Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Revolting farmers.

Bob is up first . He's ready to have the rugby ball kicked.

His sister detours via the kitchen to see if there is anything to eat.

Finally, we head off to the greengrocers for artichokes.

The greengrocer provides one size bags for everything with the exception of the leeks which have their own special elongated plastic bags. How very French.

On our return we get on to the motorway easily enough.

Only to find twenty kilometres down the road that our exit is barricaded. As is the next. We are told by the electronic information sign to take a detour via the Paris motorway ...

The second electronic sign is helpfully unreadable. We discover as we go that all the exits have been cordoned off by the police. We end up having to drive into Toulouse and back out again on the back roads. A 160 kilometre round trip.

The reason for this long detour soon becomes clear. The  farmers are up in arms again over low supermarket prices and government subsidies. They've piled cow dung and tractor tyres in front of all the pay stations. To make their protest more memorable they've set fire to the tyres. The interaction of burning tyres and cow dung is not easily forgettable.

The protest at our nearest toll booth seems to have turned violent. We pass a score of riot police vans and water cannons on the motorway.

Bob and Sophie are given a walk at the service station. They find the car park to be full of interesting smells. Theythink it's all great fun.

What a wave ! :

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

An indecorous tableau.

The Belgian lady is out of hospital. She arrives at break of day in the Old Farmers venerable Mercedes. Bob stands on his stump seat and welcomes her home.

Angus and Bob play touch rugby while we wait for 'The Font' . Over dinner last night I listened in silent amazement to the story of the village prize giving. It seems the distribution of the mayors wife's dried vegetable arrangements was ' enlivened' by the village tike's who had ( while everyone else was at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new internet system ) rearranged the dried turnip, potato and radish arrangements into a precociously indecorous tableau. Root vegetables as adult installation art - a village first. 

The front paws are bad. The back ones worse. Sophie has been digging enthusiastically - but  unsuccessfully - for pre-breakfast moles.

When quizzed about her activities she first feigns deafness ....

.... then diva like indifference.

At the motorway toll booths a large group of customs officers and gendarmes. They're waiting for drug runners hurtling up from the Spanish frontier in Porsches laden with heroin for the Paris market. They don't bother to look up as two foreigners in a Volvo with two shaggy dogs in the back drive by. We're clearly not the high speed drug running demographic.

'Fluff' marshmallow spread makes its annual appearance in the supermarket. For 2018 it's joined on the exotic foods counter by Sea Salt Bagel Chips. Homesick Americans who find themselves in deepest, deepest France profonde can complete their diet with no less than two varieties of Duerr's peanut butter. 

Once you start watching this you can't stop. It's completely mesmerizing:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Nothing ignominious

The PONs are in fine form. This is going to be the best Monday on record.

Yesterday afternoon at a quarter to three the villagers gather at the Salle des Fetes for the presentation on the new fibre optic Internet line. The doors are closed and there's no sign of the mayor. While we wait Angus makes small talk. He compliments the matron of the old folks home on her stylish new coat. The woman who has bought the school teachers house informs me that she has researched her family history back to the sixteenth century. '' There are gaps Monsieur but nothing ignominious ". This is one of those French statements that leave foreigners unsure how to respond.

At three the mayor drives up in his little Renault without hubcaps. '' We're waiting at the crossroads for the ribbon cutting '" he informs us before adding " You'd better hurry up ".  So it is that a long gaggle of local residents can be seen walking rapidly along the lane towards the edge of the village.

Finally, everyone is gathered in the right place for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The villagers spill across the road. From time to time a car comes by and the crowd has to move. A senior man from the telephone company makes a speech about '' Even retirees need to be online ". He is followed by a smiling woman from some government department who says  '' Thanks to the President all of France will soon be on high speed Internet ".  She finishes with '' We are working for you ! ".  A little lady ( who may or may not be our MP )  goes on at length about how she's personally spoken to all the villagers about their needs and ' improved Internet access was their priority'. This comes as something of a surprise to the octogenarian villagers. Perhaps she was thinking of somewhere else ?

A man in a knotted scarf calls for silence. The doors of the metal '' armoire " are then theatrically swung open and we are allowed to see the inside of the junction box.   Unsure of what reaction is required when faced with the inside of a junction box Angus says 'Ooh la la' aloud. Others follow. People clap.  Who knew solid state circuitry could elicit such passion ? Only in France. The telephone company employees beam. A pair of gold scissors are produced and a ribbon with the words '' High Speed Internet Village " is cut. Pieces of the ribbon are distributed to the children '' So that you can remember this happy and important day ". The children do their best to look impressed. The mayor , who doesn't have a computer, mutters something inaudible. The man with the knotted scarf says that rural pupils will no longer be at a disadvantage to those in Paris. '' France is more than the Lycee Henri IV ". The national anthem is sung.

We all then head back to the village hall for a technical presentation on fibre optic Internet.

Angus and Bob drive off to the rugby while 'The Font' and Sophie wander across the road for the village annual gathering which will 'permettrait de se recontrer et de mieux connaitre '.

A dog lovers story :

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Owner intervention.

Our morning departure in the car is delayed by Sophie having an ear malfunction. She hops up into her place and somehow both her floppy ears end up on top of her head. A quick shake causes one to fall back into place. The second dangly ear remains resolutely AWOL. A running commentary follows. Bob looks on in stoic silence. Owner intervention sorts out the malfunctioning ear.

There are too many people in the bar today and it's too loud. Sophie stands at the door and looks at me with her ' I'm not going in there ' face. Not all dog - owner communication has to be verbal. We turn and retreat. Bob, who is less sensitive,  wonders why he's not getting his shared half croissant.

A day of juggling schedules. Angus is told he has to make an appearance at the village 'beautiful houses' gathering. He also wants to get to the rugby. It's agreed that he'll show up at the village hall, make polite small talk and then both he, and Bob, can disappear in the car after the unveiling of the new fibre optic phone cable but before the prize giving and the award of the mayors wifes dried vegetable arrangements.

The rugby teams will be having roast guinea fowl in a foie gras sauce for lunch followed by cheese and Panna Cotta.  It may not be the most 'strenuous' game.

Sophie is in need of a bath ( again ). Bob has his whiskers trimmed.

So starts our Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde.

What's not to like about a baby elephant and a flock of guinea fowl ? :

For the first time in 150 years and it's happening on Wednesday in the US and Australia:

Saturday, January 27, 2018

There are many people who think that dogs only bark.

The Old Farmer wanders over to the gate and informs me that the Belgian Lady has been admitted to hospital. '' Bad oysters " he adds with a furrow of his brow. He thinks she'll be in for three days. '' She's got a fever and gets very tired. The doctor came, took one look at her and knew what to do ". He drives off in the venerable Mercedes to visit her.

The mayor has been busy preparing the village hall for the beautiful gardens award ceremony. He carefully places his wife's dried vegetable arrangements on a trestle table. A formal letter has arrived in our mailbox informing us that the proceedings will start fifteen minutes early to allow the phone company representative to explain the new fibre optic system. Most of the older village inhabitants don't have computers so their interest in the presentation on high speed broadband may be limited. Madame Bay by contrast is doing more and more online but through the intermediation of her long suffering daughters and grand daughters. She has discovered the wonder of having things delivered to her door.

Bob exudes quiet contentment. His sisters contentment is expressed through the medium of atonal singing. There are many people who think that dogs only bark. How wrong they are.

This all seems very kind and sensible for the 21st century. 3 & 4 are my favourites :

The author links to this, which is interesting and very Stanford:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gold leaf.

Time for a new passport. The gold leaf on the front of the old one has rubbed off and Angus is getting fed up with passport officers saying ''The gold leaf has rubbed off the front of your passport". Frequent repetition does not make this observation of the blatantly obvious any less tedious.

Government can be efficient. I'm in the waiting room at 9:15 and have been interviewed by a smiling lady in a headscarf by 9:20. She observes that passport photos when seen in sequence bring out the signs of aging. The new passport is ready by lunchtime. A cheerful rastafarian young man informs me if it's stolen I'll need to inform the police. With that I'm on my way with a shiny new biometric identity document. The whole process is mightily impressive. Why can't other government functions be as efficient and enjoyable ?

While I'm waiting for the passport I go to the dog store on the fourth floor of a building on Wigmore street. They are stocking new additive free dog food and agree to ship some to France. While I'm there various 'indestructible' toys are bought. Dog toys always attract the attention of security staff at airports but the embarrassment of having squeaky lime green bunnies exposed to public display is a small price to pay.

The PONs are in a happy place. Bob has his standard joy overload on being reunited. For him a joy overload means he wants to bark, jump, run and turn on his back at the same time. His mind / motor interface compensates by translating this into a form of soft shoe shuffle.

Sophies joy overload routine entails acting as if she's had 50.000 volts go through her body. She quivers with delight while leaping vertically in the air. Bob greets joy in silence. Sophie screams.

The people waiting for the flight from London in the Toulouse airport arrivals hall watch these respective responses with interest.

Both Bob and Sophie are extravagantly praised for making sure 'The Font' was well guarded in my absence.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Burns Night.

For Scots speakers everywhere have a great night. Click on the video to activate :

'' Whad'you make of that ?'

Angus returns from two nights away. A trip like this would once have been scheduled over four days.  Now it's compacted into two so that time away from the comforts of  home are minimized. Another sign I've turned into my father.  This necessitates some 'hairy' airline scheduling but the Zurich weather behaves and all works well.

An unscientific name tag count indicates that Noah and Kyle have become popular names amongst the younger generation of men in dark suits. In a speech a man says '' the wall is off the table " which for those who have English as a second or third language proves to be a difficult linguistic concept.

Back In London from Switzerland Angus has time to go to the butchers ..

..... the little chocolate shop ( Angus is told by 'The Font' that he's having a chocolate free January but this doesn't prevent him planning ahead ) ...

.... and onto the little mid-Eastern delicatessen for some baklava.

A new and rather stern monument to 'The Women of World War II' has appeared in the middle of Whitehall. Coats and hats carved in black marble. It somehow looks top heavy, the figures placed too high up.

Fire and Fury has made it into the bookstores. Angus buys a copy. In the hotel elevator a remarkably tall man, he must be at least 6'7", dressed in leggings, long shorts, day-glo lime running shoes and a Cincinnati Bengals jacket takes off his ear phones and says '' Whad'you make of that ?'. Angus replies he's not started it yet. The remarkably tall man continues '' Don't believe everything you read. The lefties who write Vanity Fair wouldn't know the truth if it hit 'em between the eyes ''. He then pauses waiting for a reply. Angus decides it's best not to look at this man or talk to him. One of the universes unbreakable rules is never talk in elevators. Now I know why. As he jogs away from the hotel lobby the tall man turns around and shouts out a gratuitous '' Don't believe everything you read ".

The joys of travelling.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

$ 1500 a kilo.

The ground 'squelchy' underfoot.

This constant rain and wind ...

..... does nothing for a girls hair.

It doesn't do anything for her brothers either.

Bob seems to be having a mild replay of his Bells Palsy symptoms. We're adding warm water to his kibbles to make them more digestible. A kind of canine bouillon. His enthusiasm for this meal time novelty is 'evident'.

Truffles from Perigord make an appearance in the cheese mongers. $1500 a kilo.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Market morning.

The PON posse is waiting for me at the front door. No doubting that they are eager to get the day started.

Back to the cheese shop.

Something called Juchy aux Herbes. I tell the cheese lady it's a cheese I've never seen it before. ' My goodness ! ' she replies. '' You've got an accent you could cut with a knife . Why you foreigners can't learn to speak French I'll never know '. It's difficult to determine whether this is outstandingly rude or outstandingly honest. On our way to the car I tell Bob '' At least she didn't think I was Dutch ''.

We skip the fishmonger and the foie gras seller ...

.. but buy some Bigord pork for dinner.

As I load up the car I find the box of Christmas cards that I was supposed to have posted a month ago. Bob and Sophie are sworn to secrecy.

Angus is off to talk to men in dark suits. The timing coudn't be better.