Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A rare sight.

A rare sight. The Queen of the Netherlands wears the Stuart Tiara at last weeks State Dinner in Buckingham Palace. It's centre piece a diamond owned by Mary Stuart. A piece of jewellery with a long history and not worn in 40 years. In her speech the British Queen refers to the 330th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution which '' restored  civility after the turbulence ". Guess that's one way of describing a Civil War, the execution of Charles 1st, the formation and overthrow of a Republic, the restoration and ousting of an unpopular monarch and the arrival of a new foreign royal family.

Eagle eyed viewers will see that the British Prime Minister, a diabetic, hides her insulin patches behind two matching black plastic arm straps. Whatever you may think of her you have to admire her stamina.

A clue.

After the cold wet weather of the last few days we are greeted with early morning sunshine. With the ground damp it's perfect weather for digging up mole hills.

Bobs nose and paws provide a clue that he's been doing this with gusto. Nothing that a quick nose wipe with a wet cloth won't cure.

Then it's a case for settling down on the stoop for a full day of guarding. Bob takes the bed. His sister lets him know that if he was a gentleman he'd let her have it. He ignores her.

The life of a family PON never has a quiet moment.

Here's a song that was in the news yesterday :

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Intimate involvement.

Bill and Ben, the retired odd job men, arrive to put up some new curtain rods. They were supposed to have done this in April but the good weather got in the way. Bill and Ben are slow  in the same way a glacier is slow. There are four curtain rods to put up. They manage to install one between arriving at nine and leaving for lunch at noon. In the early afternoon they manage to put up two more before they go at five. The final curtain rail will be put up '' the next time we have a moment to spare ". Quite what Bill and Ben find to occupy their time so that their 'spare moments' are few and far between  is an impenetrable mystery.

Bob and Sophie are corralled in the library. They have spent much of their morning running up the stairs to see what Bill and Ben are doing before rushing back down the stairs to provide '' The Font ' with a passionate and vociferous  commentary. It is completely beyond the PONs comprehension that there might be things  that go on in the house that don't require their intimate involvement.

The bakers has a circular chocolatey thing with a hole in the middle, a lemon meringue pie and something vaguely like a Paris-Brest. We pass.

Three types of beetroot for sale in the greengrocers this morning. We also pass on them.

A warning to dog owners :

Proof of climate chage ? :

The graphics on this Japanese study are stunning ( You'll need to  scroll down to see some of the optical illusions - rotating snakes is perhaps the best ) :

Monday, October 29, 2018

Forget the 'g'.

There was a time when you asked a 'barrista' for a standard coffee and that's what you got. These days it's altogether more difficult. In some places it's a long espresso. Elsewhere it's an Americano. Sometimes it's a Flat Black. More often than not it's none of these. Could this irritation with ordering coffee be another sign I've turned into my father ?

The golden rule of visiting America. Never, ever, give the staff in Starbucks your real name. Better to call yourself something simple like Chuck or Chip so they can write it on the cup. A special hats off to the staff at the Georgetown branch who tried their level best to deal with the intricacies of spelling 'Angus'. They nearly got it right - but forgot the 'g'. A post dinner cause of much mirth.

A great edition of Scientific American.

Sophie now has a complete array of bedding on the kitchen floor. Her winter arrangement for keeping those metal knees warm while watching dinner being prepared. Much of the country had snow yesterday. We were spared.

There's talk that France will stick with one 'unified'  time throughout the year. After yesterdays clock change Bob woke me with a cold wet ear in my nose at 4:57 am. He returned again at 5:13. The sooner we give up changing the clock the better.

A classic for a Monday morning -  which, if the PONs enthusiasm is anything to go by, is almost certainly going to be the best day ever :

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Civility and kindness.

The heating has been on for the last four days. Last night with the mercury falling the first fire of the winter is lit. The PONs hair, which has been under control through the summer, seems to have put on a spurt of growth. Can coat growth be triggered by plunging temperatures ? Despite the chill Sophie feels cosy enough to spend much of her day sleeping outside in the weak sunshine.

This morning grey skies and an absence of people in the little market town. The locals still adjusting to the onset of winter by staying indoors.

We go to the cheese shop. A rather snooty lady serves us. She ignores the PONs who are on their best behaviour and are sitting bombarding her with '' We love cheese ! " telepathy. She is unmoved.

Better luck at cafe that's like stepping into a 1950's time warp with its formica tables. The bad tempered matron who's usually behind the counter isn't there. A youngish woman brings me a coffee (watery), a croissant and ( unbidden ) some pastry pieces for the angelic duo.

For lunch we pick up a lunchtime Dame de Lectoure for 'The Font' and a Chocolate Eclair for me.

The churchyards getting busy with families tidying up their family graves ahead of All Souls . The custom is to decorate the graves with chrysanthemums. By the car park an enterprising old man has set up a flower stall inside the bicycle sheds. He's bought a hundred or so plants from the supermarket at E5.99 each and is selling them for E14.00. He hasn't bothered removing the supermarket price tags.

And here is a sermon from Washington. The story of the deer and the murdered body at the 35 minute mark appealed to the Celtic surgeon who was at the service.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Don't frighten the soldiers.

It can't be long before Sophie's 'Lenin' beard needs a trim.

Bob has been sitting  in the back of the car waiting for his sister to finish chasing 'invisible' things round the garden. His look makes it quite clear what he thinks about things.

This morning not one but two croissants. The pretty girl with the upturned nose comes out from behind the bakers counter and tells the PONs how cute they are. She ignores Angus. Not one but two croissants are brought to the table. Even better they're still hot.  Bob has a double helping of curved croissant end. He gives me his " I has died and gone to heaven " look. The pretty girl receives his " I loves you. I really do " adulatory stare. Sophie licks her lips .

In the village the local army regiment are doing fitness trials. Today we have scores of troops with rifles and backpacks running backwards and forwards along the lane. Their presence is of great interest to the angelic duo who maintain a loud commentary as each platoon runs by. Sophie stands on her hind legs and howls. Bob sits on his stump seat with ' Furry Fox ' clamped between his teeth and makes intimidating noises. Two military policemen sensibly move their control point from outside our gate to a quieter spot on the village green. The PONs are encouraged indoors so that they don't frighten the soldiers with their barking.

So starts another day with two lively dogs in a little village where 'nothing' ever happens.

Whoever knew there were so many types of Bok Choy ? :

Friday, October 26, 2018

Winter has arrived.

Winter has arrived. Our morning walk conducted under grey skies and in 'fresh' temperatures. The PONs don't notice grey skies. All they're interested in is starting a day of high adventure. We now enter a damp muddy season of the year when Sophie's paws become a different colour to the rest of her coat.

This mornings croissant scores 8.5 /10.  Tails wave wildly under the cafe table. It seems there is nothing in a canine life as enthusiasm generating as the curvy end of a croissant although their first taste of mashed potato, lamb and gravy with last nights kibbles came close.

The baker has a chocolaty creamy thing, a lemon meringue pie and a Kiwi and Mandarin tart on display. None appeal.

On our way back to the car we pass a sign for the burger outlet. It is serving Zombie Burgers for Halloween. This being France black squid ink buns are a defining feature. 

Back in the village the clouds have lifted and the sky has returned to its trademark blue. The workmen have excavated four holes on each side of the war memorial. They have filled these with concrete. The workmen have disappeared until such time as the concrete sets.

The Old Farmer has returned. He's been depressed because it's All Souls. He drove through the night to visit his wife's grave. After a good long chat he's returned in an altogether more positive state of mind.

In the afternoon the farmer comes to cut the sunflowers in the field next door. He has a large cutting deck mounted on the front of his combine harvester. All seems to be going well until the lad who is driving it gets the harvesters cutting deck wedged between the Plane trees on the lane. There is much activity. Little white Peugeot vans arrive. Conversations are had. Phone calls made. '' It's too wide to get through " says the farmer to no one in particular. I could have told him that.

Finally, amid a wild revving of its engine, the combine is put into reverse gear and extricated from the trees. It's driven into the field on the other side of the road. A team remove the cutting deck and load it onto a trailer. Thus shorne of accoutrements the combine harvester can make its way towards its destination.  Bob and Sophie watch enthralled. They maintain a loud and constant commentary on what's happening. They are 'encouraged' indoors.

Can life be any more exciting ?

How up to date is your vocabulary ? Aquafaba passed me by . In DC when asked if the train was going on time an Amtrak employee replied '' negatory " which is presumably somewhere in the dictionary :

This off the wall article on the archaeology of K-Marts was somehow riveting :

Thursday, October 25, 2018


5:22 am. There is the most almighty banging and crashing sound outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Angus grabs a torch, throws on a dressing gown and heads down the stairs. The PONs, woken from a deep sleep, follow enthusiastically. Outside a full moon is floating above the mist covered valley. For some reason the sky is beetroot red. Bob and Sophie hare round the garden at super high speed. The security lights come on as they climb steps, check the terrace for C-A-T-S and then head off into the orchard.

The source of the diabolical clatter is soon evident. On the other side of the lane The Old Farmer is up and about. He's decided to deal with his depression by taking the Venerable Ford Transit motor home out for a spin. He's also decided to beat an errant body panel into shape. '' Did I wake you ? " he asks. ' No. I was just letting the dogs out for a breath of fresh air ' I reply with what I hope is studied politeness. '' I'm going to Bordeaux " he adds.  As he drives away he beeps the horn and waves. He's wearing his brown cut off dressing gown jacket, his new MAGA baseball cap, voluminous shorts and open toed sandals.

'The Font' sleeps through this early morning bout of hyper activity.

Sophie's lustrous nose continues to be one of the seven wonders of the dog world.

Her brothers asymmetrical muzzle trim is proof that Angus shouldn't consider a career change into dog grooming.

On the village green the Swaying Jesus has been hoisted up and reset in concrete. It is more upright than it was but has sagged to the left and moved forward a little while the concrete was setting. It no longer sways but merely tilts.

So begins another day in a little French village where nothing ever happens.

If we lived in Oklahoma this dog would have two furry accomplices :

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Scented hugs

Tuesday afternoon. There is a burst of activity on the village green. The workmen have arrived to start straightening up the 'Swaying Jesus' and begin the cleaning and restoration of the war memorial. All of this in readiness for the WW1 Armistice centenary commemoration on November 11th.  Madame Bay and her friend Renee are busy cleaning the salle des fetes. There are tentative plans to have a communal lunch with the same menu they had at the village fete in 1913. Sophie is greeted enthusiastically, gets a tickle and revels in the attention. Bob does his best to avoid Madame Bay.  Being clasped to her ample decolletage and given a Lily of the Valley scented hug is not his thing. He proceeds to the car park at a rapid pace.

A crane is due to arrive to winch up the crucifix so that the old concrete can be removed and new water resistant concrete poured in to replace it. In the churchyard Monsieur Bay and a coterie of old soldiers are waiting for the cranes arrival.

The French teacher has fallen and broken two discs in her back. Her husband stops his car to tell me the bad news. She will be going down to the teaching hospital in Toulouse for an operation. I've heard of people having disc problems but had never thought you could break them.

The Old Farmer is feeling depressed. He has recognized that driving across Europe in the venerable Ford Transit motor home at 87 is no longer wise. He delayed his departure to visit his fathers grave in Belarus to the Spring, then to the summer and then to September . Now winter is almost upon us.

We've brought him a MAGA baseball cap and a fridge magnet. Both have 'Made in PRC' stickers on them which is ironic. He puts on the baseball cap and wanders over to show it off to Monsieur Bay and the retired gendarmes who are still waiting for the arrival of the crane .

Who'd have thought Edinburgh would have so many tourists on a grey day in October ? The pipes are playing that famous tune  ' Campbletown Loch I wish you were whisky. I could drink you dry '. A very Scottish sentiment :

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Smoked Sprats.

Bob has the hair on his muzzle trimmed. The Old Man of the Sea look has gone and he can now see. A PON that can see is a calm PON. This makes trips into town much easier for both dog and owner.

The sunflower field next to The Rickety Old Farmhouse still hasn't been harvested.   It looks like  installation art gone wrong. The PONs find it ideal for long, noisy, games of hide and seek. 

This mornings croissant an uninspiring 6.3 / 10. More like a white loaf masquerading as a croissant than a croissant proper.

The 'exotic foods' section of the  supermarket shelves have been stocked in readiness for Christmas. American travellers will be able to enjoy a festive season with peanut butter and Fluff caramel marshmallow flavour spread.

With Brexit looming the number of Polish plumbers and builders leaving the UK to work in our little corner of France profonde has increased substantially. The local tradesmen are only now becoming aware of this new hard working diaspora and the competition it brings. To cater for the Polish arrivals some very 'exotic' items have made it onto the shelves. Surely, as far as the French ar concerned, there can be nothing that matches Smoked Sprats in the exotic food stakes. 

A blind elephant listens to Bach :

I can't help but wonder at the things people keep in their basements.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Old formulae.

Bob accompanies Angus to the Sunday morning rugby. The action ( or lack of it ) on the pitch is of little interest to the family fellow. The smell coming from the hot dog stand located in the car park is a different matter. His nose twitches for the full ninety minutes ( plus half time ). I try to explain to him that the contents of a 1 Euro 50 hotdog may be less than wholesome. He is unperturbed. Maybe next week ?

Miss Sophie is suffering from one of those high humidity '' I can't do a thing with it " hair days. She stays at home to prepare prawns and grapefruit for lunch.

Both have segued back into their normal routine with ease.

In the greengrocers the first of the new seasons Granny Smiths make an appearance. They are exceedingly green. They are joined by home grown Brussel Sprouts. The PONs love Brussel Sprouts.

In the bakers a particularly unappetizing looking Kiwi tart. It might look more appetizing if you like Kiwis - which neither Angus nor the PONs do.

This is said to be the best museum in France outside Paris. It opened in 2001 in Roubaix, one of the poorest parts of the country. The business plan expected up to 60,000 visitors a year. It got ( and gets )  250,000.

There is a surprise at the 10 second mark. When I saw this I  found myself saying aloud '' May God rest his soul ". An unexpected response dredged out of the recesses of the mind. Old linguistic formulae are sometimes the only ones that speak to shock and a deeper need.