Monday, July 30, 2018

The photographers studio.

In the 1880's a wide boulevard was driven through the  medieval centre of the little market town. A local version of the Champs Elysees brought to deepest, deepest France profonde at a time when agricultural centres were wealthy. Palaces,churches and houses swept away by a kilometre long arrow of modernity. The town council used the well known architect Georges Haussmann (who redesigned Paris after the 1870's uprising) to implement the scheme. As Angus and the PONs head down towards the market we see that the local bank used to be a photographers studio. Not just a studio but a photographers ' building ' with a large marble advertising sign surmounted by a fancy coat of arms at first floor level. There must have been a time a hundred and fifty years ago  when being a photographer was an extremely lucrative profession. The building,on which no expense has been spared,  is a French provincial take on a Venetian palazzo. The pillars on either side of the doors at ground level are really very grand - in an understated way. Even the insertion of a plate glass window in the banking hall does little to diminish the structures grandness and sense of purpose. The day glo green bank signs are awful.

Now the little agricultural centre is a complete backwater but the photographers pride and joy lives on. This morning it is christened with a quick splash of Eau de Bob.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Druidic baptism ?

Bob is in get up and go mode.

His sister seems a little subdued ...

.... presumably because she knows her brother is going to come and bestow a kiss on her. For some reason he does this every morning.  Always the same spot on the side of her head, a couple of inches below the eye and a third of the way along her muzzle. Sophie receives the peck on the cheek with long suffering indifference .

Although it's early there is some sort of gathering outside the village hall. A man is holding a baby in a shawl. The others look on adoringly. Perhaps they're all going off to the Holy Well for some sort of Druidic baptism ? I shall ask the mayor the next time I see him.  For whatever reason it is a small miracle to get several dozen French folk up at six thirty on a Sunday morning.

The bakers display does little to excite.

We end up buying two of the small strawberry tarts for lunch.  Bob and Sophie share their masters croissant, drink noisily from a bowl of water and observe a balloon blowing across the bakers patio. So starts the best day ever.

This is very French. Is there something incongruous about playing the harpsichord barefoot ...... in a palace ? :

Saturday, July 28, 2018


Storms are forecast. Angus decides to replace the missing tiles before the rain pours into the house. He goes up onto the roof. On his way down he misses a rung on the ladder and deposits himself unceremoniously on the lawn. 'The Font' fusses. Angus grumpily goes to bed  and says he'll be right as rain in the morning. Come six am he's still seeing stars. The PONs get given a quick walk by 'The Font' and are then settled in the house while their owners go off to the A&E.

On a Friday morning in high summer the emergency room is remarkably quiet. In the corridor there are three old folk on gurneys suffering from heat stroke, two gentlemen in wheelchairs with knife wounds, a man who's broken both his legs and Angus who is seeing stars. There is also someone in a side room who is having a bad 'trip' but we don't see him. In one of his noisier moments a busy nurse tells us not to worry - ' He's taken some bad molly '. We nod in unison but remain none the wiser.

An opthamologist spends from nine until eleven checking for retinal scarring. After the better part of six hours a bruised but otherwise intact Angus is released with an all clear. '' Perhaps you should think twice before clambering up ladders at your age " says an attractive but stern young lady registrar in a heavily starched white uniform. Angus wonders at what age ladder climbing becomes inadvisable. He keeps this thought to himself. The grand charge for field vision tests, scans, eye pressure readings, a thorough medical and a lecture on ladders - 42 Euros.

Not an experience I'd wish to repeat but my memories of it will be of kindness, efficiency, humour, grace and patience. This is perhaps the real and unreported world immersed in humanity. The doctors, nurses and receptionists all shake hands with us, which is a very French touch.

Back at home the PONs are in solicitous mood.

Angus has to give Bob the bad news that we won't be going to the rugby match tonight. The eye drops the opthamologists has used have turned my blue eyes black. 'The Font' is of the opinion that anyone seeing me like that would scream and run for the exit. Angus is secretly pleased. How anyone could play, or watch, rugby in this heat and humidity is a mystery.

Friday, July 27, 2018

A noisy behemoth.

An Airbus A-350 test aircraft flies over us as we're getting harnessed up for the morning walk. I know it's an A-350 because it says so in large maroon letters on the underneath of the fuselage.  It's doing low level stall tests - flaps and landing gear down, engines throttled up. Presumably it's chosen to fly over this remote spot so that if anything untoward happens the ground fatalities are likely to be few and far between.

Both PONs briefly pause from their pre-walk antics and watch this noisy behemoth lumber over us. Somewhere over the next village it turns and then heads slowly towards Toulouse and presumably breakfast for the crew.

After the excitement Bob and Sophie run to the gate. We've been doing morning walks together for more than five years and their enthusiasm far from dimming seems to grow with each passing day.

Too hot for workmen to do anything. The petanque court remains unrepaired after the heavy rains which gouged out channels in the newly compacted gravel. The swaying Jesus still hasn't been attended to, although the new sewage tank for the town hall loo has been installed. An unsightly trench runs across the village green marking the path of the new pipe. Our builder shows up to clear the gutters. Two lads clamber up ladders and throw leaves down onto the ground. They display a cavalier disregard for safety. While the lads clear the gutters he fills me in with the latest gossip. There is a woman at the chateau who has been sunbathing naked. ''She was here last year too ". He knowingly taps the side of his nose with the index finger of his right hand. The builder promises to come and replace the roof tiles that were dislodged in the gale as soon as he can. '' My usual suppliers closed for the holidays but I know someone who can get me replacements " he says with studied imprecision.

Once you start looking at these awful estate agents pictures you can't stop :

Thursday, July 26, 2018

They do sell things in the bakers.

For eagle eyed blog readers who'd noticed I'd posted yesterdays bakers photo - here is todays correct picture. 

Proof that they do sell things and don't just leave them out overnight.

Hot, hot, hot.

With the thermometer set to rise into the high 30's it's a day for getting up early and cramming as much as possible into the cool morning hours. For the PONs there's a chance to run around the garden at high speed before heading off across the sunflower fields to the waterfall.

The village in high holiday mode. Everyone away. The man with anger management issues has gone to Narbonne Plage , the joiner and his wife are at the coast near Perpignan and the ever expanding 'tyke' family have headed off to the cool of the mountains. Angus wonders if the 'tykes' have taken their trombones with them. The matron of the old folks home is still working. She waves as she passes Angus and the two PONS sitting on the storm drain. Today Bob wryly observes that it's been 122 years since an executive branch employee has been impeached for 'treason,bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours'. Sophie finds some badgers poo which she rolls in.

The bakers have a somewhat humdrum display this morning. We sit out in the shaded patio at the back. A bowl of water is brought for the PONs - which is some sort of progress although they still have to share their masters croissant.

Melons in the greengrocers. We don't buy any. All we have to do is wait for the melon tractor to come along the road. When it gets to the speed bump outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse a few always fall off the back.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Early visitors.

Sophie has a lengthy drink of water and then wanders into the office to bestow a kiss on me. The Miele washing machine man arrives at first light in a little red van. Whoever would think a service engineer would show up at 6:15 am ? He was supposed to be here yesterday. He gets the Miele working again which means we are now a three ( two human and one dog ) washing machine household. The PONs are delighted to see him.

A mother, a three day old calf and four aunts look at us as we wander down the hill. Before she died from cancer the farmers wife ( finished off in her early 50's by an unrepentant three pack a day habit that she maintained until the very end ) introduced natural birthing to the farm. The mother wanders off, gives birth, returns to the herd and recovers while the other heifers guard the little ones. Both mothers and calves are happier and in the case of the young ones put on weight more quickly. Birthing problems are also substantially  reduced. The routine keeps the young male steers on the farm, lazing in the sunshine, until they're five months old. The separation at two weeks simply too stressful for the herd. The mothers would try to be reunited with their calves and would bellow all through the night. The farmer has kept this practise going which is - for so many reasons - the way it should be.

Sunflowers in full bloom . Some already passing their peak. Other fields, planted late because of the rains, only now starting to grow. It's going to be a colourful and extended season.

Back to our usual baker. We do get a bowl of water this morning but try as they might the PONs don't seem to be able to convince the holiday stand in staff behind the counter to dispense croissant slivers. They share mine. The cake decorated with two cherries makes a reappearance. The young lady has no idea what it might be.

On our way home in the car it becomes obvious that today is going to be hot. The broad plain that leads down to Spain already shimmering in the heat. Madame Bay is at the house to borrow the MagiMix  ( when you live in a French village what's yours is theirs and what's theirs is theirs ). Today she is wearing what 'The Font' calls the Madame Bay POP outfit. Layers of clashing Peach, orange and pink chiffon over Mamma Mia style flared trousers. Bob hurries to hide under the library table before he can be clasped to our octogenarian visitors ample, Lily of the Valley scented, decolletage.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

That three second moment.

Caught on camera.

That quiet '' where am I ? ' moment ...

... as the PONs emerge from a deep sleep .....

.... but before they're fully awake.

It lasts for all of three seconds.

After that,with minds in gear, it's time to get harnesses on and the day started.

It's going to be one of those ''Why walk when you can run ? " type days.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Residually innocent.

Bob is feeling inordinately proud of himself. Yesterday no less than eleven boy scouts wandered in a 2-2-4-3 formation down the lane and stopped to chat to him. He intimidated them in silence from his stump seat by the gate. He had Lamb on a Rope firmly clenched between his jaws. There is something residually innocent in a 1950ish way about eleven boy scouts stopping to talk to a wannabe ferocious dog with a soft toy in its mouth. Sophie , who has been with 'The Font' in the kitchen making scrambled eggs, emerges to find the small crowd and shrieks. This ends the boy scouts interaction with Bob.

This morning the man from the farm at the foot of the hill is taking the 'love of his life' out for a run. We stand well clear as he chugs by. The locals really do wear berets. He waves and beeps the asthmatic horn.

The Senegalese melon pickers busy at work. It's peak season. They work from six am until two without a break for lunch. The heavy rains have swept the soil down the hill and onto the road but have also arrived just in time to swell the melons. The Senegalese pickers get paid by the weight collected.  It's an ill wind .....

We go to a different bakers this morning. Pretty standard fare. A millefeuille for me and a strawberry tart for 'The Font'. The PONs share my croissant which is flaky and light. Dogs and master both agree that it's excellent.

The morning ends with a trip to the charcuterie to buy a pork roast. Bob and Sophie each get given a tiny slice of blood sausage which , from their reaction , makes Monday July 23rd 2018 the best day ever - by far. The PONs are loathe to leave. As they go they cast " I really love you " glances back towards the butcher.

The graphics on this are cool. Germany's retreat down the list may speak volumes about current disagreements :

Sunday, July 22, 2018


After the storms a beautifully fresh morning. The air crisp. The PONs are harnessed up and are ready for the off. They need no encouragement to get their day started.

The village is built on the site of an old Roman fort. The little single track lane follows the line of the defensive ditch. Inside, despite the levelling effect of two millennia of wind and rain, the land still rises a good three metres with the soil that the legionnaires excavated to make a defensive mound .

Nothing has changed much in this self authored place - a church has arrived, the castle has been built ( and knocked down a few times ) and the villagers houses have grown sturdier.

This morning we find the German billionaires have been busy. One of the village houses is being converted into a yoga centre. The garden flattened and a concrete base for a new air conditioned glass and steel extension laid. The thick shrubs by the pond  that the village heron nested in destroyed. For some reason this irritates me intensely.  Every morning for the better part of nine years the heron has flapped his wings and sauntered into the  air when Angus and the PONs pass on our 6 am walk. He's not there this morning. The country lovers King James verse '' I was the friend of dragons and the companion of owls " springs to mind. 

I hope the heron finds another perch rich pond to nest near.

At the other end of the village Sophie is surprised to find a horse in afield. It's been put there to keep down the grass that's growing on the Roman oppidum. She and the horse stare at each other in silence. What passes between them only they know.

The new petanque court is almost ready. It used to be the vineyard of the old farmer who passed away a couple of years ago. The fig trees have been carefully left along one side. Bob and Angus spend some considerable time this Sunday morning looking at the petanque court. Our companion, the family diva, has found something interesting in a flower border and will not be moved.

Forecasts say Lagos may soon be the most populous city on earth :

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A night to remember.

A fun night. A storm cell barges its way down from the mountains and settles over The Rickety Old Farmhouse for some serious partying. An enormous thunderclap shakes tiles off the roof and sets the burglar alarm going. The security lights come on and the car alarms wail.  Water pours through the ceiling. The gutters runneth over. For good measure it hails heavily. 'The Font' collects buckets to collect the downpour while Angus deals with the alarms before clambering into the loft to make 'running repairs'. For this he wears a raincoat and a pair of wellington boots. 'The Font' finds this highly amusing and gets a fit of the giggles. Angus is unamused and wonders whether clambering around in a wet attic is a sensible thing to do with lightning flashing all around.  This makes 'The Font' giggle even more. '' At least you're wearing rubber soles'' comes the reply. Angus points out that the conductive power of rubber soles won't do much good if your boots have filled with water.

Sheets are laid in the downstairs hallway. We expect Bob and Sophie to be panicked by the noise but they sleep soundly through the entire commotion.  Bob does at least raise an eyebrow to see what's going on then promptly falls asleep again. His sister doesn't stir.

This morning a lake has formed in the hollow ground behind the pool house. This causes great pre-breakfast excitement of the '' Bob look what happens when I run through it at high speed '' variety. This is definitely shaping up to be the best day ever.

This is an interesting chart showing media bias based on partisanship and quality . Don't know why they have The Economist in the yellow rather than the green box: 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Finding the positive.

More thunderstorms overnight. Sophie, oblivious to the receding thunder,  rushes out to get her day started.

Bob takes a more cautious approach.

In the station car park a car sporting a Tupperware sign. Angus tells Bob he thought Tupperware was a 70's thing.

Bob and Angus go for a haircut. Or, to be more precise Angus has a haircut while Bob settles down for a nap. 'The Font' and Sophie head off to the market for flowers.

The barber is a gentleman of North African origin. He finds my French incomprehensible and I his.
He seems to think I come from Canada. Conversely he could be telling me that he's watching an episode of 'Rookie Blues' on a television that is playing in a corner with the volume turned down. He asks me to choose what setting I want on the electric clippers. I  stress, three times, that I don't want it cut too short. '' You need a five but I not have five " he replies. By the time I've translated this he's already hard at work shearing. This he does in straight lines starting at the nape of my neck and running upwards . '' I got a two " he says cheerfully.

The Font and Sophie are at the station cafe enjoying a coffee, a bowl of water and a shared croissant.  '' Goodness " says 'The Font' on seeing Angus. There is a moment of silence followed by the question "Did the barber have any other customers ? ". There is a longer pause and then '' It must feel better in this heat".  This is followed a few minutes later with the observation " At least you won't have to go again anytime soon ".

'The Font' always tries to find the positive in every situation.

And here is an interesting factoid from Deutsche Bank :

And some Friday morning esoterica . What did 17th century food taste like ?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Just one of those things.

5:50 am. Angus and the PONs are in the kitchen.

Sophie has a yogurt pot firmly clasped in her mouth.

We're not going anywhere until she's made sure it's not refilled itself.

This takes some time. The pot has to be rechecked ...

... and rechecked.

One of those things about life with a 'diva' which is too inconsequential for a diary but too much part of life to go completely unrecorded.