Sunday, September 30, 2018

In a perfect world.

Glorious weather. Fresh two layer mornings soon give way to shirt sleeve warmth. The merest hint of a breeze blows all day. PONs can doze in the courtyard without fear of noses getting burnt. The forecast is for another two weeks of this glorious Indian summer. 

Bob chases after a cat in the sunflower fields.  He leaps up the roadside bank like a puppy and disappears among the long stalks. The cat is in little danger of being caught. Sophie briefly thinks of following her brother but just keeps on ploughing ahead. She wants to get home so that we can head off on the croissant run.

This mornings slightly malformed croissant gets 9/10. It has been left in the oven 30 seconds too long so the ends have blackened. Not that this bothers me. The croissant ends are reserved for my two shaggy breakfast companions. They are happy with any croissant end - blackened or not.

At the bakers a peach crumble for 'The Fonts' lunch and a Madagascar for me. This completes our shopping.

Given half a chance the PONs would dawdle at length near the butchers. They are encouraged along. Sophie keeps on turning her head backwards as we walk away. In a perfect world yogurt pots would refill themselves and butchers display cabinets would be at nose height.

Back at home Bob takes his family guardian position at the front door. Backside in, nose out from behind the curtain. He closes his eyes for what he promises will just be a second .... or two. 

The funniest thing I've seen in ages :

And after a hectic week some Elgar for a Sunday morning :

This chart on department store sales in the US is interesting. Now even the Costco's are starting to lose out to on line retailing :

Saturday, September 29, 2018

First batch tiredness.

The Old Farmer and the venerable Ford Transit motor home return early in the morning. We hear the grinding of the brakes as it comes to an abrupt halt. There is then a moments silence followed by gales of laughter as the Belgian lady tries to open the sliding door. Our neighbour and his companion have not only picnicked on their way back from the airport but they've detoured via Albi to watch the sun rise over the cathedral.

There are tree branches caught in the luggage rack on the motor homes roof. I shall ask how they got there later .

This mornings croissant a lacklustre 6.8/10. It has that slight staleness that hints at being baked at four am. It is suffering from first batch tiredness.

The French pineapples back in the greengrocers. They're E5.99 a kilo compared with E3.50 for the Togolese ones and E1.50 for the Costa Rica variety. Presumably the 'French' pineapples actually come from Martinique.

The PONs participate in all this mornings activities at a ' run don't walk ' speed. They seem to get more rather than less enthusiastic the older they get. Guess that's what happens when you try to cram a quart of life into a pint sized bottle. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Chased out.

On our morning tour of the village we meet the Old Farmer who is sitting on a bench in his garden watching the sun rise. He's had a bad night. He slept until two but his new hip started to ache and no matter how he tried he couldn't get comfortable again. Post operation one leg is two inches shorter than the other. '' I'll be just fine tonight " he says with feigned cheerfulness. The PONs lick his hand. Later today he's going to drive down to Toulouse to collect the Belgian lady from the airport.  She's been in Liege for ten days and he's missed her. He's thinking of taking the old Mercedes but the venerable Ford Transit motor home needs a run. '' We could stop for a picnic on the way back ".

We carry on past the chateau and the pond with the large pike in it. At the crossroads we see that The Very Old Farmer is sitting in his wheelchair at his front door. His arm is freshly bandaged. Last night he reached out to get a glass of water from the shelf by his bed and knocked the shelf off the wall. The glass broke and cut his arm. The district nurse and the home help are running around clearing up. He chats away to the PONs and laughs. His voice is now very weak - hoarse may be a better word - and difficult to hear. Sophie, being fearless, goes into his kitchen to see if there's anything to eat. The district nurse chases her out. Sophie is not greatly taken with the district nurse.

On our way home the man with anger management issues is  getting into his car. '' Bonjour M'Ongoose ! I'm late this morning. Have to go !"  This saves us from having to discuss his fig harvest. Villagers keep on giving us figs. I have now taken to driving them to the charity shop 15 miles away. Our own fig trees continue to bear fruit with absolutely no sign of them stopping any time soon. 2018 is clearly a bumper year for fig lovers and for fig loving PONs.

Would you be happy if this happened on your flight ? It would put the fear of God into me. The thing has clearly been staged but what can the purpose of it be ?  I can't help but think that men with mullets should keep their accordions in the overhead bins :

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Centre of attention.

Bob comes upstairs to tell Angus that the gardeners have arrived and have started to cut the hedge and prune the wisteria. When he get outside Angus finds two PONs sitting by a large pile of leaves that three morose lads are attempting to transfer into a large metal skip. The PONs look innocent but there are signs they've been 'leaf diving'.

The Old Farmer wanders across the lane to speak to one of the gardeners who is standing on top of step ladders with a extendable power saw. This would seem to breech every tenet of health and safety. The young gardener chats away to The Old Farmer while chopping precariously and unconcernedly away.

On the other side of the house two more gardeners are hard at work on the laurel hedge and the bay trees. Of all the things that grow in the garden nothing can match the growth spurts of the bay trees.

The PONs simply cannot believe that they are not the centre of all this activity. The gardeners are polite but I can't help but think their thoughts about the angelic duo may be less than positive. The PONs are encouraged indoors. They are extremely reluctant to do so.

Angus puts up net curtains in the dining room. We'd taken down the thick curtains and were going to make do with the shutters. In high summer this simple ( and historically correct ) solution left the room flooded with too much light. Angus thinks the net curtains make the room too dark. 'The Font' returns today so Angus may be taking everything down tomorrow. The PONs find the whole experience riveting.

The gardeners finally go. They trim in the morning and return after lunch to collect no less than three truck loads of leaves and branches. This will keep the garden ''manageable'' through the winter. For Bob and Sophie this has been a day of unparalleled excitement.

Would you pay this much for a pair of sneakers at Nordstroms ? :

Difficult to work out who's the more lunatic at the moment. The Brits have to win the gold medal with their peculiar act of economic and national self harm. The Australians with their determination to change Prime Ministers every six months take silver and our US cousins who seem almost as disunited as their cousins take bronze. This lady seemed very brave to me. Whatever the merits of the situation how many people would have the courage to come down on a train from Boston and speak out ? Something very 'We the people' about taking the train :

Iced red currant and frozen ginger. No need to look any further for that 'must have' Christmas present:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rarely peformed.

To save money to pay for the power washing of the war memorial the village street lights now come on at 6:30 rather than at 6:00. We wait until they're blazing away before heading out. This helps with the early morning walk and the performance of the dog owners start of day  'black bag' routine.

On one side of the lane the PONs watch the sunrise from the lawn while on the other the Old Farmers Christmas lights are glowing away as is the replacement star that he put up after the old one rusted in two.The moon is also out. A jolly ensemble that the i-Phone can't catch. The star is only a quarter of the size of its predecessor and is held aloft by two bamboo poles tied together. How it will survive the winter gales will have to be seen. 

Post breakfast we head off for our morning trip to the bakers. A glorious high teens morning with a gentle breeze. Perfect  PON weather. We're the only ones in the square. On the radio in the cafe a breakfast commentator is going on about a speech at the UN given by a foreign head of state. I catch the words  ' Allies - who have fought and died alongside them - are attacked while praise is heaped on tyrants, dictators, enemies and madmen.' I don't catch anymore as Sophie chooses this exact moment to complain that her oaf of a brother is sitting on her tail.

Todays croissant an 8.9/10.  Perhaps a tad too buttery if such a thing is possible.

Here's a Benjamin Britten piece about St.Nicholas sung by a choir in Trinity Church in New York. An adventurous choice of a work that is rarely performed :

Great blog on 'How the world works'. Is this unfair on Yale ? :

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

''Worrying does not take away tomorrow's troubles, it takes away today's peace."

A chill 10 degrees this morning and a completely cloudless sky lit by a full moon. Time to order the heating oil. Later, there's the fattest, happiest bee I've ever seen flitting around the flowers by the swimming pool. It's making the most of this autumn sunshine.

Out along the ridge. Dogs and master sit on the concrete storm drain and watch the large white winged Kite swoop low over the valley making its high pitched twoo twoo call.  Big as an eagle and graceful as a linnet. Two affable dogs by my side, warm sun on my face, a silk like breeze and one of natures aristocrats swooping low over the valley floor. I tell the PONs that of all the rocks hurtling round the universe this is the best one to call home. Sophie takes this philosophical moment as a call to go off in search of deer poo. Bob and Angus discuss Noel Francisco's politics and wonder why the word dystopic has suddenly started to turn up so frequently in news stories. Bob rests his head on my knee and snores gently.

Todays croissant looks good but the dough is more like bread than croissant. Probably kneaded once rather than twice. We give it a 7.5/10.

In 'The Fonts' absence we stay up late. A game of touch rugby exhausts the PONs. Angus watches a show where a Scottish chef visits a failing American restaurant and attempts to put it to rights. Tonight we're in Jersey City and a Greek restaurant where the food in the larder is mouldy and the Chef has had no formal training. '' Jesus helps me with my recipes " he informs Chef Ramsay who promptly says something that is bleeped out.

After that there's a programme about police in Chicago. It's difficult to work out what's going on as the original dialogue is covered by a badly dubbed French translation.It appears that an El Salvadorian gang is muscling in on the territory of a Puerto Rican drug syndicate. An amazing amount of mayhem ensues. Somewhere amidst the multiple explosions and creative tortures Angus and Bob doze off. Later we watch a nominee for the US Supreme Court tell cable TV viewers that he '' never sexually assaulted anyone ". One of those bizarre moments people tell their grand kids about.

Sophie takes herself off and opts to sleep in the downstairs library. A good spot to be in case I should wake up in the middle of the night and decide to make a bacon sandwich. She gives me her " I'll be here if you need me '' look and then goes back to sleep.

And here's a calm little Norwegian song :

Monday, September 24, 2018

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars.

A pre-dawn comfort break for the PONs and then they're loaded into the back of the big car and driven to the airport. They can both leap into the little VW but the Volvo is too high for Sophie who has to be helped up. The boot in the Volvo is the size of an ice rink so she can spread herself out without bothering her brother. Sophie is soon on her back and inelegantly asleep. At roundabouts she rolls over and emits a loud huff of displeasure. This morning the airport is very busy with business folk heading off to Paris on the first flight. 'The Font' says farewell to the PONs in the car park rather than at the departure gate. Bob is slightly miffed that he doesn't get a chance to wave his paws in front of the door sensors. He does however get to christen tyres in the short stay parking area.

Back home for a morning spent getting the garden ready for winter. Over the course of the week we shall slowly start to take all the pool furniture into storage. It only seems like yesterday that I got it all out. While I'm working a dark suited man in Beijing calls to ask if its usual for two Supreme Court Justices  in a row - Messrs. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh - to come from the same D.C. high school.  This is something I'd not noticed but I tell him it's extremely unusual. We discuss why this might be so.

The cooler temperatures mean that the angelic duo can come with me on a 10 am trip to the cafe. We go in the 'Loonj' so that Sophie can clamber in by herself.  Getting to the bakers late has the advantage that a full variety of cakes are on display.

Angus settles on two eclairs. One coffee and one chocolate.

This mornings croissant from the cafe an outstanding 9.3/10. The crust crispy, the dough light and buttery. The angelic duo agree that the croissant is exceptional.PONs it must be said are perhaps not the best croissant judges. They think all bakery products merit an 11/10. From the smile on Bobs face today's offering is a 14/10.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tail thumping happiness.

The cooler weather means it's time to put the pool to bed for the year.  Last week the pump started to make that 'two plates of metal grinding together' noise. Yesterday the pump man came and replaced it.  This morning the water level in the pool is low - a sign that there's a leak ? The hose pipes are unravelled and the water level topped up. Sophie is my companion on this unexciting task. She finds the unreeling of the hose and the sound of the water flowing into the pool to be riveting. She keeps on getting under my feet so is 'encouraged' into the house.

Bob emerges and gives his sister a morning kiss. This morning, as every morning, Sophie objects and lets out a ' hollering '. Villagers aiming to sleep in on a Sunday morning are by now, presumably, wide awake.

'The Font' has finished the course with the astrophysicists in Pasadena. The sixteen year old Chinese girls with three doctorates apiece will be carrying on with their quest for an electro-magnetic fourth dimension. 

This week Angus and the PONs will have to fend for themselves for two nights while 'The Font' heads off to sign up for a new course. We go to the local frozen food store and lay in some Naans and microwaveable curries. Consideration is given to duck breast but this seems a culinary adventure too far.

This mornings croissant an 8.3/10. Light, flaky but ever so slightly stale. A batch made an hour ago. The angelic duo each get given an end. This is a cause for tail thumping happiness.

Sophie may have sussed out from the sound of packing that she's going to be left in a household with Angus as the chef in charge.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kindling for the fire.

5:58 am. A slight change to our routine. Instead of being woken by a cold wet nose pressed into his right ear , Angus is instead woken by a shaggy tail beating against his face. Bob has found a slipper on the floor and has turned around to check it out. Angus is up quickly.

Decidedly cool this morning. Cool weather = turbocharged PONs. The pre-dawn hurtle round the garden undertaken at super fast speed.

Angus and the angelic duo arrive at the bakers. The bakery staff clearly aren't early birds. This mornings croissant decidedly lacklustre. 6/10 - the dough unfluffy. The PONs think this score is miserly and would give it an 11/10 , if asked. Bobs tail is still wagging. Sophie drinks noisily from the bowl of water that the baker has provided.

Unappealing green things with brown marks at the front of the greengrocers display. They are examined, briefly.

The last of the melons. Can the year have raced by that quickly ?

Back at home 'The Font' is up and about and reading the Swedish papers and magazines brought back from London. That time of year when we start saving the papers as kindling for the fire.

Just another quiet Saturday with two enthusiastic and increasingly shaggy companions,

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dog parade.

Hats off to anyone who can salute with one hand and hold a Labrador with the other :

PS The dogs look as though they're having a whale of a time. Some are wearing shoes.


Cloudy and very windy. From the cranes outside the hotel window it's evident that Brexit is not ( yet ) slowing the London construction market.

Dog owners and American tourists coming to terms with jet lag are early risers . Buckingham Palace already attracting crowds at seven in the morning.

The City is quieter. The Guildhall almost deserted. Most folks are already behind their desks or in morning meetings.

Ten minutes early for a seven thirty meeting with men in dark suits. The dining room will be on the top floor and have wonderful views that no one will look at. The American men will toy with a pretzel and drink unimaginably strong coffee by the gallon. Angus will have sausages and bacon and ( as a sop to his cholesterol ) one egg over hard. City churches are always open early.  While waiting I pop into one. Destroyed in the 1940 blitz and re-opened ( or should that be re-consecrated ? ) in 1958.  Completely empty at this hour of the morning. My only companions four carved angels with fluttering wings on top of a wooden screen.

How can you mispronounce Nevada or Oregon ?

Four more angels with flamboyant wings , this time cast in brass, on top of an altar. If there was anyone around I'd ask what the high wings signify - but there isn't. I'll remember it as the church with the fancy angels. The brass angels have swords, the wooden ones don't. They must have been recreated from pre-war photos.

The young Jamaican guard on the train to Heathrow checks my ticket and yawns. ' Long shift ? ' I ask more out of politeness than interest. '' Another eleven hours to go " he replies. I'm incredulous. Seems he works a 12 hour shift, three days a week, to pay his way through college. ' I can't believe how lucky I am to have a job like this ' he adds. I think he's being facetious. He's not. Something uplifting about the lack of complaint and the enthusiasm for life. 

An accident on the motorway home. What usually takes fifty minutes takes two and a half hours.  One of those 'awful' moments when you have to avert your eyes. Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the PONs are delighted to have found their flock. There is a full ten minutes of unconstrained, joyful, mayhem.

Toe tapping music. Played on Radio Nostalgie this morning :

Not all golfers have the same outlook on life :