Sunday, March 31, 2019

Self denial interrupted.

A week away in the kennels and two mornings of rolling in dessicated Mole have combined to give Sophie's fur  a notable piquancy. Angus plonks her on the garden table and gives her a quick trim. The trim proves to be more thorough than intended. Angus is rather surprised to see just how shorne the family diva is. ' Goodness ' says 'The Font' - which just about sums it up. Thankfully, Sophie is oblivious to her appearance. 

Sophie is taken on a lengthy guilt inspired walk by her master. A long drink from the zinc bath by the pottery kiln and a chance to watch the pikes in the pond. The German billionaires new garage for his motorcycles is having its windows fitted by a team of three taciturn Berliners. They ignore Sophie.

A trip to the cafe. Sophie gets a larger than usual portion of croissant.

A new shop has opened up selling biscuits and fudge. The owner is very smiley. The PONs share some biscuit crumbs.

We then move onto the bakers run by the young lady who went on a course in Paris. Her produce is head and shoulders above the other local bakers.

Angus is supposed to be adhering to a Lenten chocolate and wine free abstemiousness. He explains to 'The Font' that it would be bad manners not to have bought something from the biscuit shop and to have failed to support the young lady. Self denial can wait until tomorrow.

Well I never :

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Eau de mole.

The weather remains idyllic.

The tree peonies in full bloom at the same time as the wisteria on the front of the house starts to flower. The first time the two have marched in step.

Both PONs are in a particularly happy place. Reunited with their flock, a la carte cuisine restored and the 'put the world to rights' conversations on the storm drain a chance for ear scrunches.

The owls have again been snacking on moles. Sophie finds some partially eaten ones and swallows them. Are they fresh or remains she didn't find yesterday ? She then has a good old roll on her back. She sticks her tongue out as she does so.  Eau de mole the scent of the season.

Then it's home for a quick nap on the stoop.

So starts a Saturday morning with two happy dogs.

Friday, March 29, 2019

What a noise.

The bats that nest in the eaves of The Rickety Old Farmhouse were out in force last night enjoying the late sunset and Saharan breeze. This morning its the turn of the woodpeckers to announce the arrival of Spring. The sound of their fevered hammering drifting up from the valley. The chorus from the finches on the bird table can't quite drown out their tapping . The finches operate a form of avian air traffic control. Eight of them feed, while others are stacked up, three layers high, in the branches of the acacia tree. The stacked ones ( can the goldfinches be noisier than the chaffinches ? ) trill their impatience.

We head into the orchard, through the gate and down to the little stream. Hares watch us. Five deer freeze as we cut through the wheat field. Quail and partridge fly off ,wings beating like fury. The PONs remain ignorant to all this. Badgers, deer and who knows what else have left scintillating scents on tree stumps. Our forward progress is of the fits and starts variety. Everything is carefully and lengthily sniffed. This is a morning for canine studiousness.

No less than six large, dead, moles in a pile under the last plane tree along the lane. The owls have been enjoying a communal snack. They are messy eaters. I'd always thought owls were solitary things but our local variety are clearly of the partying type.

To her masters horror Sophie wolfs down the remains of the moles and then turns on her back and rolls away contentedly. Nothing like essence of mole to scent a girls fur. I tell her this is not the height of ladylike sophistication but am ignored. Decorousness plays second fiddle to a good back scratch and a snack of dead furry things.

Easter eggs make it into the supermarket. Will the French ignore chocolate at Easter in the same way they ignored chocolate at Christmas ? Will heavily discounted Easter eggs still be on sale in May ? Angus. who is stoically suffering a Lenten programme of self denial hopes that he can return to processed sugar asap.

This cheerful song was played on the radio this morning :

Another of those things I'd never thought about :

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A fresh face

Both PONs are busy catching up with their post k-e-n-n-e-l sleep.

The canine capacity for restorative dozing is remarkable. 

We are now back into our morning ' you're in my spot ' routine. Sophie makes it abundantly clear to her brother that he's in the wrong place in the back of the car. Bob gets out. Sophie makes herself comfortable. Bob gets back in. Somethings never change.

In the cafe a fresh face observes the PONs. Bob is too busy devouring his curvy croissant end to notice. Sophie wants to play. The family diva emits a squeak of delight.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse we are joined at the gate by The Old Farmer. He bursts into tears . '' I'm so glad you're back ". He's got to that age where having watchful and friendly neighbours is important. 'The Font' gives him a Great Wall of China baseball cap. Ten minutes later he can be seen sitting on his lawn tractor wearing it. All is well with the world.

An unusual choice in the non-Chinese language movie selection on Air China :

A hero. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Restoration comedy.

The angelic duo safely collected from the k-e-n-n-e-l-s.

Bob insists on going everywhere I go. Through the night he wanders into the (out of bounds ) bedroom every hour to check I've not gone off again.

Sophie adopts a rather more miffed '' I haven't forgiven you for leaving me '' approach.

They've found their flock, they're in their own home and the standard of cuisine has improved. The garden is now being checked for c-a-t-s. Soon we shall head off on the morning croissant run. Definitely the best day ever.

In Beijing vast flowerbeds of plastic tulips.

Why do Chinese policemen always walk in line ?

 Sunday afternoon head ware.

No trip to Asia is complete without the humorous warning signs.

Outside the Raffles Hotel more cheerful plastic flowers. This approach to gardening certainly cuts down on weeding.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Coming home

In the departure lounge at Beijing a young man wearing a slogan that is strangely apt for flying.

Beijing busy and ( amazingly ) free of pollution and sand storms all the time we were there.

The hotel lobby art could only be in China.

Not everything would be found on a French menu.

Give it 12 or so hours and Bob and Sophie will segue back into their usual routine.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


The PONs don't know it yet but soon they will be bundled into the back of the car and driven off to the k-e-n-n-e-l-s.

First a  visit to the bakers ( cakes still forbidden ). Artisinal Easter eggs have made an appearance.

Onto the cafe. A chance for the PONs to be greeted by the old farmers who are congregating to put the world to rights. Even they are amazed at Britain's Brexit shenanigans. Next to us a gentleman wearing a very Gallic red beret. Bob and Sophie settle down under the table for their curly croissants ends .

'The Font' is busy packing. Angus makes himself scarce. That '' which one do you think I should take ?' ritual. After more than four decades Angus still can't get the answers right.

Bob may be getting suspicious.

We'll be back from Beijing this time next week.

Monday, March 18, 2019

A Churchillian air.

Bob leaps into the back of the car. This morning he's accompanied by a piece of carrot which gives him something of a Churchillian air.

His sister is busily guarding the house against the Collar Doves that are nesting in the tree by the front door and who have the the audacity to walk across the lawn.

The piglets have escaped from their pen. They race along the lane. There may be eight of them, maybe more. Difficult to say they're moving so quickly. Some black, some grey, some speckled. Tiny and plump. This band of freedom loving renegades make a happy squealing detour through the wheat field and are gone before I can get the i-Phone out. 

Sunshine, piglets and PONs. Not a bad start to a day.

This is amazing   :

When did people start to get old ? :

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A lot of rage about.

Good morning from Bob.

And good morning from Sophie. Both agree that this is going to be the best day ever.

On our morning walk Sophie is accompanied by her shaggy shadow .

To the railway station for a croissant. The waitress at the railway station greets Bob like a  long lost friend. The weather is warm and cloudless which means we can sit at the outside tables. Sitting outside, well away from the platforms, enables the PONs to observe the other patrons while remaining untroubled by the  screeching and hissing noises as the TGV from Paris comes in. The PONs get given three quarters of a croissant that had been left by someone rushing to catch the fast train to Bordeaux. Bobs tail goes wild.

Across from the station a church that is all out of proportion. A huge spire and a tiny nave. All steeple and no body. It has somehow been squeezed - shoehorned more like - into  a  corner plot. I'd assumed that half the nave had been knocked down in some road widening scheme. Closer inspection shows that this isn't the case as the sandwich bar on the corner has been around for a lot longer than the church. Perhaps the thing was put up as a chapel for rail travellers when rail travel was a thing? I guess it could have gone up any time between 1890 and 1910.

Angus goes to the Syrian refugee barber.  A tall,thin, late twenty something  man in grey tracksuit bottoms, an orange tee shirt, brown leather jacket and black baseball cap comes in. He plonks himself on the faux leather sofa, sighs,  looks around, notes that the barber is an immigrant and suddenly launches into a tirade of vulgarity that even a seasoned rugby player would have difficulty matching.  Angus initially thinks it might be Tourette's Syndrome but it isn't. The angry man is of the opinion that his taxes are paying for the Syrian barber and his wife to live in idle luxury. The irate man storms out slamming the door and banging the plate glass window three times with his fist as he goes. Angus addresses some reassuring words for the poor barber. He thanks me but says he's used to it. There's a lot of rage about.

The economics of running a restaurant or why appetizers cost what they do - a strangely informative read :

Angus broke his alcohol free Lent while watching this nail biting draw

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Six am. Sophie wanders into the kitchen to greet Angus. She looks a little dishevelled.  '' Rough night ? " I ask.  This is one of those mornings when a girl clearly needs a little time to adjust.

This week has been a week of definite progress at The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

1) The joiner has replaced the door to the wine cellar. He's also repaired and rehung one of the 18th century shutters.
2) The builder has laid some new floor tiles.
3) The gardeners have replaced the dead lavenders and are planting new olive trees .

We're still waiting for the plumber and the electrician but 3 out of 5 is a pretty good turn out rate .

The PONs have shown a great interest in everything that's been done. Sadly, none of this weeks visitors have brought Jaffa Cakes.

Exhibition on dogs :

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beany day.

A stiff cold wind blowing in from the Atlantic. Before heading off Angus pops on a beany and a scarf. Humans may think it's a bit chilly but the PONs are of the opinion that these bracing conditions are ideal. This is certainly setting itself up as the best day ever.

The gardeners show up to replace 35 lavenders along the drive. Some lavenders thrive and grow to be four feet tall. Others hang on for a season and then shrivel and abruptly die. Hardly surprising. The soil here is pure clay - saturated in wet winters and baked solid in the hot summers.

This morning Angus and the PONs sit on the storm drain and discuss Beto's hand movements, the first veto and Christchurch. Of these New Zealand is the most shocking and sad and unexpected. We ignore Brexit. Having put the world to rights we head back to The Rickety Old Farmhouse . Sophie is keen to get involved in the gardening. It is quickly suggested that she come inside and leave the gardeners alone.

Nothing but nothing is as delicious as the stagnant water in the zinc bath by the village pond.

This house is probably as isolated as you can get in Scotland. Angus looks at it and thinks of bracing walks. 'The Font' looks at it and wonders where you'd go for milk  :

The Chickpea future :

One for the record books :