Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A welcome home gesture.

The last of the sunflowers cut and put out on the breakfast table. Despite the early hour bees, en masse, arrive and start collecting pollen. The deputy mayor walks slowly past the gate. We haven't seen him for two weeks  and discover from a brief chat that he's returned from hospital after surgery for lung cancer. He's been told to walk for an hour - twice a day. I wish him Bon courage. At the war memorial each of the teenage boys waiting for the school bus shake his hand in a 'welcome home' gesture. Somethings about France you have to love.

A colourful display of cakes at the bakers this morning. The eldest child has started play school. The other two seem to have increased their level of hyperactivity to compensate.

The Polish builders are back. They were supposed to have finished the work in the house by the village pond in time for Easter. They did indeed finish but have now returned to put in the bannister on the staircase and tile the hallway. 'Good day Mister Angus ' says Gregor the chain smoking team leader before adding  'We drive from Nowy Sancz overnight '.  Angus has no idea where Nowy Sancz might be but makes a low pitched whistle of amazement. This seems to please Gregor who adds ' Yes! It is very far but our van flies '.

The weather now much cooler. Ten degrees this morning. A thin layer of low cloud hangs over the valley.

Sophie is taken to the vet for some harvest mite shampoo.

For her trip to the vet Sophie has adopted her abandoned and abused dog look. Bob simply looks squiffy. Why is it dogs can never look groomed when you need them to ?

Dog dementia - https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-09-08/dog-dementia-more-common-as-pets-live-longer/11481852

British pragmatism. The law has always been an issue for politicians. Some choose to abide by it - others ....

Awesome - in the literal sense of the word :

Monday, September 9, 2019

Stoic calmness.

A trip to the vets is on the cards for Sophie. She gets Frontline tablets every month. These are supposed to deal with worms and fleas but she's managed to get some sort of mite infestation. This is the downside to being an accomplished badger poo hunter and venturing into all sorts of inaccessible places.

At the storm drain I sit and explain the cause of Sophie's scratching to Bob. He absorbs the news with stoic calmness. The school bus driver and the farmers in their little white vans all wave at this strange foreigner who is sitting at the roadside chatting merrily away to his two shaggy companions. Today we also deal with the timing of the next summit between America and North Korea. Secretary Pompeo 'hopes' it will take place in weeks. Bob thinks 'hope' is a good basis on which to run foreign policy. Angus is less sure.

The cafe is closed. The owners has put up a sign saying she gets irritable and that to deal with it she's taking a few days off. She's always taking a few days off .

We go into the bank to pick up new cash line cards but make a sudden and determined retreat. Sophie has noticed there's already a canine customer there. Neither she nor the canine customer take their chance meeting in silence.

We detour to the busy cafe on the square. A croissant and a bowl of water restore the PONs equanimity.

Music for the best Monday morning ... ever : https://youtu.be/C3nxOF8wnMk?t=759

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Above inflation

Bob has dragged Sophie's mattress into his own bed . He seems remarkably happy to have found a way of irritating his sister in such a creative way. As I open the front door he lies in his bed to let me share in the glory of the moment.

The two PONs follow me round the garden. They both, briefly, glow golden in the sunrise. Sophie then notices the owls sitting on the beams in  the barn. That ends the days silence.

As we pass the church we can hear the choir practising for this mornings ten am mass.  The church is one of those buildings that has been the object of make do and mend for the better part of nine centuries. Some buildings develop a much loved look.

Today's croissant a 7/10. Looks the part but could have done with another 30 seconds in the oven. The PONs glare at the sparrows who flock around the table in the hope that there will be some crumbs. Sophie ensures there aren't.

The bakers wife has had a bout of creativity. Strawberry swans an unusually theatrical morning surprise. She has forgotten the strawberries so they are more correctly strawberry less swans.

Aren't hot dogs supposed to be pork ? The burger restaurant has started to serve them with a beef sausage. What will the locals make of this American exoticism ? They understand burgers but hot dogs may be a culinary step too far.

Vets bills are rising well above the rate of inflation :.http://nationwidedvm.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/NWP-VPI0708182.pdf

Short termism British style : https://medium.com/the-long-now-foundation/what-a-prehistoric-monument-reveals-about-the-value-of-maintenance-4d1b89343984

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A satisfied look.

I'm out early with Sophie. Bob is in the kitchen watching 'The Font' make porridge. He is of the culinary school that believes porridge is best served with dollops of honey rather than seasonal berries. He also believes that he should sit and closely monitor each stage of the porridge making process.

Sophie is out in the garden watching Angus check the irrigation system. Sophie is there in the vague hope that Angus will suddenly uncover a cornucopia of fully filled yogurt pots. She's been disappointed so far but you never know. An onion seller comes to the gate. Sophie becomes a thing possessed. She doesn't like the man.The family princess throws herself at the gate snarling like a demon. The onion seller mutters something incredibly impolite and departs.

I tell Sophie that this was most unlady like behaviour. She gives me a satisfied look that says '' He won't come back again. Never trust a stranger bearing onions ". Dogs, it must be said, tend to be excellent judges of character.

The Fonts October holidaying has now moved on to Greece.  'Who goes to Greece in October ? ' asks Angus. ' It will be idyllically quiet ' comes the reply.

So starts a new day in a small village in deepest, deepest France profonde with two lively sheepdogs. There's a temptation to call it just another day but in fact it's going to be the best day ever ... by far.

Friday, September 6, 2019


Low cloud has blown in from the Atlantic and settled on the ridge bringing with it some light drizzle. Bob follows me into the kitchen. He waits patiently while Angus prepares a caffeine fix and finds a jacket to wear.  The first 'jacket' morning after a long hot summer. 

His sister soon joins her brother. Bob starts his day quietly. Today he's pondering whether the American President will meet his Iranian counterpart at the UN General Assembly later this month. Bob thinks this may , on balance, be a vote winner.

Quiet is a word that doesn't exist in Sophie's vocabulary. She squeaks with pent up delight at the thought of the adventures that lie ahead.

After our morning procession round the village Sophie settles down with some air dried tripe that Madame Bay has delivered.

What better way for a girl to start the best day ever than with some air dried tripe?  A silence, interrupted by the sound of happy chewing,  descends over The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

Brazilian avocados in the greengrocers. They are the size of canon balls ... and as hard.  Ordinary sized avocados can be seen to the right for comparison.

 The latest on pyramid building :

Thursday, September 5, 2019


The temperature back into the low 20's. PON weather. This morning we head off for an hours walk to the stream and the waterfall. Only problem is that it's the better part of a month since it rained and the stream and the waterfall have both dried out . We do however watch the dragon flies and Kingfishers dart about along the shady stream bed. There must have been a herd of deer here overnight because the angelic duo are in head down nostril flaring mood.

At the supermarket they've installed an Amazon parcel delivery machine. It is improbable that any of the residents of this corner of deepest deepest France profonde would know how to use it. 

We always travel in October. We'd thought of going to Shanghai but with things as they are this plan didn't gain traction. Angus suggested that we go to Japan for the Rugby World Cup. A plan the Cost Centres heartily endorsed. This proposal was met with a 'Ha!'. Not as Angus hoped a 'Ha!' of approbation but a 'Ha!' of derision.

'The Font' observes that the clothing store that Angus likes is selling Rugby World Cup apparel.

Angus thinks it extremely improbable that he will be seen wearing items of clothing with motifs or slogans.

I once heard this lady sing this song at the Fox theatre in Atlanta. I'd not heard it again until it was played this morning on Radio Nostalgie. Does anyone else remember it ? : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsL9UL9qbv8

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The French teachers Labradors are fine.

After the summer holidays the village has once again segued back into its workaday routine.

On our walk to the storm drain we wave at 1) the young garagiste in his little black Citroen with the raspy exhaust 2) the farmer in the emerald green metallic Toyota Land Cruiser with the manic Westie that stands at the back window and howls 3) the French teacher (who has found her two missing Labradors after nine days missing - their paws are bloody and bruised but otherwise none the worse for wear  ) and 4) three farmers in their little white Renault vans. The school bus also passes. We can just make out the two mournful tikes sitting on the back row. Their disdainful eleven year old sister sits at the front.

While Sophie hunts for badger poo Bob and Angus settle on the storm drain and put the world to rights.

In the little market town the bank has finally closed. Internet banking has put it out of business. The Post Office has moved to a four mornings a week schedule. I'd give it a year before it too closes.

On a side street a fifteenth century house with the original top floor balcony in place.

Bob and Sophie come back to The Rickety Old Farmhouse for a nap. This morning Sophie decides that sleeping in front of the door is a contribution to the orderly running of the morning routine. She is asked to move.

Yorkshire People Power arrives in London to the sound of On Ilkley Moor Baht' at https://twitter.com/SebastianEPayne/status/1168878985486503936

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

'Eternal love is not possible / Any other love is not worth the trouble '.

Sophie is harnessed up and taken out on a lead this morning. Just as well. She's in one of her feisty ' Where are the cats. Let me at them !' moods. Being on a lead doesn't stop her from standing on her hind legs and checking all the walls for interlopers.

At the war memorial she is greeted by three red eyed village mothers who have just dropped their little ones off for their first morning at school. The mothers are in an emotional state . One little girl didn't want to go in and had to be 'encouraged'. That '' You'll love it when you get inside "  conversation. The two little boys skipped through the door without looking back. The mothers aren't sure which of these reactions is the more upsetting. In four hours they'll be back outside the school waiting to collect them.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Sophie positions herself under a garden bench. A secret spot safe from passing eagles and big brothers.

From this invisible spot she can maintain a running commentary on world events. Sophie, it must be said, is not a quiet dog.

Angus has finished  the 960 pages of Vasily Grossman's Stalingrad. Epic in every sense. Not so much a story of a battle as a gentle and at times stirring tale about workers and teachers and orphans. Probably a better work than Life and Fate. 

One of the ( many ) characters quotes a resonantly  beautiful line from the poet Lermontov: 'Eternal love is not possible / Any other love is not worth the trouble '.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Into September .

Schools start again today. On our early morning walk we pass the two tikes standing waiting by the war memorial for the bus. They are staring forlornly at their phones and have the look of men about to be dragged off to the gallows. Their elder sister stands apart from them. She exhibits that supremely amplified form of disdain that an eleven year old girl reserves for younger brothers.

The carpenters youngest son is starting at the Lycee in the little market town.  He greets Bob and Sophie with a cheerful ''Bonjour". His big brother has walked down to see him off on the bus for his first day at the new school. Later this week the big brother is heading off on  a two year course at an opthamology institute in Cahors. He'll be staying there during the week and coming home at weekends. A big thing for a sixteen year old.The bigger brother has had a growth spurt and must be all of six feet tall although he's as thin as a stick insect. I tell him that opthamology will be a very exciting profession although, on reflection, 'fulfilling' might have been a better choice of word.

New schools. New adventures. Leaving home. Village rites of passage. 

Back at home the PONs are allowed to lick clean the yogurt pots. They stand side by side in the garden and exude a happiness that you could cut with a knife.

Today we head off to the fancy bakers.  A mille feuille catches my eye. Too big. 'The Font' will take a mouthful , say delicious and then pass the rest across the lunch table.

We toy with the idea of a smaller strawberry and chocolate tart for me and a Rhum Baba for 'The Font' ...

but opt instead for a very adult wholemeal Tarte Tatin.

One of my favourites by the man whose job it is to watch North Korean television. The video of the dancing coal miners is intriguing :

And Audens September 1st poem. The final stanza the most powerful thing he ever wrote ? It makes me think how brave young demonstrators are :

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Five times.

To 'The Fonts' delight the roses that suffered in the 40 degree temperatures have started to bloom again. So has the wisteria at the front door which has flowered no less than five times this year.

The angelic duo follow Angus around the garden as he tops up the pool and makes sure that the swimming pools pH balance is right. They sit and observe Angus while maintaining a sort of yodelling conversation that starts low and modulates higher.  Barks are presumably reserved as a warning sound. This yodelling is probably PON for '' What's keeping him from heading off to the bakers ?'.

On our morning walk we stop to observe the new solar powered light by the village hall. There's also a new picnic table. This has presumably been set up for the non-existent crowds that decide they'd like to come and have a picnic in the middle of nowhere ... at night.

Last year there was an avocado shortage. Latin America seems to have planted extra avocados for the 2019 season. Naturally there is now an avocado glut. No less than seven varieties in the greengrocers this morning.

The croissant at the bakers this morning more than adequate. There is a brief moment when the sparrows flutter around Sophie's water bowl. She lets them know in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome. Bob is quite unconcerned by the sparrows.

And so starts a Sunday morning in a little French village ( pop 67 ) in the heart of deepest, deepest France profonde. Two Polish Lowland Sheepdogs think it is the most exciting place on earth.

Heard this poem being recited on the BBC News last night.  They were covering an anti prorogation political rally. Whoever thought that Shelley could become politically fashionable ?

By Percy Bysshe Shelley
'Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another;
'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.’