Everyday life in a rickety old Scottish farmhouse with a very happy Polish Lowland Sheepdog. A record of those unimportant little things that are too important to be forgotten.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Hip flask replenishment.
First light. Sophie is waiting outside the front door. She gives Angus a look that makes it absolutely clear that he should get a move on.Two squirrels on the lawn delay our departure. Sophie hurtles after them at high speed. She's still hurtling round the garden in hot pursuit long after the squirrels have clambered high into a tree for safety. 10/10 for effort. 0/10 for observation.
Our dutiful morning tour of the village. Goats, geese, horses and donkeys all checked. The horses are at the far end of their field so there's no need for Sophie to position herself, bravely, behind my legs. It's rained overnight so there are plenty of puddles to slurp from. Stopping at puddles makes our progress along the lane slow.
On our way home we make a detour to the general store. It is the only place I know where whisky is sold from a glass container. A very Victorian way of selling things. We're prosaically looking for some bayonet clip light bulbs . These seem to have suddenly disappeared from the supermarket shelves.
Weird and wonderful French fruit flavoured spirits are also dispensed in the general store. The older members of the local farming community stop by to fill up their hip flasks before a long day on a tractor or out hunting. A little rum and ginger flavoured armagnac an economical way to keep the inner fires burning when the mountain winds blow.
Timely insight and amazing bookstores : http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1005252
Friday, February 28, 2020
An Atlantic storm blows through. Wet and windy all day. Sophie appears in the kitchen looking gale swept. She is towelled dry. With this wet weather there is a lot of towelling going on.
The stonemasons arrive ... unannounced. I thought they might bring their truck into the driveway but they park outside on the lane and use a mechanical arm to hoist the pallets of stone into the courtyard. Sophie, who is keen to supervise what is going on, is ' encouraged ' indoors. She enters the house 'reluctantly'.
A feisty Polish Lowland Princess, a mechanical arm, pallets of heavy stone and gusts of wind are the stuff of nightmares.
Sophie is rewarded with a trip in the car to the bakers. This mornings croissant a 9/10. Sophie gives it 15/10.
A duck story you could not make up : https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/army-of-100000-chinese-ducks-on-standby-to-combat-locust-swarms
Great graphic in the factoid du jour: https://twitter.com/simongerman600/status/1232647808412520448
Thursday, February 27, 2020
An electric heater is carefully positioned to warm up those titanium knees. While she gently steams away Angus talks to early rising / late to bed men in dark suits. This morning it's the riots in India, shootings in Milwaukee and the belief you can model the transmission of a bi-phasic contagion amongst 7 billion people. The success of Mike Pence in dealing with the Indiana opioid epidemic is mentioned by a Manhattanite. Angus, knowing nothing about Indiana health care issues, is unsure whether this is sarcasm or fact and settles for a non-committal 'huhum' sound. Sophie continues to slumber and steam.
Farm to table goes a step further ... or should that be higher ? : https://qz.com/1805109/aerofarms-supplies-singapore-airliness-salad-greens/
Sophie won't be getting one of these : https://coolmaterial.com/home/cuss-collar-is-a-dog-collar-that-swears-whenever-your-dog-barks/
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
The first time it effects us.
Down by the little lake the hedge has come out into bloom. Two hundred metres of exotic colour. No exotic colour in the bakers display cabinet. Brown is the predominant colour du jour.
The grumpy France Telecom man in white overalls is back to mend the internet line. It has started to play up again. In plainer language - it doesn't work. ' Back so soon ? ' said in a tone of voice which (hopefully ) doesn't suggest sarcasm. He replies with a diatribe. You'd think I'd suggested he sell his first born into pharaonic slavery . A helicopter thunders by overhead. Sophie stops and glares at it. The audacity of the thing to breech her morning day dreams.
In the afternoon a tour of the village. The man in white overalls has only spent half a day here. The internet is working again, fitfully.
On the lane Sophie finds a pile of badger poo. What better place for a girl to turn on her back and have a long, long leisurely roll in the grass ?
Sophie trots home with what I could swear is a smile on her face.
Is prestigious an unusual description for a BBQ restaurant ? :
'The Font' was going back to London for a conference.The conference is cancelled. All the Americans, Japanese and Chinese have pulled out. Doesn't leave many others to attend. The first time coronavirus impacts us. 'The Font' is quite happy at not travelling through Heathrow. The organizers clearly do not take Rush Limbaughs view that the outbreak is no worse than the common cold.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Normal internet service is resumed. We are back to getting our news online rather than from the radio. The grumpy man in white overalls spends all Monday leisurely climbing up and down a ladder and dealing with the break in the internet line. Miraculously at four twenty five it's back up and running. At four thirty he goes.
Up here on top of the ridge bright sunshine. Down in the valley thick mist. Sophie hares off through the reed beds to the waterfall and loses herself in the scents of deer, badgers, foxes and who knows what else comes here to drink at night. It's peak barn owl breeding season. The owls that perch on the plane trees along the lane have been out partying all night. Some of them on the ledge outside our bedroom window. Their passionate screeches melding with the amorous cats on the ox track. Whoever thinks the countryside is peaceful has clearly never lived in the countryside.
A novelty in the greengrocers. American Pomelos. You rarely see anything American for sale in France. Must be something to do with food tariffs.
The tree peonies which usually bloom in mid April are about to come into bloom six or seven weeks early. What does this tell us about the summer to come ?
For some strange reason I found this intriguing : https://archinect.com/features/article/150185081/sino-african-architecture-a-look-at-the-rise-of-chinese-built-projects-across-the-african-continent
Monday, February 24, 2020
The grumpy reply.
Internet access remains on the non-existent side of sporadic. This doesn't bother Sophie who is up enjoying the early morning sunshine and keeping a wary eye on the donkeys in the field below. We pass a man in white overalls having a cigarette by the large metal box that contains the village internet router. I ask him when the service might be up and running. He gives me an extremely grumpy reply. In the meantime our posts will be squeezed into those brief random moments when the France Telecom system works.
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Perfect PON weather. Bright but chill. Sophie demonstrates her inability to walk in a straight line. Why follow the shortest distance between two points when you can zig-zag ? At the crossroad she stops to glare at nothing in particular.
Yesterday, being the weekend, the internet didn't work at all. Today we get half an hours access. Figure that out. Time enough for a brief post. Tomorrow, France Telecom promise to have someone here.
We visit the stonemasons. 'The Font' thinks we should pave the area in front of the house.
The stonemasons yard is a place stacked with large pallets of cut stone ( it all comes from Turkey a man driving a forklift truck tells me ) and strange garden obelisks.
We look at a stone fountain .... and a collection of modern pots. The pots look as though they would be more at home in Malibu than the depths of France profonde. The pots have Malibu prices.
Back at home Sophie gets her third walk of the morning. The weather is bringing all sorts of things out into bloom early.
All you ever wanted to know about hair styles : https://pudding.cool/2019/11/big-hair/
Friday, February 21, 2020
A hearty good morning.
Village excitement levels are at fever pitch. Someone has bumped into one of the telegraph poles that carry the internet line. It slants at a jaunty thirty degree angle. A team of workmen in hi-vis jackets have arrived and are standing in a circle discussing what they intend to do. Farmers stop their white vans to chat to them and offer advice. Internet service alternates between being non-existent and glacially slow. In the meantime here's Sophie wishing everyone a hearty good morning.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Angus is up early with 'twinges'. A chance to watch the Democrat debate from Las Vegas. Sophie wanders in and sits by the side of his desk. The way in which she's swaying from side to side hints that it may be a good idea to take her into the garden for a Bloomberg comfort break. This turns out to be a timely call - on many levels.
After a restorative breakfast of kibbles and cold brussel sprouts the family diva's ready to be loaded into the back of the car in readiness for the morning shopping expedition.
The rugby store has new gilets. They come in purple and a duck egg blue. They also have them in dark blue but they've sold out. Angus tells the young sales lady the colours are a little 'youthful'. This is her cue to say ' not at all '. She remains silent.
Freshly made foie gras at the butchers this morning. I think it's illegal to sell it in the US and Scotland now ? It's priced at E89 a kilo. Sophie lingers hopefully but accepts the fact we're not buying any with relative good grace.
The mens shop on the Rue de la Republique has its spring 2020 fashions in the window. Angus has never seen a gold bow tie before. When would you wear it ? This may be another sign that modern life is passing him by. Lapels have also become very thin.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
A group of men in dark suits are on the phone early about the American Presidents trip to India next week. Will there or won't there be a trade deal.? Whatever happens you can be sure there will be the biggest turn out ever. While I chat away Sophie dozes outside the front door. A thick coat comes in useful on these chilly mornings.
We make do with just a croissant at the cafe. There is still some chocolate cake to finish at home.
Octopus in all its grizzly glory at the fishmongers. There is a tentacle hanging down towards Sophie's nose level. She is hurried along. Angus is not an octopus fan, his canine companion would be ... given half a chance.
A detour to the Italian lady for some truffle ravioli for lunch. Things look up for my four legged companion who gets given a small sliver of Panettoni .
Back in the village the workmen are still hard at work replacing the tiles on The Very Old Farmers roof. The gates to the farm have been left open. The PONette runs ahead and waits expectantly at his front door for her friend. The old man used to slip her a biscuit.
Just another start to the day with that superior life form known as a PONette .
Will we all be doing this soon ? For a surprise watch to the end : https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1229383312776388609
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Yesterday we caught the tail end of the storm that's been pounding the North of Europe. Wet and blustery. This doesn't stop the man with anger management issues from lighting a bonfire in his garden. The village is shrouded in damp smoke for much of the day. Today, by contrast, dawns bright and fair and smoke free. A situation more to Sophie's liking. She chases invisible things in the orchard for a full half hour.
The fancy cake shop window full of delights. Having bought a six person chocolate cake yesterday we pass by in silence. Or, to be more precise, Angus passes by in silence while Sophie dawdles long enough to emit a high pitched yelp of frustration. A 'Coeur Ispahan' is just what she needs as a post breakfast snack.
Dog and master being early risers ( read into that what you will ) have been tasked with buying prawns for a dinnertime risotto. There is only one fishmonger that has fresh prawns delivered from Arcachon daily. A rather stern lady behind the counter weighs a kilo and ignores Sophie who is doing her level best not to be ignored.
Then onto the butchers. For Sophie a small corner of paradise on earth. Her absolute favourite place on the planet. Bar none !
On our way back to the car we nearly run into a lady with a Sharpei. Sophie isn't sure what to make of the Sharpei. The Sharpei isn't sure what to make of Sophie. A hasty replanning of our route prevents a canine 'moment' from developing.
Oh to be twenty something again. Angus looks at this and then wonders what the physical consequences might be of trying this at his age and settles for the term 'long lasting' : https://twitter.com/OrgPhysics/status/1228861849694765057
Monday, February 17, 2020
A hard choice.
The village hunters are out and about early. Men of a certain age dressed in day glo orange hats and jackets can be seen milling around at the crossroads. We opt to return home rather than face an encounter with heavily armed eighty year olds in search of wild boar.
We drive to the small farming town. A hard choice between croissants and chocolatines this morning.
The artisinal baker run by the young lady hasn't closed. It has moved into larger premises. There is still only the one display cabinet . This sits in splendid isolation on a wall facing the cash desk. Apart from that ... nothing. Cakes as installation art. Today we choose a chocolate thing. The young lady tells me it will feed six. Angus smiles inwardly.
At the cheesemonger something that shouts out CHOLESTEROL !!!!
A lengthy chat with the wine man. We discuss the weekends rugby, the latest sex scandal involving the Paris mayoral elections ,the abnormally warm weather and his recent deliveries of wine. After twenty minutes Sophie emits a high pitched squeak that indicates her patience is wearing thin. The wine man has opened a bottle of Macon. He drinks a glass. Angus is offered one too but eight in the morning is a little early for wine tasting. Another sign I've turned into my father. We buy three bottles to try at home.
So begins a new week in deepest, deepest France profonde.
A podcast about dogs : https://www.livescience.com/lifes-little-mysteries-podcast-4-dogs.html
And an environmental lady singing in what could only be the Pacific North West : https://twitter.com/conorsen/status/1228381469845966849
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