For the PONs it's not so much the end of an old year as the start of a new one. They look forward to endless days full of ever mounting excitement. This morning they hurtle round the garden at high speed in search of c-a-t-s. Sophie, with her metal legs, can demonstrate a remarkable turn of speed when she wants to.
While the rest of the household sleeps, Angus and the PONs drive off to the market. Turbot for dinner. The fishmonger tells me that they're best cooked in a really hot oven. I thank him for this information.
The greengrocer has had a fresh delivery of truffles. He sees me and brings over two 'found and dug out this very morning '. We head off to the Italian pasta lady to buy some tagliatelle to go with this unexpected purchase.
Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse 'The Font' is valiantly trying to encourage the hyacinths to come into flower for the dinner table. Good luck with that. An electric heater is wheeled in and placed next to them.
Sporrans are found with unexpected ease.
The kilt is given a quick sprucing up.
And so we venture into a New Year. Some years you know are going to be barnstormers. 2019 seems likely to be such a year. Calm or turbulent we are going where we've not been before so let's
enjoy the adventure. The words of a Saint seem just right : ' Hope has two
beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things
are and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are '.
And here's Auld Lang Syne sung with just the right degree of inflection and at the right speed : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14mFabPxk80
A wonderfully Happy and Healthy New Year to one and all.
PS : This was probably the best exhibition we went to in 2018 : https://youtu.be/S3knnUHdVfM?t=2
Cold and grey this morning. The mercury hovering just above zero. The PONs master can't help but think how wonderful it would be to stay tucked up in a warm bed. A cold wet nose in his ear at 5:57 am disabuses him of this idea.
Down to Toulouse. The town quiet. Christmas revelers have gone and the New Year celebrants have still to arrive. The cakes in the big city are rather more sophisticated in execution and design than those out in the depths of the countryside.
The croissants are also more Parisian in their 'execution'. While we go to the airport Bob and Sophie have been left at home to guard The Rickety Old Farmhouse so they miss out on this gourmet treat.
We've parked in the car park by the cathedral. The narrow parking spaces are designed for one of those little two seat city cars. Down on sub level 4 the ceilings are low and the Volkswagen seems enormous. There is much squeaking of tyres as the 'Loonj' is squeezed into a spot that is rather too small for comfort. Angus and 'The Font' do that strange European car park routine of contorting themselves sideways out of car doors that won't open quite wide enough.
The organ in the cathedral is situated high up on one wall. The cathedral is an unusual affair. One end was started and then abandoned and then a separate building was started off to the side. Some people blame the Black Death for this unusual state of affairs. Others say the foundations of the first cathedral were too weak. The two buildings don't fit together and are linked by a strange right angular nave with a huge column plonked in the middle.
The cathedral is deserted apart from one old priest sitting by the altar who is singing along to the carols playing on the distant organ. We are unsure whether this is a service or a trial run for the New Year mass.
And some last Sunday of the year Handel : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9o2M7jHnlE
Sophie rediscovers her Christmas toy from the kind lady in Atlanta under a bed ( where Bob has hidden it ) and brings it downstairs. She spends a happy ten minutes enthusiastically savaging the thing . Sophie employs her full gamut of sounds while doing so. None of the sounds, it must be said, are particularly ferocious but they are 'enthusiastically' loud . Sophie transports her new friend from room to room with her head held high. Bob waits patiently for her to be distracted so he can liberate it. Of such high drama is a dog owners day made.
A coffee capsule advent calendar now selling at 50% off in the supermarket. Can't remember ever having seen an advent calendar that didn't have chocolate inside. Might explain why these ones didn't sell.
This morning we go to the bakers by the roundabout. The croissants there are unfailingly good. They have a type of loaf called a 'Viking' which sounds vaguely Swedish although not at all French. The lady behind the counter doesn't know what goes in it but volunteers that '' it's very good ".
Which is flatter ? Florida or Kansas or Illinois ? : http://www.disruptivegeo.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FlatMap_GeographicalReview_DobsonCampbell_2013Nov.pdf
A happy Christmas for these dogs : http://www.dailyjournal.net/2018/12/27/us-euthanasia-request-dogs-saved/
Heard this at a concert last night. Christmas may have gone but this is worth listening to :
The greengrocers shelves depleted after the holidays. There is one every so slightly grumpy man slowly restocking the shelves. We avoid a lady who we think is mad because she's walking up and down the aisles talking loudly to herself. She's still doing this at the cash desk. The spirited conversation stops when she takes out her i-Phones ear piece to pay by credit card. She's full volume again when she gets into the car park.
The display of cherries makes you wonder what's wrong with those that are left.
The local baker is back into his mostly brown phase. The stock of colourful Buche de Noel is a mere shadow of its pre-holiday self. Bob and Sophie get choux pastry slivers so they're happy.
Back at home Sophie heads across the village green in pursuit of cats. The village is suddenly inundated with cats. Most of the felines are careful to avoid the PONs and scurry away when the braying duo emerge from the front gate. However, there is one evil ginger cat that brazens it out by lying low and hissing. Sophie is determined to square off with this ferocious beast. She is encouraged away.
In the afternoon the PONs are loaded into the back of the car and driven to the local market town. Angus buys a dozen macaroons from the macaroon shop. They make them just right so that they follow the happy line between being too brittle or too gooey. PONs love macaroons - even in small quantities. For Bob an Sophie a quick taste of macaroon marks this out as quite probably the best day - ever.
I fear that after that Father Christmas phone call with the 'marginal' seven year old this annoying clip will become a Christmas classic :
A short sharp bark and a scratching at the door tells me Sophie needs an urgent 'comfort break'. We're out in the orchard at six. Venus quite remarkable this morning. Can't remember it ever looking so bright or large. Lower in the sky, just above the horizon, Jupiter and Mercury. The Space Station sails diagonally, SW to NE, through the darkness above. Dog owners might have to be up early ( in the cold ) but there are compensations aplenty.
We stay out until the sun starts to rise. The PONs aren't idle. They race round the garden in the quarter light chasing invisible things.
Despite a daily grooming Miss Sophie soon manages to end up looking like the abandoned dog on the RSPCA advert. Charging through bramble thickets and rolling on your back in the mud will do this. Her winter coat is both long and thick. In fact its quite impenetrable. Good for defending against wolves. Less good for getting a comb or a brush through.
This morning 'The Font' takes out the Volvo. We've not used it much since the yellow jacket protests started a month ago. It attracts attention. On the back seat 'The Font' is surprised to discover a box with all the Christmas cards ready for posting. Angus was sure he'd been to the post office ages ago and puts this postal malfunction down to a 'senior moment'. If any readers can think of a better excuse please feel free to use the comment section below. The thought that we can use them next year and won't have to spend hours addressing envelopes is illogically dismissed.
Had never heard of dog leasing : http://www.tampabay.com/business/they-thought-they-were-buying-a-family-dog-turns-out-they-were-leasing-it-20181224/
Thank you all for yesterdays comments. A reminder that the dogblog world remains a place of great civility and kindness.
Sophie has had a wild Christmas. Brussel Sprouts, touch rugby and a long afternoon chasing shameless pigeons who have the insolence to walk on her lawn.
Despite going to bed late the angelic duo are up and about early.
Difficult to work out what Bob's thinking this morning other than not much.
No trip to the bakers today. Instead there are rice cakes on the carpet in the hall.
A kind lady in Atlanta has sent the PONs toys. It goes without saying that Bob wants Sophie's toy and Sophie wants Bobs. Bob eventually hides both toys under a bed in a downstairs bedroom. There is much shrieking.
To cope with the loss of Bobs toy the family diva is having a morning nap.
There are 1355 Canadian soldiers graves in this Dutch war cemetery. Every Christmas Eve the local children place a candle in front of each one. A strangely beautiful sight.
America is rapidly becoming more like Europe : https://www.econlib.org/the-us-is-becoming-more-like-europe/
A Merry Christmas to one and all from everyone here at The Rickety Old Farmhouse.
So far this morning we've been on a tour of the village to look at the decorations put up by the mayors secretary.
Last years decorating style was minimalist. This year it's minimalism in extremis. Two strands of tinsel on the box trees by the war memorial, four baubles on a cypress tree in front of the church and a small tree and a length of red tinsel on the town hall terrace.
The bakers is packed and Buche de Noel are flying out of the display cabinet. The PONs get the curly ends from a Christmas croissant.
Sophie has been checked by the vet. The growth on the side of her muzzle is a wart. This is a great Christmas present.
Carol of the day. As the French would say '' Oh so British " : https://vimeo.com/231529360
And a guide for those wanting to see The Northern Cross :https://www.space.com/42845-christmas-night-sky-stargazing-guide.html?utm_source=notification
The most expensive potato chips in the world - and they're from Sweden ( although 'The Font' is not impressed ) : https://twitter.com/businessinsider/status/1077369333783904262
The poulterers mother is running behind schedule. We'd arranged to pick up the turkey first thing but when we get to the market she's not ready. She's only got to the letter J on her order list. Anyone with a surname starting with the letter M will need to wait for their bird to be gutted and decapitated. We are told to come back.
The greengrocer has a shipment of truffles from Perigord. These are wrapped in a silk scarf and kept in a cardboard box in the store room. We spend ten minutes choosing one. Texture , sheen and smell are discussed. The PONs look on . The greengrocer wonders if Bob would make an excellent truffle hunter. I explain that it's more likely Bob would make an excellent truffle eater. The man laughs. Bob gets a tickle.
The fishmonger hasn't prepared the lobster for Christmas Eve dinner. '' My family are visiting from Perpignan " he says by way of explanation. We settle for enormous langoustine.
A final detour to the florists. The youngest daughter has moved in with her boyfriend. Mother and eldest sister remain unconvinced that the young man in question is 'wonderful'. The youngest daughter is in no doubt. The intimacies of the relationship are discussed in front of an apparently invisible Angus.
Finally, the Turkey is ready. We collect it and head home. Later this morning Sophie will drive off with 'The Font' to the vets to have the growth on her muzzle checked. She's been in the drainage ditch and has gleaned not one but two dead voles. These have been swallowed whole. She now has the look of one of those abandoned dogs you see on Christmas animal charity adverts.
So starts a Christmas Eve morning in deepest deepest France profonde.
Did anyone see the light cast by the winter moon ? It was spectacular.
And almost the last Christmas Carol. This time a Bavarian favourite with peculiar choreography :
Wet and windy and cold. Just the way the PONs like to start their day.
The growth on the side of Sophie's muzzle has quadrupled in size over the last few days. The vet is of course closed until Monday. We shall take her down to have it looked at first thing tomorrow. Sophie seems less troubled by it than 'The Font'.
At the greengrocers a huge pile of Ly Chi's. Not something I'd thought the French would be keen on nor something I've ever seen piled high.
The baker has at last got in the Christmas groove.
L'irresistible proves to be just that. I order two safe in the knowledge 'The Font' will take half a spoonful and suggest Angus finish the rest. The PONs get the curly ends from the croissant.
Christmas carol #20 from this mornings 9:00 am service at St.Andrews Kirk in Chennai. The architecture is Scottish, the decorations Indian. The floor and ceiling fans tell you how hot it is ( but the candles on the altar are lit ). They're a little Presbyterian for modern tastes but they do wonderful work with blind girls with leprosy and you can't help but like them for that : https://youtu.be/fQ276zWTx1E?t=5826
Not all refugees are unwelcome. Well done to France for welcoming Yazidi refugees from Iraq. The President has also gone to Chad to visit the troops who are fighting ISIL. He's taken the Elysee Palace chef with him which is a gesture the French military will appreciate:
Blissfully mild this morning. No need for a hat and scarf. Sophie stands and watches the sunrise. Her coat turns orange, then red, then back to orange in the dawn light. Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Angus retrieves the wreaths from the cellar and puts them up on the half landing. Every year we wonder why we empty nesters go through this rigmarole. Every year we vow not to do it again but then we do. An unspoken understanding of how important it is to keep one day 'special'.
The PONs monitor this activity with scarcely concealed impatience. Bob is told that he'll be going to the rugby this afternoon. The good news is that bar the holly round the front door and a Monday morning trip to the flower market the house is now decorated.
Finally, we're off in the car. Bob and Sophie fly into the back without anyone getting into the wrong spot. This morning we park by the river and walk into the market town. Taking the PONs into town is an adventure that is best done with 'The Font' in attendance. This helps avoid 'tangled leads' syndrome.
The cafe we go to is a rather hip place which shows never ending music videos on screens above the bar. We are the only customers so it presumably caters to a younger crowd later in the day. The cafe has a rather wonderful painted 19th century ceiling.
The woman behind the bar doesn't have any croissants but she returns a few minutes later with one in a paper bag. She's popped next door to the bakers to buy one. Bob sits and watches the woman bring the croissant over with his ' I love you ' expression etched on his face.
Back to Sweden for a reflective Christmas song # 19