shuck off the days worries. There is an 'emotional' reunion. Sophie is asleep by 9.00. Her brother does a last check of the house and then also heads off to bed. After we turn in he heads downstairs to be near his sister. His tail thwack-thwack-thwacks against the furniture as he goes.  Normal service has been resumed.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought

Angus sleeps in. Angus rarely sleeps in but this morning the sound of Sophie singing wakes him. At first he thinks the family diva is engaged in her ' I'm bored. Let me annoy my brother by making atonal whines ' act. It's only when he glances at the bedside clock and sees we're running forty minutes behind schedule does he recognize the song for what it is. It's the ' Better get up soon. There are certain urgent things a lady must do ' routine. Angus is up, dressed and out in three minutes. 

A chill morning. Close to freezing but not quite there. The wind raw on the skin. While Bob chases blackbirds Sophie has a lengthy drink from the zinc bath by the pottery kiln. Angus finds himself walking along the lane behind the PONs giving silent thanks to no one in particular for the little things – warmth, a roof over my head, the beauty of the frost touched trees, the mad cap antics of the goldfinches, the knowledge 'The Font' will be back for dinner. The bedside clock. Perhaps gratitude grows with age ?  So does the importance of 'little' things.

Where the trees give way to fields we stop and look out over the hills towards the mountains. At this time of the morning the peaks shimmer pink and orange in the weak sun. Bob has his ears scratched and is told, as he's told every morning, that this is ' his country '. Sophie roots for invisible things under the brambles. Angus ponders that this has been another week where politics have been graceless and vulgar. He smiles and whistles this tune https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTBiRiHnRmM

The Old Farmer has disconnected the multi coloured lights that run around the bottom of his gutters. He has left the star, the white lights that run round the top of the gutters and the red and orange lights that hang in swathes off his garage door in place. Before, the night time sky throbbed with energy. Now it merely glows.

The 'Stud et Coiff ' hairdressers in the shopping centre must be a hip place. It has a cosmopolitan sign painted on its window in English '' Happy New Year and Merry Christmas ". This is an unusual sequence. The interior is quiet barring a young lady with red hair washing the hair of a septuagenarian granny who has settled in for a long 'chat'. 

What could be a rather arid academic article is enlivened by pages 3 and 4 : http://www.lse.ac.uk/fmg/dp/specialPapers/PDF/SP239.pdf

And on a lighter note - Surfers heaven in Massachusetts : https://www.livescience.com/61336-slurpee-waves-on-nantucket-beach.html

Saturday, January 13, 2018


The Font' is due back tomorrow. This can't come a moment too soon for the PONs who have noticed that a diet of plain kibble and burnt chicken casserole is not the height of canine gastronomy.

We stand and watch the carrousel on the market square being disassembled. Bob is keen to christen a pink flying elephant but is hurried into the cafe for a bowl of water and a shared half croissant .

Sophie looks like she's in need of a thorough grooming. Bob doesn't look too bad. Bob has one of those coats that always looks vaguely cared for. Sophie has a coat that's a bit like memory foam. It takes the squiffy form of whatever she's been lying against most recently. 

Today, in the car, the PONs face a different way from the way they've faced every other day of their lives. I ask them why ? They look at me .

This is interesting : http://metrocosm.com/the-housing-value-of-every-county-in-the-u-s/

But this is out of this world : https://boingboing.net/2016/02/03/mandala-pattern-traced-by-eart.html

French television shows the installation of the new archbishop of Paris. A truly medieval scene and a chance to hear the Notre Dame organ in full spate. I wouldn't want to watch the whole video but the light (for a minute or two) at the 20:30 mark in full screen is remarkable: 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Life is so exciting.

It's bitterly cold. At the end of the ridge where the trees peter out the wind hits us full in the face. Bob and Sophie find this invigorating. They roll on their backs, chase invisible things in the drainage ditch and gaze at the eagles hovering over the apple orchards in the valley. They would happily spend all morning in these frigid conditions, tails high, noses twitching, eyes wide. Their master 'encourages ' them home. Bob has one last theatrical 'pounce' on something only he can see.

Back at home Sophie finds her empty yogurt carton and glares at it. One day it will learn to refill itself.

We go to the cafe. The PONs view a trip in the car as a great adventure. Sophie , being the family diva, takes up 65% of the floor space. Bob sits in what's left and and looks out of the back window. 

Christmas is officially over. The mayors secretary takes down the two garlands from the yew trees by the war memorial. The length of silver glitter and the two red baubles that she'd attached to the cypress tree blew away in the gales. What took two minutes to put up takes a minute to take down.

When you live in a community of 67 souls it's amazing what there is to record. Bob and Sophie monitor it all. Life is so exciting.

Wonderful television.Why this series was dropped in the US is a mystery to Angus : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a551d9_iZIU

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Woks not mentioned.

Two little cars drive up and park outside the church as I'm giving the PONs their pre-lunch walk. They're rental cars. You know rental cars in France because they're all registered in the Oise department and have the number 60 on their registration plates. The owner of one of the cars shouts out and asks if I know where the swaying Jesus is. He's parked directly in front of it and is ten maybe twelve feet away from the thing so it's difficult to reply without sounding sarcastic. There's no wind today so there is no swaying. '' Turnaround. You can't miss it. There's only the one " seems a suitably neutral response. The question is a bit like people on planes coming down the aisle and asking which is the window seat. Bob and Sophie are keen to greet the new arrivals. They are 'encouraged' on their walk.

The PONs are held spellbound by the constant drama that is village life. The two carloads of out of towners go. Workmen come to install new road signs. The school buses bring back the little ones at lunchtime. Our neighbour The Old Farmer polishes his venerable motor home to an approximation of a showroom shine ( the fibreglass infilling on the wing doesn't buff up well ). Everything is carefully observed.

After lunch we head off to the cafe on the market square in the little market town. The cafe is deserted apart from three gentlemen of a certain age who sit, grumpily, putting the world to rights. Bob and Sophie get given a Breton butter biscuit to share. Sophie ( who has been recycling ) gets a quarter of it, her brother the rest. Thankfully, she has no idea that he's got the larger portion.

The Chinese family, mother, father and an unruly three year old male come to see the London flat with the agent. There is a rather one sided conversation about the Chinese style kitchen. '' You got Woof ? We got Woof. Woof very good " says the man. After some backwards and forwards banter it transpires that 'Woof' is a make of kitchen appliance  called Wolf. 'The Font' isn't sure if ' Woofs' are sold in the UK but promises to look into it. The Chinese family are very keen to move in quickly. The wife is looking forward to walking round the corner to Fortnum and Masons for her groceries. ' The Font' points out there is a Tesco Metro on the corner which will cost a quarter, maybe a fifth, of the price of shopping in Fortnums. This information is greeted with silent incredulity. As they go the man, perhaps to make quite sure 'The Font' has understood says '' Woof very good " .They then go. Flaming woks are not mentioned

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A quiet fifth birthday.

Bob and Sophie enjoy a quiet fifth birthday. There is chicken for dinner. This alone would mark it out as one of the best days ever. The presence of a large absent minded tabby cat that wanders into the garden in the late afternoon seals the deal. What better way to celebrate than sitting at the bottom of an oak tree with a c-a-t in its branches ?

The shoe shop in the little town not only sells and repairs shoes it also makes keys. The owner doesn't think that this combination is in any way unusual. The PONs and their master go to collect some keys. Opening time is 10:00. At 10:30 we give up waiting for him. There is always tomorrow.

It's windy. Sophie finds a sheltered spot in the sun for a restorative mid-morning doze. Big brother stands on his stump seat to guard against passing tractors. The tractor drivers wave at him. Head on into the gale Bob is looking decidedly unaerodynamic.

This morning 'The Font'' heads off to London at first light. The French lady oil company executive signed a new lease on the rental flat in October. She has used the three month break clause in the lease to announce that she and her company are returning to Paris because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. This is a tedious development. The agent has found a new tenant - a Chinese family who want to move in asap - but would like a Chinese style kitchen installed. No one is quite sure what this means. It conjures up images of flaming woks. We shall soon find out.

Snow in the Sahara yesterday. http://mashable.com/2018/01/09/sahara-desert-snow-fall/#GNCVvb1MtkqH

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The old chair.

Much excitement getting in the dog car. Bob sits on Sophie's side. Sophie lets him know he's an oaf. Bob gets out. Sophie gets in. Why after five years getting in the car should be the source of so much vocal joy is a perennial mystery of dog ownership.

Today Bob is perfecting his owl impression.

At the greengrocers an unusual form of chicory ' La Puntarelle ' makes an appearance  : http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Puntarella_3263.php

We have carted around with us the chair that the Old Pretender ( the father of Bonnie Prince Charlie  and the would be James III ) is said to have sat on as he waited for a French ship to rescue him after his failed attempt to claim the throne in 1715. Out of the blue a breezy young man phones from London to ask if it could be shipped back for an exhibition. Neither of us is sure where it is. ' The Font ' finds it on a corridor , next to a coat rack, looking its age.  It is probably time for it to return home. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

And so normal service is resumed.

The schools started again today. The little lane suddenly alive with traffic. The farmers in their white vans, the young garagiste on his motor bike and the gentleman in his large green Toyota with the excitable Westie in the passenger seat all wave as they pass by. The morning rush hour lasts from 7:45 until 8:00. At 8:00 the  woman with the four year old twin boys hurtles along the road driving with one hand while combing the boys hair with the other. She's followed thirty seconds later by the school secretary in her mustard coloured Renault. After that silence. 

Lots of fallen branches around today. There was a brief but ferocious thunderstorm at one o'clock. The whole house shook and the rain was torrential. Usually, thunderstorms  amble down from the mountains. This one just arrived, unforecast, lasted three minutes with a peculiar intensity and was then gone. Bob and Sophie slept through it.

Bob and Sophie spend much of their day at the front gate monitoring the comings and goings of the school buses. The tykes are not happy at going back to school. They drag their satchels on the ground behind them and look sullen. The smaller of the two rattles a stick against the metal bars of the gates and whistles. To make triply sure that the PONs are annoyed he also goes ' woof-woof'. Bob and Sophie are spurred , as they are every school day morning, into a flurry of activity.

All those little things too unimportant for a diary but which make a dogs owners life - a dog owners life.

Einstein writing to Marie Curie about 'trolls'. Plus ca change : https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/04/19/einstein-curie-letter/

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Together we are invincible !

Epiphany. A time when all French families get together. Or, in this part of deepest,deepest France profonde, a time when the local teenagers return to the village hall for a 'rave' that starts at nine on Saturday night and is still going strong when Bob ventures out at seven the next morning. Sophie has slept through the noise. Bob has been unsettled by the bass guitar and the 'thump thump' of the drums and has spent his night on guard.

In the small 24 hour store  ( actually a twelve hour store and three on Sundays ) a small army of chocolate Santas being offered at 25% off.

Fresh carrots for the PONs from the greengrocers. They now get a slice of chilled carrot as their treat. Wheat free kibbles and lots of cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts ( enlivened with traces of human food ) seem to be the recipe for keeping allergies at bay.

Sophie has been digging again.

She is encouraged into my den to dry out.

At the rugby ground a beer tent has been put up. The beer tent doesn't have sides but it does have a canvas roof, two tables and a hand painted sign that says '' Together we are invincible " or as the French would have it " Ensemble, nous sommes invincibles ! ". Another, smaller, sign informs me this is the '' Nouvel espace VIP ! ". Angus wonders what VIP might find themselves standing in the depths of a small French market town in January surrounded by unshaven farmers and their male offspring watching a 'leisurely' game of rugby. 

Bob and Angus leave just before the final whistle. Little is happening on the pitch and the combination of torrential rain and a bitterly cold wind that blows straight onto the spectators is reminding Angus of a lifetime of overzealous rugby and broken bones. The espace VIP ! remains empty. Bob gazes longingly at the little catering caravan from which the tantalizing odour of hot dog wafts on the breeze. '' Maybe next week " I find myself saying to him aloud.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Calm and uninterrupted.

A peculiar redness to last nights sunset and this mornings sunrise. The refracted colour a sign that the recent storms have thrown up a lot of sand from the Sahara into the atmosphere.

The lane outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse quiet. The schools don't start again until Monday. No harried mothers or late running teachers racing by in their cars. Our morning walk calm and uninterrupted. Angus sits on the storm drain and explains to a disappointed Bob that we can't subscribe to The Gorilla Channel.

Mid-morning a silver Toyota RAV4 arrives in the village. A couple have come to see the house by the village pond . This  is being sold by the man who told his wife he was at a conference while he was really 'entertaining' his secretary at their holiday home. The smashing of the mans headlights , the slashing of his tires and the subsequent highly vocal confrontation ( the wife having returned there unexpectedly to find the happy couple ) still part of village folklore.  The possible purchasers spend a full two hours looking over the house.

The PONs will be five years old next week. They are both still in that ' Why walk when you can run ? ' phase of life.

The remarkable Christmas tree with its 600 pre-programmed flashing lights is taken down. Bob has enjoyed sleeping in the middle of the upstairs hallway basking  in its ever changing and ever so slightly manic glow.

At two in the morning he tiptoes down the stairs to join his sister who sleeps by the front door. Bobs tiptoeing wakes me up. What other animal bangs its wildly ( and happily ) wagging  tail against the furniture as it tiptoes around ? Stealth is not a PON trait.

Angus is amazed to discover that you are not allowed to pump your own gas in NJ or ( until recently ) Oregon . The comments on this twitter link are priceless . A reminder that there is whole 'other' world out there : https://twitter.com/Kristytipsy/status/948333925901877248

Friday, January 5, 2018

Squirms and howls.

Q : Where did the morning go ?

A : Washing Sophie's feet ; cutting off Bobs overly long ear hair  (that's been dragging on the ground and collecting twigs) and thinning out the bushy fur on both their cheeks. Finally, forty minutes are spent on plucking the itchy hair that grows inside their ears.

Sophie is a perfect patient. She is convinced that all this attention is her rightful due as a diva. She lies on her back, waves her paws in the air and squeals with delight.

Bob has a more prosaic approach to grooming. He hides. Then when found he squirms and howls.

The rave has finished and the teenagers have gone. The PONs are delighted with the myriad of smells that have collected outside the Salle des Fetes. Our afternoon walk to the end of the village is replaced by a thirty minutes of intense sniffing .

A cheery couple from Brittany have parked their motor home outside the church. They have a son who follows along behind them in a white van. The white van contains food, a fold out table and a set of chairs. They open up the back of the van and enjoy a late lunch. They intend to stop here for three nights. Eating in the back of a white FIAT van is borderline unusual.

These pictures are hauntingly beautiful :