Saturday, March 31, 2018


We go to the modern cafe on the industrial estate. Outside the tricoleur flutters briskly on the large flagpole put up for the Presidents recent visit. Easter, it seems, is going to be wet and windy.

The display of cakes on offer fails to entice Angus into buying. The pretty girl behind the counter provides Bob and Sophie with some choux pastry slivers. Bob is told he's handsome. A freshly shaved Sophie is told she looks adorable. This may not be entirely true. For the PONs it's shaping up to be the best day ever.

In the greengrocers a sign for Lemonquats.

Angus studies the fruit below the sign and decides the Lemonquats must be the small yellow coloured fruits. What appear to be mouldy oranges are perhaps Combavas ? Neither fruit would be found in a greengrocers on Mull.

White asparagus is now in high season. We buy enough for lunch. Boiled potatoes, ham and seasonal asparagus - a sure sign the year is rolling on. 

Back at home Loic the heavily bifocaled gardener has parked his bike outside the gates. Bob and Sophie examine it carefully before rushing across the lawn to throw themselves into Loic's carefully crafted leaf piles. Loic remains oblivious to their antics.

When in London Angus goes to the bookstore. Piled up on the counter a new book about Prince Charles. The assistant says it's selling briskly. '' Well written and thought provoking " she informs me before adding " The author was here last week for a talk and we were packed out. He ended his talk with the words ' May the Queen live forever ''. Angus buys a copy. It turns out be written in an upmarket Kitty Kelly way and proves impossible to put down. 'The Font' has now started reading it. The author, it would have to be said, provides an unflattering ' warts and all ' view of the Prince. No wonder he ended his bookstore talk in the way he did.

Easter Saturday music :

Friday, March 30, 2018

Not to be found in the PON owners lexicon.

There is a moment of emotion as the PONs are reunited with Angus at the airport. The words 'calm' and 'measured' are not to be found together in the PON owners lexicon, nor 'quiet' and 'greeting'.

On the way home Angus comments on the dog smell coming from the back of the car. 'The Font' is apparently suffering from clinical noseblindness and claims not to notice.

The source of the 'whiff' is traced to Sophie's fur. She has been rolling in the long grass and found something that passed its sell by date some time ago.

The new shears are brought out an Angus sets to work. Bob watches from a prudent distance.

Back, flanks and underside are done before Sophie's patience evaporates. Rump, legs and feet will have to wait. She has a ' work in progress ' look.

Sophie is rewarded with a pot of yogurt.

A bath ( for dog and master ) is in order but the boiler decides to emit smoke and shake. It is turned off. Angus calls the plumber who has just closed for Easter. 'The Font' seems less than happy at the thought of a protracted spell of cold showers. Angus will spend Good Friday searching for an emergency heating engineer.

The Old Farmer has replaced the lights on his Christmas star. '' Want them to be bright and at their best for Easter " he shouts out cheerily and with a debonair disregard for the seasons. He goes back into hospital this time next week.

What's in a name ? :

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tea plus dog.

Little do passing motorists know that they are being observed by two ferocious guard dogs .

The season of  freshly made chocolate Easter Eggs arrives.

Back in Scotland, Phil ( the joiner with face furniture ) sends me two photos. One of the sea and one of a dog he's seen as he stops off for his morning cup of tea at the cafe by the church. He texts to say he is still ' putting together' the wardrobe. In some ways - ie a sense of urgency - Scotland and deepest France profonde are remarkably similar. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Off to the airport. The PONs are loaded in the back of the 'Loonj'.

A trip in the car is a cause for great excitement.

Angus is wearing his black lace up shows. Bob knows that means there may be a trip to the airport departure terminal . This also means a chance to wave a large furry paw at the sliding doors that open by magic and make that intriguing 'whoosh' noise .

An end to testing on dogs ? :

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Verbal and non-verbal.

Nearly Easter and the weather continues unseasonably cold and wet. Day after day after day of rain. The PONs love these miserable conditions. The ground is gloppy, the mole hills easy to excavate and there are puddles to drink from and mud to roll in . For the same reasons PON owners tend to be less enthusiastic about extended spells of wet weather. 

Today Sophie is in a 'feisty' mood. She bombards me with PON ESP to let me know that it's time to get harnessed up and head off to the bakers. Sophie is adept at combining  verbal and non-verbal communication.

Books I've read this week. For beautiful prose it's difficult to beat this. The unlikely story of a Jewish Communist agitator grandfather who fled Russia in 1909 and set up a new life as a typewriter salesman in London. Written by his son ( who now teaches at Columbia ) with a warmth and insight that borders on the magical. The opening line " I thought I knew Dad well, but the day he died I began to realize how much of his life was unknown to me " skilfully speaks to everyone. History as universal family.

This is a dog breed I'd never seen or heard of :

This is cool :

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pitch dark.

The clocks changed yesterday and Bob can't quite understand why Angus is up and about when it's still pitch dark outside. A lengthy tickle and mano a mano reassures him that all is well.

Sophie appears shortly after. She pushes her brother out of the way in order to make sure that she too gets attention. Sophie lets out a protracted yelp of irritation when a tickle isn't immediately forthcoming.

 Only one horse in the field today. It's standing. Bob stops and stares at it for a full two minutes. When you're a PON life is full of surprises. While his sister hunts in the drainage ditch for something unsavoury Bob and his master discuss Stormy Daniels and her performance on 60 minutes. '' Blimey " is Bobs take on the constitutional implications.

The PONs fur now so long it's hanging off them in brush resistant strands. Usually they've had their summer cut by now but this year the unseasonably cold and wet weather has delayed it. The weather forecast is gloomy - both literally and figuratively. Rain and arctic winds forecast every day for the next two weeks. The shaggy look will be here for a while.

A quick trip to the bakers and then pandemonium as the PONs vie to be the first to let 'The Font' know that we've returned with the breakfast croissants.

Most US kids can't serve in the military. Some intriguing demographic data :

Who knew the Breton anthem was the same as the Welsh ? :

And finally a Stanford picture of a walking protein - which may well be the highlight of the week:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

All she surveys.

Cold but bright. We park by the Post Office and head off into town. The PONs detour via the bandstand. Bob christens it , Sophie runs up the stairs on one side and down the steps on the other. She repeats the process in reverse then yelps with delight. She's mistress of all she surveys. No doubting this is the best day ever.

The new dog clippers arrive. Boy are they heavy. Probably double the weight of the battery operated ones. Lets hope they'll make an impression on Sophie's impermeable four inch thick coat. When this cold snap goes both PONs will have their summer cut.

In the village the two tykes who so memorably 'played' their trombones at the recent village wedding are up early. The sound of the C scale being played over and over disturbs the Sunday morning calm Drums and acoustic guitars can't be far off.

A really good dog photo :

There was a shooting incident in a supermarket a couple of hours south of here. A gendarme volunteered to take the place of one of the female hostages. He was later killed. The priest that was due to marry him ended up giving him the last rites. A reminder that duty, honour and bravery exist. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018


At half past three a storm blows down from the mountains. It hits the house square on with what seems like the force of a runaway train. Shutters rattle, downpipes creak , the watering cans I didn't put away scatter across the courtyard. Then, as suddenly as it's come, it goes. Silence. 'The Font' and the PONs sleep on quite unaware of our tree bending visitor. The owls enjoy a lengthy post storm conversation.

This morning Sophie takes a long, noisy drink from the water bowl at the front door. She is ready to bestow a cold wet kiss on her master but he's too quick for her and avoids the advancing, dripping, muzzle.

'Quick' is not a word associated with the ladies from the Women's Cooperative. Although it had been agreed that they would return after they recovered from their colds, probably sometime after Easter, four of them appear on the doorstep. Their approach to decorating runs to the scatter gun. Some furniture is moved in the hallway .....

..... and a bed is moved away from the wall in a downstairs bedroom. Wallpaper is put up. Some ceiling beams get a splash of paint ... others don't.

Despite the surrounding chaos Sophie adamantly refuses to move from 'her' spot in the hall. The top coat of paint on the skirting boards where she sleeps will need to wait until some future date.

Came across this simple  little poem by  Raymond Carver. Written in 1988. His last poem. The 'even so ?' at the end of the first line a genius hint of a longer more intimate conversation.

Googling the poem I found this which could be maudlin but is beautiful in its simplicity:

Friday, March 23, 2018


For Bob the 23rd of March is shaping up to be the best day ever. He's found and liberated his sisters favourite toy.

He proceeds to trot round the garden with it. Head high, toy clamped firmly between his jaws, tail wagging twenty to the dozen. It goes without saying that his sister protests loudly at this oafish behaviour. She does her highly theatrical  '' the injustice of it all " routine.

This morning , on our walk, Bob is not only surprised to see horses in the field but flummoxed by the fact they're lying down. Forward motion is delayed while Bob stops and absorbs this new equine behaviour. He is quite uninterested in the news that Bolton has replaced McMaster as National Security Adviser.

The striped wallpaper at the end of the hall was put in place yesterday. There will now be a delay of several days in the decorating work while the ladies of the Women's Cooperative recover from their collective cold. The skirting boards have got as far as an undercoat. Sophie has discovered the dust sheets. She has also discovered the excitement of getting under a dust sheet and dragging it round the house.

So starts another day with two enthusiastic dogs.

Congratulations to the restorers. This room in Windsor Castle burnt down not so long ago and now looks better than ever although the woodwork looks new. The Queen looks increasingly small.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Complete indifference.

Cold this morning. Sophie returns from her pre-breakfast constitutional. She's bearing unmistakable signs of enthusiastic mole hunting on her feet. Her muzzle isn't looking too pristine either.

When informed that '' mud on the paws cannot lie " she feigns innocence then indifference. 7:15 and the family diva has already made her mark on the new day. She does her best to avoid having her face washed.

The Old Farmer is waiting outside his front door, suitcase in hand, at 9:30. He'd asked to be picked up at 9:45 and, as is the way with old folk, was determined to be ready on time. I quickly throw on a jacket and take the car over to pick him up. En route to the hospital he comments on 1) the comfort of the seats ( although not as good as the ones in the venerable Mercedes ) 2) the variety of the seats power adjustments ( the venerable Mercedes is of an age where power seats were unheard of and 3) the GPS system. This he studies intently.

At the hospital he refuses my offer to carry his bag and ensure that registration runs smoothly. '' No thank you. I'll look after myself from here ". At the door he briefly tuns, smiles and gives me a curt wave. An old soldiers independence.

After lunch my mobile rings. It's The Old Farmer. He's been prepped and shaved in readiness for the operation only to be told at the last minute that the wrong sized replacement hip has been sent to the hospital. He's wheeled back from the theatre to the ward and then discharged. I find him waiting forlornly in the hospital reception area.

He's booked in again for April 5th. Thank heavens the surgeon checked the part before the anaesthetist got to work.

The French air traffic controllers are on strike. Weekend visitors from Paris have to cancel their trip.

This delay gives the ladies of the Women's Cooperative more time to finish their decorating. They are all here today including the three who think they're going down with a cold.  They are not exuding joy. Bob and Angus keep busy outside.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A big day.

The PONs start the day with a level of energy and enthusiasm that makes their master feel decidedly old. Bob bounces out of the front door followed by his equally bouncy sister. They hurtle round the garden in pursuit of invisible things. Sophie sees a blackbird on the lawn and shrieks at its audacity. Some dogs bark - Sophie's a shrieker.

In a couple of hours I'll get the big car out and collect The Old Farmer for his trip to the hospital. The front seat has been moved as far back as it'll go so that he can get in easily. Bob and Sophie's dog blankets have been taken out of the back to improve the air quality. The angelic duo will be keen to join us but PONs, an eighty six year old with a dodgy hip and a hospital admissions desk are not the ideal combination for a stress free day.

Yesterday The Old Farmer spent his day mowing the lawn and making sure the venerable Ford Transit motor home and the equally venerable Mercedes were polished and ready for his return. He seems cheerful enough. 'The Font' remains unsure that elective surgery at 86 is a good idea but we keep this thought to ourselves.

Here at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the ladies of The Women's Cooperative have settled in. They start to shift furniture then sit cross legged on the floor in a circle and smoke something that may, or may not, be entirely legal in France. They make their strange meditative noises. Little work is done apart from the stripping and sanding of the skirting boards. Three of them believe that they're going down with a cold. The afflicted trio leave after two hours.

I ask Aude, the bipolar decaratrice,  if the decorating will be finished today as promised. The reply is non-committal. The paper hanging lady has been busy at a architectural welding course in Bordeaux. She will be here this afternoon to put up the striped paper in the hall. Decorating the downstairs bedroom and snug will , I fear, have to wait.

Rather good to know that some anniversaries are still remembered :