Monday, April 30, 2018

Something of a mystery.

Sophie looks presentable this morning. It's a good hair day.

Bobs chin still has tell tale signs of last nights yogurt.

Gaggles of pilgrims walking through the village this long holiday weekend. It rains heavily on Sunday morning but this doesn't deter them. You can tell the pilgrims; they all wear something red - a hat or a jacket. In this wet weather most of them are sporting transparent plastic tent shaped ponchos. Some have two walking sticks, other make do with an old fashioned staff. I like the pilgrims. There's something reassuring about the presence of folk who've slammed on life's brakes and taken three or four days to walk along country lanes. The pilgrims rarely journey alone. They congregate in groups. Some laugh, some walk side by side in silence but most are engaged in quiet conversation. It's as if they know that the nondescript stranger walking alongside has a life history so rich and fabulous and complex that no Hollywood script writer would ever believe it. There are wrens nesting in the laurel hedge who flit and flutter around the pilgrims as they pass. Some of the tiny birds land on the road and walk along beside them. They seem oblivious to danger. Is this a wren thing ? Robins also have something of this fearlessness about them.

Bob stands on his stump seat with Furry Fox in his mouth and watches. He's convinced he looks ferocious. Someone should tell the pilgrims who, oblivious to his ferocity, smile and wave. Pilgrims tend to be greeted with squeaks rather than barks - a canine response which is something of a mystery but which may tell us much about how dogs judge humans. 

If I've understood this properly then cigarette use in the US is back to 1918 levels :

The last man who knew everything :

Sunday, April 29, 2018

And so it continues.

Saturday night. Angus finds a message on the phone from a delivery driver with a strong Scots accent. '' You're no at home.  I've dropped off the boxes at the wee shop next door but I cannae pick up the twa chairs that are going tae London ". This brief message is alarming on two counts. 1) There is no wee shop next door and 2) we weren't expecting anything to be delivered. Come to that we weren't expecting anything to be collected. It goes without saying that being a Saturday night all attempts to reach the driver on his mobile fail.

Did I once say that furnishing a house from a distance was hassle free and easy ?

May 1st a National holiday in France. Most of the villagers taking a long weekend at the beach. The lane outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse, quiet at the best of times, deserted. The tikes with their ever swelling army of little brothers and sisters have gone off to their grandparents in Narbonne.

The mayor appears at the gate to borrow the step ladders so  he can put out the tricoleurs on the war memorial. He tells me that new lights are to be installed in the village hall. '' They double up as heaters ". Angus wonders if anyone has thought about what will happen on hot summer evenings. Some thoughts are best left unsaid. 

An uninspiring choice at the bakers. We settle on a small fraisier. The PONs get slivers of choux pastry which are gratefully received. 

Sunday morning thoughts :

Cruachan and the Scots have arrived at Buckingham Palace :

A lost tree :

An insight into how things are done in North Korea :

And sometimes a picture says more than words ever can:

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Wolves don't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.

A beautiful sunrise this morning.

Not that the PONs have time to notice. As I open the front door to head off on our morning walk an audacious cat can be seen walking across the lawn. 

After a double take the PONs are on the case. A high speed chase ensues. The C-A-T makes an escape over the garden wall and through the metal railings. The PONs continue the chase across the lawn even though the cat has gone in the opposite direction and is long gone. That old PON philosophy in action : 'Wolves don't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep'.

The Senegalese melon pickers are here. Three beat up old Peugeots ( of an age, and in a condition no self respecting French teenager would be seen dead in ) progress in convoy slowly down the lane. They take the speed bump with a degree of caution bordering on trepidation. Nothing falls off so the drivers accelerate away amid clouds of exhaust smoke. The passengers of all three cars smile and wave at the PONs.

So starts a Saturday morning with dogs in deepest, deepest France profonde.

What a life :

And what a contrast. Is this the sort of country we've become ? :

Friday, April 27, 2018


5:57 am. A cold nose in my ear indicates that it's time to get the day started.

On our morning walk we bump into Madame Bay. She is wearing a pair of grey high necked silk pyjamas and a broad brimmed red hat. Sophie examines her lime green open toed sandals. Madame Bay is sitting in a fold up chair at the Very Old Italian Farmers front door. He is half in, half out of the hallway in his wheelchair. The Reubenesque presence of Madame Bay seems to have given the old fellow a new lease of life and he's chatting happily away. Madame Bay will be accompanying him in the ambulance to the local heart clinic for his annual coronary check-up and ECG. They expect to be back by lunchtime.

The village odd job man and his wife have moved out of the flat above the town hall. They've saved up and bought a small dilapidated house on the edge of the village. Their first owned home. The wife drives off at six every morning to a job sixty kilometres away. Not a huge distance but difficult in the winter on narrow country roads. Her diligence has enabled them to put down a deposit and obtain a mortgage. Another quiet victory.

This morning we say hello to the horses in the field at the crossroads, welcome the four new calves that have appeared overnight ( and sympathize with their tired mothers ) and watch as the large pike that inhabits the depths of the deeper of the two village ponds briefly breaks the surface.

Angus looks at the cake displays in the local supermarket .....

.... but decides to go to our local baker. Something about the colour of the supermarket cakes that hints at enticement over refinement.

Belated ANZAC day music - what a lot of pipers :

The things one learns :

Thursday, April 26, 2018


A day for dealing with the department store in Knightsbridge . It has erroneously delivered two enormous gilt and red  'thrones' to the wee house in Scotland. Angus speaks to various young men with the simple message that he didn't order these monstrosities. They are adamant that their system  is correct . '' You are aware sir that as 'bespoke' items the chairs can't be returned ? ". Angus is finally rendered speechless by the intransigence. Presumably there is a client in Cairo who is sitting looking at two Danish Hans Wegner chairs and wondering who on earth would order such minimalist things.

The battle with the system will resume later today.

There has been progress . Phil has made and fitted another set of doors and promises to have all the external doors replaced and the wardrobe installed by May 9th. He may even paint them.

The PONs are oblivious to the vagaries of online furniture shopping.

Here in the village workmen come to cut the grass around the war memorial. The PONs  make their acquaintance. The workmen soon tire of their visitors. The PONs are 'encouraged' inside.

Two local farmers stop their vans opposite the far gates. They have an hour and a half's chat. The PONs sit by the gates monitoring their every movement.

The choice of the three wines for the French Presidents first state dinner in America has been a success. The visit,  if you're going to judge it by results, less so :

And this is very French. The audience is very attentive 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Bob heads off for a power walk round the lake. His sister and Angus go to the village pond. That is as far as we get.Sophie becomes fixated on the frogs. When Sophie is fixated she's immovable. Twenty minutes are spent glaring at the noisy critters before she gets bored and Angus is informed it's time to return home. Sophie is kept on her lead to stop her jumping into the village pond in pursuit of the garrulous frogs.

We meet The Old Farmer who is out for a morning stroll in open toed sandals, black leggings, voluminous khaki shorts and his brown cut off dressing gown jacket. He still hasn't heard back from the Belarus Embassy in Paris about his proposed trip.

The supermarket freshly stocked with foreign 'delicacies' ahead of the holidays. Marshmallow spread, peanut butter and chocolate cookies fill the 'American' shelves. Bottles of Ginger Ale lurk on the bottom shelf . At 2.45 euros for a small 25 centilitre bottle they're likely to be there for some time. Exotic delicacies don't come cheap.

The English shelf ( No point in a Scotsman trying to point out it should be British )  is home to Heinz Baked Beans, Marmite, a wide variety of potato chips and assorted Muesli's. Perhaps the French think is all that Brits and Americans live on.

There is a sale of grape pip oil. It must be popular as there are mountains of the stuff towering over the aisles.

When we get home Bob is sporting his long suffering '' I've been here alone guarding '' face.

Angus spends much of his morning dealing with the fancy furniture store in Tottenham Court Road. The after sales service is abysmal. Finally he gets through to the Finance Directors Secretary. She seems horrified that a customer might have the audacity to call her and ask to talk to her boss. She adopts a tone of haughty froideur.  I am promised that the problem will be dealt with by this afternoon. We shall see.

Interesting thoughts on how we can use our postal service to help an aging population. The system is already in use on Jersey will it be trialed on the mainland ? :

This is a cheerful start to a Wednesday :

Had never heard the word ' incel ' before the Toronto attack :

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


The sun is barely above the horizon but the angelic duo are up, on guard and ready to start their day. Ear tickles have been dispensed.The lawn has been cleared of sauntering blackbirds and the orchard carefully checked not once but twice to make sure it is C-A-T free. It is then revisited, at high speed, for a third time just to make sure. Boundless adventures await. Rumour has it that today is going to be the best day ever - by far.

John Muir, who was born 180 years ago this week, understood PONs when he said " I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in ".

Monday, April 23, 2018


The school holidays. The two tikes race their motorbikes up and down the lane. They do wheelies over the speed bumps. Angus isn't sure whether it's the rasping noise of their bikes or the fact they're racing without helmets that alarms him most. The villagers seem oblivious to the noise and the potential danger.

The PONs  are 'super excited' about getting their day started. Somehow they seem to know that Monday morning is a day for visiting the bakers ...

.... the poulterers ....

...... and the butchers. The chief butcher greets me like a long lost friend, cuts two slices of steak and then hand feeds some mince to the adoring PONs. Sophie, despite a valiant attempt at  pretending she's not interested emits an involuntary ' I has gone to heaven'  squeak of delight.

Angus is told to talk with Phil the joiner. Phil is delightful but his work rate is 'leisurely'.  He has so far built two new doors for the small third bedroom that looks out onto the back of the garden stairs. ' The Font' uses this as a base on visits back to the wee house. Three more sets of doors, a large built in wardrobe and more bedside trays are promised ( and have been for the last three months ) but remain elusive. The American tenants arrive in six weeks.

Amongst the things to see near this new hotel is The Frog Temple of Oel :

And more background reserach on a trip to Ethiopia :

Sunday, April 22, 2018

PON speak.

We are all up early. Sophie first wakes us with a woof-woof and a squeak. Five minutes later this is followed by a woof-woof and a ' I need to get outside Now !' squeak. We have finally learnt PON speak.

Bob gives his sister her morning kiss then it's off to buy breakfast pineapples ...

..... and some purple asparagus for lunch.

We look at the rhubarb, note it's grown in Germany and debate whether this is the weather for rhubarb crumble. We decide it isn't.

After that we drive back to the house where the male PON takes up his front door position as guardian of the flock. His sister goes to the kitchen and hopes 'The Font' will suffer a protracted muscular spasm when transferring the chicken from the oven to the counter.

We noticed this in Laguna Beach when we went to a restaurant where everyone, literally, seemed to be shouting at each other :

French television broadcast the funeral of Barbara Bush. Some slightly altered words of Shakespeare read by her daughter a dignified and 'old school' touch : 

“When she shall die,
Take her and cut her out in little stars,
And she will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

Saturday, April 21, 2018


The PONs make it quite clear that Angus should get a move on and start the morning walk. They have no need to bark. Their demeanour says it all.

Loic shows up. I ask him how he's getting on. He tells me 'Mummy's happy'. This leaves me unsure how much he's really understood about what's happened. I tell him 'that's good' and leave it at that. Loic has remembered that I'd promised he could drive the lawn tractor. Letting him do this breaks every health and safety rule known to the French government but he's soon hurtling round the field at a speed that's arguably slight too fast for his driving skills. Immersed in the excitement of the moment he laughs out loud. With the exception of a couple of low hanging acer branches that get in the way no irreparable damage is done. After half an hour the tractor runs out of petrol. The word 'Hallelujah', said with vehemence, is reserved for moments such as this.

Mid-morning we meet The Old Farmer who is heading off to the garage to have the venerable Mercedes road tested. He says that he still hasn't heard back from the Belorussian Embassy in Paris about his visa and the one for his Belgian lady companion. In readiness for the journey the Belgian lady is making new blackout curtains for the Ford Transit motor home. The material she's chosen is a black, orange and red stripe not unlike the German flag . The angry wasp school of decoration.

The peonies and the wisteria coming into bloom. Some of the roses beginning to bud. After all the rain the garden looks set for a year of riotous colour.

In the evening 'The Font' returns. British Airways operates a Boeing 767 on the Edinburgh to London sector. Angus is surprised they're still flying.  Bob wears his '' You cannot believe how bad the food has been " face. Sophie does back flips of delight. When it comes to PONs there is no such thing as hiding their emotions. All reunions are theatrically emotional. They get pasta with their dinner which elevates the day to 'best day ever' category.

How to deal with Chinese jaywalkers. The comments are priceless :

Friday, April 20, 2018


Another warm start to the day. Sophie sprints off down the lane in pursuit of something tantalizing in the drainage ditch. Bob saunters along the lane by my side. As we go I tell him about next weeks state visit to Washington by the French President.  He feigns interest but I can't escape the feeling that he'd rather be sniffing whatever it is his sister is now triumphantly carrying in her mouth. At the crossroads we stop. Bob is told, as he's told every morning, that this is his country. Sophie turns on her back and squirms in the long grass. She doesn't need to be told this is her territory. The young garagiste rushes by on his bike and and waves. We turn for home as the farmer in the big Toyota Land Cruiser passes. He also waves. The Westie in the passenger seat beside him leaps into the back and stands on its hind legs barking at us in an incandescent fury until we're out of sight. Our daily routine.

No sign, again, of the ladies from the Women's Cooperative. Although its early The Rickety Old Farmhouse echoes to the sound of birdsong and, now the wisterias finally coming into bloom, the constant buzzing of four or five types of bees. The sparrows, which have established half a dozen nests in the guttering above the front door, have had a bumper year. A score or more of chirruping little heads peer down at us from the safety of their perch. 

In the library Angus finds a book by Italo Calvino. Ignored and unopened for years. A paragraph seems to speak to the bird and bee song of a French village :

There is the moment when the silence of the countryside gathers in the ear and breaks into a myriad of sounds:a croaking and squeaking, a swift rustle in the grass, a plop in the water, a pattering on earth and pebbles, and high above all, the call of the cicada, The sounds follow one another, and the ear eventually discerns more and more of them--just as fingers unwinding a ball of wool feel each fiber interwoven with progressively thinner and less palpable threads, The frogs continue croaking in the background without changing the flow of sounds, just as light does not vary from the continues winking of stars, But at every rise or fall of the wind every sound changes and is renewed. 

Just another quiet day with two happy dogs.

Well done New Zealand :

Thursday, April 19, 2018


The warm weather has arrived. Bob has the hair of his face trimmed. Now he can see the whole world. This is clearly a source of cheerful amazement. The warm(ish) weather has also reached Scotland :

'The Font ' is still in Scotland dealing with an inefficient utility company. ( Therein lies a tale of hours wasted ). To make matters worse after waiting in all day the fancy furniture store on Tottenham Court Road sends an e-mail saying  ‘’We’re reaching out to you to let you know that the furniture you were expecting to be delivered today will have to be rescheduled due to a logistical software issue. An alternative delivery date will be advised in the next few weeks ". This is the third time they've failed to deliver. The line '' We're reaching out to you " a particularly maladroit use of English.

The cherry on 'The Fonts' cake is the arrival of two chairs from a Knightsbridge department store. Instead of something modern, grey, svelte and Swedish ( as ordered ) they are red, plush, ornate, gilt and very, very large. More Cairo throne than Nordic  minimalist. After twenty minutes on hold the young lady at customer services provides the helpful insight " We wouldn't have sent them unless you'd ordered them " then puts the phone down. 

Here at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the PONs lie in the shade of the courtyard and guard. This is best done with both eyes gently closed.

The village is segueing into its summer torpor. 

Chinese wine. The 'Scottish' castle is something else  : 

and the focus of an organist :