Thursday, January 31, 2019

Small talk avoided.

A chilly start to the day. Angus refuses to pay $55 for breakfast in the hotel ( plus 20% suggested gratuity ) and heads off to Starbucks. He orders a double espresso with extra hot water and a splash of milk. Add in a ham and egg croissant and it's $8. He doesn't run the risk of being seated next to any of the Manhattanites. Small talk avoided.

Time to pick up the bag and head off to the airport. On the other side of the road yet another new hotel is being built. Who's going to staff them after Brexit ?

In the hotel lobby the young woman is back at work setting up more of her adventurous floral arrangements. Angus knows less than nothing about floral arrangements but these have a certain 'unstructured' look . This is another way of saying no expense spared. There must be at least twenty of them scattered in alcoves and corridors. Keeping them fresh must be a Sisyphean task.

At the Heathrow champagne and caviar bar two customers are already starting their day in style. Caviar has its place but that's not breakfast. This may be yet another sign I've turned into my father.

At Toulouse airport 'The Font' and the PONs are waiting in the short stay car park. They had been waiting in the arrivals hall but Sophie was not impressed by the four young flak jacketed soldiers who attempted to talk to her. 

There is something rather wonderful about four kids in Kansas uncovering this story about a remarkable woman .

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Old values and modern routines.

Angus heads off to London. At the airport security check three nuns travelling to Milan are being frisked. Something under their cowls makes the scanner beep incessantly. They are told to take off their head wear. Two of the nuns think it's all very exciting. The third, and possibly more senior, is not amused. She has a grumpy Mother Superior air to her. Angus discovers that the French word for wimple is 'guimpe'. There is something incongruous about this momentary clash of old values and modern routines. The modern routines win.

In the newspaper a story about a craft beer company that gives staff with a new dog a week off to let it settle in. There is something very Scottish and pastoral about that.

One of those anonymous fancy hotels. The sort that men in dark suits like. Could be Manhattan or Sydney or Vancouver. By the elevators a young woman is arranging flowers. '' I'm calling this arrangement tropical paradise " she says while I wait for the lift to whisk me to the eighth floor. ' It's just like Tahiti' I reply, untruthfully. She looks at me blankly. Completely blankly.  The doors open and I'm away before she can ask me ' What's Tahiti ? '

A yellow fever injection has been scheduled. The doctor insists I wait for half an hour afterwards to make sure there are no ill effects. Seems that yellow fever injections can have a fatal effect on over 60's. '' You've got the constitution of a mule " the doctor says in a tone of voice that is supposed to be reassuring. While waiting to see if there are any side effects Angus looks at the art on the walls and reads waiting room magazines. There is a particular type of content free magazine only found in doctors waiting rooms. 

The Manhattanites are early diners. This is fine by me. Start at six. Finish at nine thirty. They are also abstemious. A one glass of wine with dinner type affair. This is not so fine. Even worse it's a unexceptional hotel Malbec. The sort chosen by a tee total catering manager. We discuss the Wall, Brexit, Taiwan and the fact that Africa’s population is forecast to double from 1.3 billion today to 2.5 billion in 30 years. Over that time Africa will contribute more than 58% of world population growth .

Starting in August robots will park your car :

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Forlorn tart.

The angelic duo have their fringes trimmed. This enables them to see more clearly.  Bob was somewhat on edge at yesterdays rugby match - more sullen than aggressive. Now that he can weigh up the possible threats to his flock he's much calmer and happier. They also have the fur in their ears plucked. Bob accepts this in stoical silence. Sophie doesn't.

This morning Bob lingers in the kitchen getting an ear scrunch from 'The Font' . Sophie has nothing to complain about. She stands in silence until he emerges from the house then she yelps in an unmistakable '' What's kept you ? Don't you know there's a croissant waiting ? annoyance.

There's little positive that can be said about this mornings solitary display in the bakers. Forlorn tart ?

Monday, January 28, 2019

A tactical detour.

An easy choice today.

A trio of chocolate and a Rum Chantilly.

At the butchers we're faced with a Melon of lamb and an Epigram of Lamb. Unsure of what they might be we opt for lamb chops. The angelic duo watch them being wrapped with studied concentration.

Outside the butchers we make a tactical detour.

Bob and Sophie are not the only dogs who discuss politics with their master :

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The cat on the motor home roof.

The Old Farmer has replaced the brake shoes on the venerable Ford Transit motor home. He takes it out for test drive and heads slowly down the lane with a large black cat sitting contentedly on the roof.

The usual morning bedlam at The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Bob gets in the car. His sister follows. Sophie is not at all happy that her big brother is taking up so much space. He gets out. Then he gets back in again. Sophie makes it clear she thinks he's an oaf. He sits on her. His face has an air of quiet resignation.

The bakers display restricted in its offerings. This may be because we're early and the baker is still hard at work in the kitchen. His wife continues to swell. Another little baker is well on the way. She is in one of her 'moods' this morning. Our transaction conducted in near total silence.

At the greengrocers the girl with the artistic temperament has been hard at work with the aloe fronds.

The largest leeks I've ever seen make an appearance. They are sold in 2.5 kilo bundles which hints at the French having a surprising passion for leeks.

The Newseum in DC is to close :

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Bob stands in the library and alerts me to the fact that the ladies from the Women's Cooperative are at the front gate. Having made little progress this week they have opted to work on a Saturday morning. It would have been helpful if they'd let us know.

The Old Farmer spent yesterday tinkering with the venerable Ford Transit motor home. His central heating still isn't working so he's planning to drive down to Perpignan where he hopes it will be warmer. He is rather unhappy that the village cats have discovered an open skylight in the roof of the old Ford and have been 'sheltering' inside. 

Aude, the bipolar decaratrice, has failed to bring biscuits. Aude is glared at by Sophie.  There is some consolation in the fact that Loic the heavily bifocaled gardener shows up to blow leaves. Loic is oblivious to the presence of two shaggy companions who follow along behind him redistributing his handiwork.

The cake display at the bakers still unexciting. However, the croissant is exceptional. There is little point in commenting on this as Bob and Sophie think all croissants are exceptional.

The apple tarts look OK. It's the red fruit ones that seem to be lacking in finesse.

There are Brownies !

This Scottish hotel has reopened. There are 70 different wallpapers. The bar looks like a great place to spend a wet highland afternoon  :

Friday, January 25, 2019

A double purpose.

Morning walk time. Bob sees a cat. Sophie is too busy looking for something to eat in the drainage ditch to notice . Bob disappears. Sophie saunters happily along by my side. You'd think she might miss her brother. Not a bit of it.

The weather dry again. We sit on the storm drain and put the world to rights. I tell Sophie that Jared Kushner has expressed surprise that only one Democrat Senator supported a negotiated settlement to the shutdown. Sophie sits in silence. She is much more interested in the story about Wilbur Ross and his slippers. Bob rejoins us. He's looking pleased with himself. 

Two retired farmers in Peugeot vans pass and wave. So does the man in the large  green metallic Toyota Land Cruiser with the manic Westie. True to furious form the Westie hurls itself from the passenger seat into the back of the car. It can be seen standing against the rear window barking as they disappear down the hill. The young garagiste rushes by in the souped up little Citroen.

The ladies of the Women's Cooperative call to say they have a problem. A speeding van has driven along the road and they've steered onto the grass verge to avoid it. Their rear wheels are stuck. Angus is dispatched to see if he can help. '' Good morning ladies " he says cheerfully only to be met in silence. Some matting under the tyres provides traction. A heavy foot on the accelerator and the car is freed. No thanks is forthcoming. Angus can now add extracting cars from mud to the list of skills the Women's Cooperative consider him useful for. Talking to priapic llamas being the other. '' Everyone has a purpose in life " says 'The Font'  before adding delphically '' You apparently have two ".

Grain free dog food :

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The work continues.

The ladies from the Women's Cooperative show up at at eight. They are making glacial progress but promise that Angus's office will be painted and papered by close of business tomorrow.  The bedrooms will take a little longer to complete . It seems that they will be finished ' in a week or so '. 

It pours all morning. The cleaning lady hoovers upstairs, the bib overall wearing ladies work down below. The PONs get under everyones feet. In the afternoon it's dry but chilly. Bob and Sophie ( who are by now stir crazy ) are allowed out and chase invisible things and bark at the wind.

On the other side of the lane The Old Farmers central heating belches clouds of black acrid smoke, then stops. The PONs watch as I carry two electric radiators over to him. We have a convesration about how expensive they'll be to run. '' It'll only be for a day or two " I tell him - with perhaps more hope than is entirely wise.

At the end of an exciting day Sophie settles in the snug and is soon asleep. Not even a foot bath can dislodge the mud that's worked its way into her paws from mole hill excavating.

This was played on Radio Nostalgie this morning :

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


On our morning walk we see a large fox, a weasel and a calf that's escaped from the barn and is enjoying the fresh grass in the orchard. Bob barks at the calf but decides not to chase it. The calf seems quite unconcerned.

Add to that the crispy end bits from a croissant and you have the makings of the best day ever.

This mornings cake selection lacklustre.

The PONs are doing their best to cope with the activity in the house. Aude, the bi-polar decaratrice was here all day yesterday. She brought biscuits of the crunchy variety. These were gratefully received. The full gang are expected to return later this morning. 

The cleaning lady is also expected. 'The Font' saw her yesterday to see what's happening with her car. The garage is waiting for a new wing to be delivered. In the meantime she's driving around in a little Peugeot 305 courtesy car.

Winter mayhem on I-95. A tired surgical resident on a back to back shift heads to the vending machine for a Snickers. He's asked to look in on an old lady. She's alone, uncertain, sometimes awake, sometimes confused but wanting her hand held and her favourite hymn sung. A white coated stranger with an atonal voice, a smile and a black eye from a weekend rugby game sits by her. A tender stroke of the brow while she's told how very beautiful she is. What are the chances of finding a grandson of the manse who would know the words of this  ? Serendipity for a long journey ?  

And here's another I-95 medical story :

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


The ladies from the Women's Cooperative arrive. They are all dressed in identical duck egg blue bib overalls. Angus thinks of commenting on this uniformity but decides against it. The lady who chews tobacco has a new hairstyle. She's taking to wearing her hair shaved at the sides with what I believe is a 'mullet' running across the top.  Valuing his life Angus doesn't consider commenting on this.

Aude, the bipolar decaratrice who has lengthy and animated conversations with herself, has brought biscuits. This simple act of generosity means that Aude is treated with great reverence.

Logic might suggest that the gang would decorate one room at a time. Not a bit of it. They are adherents of the 'lets do a little bit in every room we're going to be working in' style. The tall thin one with the beehive hairdo fills in imperfections in the walls. The mulleted lady puts plastic sheeting on the floor, Aude mixes wallpaper glue and two others stand outside the front door smoking and chatting into their mobile phones. They have forgotten the wallpapering table so they all go at eleven to pick it up.

They return at three. There is a delay in starting work while Sophie is separated from a tub of wallpaper paste.The lady with the beehive hairdo breaks the thermostat on the office radiator. It starts to leak.  The ladies finish at five thirty. Aude will be here tomorrow. The others have an urgent job fitting carpets. They promise to be back en masse on Wednesday. 'The Font' puts a tin can under the radiator to collect the drips. We go looking for the Polish plumbers.

Outside the first of the blossom. The arctic weather is due to arrive tonight.

Venus and Jupiter glowing in the sky this morning.

Monday, January 21, 2019


A grey and wet and miserable start to the day. For the PONs there's no such thing as a miserable day. Only great days and today which is going to be the best day ever.

Angus looks at the stone floor on the terrace and wonders if he'll ever get it power washed clean.

The ladies from the women's cooperative are due this morning to paint two bathrooms and paper two bedrooms downstairs. Angus shifts furniture and covers beds with dust sheets. Aude, the bipolar decaratrice, thinks they'll do it in a week. '' If not we'll probably do it in two ". Angus quietly despairs over this cheerfully delivered imprecision.

At the supermarket something that we must have passed a hundred times but never noticed. An outside washing machine and dryer. The washing machine can do a 18 kilo load. Someone is already using it.

In the garden centre Christmas is having an extended run. 50% off selected items. It must have been a miserable season for retailers. The yellow vest protesters seem to have put a lot of people off shopping. We see that they're out in force again by the roundabout piling up wood to light a fire .

Probably the oddest thing I've read in a while and definitely not a good idea :