Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bright and clear.

The French weather forecast predicts strong winds, grey skies and snow. It turns out to be a bright, clear morning with one of those arctic winds that always manages to find the gap between your scarf and the back of your neck.

And so another year comes to and end. Where did it go ? Here in the village the man with anger management issues has come to blows with the German billionaires builder. Monsieur and Madame Bay have been spending much more time at their bungalow on the edge of the village. Monsieur Bay has been having some health issues and Madame Bays eyesight has, almost, led her to give up driving the ' Wild Child' voiturette. The old mayor has retired and passed on the baton to the tile fitter who works bizarre 'nocturnal' hours. The church, locked up for most of this last year, continues to watch over the churchyards comings and goings .  The swaying Jesus no longer sways. Sophie remains on savaging terms with Woolly Mammoth. The Old Farmer is planning a trip in the motor home with his lady friend for his 89th birthday in February. 

On our start of day walk we wave at three passing farmers in their white vans ( two Peugeots and a Renault ), the young garagiste in his 1990's era BMW  with a baby seat in the back, and the old mayor who is on his way to pick up his wife's extra strength Diazepam from the pharmacy in the neighbouring village. This is a part of the world where you wave at every passing car . 

Hogmanay. Just the two of us. What to do ? Have a pizza by the fire or mark the passing of an 'interesting' 2020 into the sunrise of 2021 in the way we always do ? Angus is all for pizza , rugby re-runs and a good bottle of Pomerol. 'The Font' is of the opinion that 2020 should be remembered and 2021 welcomed more formally. Why let a pandemic interrupt the habits of a lifetime ? The world may be changing but in The Rickety Old Farmhouse Angus will wear a kilt ( it and the sporran are found , after much searching, in a guest bedroom where they were put so they couldn't be lost ), 'The Font' will light the candles and Sophie will doze contentedly under the dining room table until the midnight hour strikes. 

On the witching hour absent friends will be remembered and this will be sung in thanks for the kindness that people have shown us over this last year :

A Happy and especially Healthy New Year to one and all ! May the healers of the world have a good 2021 repairing the damage of recent times.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Partial mayhem.

It's continued to rain. We're half way through a three day Atlantic storm. On our walk this morning we hear the stream before we see it. The  overnight downpour has turned the little water course into an express train carting branches and whatever else it can dislodge along with it. Sophie makes an executive decision to look at the stream from a distance. She makes it clear that 'No way is this girl going anywhere near that !'

Back at the house a stand in post lady has delivered a parcel from America. It contains a gift from a kind lady author for Sophie. A Wooly Mammoth that makes an intriguing crunching sound when you pick it up.

Sophie catches sight of the Woolly Mammoth and becomes transfixed. There is nothing that can divert her from her sole goal in life - savaging this newcomer.

With Sophie determined not to let ' Woolly Mammoth ' out of her sight the kitchen moves from partial mayhem  to full on mayhem. Angus retires to his office to talk to Manhattanites.

Is this the coolest website ever for a restaurant ? California naturally -

Tweet du jour :

More socially distanced music. I dread to think how much effort it must have taken to get this human age group to sit still. An American song  :

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Oratorio in a barn

A real winter storm whistles round the house. Shutters rattle and down pipes gurgle. It pours all day and it pours all night. After a quick start of morning venture into the garden for a comfort break, Sophie returns to the library where she does a good impersonation of a dog that's never been near a brush or a comb in its life.

A little later - after breakfast and a chance to thaw out - she's loaded into the back of the car for a trip to the stream for a drink and a chance to refresh the mud on her paws and her nose. The white carpers in the back of the big car, despite layers of blankets, are slowly but surely turning grey.

It goes without saying that the lawyers are on holiday all this week. Why did I ever think they might be working ? The saga of the dog car replacement will have to wait until next Tuesday when they return. It is improbable that work on the dog car will accelerate between now and the New Year.


Dog owners will both understand appreciate the human kindness in this :

We have moved on to this stage with the turkey left overs . Sophie approved :

Socially distanced New Yorkers :

Monday, December 28, 2020

An explosion of sound

Back to work in France after the long Christmas weekend. It's turned really cold thanks to a storm blowing in from the Bay of Biscay. There was hail mixed with sleet last night. Sophie stuck her nose out of the door and quickly returned to the warmth of the hallway. Not the weather for a PONette to linger in the garden. The post lady is still on holiday. We didn't receive any mail last week so can only presume her replacement / stand in didn't show up.  Perhaps we'll get a delivery today ?

The battle with the Volvo garage will be resumed. The dealership sent an e-mail late on Christmas Eve informing us the car was being ' moved to one of Volvo's four national repair centres to have its faults remedied'. After six, coming on seven, weeks it is less than reassuring to know the faults are serious enough to require specialist work. Later this morning a call will be made to the lawyers to have them chase up the dealership about replacing the 'problem' car with a new one. Meanwhile Sophie enjoys being chauffeured around in the big car with white carpets. The white carpets are becoming less white by the day.

Angus may have car problems but Sophie has to deal with her own traumas - the two horses. She is munching on the grass when she looks up and finds them towering over her, peering over the fence. They have wandered over unnoticed.  She becomes rooted to the spot. Not what a girl is expecting on a Monday morning. The family diva is attached to her lead and encouraged, willingly, away.

Laugh of the day :

Ad of the day. Surely a dog owners favourite :

Some seasonal Benjamin Britten :

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Xylophone or Glockenspiel ?

Sophie's life continues to be an amalgam of routine and excitement.

The routine of a drink from the water hole by the horse field.

The excitement of the two horses wandering over to say 'Bonjour'

The horses get given a carrot which the PONette finds I-N-F-U-R-I-A-T-I-N-G !  The horses are very large and are standing very close so she keeps her irritation to herself. Sophie carefully repositions herself behind me.  You never know with horses.

We sit on the storm drain . Angus talks on his mobile, briefly, to a Manhattanite. Brexit, Ossoff, Warnock and government shutdown intersperse this mornings seasonal cheer. My fluffy companion is quasi patient and gets an ear chook.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Sophie heads upstairs to the dining room. There was turkey there last night . Why isn't it there this morning ? She has whole heartedly entered into the spirit of Christmas.

When faced with disappointment the only sensible thing for a girl to do is repair to the half landing for a restorative nap and hope that gravy covered roast potatoes will magically appear.

In the PON breast hope springs eternal .

Whoever knew you could have mass xylophones ? Or are they Glockenspiels  ?  I count fifteen of them which must be some sort of record in the Xylophonic world

And some music from one of the West Coasts least known architectural gems :

The local restaurant experimented with take out orders. For one night, and one night only, it offered duck casserole at 36 euros a portion. Since then it has remained resolutely shut. By contrast New York has got adventurous take out cuisine right :

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Leaving none, embracing all.

Overnight, the Father Christmas on the village green has gained a face mask. It wasn't there yesterday afternoon so Angus is inclined to think it's the work of our insomniacal new mayor.  He's never in the town hall when you'd expect / like him to be there. Instead, he  seems to do his paperwork at three in the morning. I wonder what his wife and children think about his sleep patterns ?  Some folks ( dog owners ) are early birds, others night owls.

Christmas Day passes uneventfully. Sophie rediscovers the wonders of gravy, turkey, roast potatoes and Brussel sprouts. The rest of her day is spent following Angus round the house in the hope that gravy, turkey, roast potatoes and Brussel sprouts will be served up on the hour, every hour. There is much washing of her muzzle.

A cloud free night. This morning this early bird and his furry companion are up and out early. The rising sun highlights a dozen or so satellites sauntering across the sky. We find the first light frost of the season on the grass.  Something about frost that triggers Sophie's DNA. This is Polish Lowland weather. She races ahead.  It's going to be a great new day.

It would seem life in Australia is going on pretty much as before. I didn't know this was a carol. The tune I recognize but where from ?

Friday, December 25, 2020

A Christmas Day Adeste Fidelis

The village C-A-T-S have been attracted by the light of the Christmas candle that's been burning outside the front door through the night. There are three of them asleep on the door step as we set off on our start of day walk. Sophie sees them and howls. Peace on earth and Christmas goodwill  are not concepts that extend to these feline interlopers. The family diva ensures the garden is safe. She goes left. The C-A-T-S go right. Sophie is convinced she's done a great job of chasing them. I don't disillusion her.

It's suddenly turned cold. A bitter wind running in from the Atlantic. Sophie with her thick coat is oblivious to the weather.  In fact from the spring in her step I'd say this is perfect PON weather.

After breakfast a  quick trip to the river while it's still quiet. 

After thirty minutes of exploring ditches and verges Sophie has developed a 'frizzed up and mud caked ' aura. Time to head home. The world may be in varying degrees of lockdown but the PONettes spirits are soaring. There will be turkey, sprouts and gravy.

A Merry Christmas to all readers who have struggled through this somewhat dull and repetitive  pandemic blog .This year 'a little village where nothing ever happens' has literally been 'a little village where nothing ever happens'. Having a dog has been a reminder that despite the gloom there is still excitement to be had and mischief to be found .... and created. 

 And here as music to cook by  are three more variants of socially distanced carols:

A jaunty , socially distanced , Adeste Fidelis from Germany :

And an equally socially distanced and ever so slightly mask muffled Minuit Chretien from Canada :

And a clever use of technology :

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve Carols

A quite remarkable start to the day. Every tree in the garden and along the lane covered in starlings. Not the hundred or so that ferret for worms in the horse field but thousands and thousands of them. All singing. A sound and sight that is so out of time that both of us stand like innocents staring skywards. After two minutes the starlings flap their wings in unison and fly away. The flap of their wings resounds like the beat of a drum. Why are they gathering like this ? Are they migrating ? How do they all know to fly off at exactly the same moment ? An unexpected experience in a village where nothing ever happens. A dog owners reward for getting up at six every morning. I try to post a video but Google doesn't download it.

After that start to the day Sophie and her master head off to look at the swans on the river. Sophie gets covered in mud which she considers to be an excellent result. Back in the car she gives me what might pass as a smile.

And so onto Christmas. The house decorated. We usually get the turkey from a woman at the market. This year due to lockdown we get one from the farmer in the valley. This morning he delivers the bird to the front gate. 'The Font' is surprised to discover that it's not been plucked. It is however dead. Angus heads to the safety of his office to avoid having to become involved in feathers and gizzards. Sophie becomes 'The Fonts' enthusiastic helper.

Two songs today. It's Christmas Eve so why not splurge ? This first one should make you laugh or at least smile :

A lot of beatific hand and arm movement. When the pianist wears a baseball cap you know it's going to be mega kool. The unbound enthusiasm of the key change at the 3:40 mark is quite memorable:

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas Carol #20

The family diva sits by the front door in readiness to head off in the car. Bright and sunny up here on top of the hill. Foggy and chill down by the river edge. Sophie stops, mesmerized, watching the yachts bobbing in the mist. There are times when she will stand transfixed for minutes on end. A PON lost in wonder. Today it's clear she, and she alone, is seeing angels dancing on the water.

Five weeks since the dog car went to the garage. Over a week since anyone has called to update us. This morning a letter has gone from the lawyers to Volvo. The lawyers operate at a measured pace. The French legal sector will not be rushed. I feel ever so slightly guilty at this unseasonal turn of events but the feeling soon passes. 

The big car is looking the worse for wear. Brown muddy paws and white carpets cannot be separated - no matter how hard you try.

Talking of trying hard, the mayors secretary finishes her Christmas decorating.  Tinsel is wrapped around the metal railings outside the town hall door. A sparely decorated tree is propped in a corner by the municipal wall mounted defibrillator. How festive is that ?  Village traditions and routines , although unprepossessing, are sturdy. Wars and pandemics can threaten but not uproot them.

Carol # 20 fromWashington DC. People gathering like this seems strange. Can it only have been last year ? :

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Christmas Carol # 19

The house is now pretty much decorated . How odd that, apart from us, there will be no one to see it . Anyway, why let a pandemic interrupt the routines of a lifetime ?

On the village green the mayors secretary has decorated the yew trees at each corner of the war memorial. They display a touching faith in the belief that less is more.

Sophie finds a spider scurrying across the carpet. She stares intently at it. A mixture of horror and disbelief keep her rooted to the spot. The spider escapes without any inkling that it has been glared at.


The perfect pandemic present ? All you need to know about Christmas 2020 :

The individual country growth rates are interesting :

A sprint into Christmas. Off to the most beautiful church in Manhattan for Carol #19 :

( I had tried to link to this but Google is having one of those 'anti-tech' mornings. I'm surprised that social distancing rules in NYC allowed a Service of Carols to take place -  )

Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Carol #18


Up early to talk to men in dark suits. A lot to discuss this morning. The stimulus bill, a Russian hack, a mutated virus, Brexit , Sidney Powell and Xi's fast footwork on an EU a trade deal. The conversation finally over , Sophie carefully studies my feet. When the second shoe is on and laced up she throws her head back and howls with excitement. Weighty issues can be left at the office door.  At last a day of great adventures can start.

This morning we head off down the motorway to the water park. We spend 45 minutes making little progress. Sophie stops every two or three paces for a long and thorough sniffing. It can only be assumed the water park has hosted a large number of freely sprinkling canine visitors over the weekend. The PONette finds this to be satisfyingly exhaustive, her master finds it merely exhausting. 

Despite the early hour the motorway is busy. Probably Parisians and Bordelais fleeing the big city and heading off to the coast or ski resorts. There are so many layers of lockdown in place that we are now totally confused as to what we can and cannot do. There is certainly a curfew in place because at nine at night all noise within a hundred miles stops. We are having a lot of silent nights.

Heading home we make a quick detour to the waterfall so that Sophie can have a long drink. There's a busy day of C-A-T guarding, interspersed with naps, ahead.

Back to London for Carol #18 memorable for that impossibly high ' Oh so English descant '.  The congregations at these things are always so interesting.  Will we ever see them like this again ? Watch out, through the incense, for the floor in front of the altar at Westminster Abbey. It is one of the best but least known wonders of British history . It was until recently covered with carpet :

And here's a brief description ( you'll have to scroll down a bit through the C-19 warnings ) of the Cosmati pavement(s) and how it was used to calculate how long the Earth would survive :

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Christmas Carol #17

The old mayor is up and about early planting allium bulbs in the flower border in front of the church. ‘ Bonjour M’Ongoose ‘ he says breezily.  Sophie wanders over to greet him and gets her ears scratched. She looks at the mayor with pleasure tinged with disappointment that he’s not carrying a supply of biscuits for moments like this. I ask after the old mayors wife. She’s had five hip operations , each one a little more desperate than the last. ‘Is the pain any better ?’  I add, although the answer to this is already obvious. The mayor is out at first light planting bulbs because his wife has had another ‘difficult’ night. He makes her breakfast then lets her doze in the arm chair by the fire.  As soon as she’s asleep he’s out of the front door doing all the things he did during his 47 years as mayor. “ She doesn’t complain “ he replies. He smiles in a way that says there’s much more to tell,  but not today. I like the old mayor.

The post lady stops to tell me she's taking the next two weeks off. ' There should be someone to cover the round while I'm away' . This said in a tone of voice that suggests we shouldn't expect any more post until well into the New Year.  I pass this information onto 'The Font' who is waiting for a delivery of Lingonberries from a supplier in Norrkoping. Angus, who thinks Lingonberries taste like soap, will be able to survive a festive season without them.

After our morning constitutional Sophie takes to following Angus round the house. I am reminded that we once tried, vainly, to train the dogs not to come into the dining room. Our first pair used to lie with their chins by the door. When they thought it was safe they'd scurry across and hide under the table. That dog belief that there is such a thing as invisibility. Very quickly one learns as a dog owner that there are some things that simply can't be taught. This is just as well. Sophie would not take well to being barred from where the food is at.

And today a more modern Christmas Carol - # 17 :

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Christmas Carol # 16

It is made quite clear that Angus should share his warm buttered toast with the family diva. Communication need not be verbal. It can be silent and insistent. The emphasis here is on 'insistent'.  Dog owners will understand this immutable truth.

We head out along the lane. One horse at the field by the 'T' junction is awake. The other asleep. Sophie glances at them , briefly, and hurries by.   You can never be sure with horses.

At the waterfall the water levels have fallen slightly while Sophie's courage has risen correspondingly. She takes a lengthy , if somewhat cautious, drink from the stream.

On our way back up the hill Sophie scampers on ahead in search of a snack of badgers poo hidden in the grass verges for a moment like this. Angus enjoys the warmth of the sun on his face.

Angus discovers that he's missed the last post for Europe from the London candle company :    Late news. 'The Font' finds a company in Paris that will 'pop them in the post'  :  

Scottish winter light as a background to this poem :

 And off to Denmark for Christmas  Carol # 16 sung with perfect diction  :

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Carol #15

Mild this morning. Dog and master sit on the storm drain and put the world to rights. The local farmers and the young garagiste wave as they drive by. We watch the sun rise over the folds in the earth. Two adult Kites and a young one fly regally along the floor of  the valley.

Sophie has worked out that if she approaches the stream at a 45 degree angle rather than head on her footing is surer. It has taken five days to work this out but who's counting ?

She returns to the back of the car looking 'frightful'.  Mud and water will do that to a girl. Nothing a quick once over with a soft brush won't cure.

 Don't forget this :

Off to Dresden for Christmas Carol #15 a diva and an empty Frauenkirche . ' A thrill of hope' a good and timely sentiment for 2021  :

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Christmas Carol #14

A photo of Sophie by the dawns early light.  A feisty start to the day for the family diva. 

Today we shall be talking to lawyers about the Volvo.

And Christmas Carol # 14 from Maryland :