Friday, November 30, 2018

La simplicete est la sophistication supreme.

We're sitting on the storm drain watching the sun rise when the young garagiste drives by in his little black Citroen with the raspy exhaust and heavily tinted windows. He slams on the brakes and reverses. In the early morning half light the reversing lights shine brightly. It seems he's getting married in the town hall on December 15th. We are invited. '' It's going to be a small affair. Just family and friends " he says. I wonder why he should invite us but put the thought to the back of my mind. The reception will be in the truly hideous local restaurant. '' No expense spared " he adds. ' Indeed not ' I reply with what , hopefully, sounds like conviction.

We have found a new cleaning lady. A down to earth French woman. She will do three hours on a Tuesday and three hours on a Thursday afternoon. Seems that she is fully booked up but one of her clients has just died. After helping the bereaved family get everything ship shape she'll start at The Rickety Old Farmhouse in the New Year. 'The Font' takes the view that anyone who is booked up as heavily must be good. The new cleaner suggests she starts her morning stint at seven thirty. This is fine by us. PON owners are not late risers .

The Old Farmer takes out the venerable Mercedes and proceeds down the lane at a stately pace. He stops and winds down the window. '' You should know the mayor has had a bad diagnosis on his stomach. A very bad diagnosis ". Before I can ask what all this means he's raised the window and driven off.

At the bakers this morning a radical departure from our usual routine. A croissant for me and a vienoisserie for the angelic duo,. They also get their usual curly bits from the end of the croissant. Bob looks at me with the happiness of a gourmet PON. La simplicete est la sophistication supreme.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A profound question.

Sophie is having one of those ' winter hair ' mornings. 

Her brothers coat is still asymmetrical. Hopefully the hair on his muzzle will grow.

At the supermarket they've put up a display of Christmas gifts. The display is trimmed with black crepe paper - which is an unusual design element.

Closer inspection shows that Mexican skull glasses are a central feature of the display. Just the thing to toast the festive season.

Something luminescently green in a packet of dried fruit. Could it be dried water melon ?

The bakery display continues to take its inspiration from 'sludge'. Absolutely nothing here to grab our attention.

Angus and the PONs return to the car. In our absence two pigeons have flown over. They have scored direct hits on the front wing and the passenger door. We detour to the car wash. The PONs find going to the car wash to be the height of adventure. Safe and warm inside while a hurricane blows outside. They sit inside and look out of the back window as a jet of foamy spray is directed at them. How neat is that ?

Just another day with two lively sheepdogs in deepest , deepest France profonde. The demonstrators are still blockading the motorway junction but elsewhere they seem to be taking a rest before the weekend. 

The things you learn. More witches than Presbyterians in the US :

One of those profound questions for all students ( and parents of students ). Does listening to music while working help or hinder concentration ? :

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Those little routines.

Morning pandemonium. Bob is in Sophie's space in the back of the car. He gets out. She gets in. He gets in but treads on her paws.

Finally, we are able to head off to the bakers for the breakfast croissants.

Sophie is of the opinion that her brother is an oaf !

For sale in an auction in Philadelphia a picture by an American artist we've never heard of. Pennsylvania impressionism :

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Answers on a postcard.

The air is cool and the ground is wet. It's a day for doing nefarious things in the garden.

Bob starts the malfeasance early.

Sophie soon joins in.

Sophie is mightily pleased with herself. Her paws are soon caked with mud from excavating mole hills.

Someone has scattered large nails on the road by the roundabout. It goes without saying that one punctures a back tyre on the 'Loonj'.

By the time I notice the tyre is flat and the rim beginning to buckle. The emergency replacement is put on and a hasty trip to the garage for a new 'pneu' hastily arranged. This is the third time we've had a puncture in as many months. Bob displays great interest in the process of tyre replacement.

A quick side trip to the supermarket. This morning Angus is intrigued by the unusual sight of a woman in a day glo hoody trying to wrestle a large pink unicorn down from its position on top of a pile of boxed toys.

A quiet day demonstration wise. The protesters at the roundabout are sitting by a fire they've lit in the '' share a ride " car park. A small tent city has been set up. They ignore us as we drive by on our way for the morning croissant. Pity the poor French president. How do you deal with a nationwide protest movement that has no leadership or organization and which started off as a campaign against higher gasoline taxes but has now segued into a nationwide expression of discontent ? Solutions on a postcard to the Elysee Palace.

A forgotten American holiday :

This indomitable lady went venturing to horizons new last night. Her son posted this in memory of her. She was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park in the 'dark days'. You may have to be British to understand the annoyance she feels at being called old and the silent brevity of her response. They don't make them like this anymore :

Monday, November 26, 2018

Dodgy consistency.

A bright but chilly morning. While Bob heads off for a power walk round the lake with 'The Font' , Angus and Sophie prepare for a tour of the village.

A brisk walk to the end of the ridge where the tree line tapers out and the wind blows unhindered. Then a detour through the recently ploughed sunflower field. The ploughing has thrown up all sorts of exciting scents so our rate of forward progress slows - considerably. Sophie digs for moles. She also chews dried sunflower heads and leaps in and out of piles of crackly leaves. If Sophie can't make mischief she'll find it. 'Imp' might have been a better name for her.

Then back along the lane to the storm drain where we sit and discuss the Straits of Kerch and 'radical environmentalists'. Angus waves at the French teacher as she heads off to school in her Nissan Qashqai. We also acknowledge the drainage engineers son in his little black Mercedes and the retired farmer in the green Toyota Land Cruiser with the manic Westie that throws itself , snarling, against the back window as he passes us by. We look at the donkeys in the field below. Even at this distance Sophie's nose twitches which is perhaps an indication that the donkeys carry a pungent odour.

The angelic duo are reunited for a trip to the bakers. We take the gamble that after a busy weekend and the use of tear gas the protesters will be taking Monday off. Today's cake counter offerings are enlivened with small pink roses. They look as if they're plastic but perhaps they're edible ? We briefly consider an Opera but on closer inspection it looks more like a chocolate brick. Something not quite right about the consistency.

Most of Latin America is East of Florida :

Sunday, November 25, 2018

An edginess to it.

The demonstrations continue. It's been more than a week now. Everywhere we go blockades. Tyres laid out ready to be set alight on the roundabout by the bakers.

With the road we usually take blockaded Angus and the PONs head off in search of another bakers and a reviving morning croissant. We soon come across a second roundabout closed by demonstrators. A twenty minutes hold up while they dance a never ending conga round it. They wave French flags and blow whistles. Sophie isn't sure about the whistles. Finally, the conga gets larger and splits into three. One arm heads off to the forecourt of the Peugeot garage while a second spins away into the garden centre. The third continues with the roundabout conga.

It's at this point the people manning the roadblock get diverted by someone lighting firecrackers and throwing them at a police van that's belatedly shown up. While they're distracted we take the opportunity to scoot past the car in front , swing through the car park on the right and onto the road on the other side. Our morning croissant run, which usually takes an hour, takes three . We find a croissant at a bread shop but it isn't a very good one and the dogs aren't welcome inside.

Back home there are reassuring ear scrunches.

Then it's time to hurtle round the garden at high speed.

Let's hope these demonstrations come to an end soon. There was an unmistakable 'edge' to today's confrontations.

On a cheerier note this is essence of dog :

This catchy little number was playing on the radio while we waited at the last blockade:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

We got that wrong.

Bob waits in the back of the car while Sophie chases invisible intruders round the garden. Finally, bored and with no sign that she's about to join him any time soon, he settles down and opts for a nap.

At the bakers a chocolate Trio for me ...

..... and a rhubarb crumble for 'The Font'.

The PONs share the curly ends of a croissant. Some routines are immutable.

On our way back we pass fevered activity at the roundabout by the motorway slip road . At one thirty this morning the gendarmes launched a surprise raid and  cleared the protesters away from the pay booths. One policeman and three 'yellow jackets' were injured. Now, the protesters are back ( with reinforcements ) and appear to be building a large wall of wooden pallets that they presumably intend to set fire to. We'd assumed that after a week the anger might have dissipated. Seems we got that wrong. Yesterday, The Old Farmer tried to get to see his daughter in Toulouse but was told by some friendly riot police not to get on the motorway. The traffic was at a complete standstill due to upwards of a hundred people walking along the carriageways

So starts another day in deepest, deepest France profonde. A part of the world where nothing ever happens.

We first saw this painting ( or to be more precise a copy of it ) in an art gallery in Charleston . Little did we know it would warrant analysis in the LA Review of Books :

Friday, November 23, 2018

It's an ill wind .....

A bit of excitement in the night. Sophie manages to get into the library. The door closes behind her. The library is very dark and she can't get out. At 3:09 Sophie alerts the world to her predicament. Moments later Bob hurtles into the bedroom to let me know his sister is in need of assistance. Shortly after the family diva  records her gratitude at being rescued by turning on her back, waving her legs in the air and screaming in delight.

The demonstrators are still out and about. We've discovered that on these cold mornings they don't start blocking the roads or setting fire to old tractor tyres until 8:00 am.

The Police are on one side of the road ( there are also CRS riot police but I opt not to take a picture of them ) while the protesters gather on the other side by the roundabout. The protesters have just started to paint rude slogans about Monsieur Macron on the motorway slip road as we drive by.

Another two croissant morning. The bakers business is way down because of the blockade just along the road. This mornings batch isn't selling. The PONs get double curly helpings. It's an ill wind .....

To cheer themselves up on this quiet morning the bakery staff have put up the Christmas tree.

A weathered steel house in Colorado. In two minds about the steel. Looks good but you wouldn't want to sit on it in a Colorado summer:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A good reason to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Its not as cold as it has been. Sophie and her master watch the sun rise. In the distance we can see the large Holy Oak which stands alone in a field next to the Holy Well. In Scotland names like this would hint at folk beliefs that predated Christianity. Here it probably relates to some medieval plague and an unpolluted spring. Needless to say no one in the village remembers why the oak and the well are 'Holy'.

The PONs are in fine fettle and enjoying the cold.

At the supermarket the staff are busily stacking the shelves with large boxes of chocolates. These have names that are supposed to ooze sophistication -  Champs Elysees or Arc de Triomphe are particularly popular. Christmas is hurtling towards us.

Shock horror. No croissants at the bakers. We do however get a pain aux raisin. The curly, raisin free ends, are unravelled and shared with the PONs. They are tail wavingly thankful.

On our return home Sophie opts for half an hours restorative nap. She snores.

There was a time when the layout of the New Yorker magazine with its small, busy typeface seemed difficult to fathom. Now, having taken out a subscription, it turns out to be the home of some fine journalism. In a late October edition ( it takes a long time to get here by post ) this description of a sermon : '' Dr William Barber, the pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and one of this country’s most powerful moral voices, went to a pulpit in Greensboro carrying a shofar, the ram’s horn that is sounded in synagogues on the High Holy Days. Barber, a hulking man who suffers from a painful affliction of the spine and joints, winced as he rose from his chair and then blew the shofar, summoning the crowd from song to contemplation of the historical moment.“There are seasons when we are made to be still,” he said gravely. “And we need the kind of singing you just experienced, so that we can handle the nightmares.” 

I know nothing at all about Dr.Barber or his politics but found this You Tube clip of him which at the 27:20 mark shows he has a truly wonderful voice and a wry and lucid and charged sense of humour. A good reason to celebrate Thanksgiving although the lady chewing gum at the desk seems strangely unmoved  :

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

This is life in the fast lane.

Winter has arrived. There's a chill easterly wind with just a hint of sleet blowing in on the air. The wheat that's been planted in the field facing the gate putting on a late spurt of growth.

As we head off we see a farmer already at work grubbing out the last of the sunflower stalks. The countryside being put to bed for the year.

The PONs are supercharged by the drop in temperatures. Sophie, who is usually a 'smell every flower sniff every tree trunk ' girl, races after her brother. They, ineptly but noisily, excavate mole hills. This is life in the fast lane.

Today the bakers has on display a lemon meringue pie, an Opera, what the young lady thinks might be an apricot mousse cake and an uninspiring banoffee pie.

'The Font' is still managing to get roses for the dinner  table, although with the sharp drop in temperatures not for much longer.

Amazon deliver a package of books. They've put the books in a box that's too big, haven't put in enough padding and voila ! the box breaks as the heavy books rattle around inside it. The Post lady has done a good job of taping it up.