Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Distance no object.

Sophie is still coming to terms with the time change.  She wanders into the kitchen has her harness put on and gives me that quizzical ' Is it really time to go out ? ' look.

The chances of getting that both peony and wisteria in bloom photo receding. The frigid weather has held back the wisteria and battered the peonies. Perhaps tomorrow ?

No cars but a different challenge faces us on the road in the valley.

Sophie looks at the cows, who have suddenly become rather large, ponders the situation and makes an executive decision. We retrace our steps towards the small waterfall. Fishing for minnows is a much less intimidating activity first thing in the morning. This morning there is also badger poo to be savoured.

On our way home a quick detour to the strawberry farm. Six punnets for E10. We're the farm ladies first and so far only customer.

Distance no impediment from Colorado: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p09hpKAv9Jc

Sophie sings along . Her concrete shredding voice cannot be described as an ode to joy. The best thing that can be said about her singing style is that it's 'enthusiastic'.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Snow. Where did that come from ?

20 degrees yesterday afternoon. Near freezing this morning, Snow flurries.  Crazeee weather ! To top it all off the clocks change. Sophie doesn't do clock changes.  That ' Why are we up at this hour ? It's still dark ' PON incomprehension.

By the time of our morning walk through the village the snow flurries are gone. We're greeted with clear skies and a bracing wind. PON weather.

Sophie and her master head down the lane. Angus chats away merrily to her. Today we discuss the news that social distancing will stay in place in the US until the end of April. http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/policy-for-the-covid-19-crisis/

There is something to the air this morning  which tells you its just blown in from the Bay of Biscay . Not unlike a Scottish summer morning. Where the trees peter out by the crossroads the wind comes sweeping up from the valley like an icey locomotive.

Sophie skips along the lane, nose down. Nothing like freezing weather to get a girls day off to a good start.

A poem for the times .There is a lot of 'thanks' going around : https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1209108/giving-thanks-for-heroic-efforts/

Dancing monks : https://twitter.com/BrVinMary/status/1243945466284462080

Fancy candles made since 1643  in Paris. The ones in the shape of statues are cool  : https://noseparis.com/en/brands/cire-trudon

This is effectively flying for free : https://viewfromthewing.com/13-cross-country-airfares-but-why-are-airlines-pricing-below-marginal-cost/

A really annoying format - you have to scroll across - but I like Margaret Attwoods style.This blog is a kind off 'bear witness' option : https://globe2go.pressreader.com/@Cindy_Ross.1/csb_DaZlqQQf6UiWWNvAqvl_zTJ3cDeMDqrWhqPOpSrjqRW8KjS0BcXcSVNe7CuU87EZ

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Another two weeks

A day of small victories. The supermarket shelves remain stocked, the sun is shining and the family diva remains indomitable in her approach to life. The lawn is cut, the roses pruned and thought is given to painting the wall on the terrace. The garden is alive with bees and bird song. The government has announced a further two week lockdown. This takes us through April 15th. Thank heavens we have a garden.

On our walk past the  village pond Sophie stops and glares at the bullfrogs sunning themselves amid the irises. For once she decides not to chase them into the water. She makes a small grunt of irritation. Sophie is not a dog to hide her emotions.  By the cross roads we see a pig. Sophie has never seen a pig before and is entranced. Our walk comes to a complete halt for five minutes while this new arrival is sized up. Her nose twitches in delight as porcine odours waft in her direction.

The wisteria just starting to come into bloom. Will this be the year when I can get a photo of the peonies and the wisteria in bloom at the same time ? There would be something very French village about that.

As I said. A day of small victories.

Sunday morning music : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dqcbt7z_Yd0

And video of the week from Bolivia : https://twitter.com/raykwong/status/1243967815184343049

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A social whirl !

What a social whirl ! Today we catch a glimpse of the man with anger management issues heading off to work, the builders wife hanging out the washing and the old mayor on a tractor mowing the grass on the village green.  A car goes along the lane before dawn. Apart from that nothing. With the sun out this solitude is enjoyable. If it was the depth of winter it would be eerie. 11 cases of the virus in the department and the hospitals now 48 hours from maximum capacity. The Air Force has flown patients from Paris to our local hospital, filling it up in the process. America seems to be moving to a situation where some States with low incidence will be taken off lockdown while other areas like NY will have it maintained.

What we do notice is that the birdsong is particularly clear and the garden birds much more active than usual. The bird feeder is like Coney Island on Labor Day. At one point we have three woodpeckers feasting merrily away on the grease balls while an assortment of blackbirds, finches and  thrush look alikes wait impatiently for them to go.

The verges covered in wild flowers. Angus knows nothing at all about wild flowers . He thinks the yellow ones are euphorbia but has no idea what the white ones are.

This sound from more innocent times was playing on Radio Nostalgie this morning : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEzfhclKO8Q

Sophie doesn't do yoga. She prefers sausages : https://twitter.com/marklowen/status/1243495759313547264

Friday, March 27, 2020

You've got to love a country that does this.


The spirits.

Four years ago the old chiming mechanism in the village church was replaced by a new electronic system. The clogs and wheels were  forever getting clogged with pigeon feathers and mouse droppings .

On Wednesday night all the church bells in France rang in unison at 7.30. A symbol of solidarity. Thursday night, after the flawless performance on Wednesday, the automated system had what is technically known as a bad acid trip. At 7:53 the thing bursts, unexpectedly, into spirited life. Bells clanked away without rhyme or reason.  Both old and new mayor broke quarantine to deal with the manic electronic campanologist.

This morning they're both in the church porch reading a handbook and pressing buttons on the control panel. From the binks and bonks that echo round the village I'd guess that they haven't quite sorted the problem out. 

The water levels in the ponds beginning to drop. Sophie now has to adopt a perilous rump high in the air posture when drinking from the water hole by the horse field. She is oblivious to the inelegance of this pose. Sophie is oblivious to much in life apart from the certain knowledge that she's loved, gets fed, chases C-A-T-S and has a pivotal role in the smooth functioning of the universe and The Rickety Old Farmhouse. 

Would this reassure you ? : https://www.eater.com/2020/3/24/21191278/china-beijing-coronavirus-future-of-restaurants

Elgars Nimrod and drone : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vw9OiEFKMRY

And here is something sunny for a chilly March morning : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53gyDFLk6xM

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Delayed service.

The post lady seem to have given up coming to the village. She's not been seen here since Saturday.  The Volvo is due to go into the garage on Monday for its annual service. There is an annoying sign on the dashboard that reminds me of this whenever I turn on the ignition. The sign is accompanied by a bell from hell. The sign and the bell also reappear at random moments in the journey. Angus calls the garage to find that they're closed for the duration. Seems the bell from hell will be with us for some time to come. 

We've also ordered kibbles for Sophie. These were due to be delivered by courier yesterday. Perhaps they'll show up today ?

The villagers seem to be self isolating with surprising diligence. I catch a glimpse of the builder disappearing into his house. The teenage son of the man with anger management issues can be seeing heading out to the hen hutch for his breakfast eggs as Sophie and her master walk past the pond.  Madame Bay has a view of self isolation that involves children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. These, thankfully, keep her at home.

The weather which was supposed to be cold and wintry remains obdurately bright and sunny. Not a plane to be seen  which presumably means both Toulouse airport and Airbus are shut down.  British Airways are supposedly running a flight to London at five this evening. I shall go out in the garden and watch out for contrails in the sky. 'The Font ' helpfully points out that this might be taken for another sign that I'm turning into my father.

As we pass the chateau the German billionaires maid comes out onto a balcony coughing. Their exodus to the remoteness of deepest deepest France profonde might have been more logically undertaken alone. That is of course the trouble with the 1%. It never dawns on them that they need the 99% to survive.

What a time to be voted best restaurant in Asia : https://www.odetterestaurant.com/

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The shut door.

5:20 am. Sophie has been on a night time walk about. She's dozed off in a guest bedroom and found that the door has closed while she's been asleep. It's dark, the wind is blowing and she's alone. Time for the concrete shredding ' Don't you know what danger I'm in ? Save me ! ' PONette shriek. Angus gets up and finds her.

Apart from that it's quiet. The village is remote at the best of times but with the schools, old folks home and special needs centre  shut down there is no through traffic. From maybe 50 cars a day we're down to the occasional tractor, the old mayors car ( he still drives through every day to check up on things ) and 'The Font' heading off to the local supermarket.

The Old Farmers house remains shuttered and bolted. We give him a call. Both he and his new lady friend are in isolation in her house thirty miles away. The government delivers a hot meal at lunchtime, the baker drops off croissants in the morning and the supermarket prioritizes online deliveries for senior citizens. The Old Farmer spends much of his day scrolling through the supermarket website to find what it is he wants  delivered. They potter in the garden.

'The Font' reports that the greengrocer has instituted a new system. It now opens at seven and closes at noon. Only one person is allowed in the shop at a time. A thick yellow 'isolation'  line has been painted on the floor two metres away from the fruit and vegetables. The solitary shopper is instructed to stand behind the line.The greengrocer asks the shopper for their order and relays the information to his wife who fills plastic bags with what is needed. The bags are then placed by the greengrocer on a trestle table. The door is opened so that shopper 1 can leave with their purchases and shopper 2 enter. Payment is only by contactless credit card. After each transaction the door handle is wiped down with an antiseptic wipe. Contactless credit card transactions are something of a novelty here in deepest deepest France profonde so things do not necessarily proceed smoothly ... or quickly.

It's been warm but a  cold front is on its way in from the Atlantic. From a rather bucolic 70 degrees we're heading towards freezing over the next week or so. Sophie who does not enjoy heat will be delighted.

Something rather lyrical and gloriously adult  about this writing style :

Yo Yo Ma plays the cello every dy. He also posted this :https://twitter.com/YoYo_Ma/status/1241489147338129409

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A gentleman.

The UK finally shutdown. In the US we hear the line ' He doesn't not agree '. In France we're to be limited to talking Sophie for a walk once a day, alone and within a kilometre of the front gate.

A milestone. This morning an old ( literally as well as figuratively ) friend in Berlin succumbed to the virus. He'd recently had a major heart operation in the Charite Hospital so was vulnerable. A man of great intelligence and gentle kindness. Born in Hamburg in 1940 to a German mother and a half Jewish father. Despite being half Jewish the Nazis were quite happy to have his father fight and fall on the Russian front. He told me how his first memory after the Hamburg bombings of 1943 was collecting shrapnel fragments in the streets and swapping them with his school mates. On our last meeting in Berlin we went to see the Madonna of Stalingrad in the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche. Jens rose from humble beginnings to become the chef de cabinet of the German Chancellor.  One of those bright stars who brought more to life than he took from it and who will be missed. He liked wine, could charm the ladies and lived life to the full. As they say in France ' Rest in peace and rise in glory '.

Sophie gets an extra long walk. Nothing like a stroll with a dog to make you enjoy the sun on your cheek and the wind in your hair. For her a world of reassuring routine, ear scrunches, badger poo  and C-A-T-S to be chased.

Wine is delivered. Angus enters it into the cellar book. A package of Fair Trade chocolate bars from producers who pay the local farmers a decent price for their cocoa beans is also delivered. We shall see what they're like. This is something the French are very keen on. A factory is being built in one of the neighbouring market towns to start producing the stuff.

Tired dogs : https://www.france24.com/en/20200319-walking-the-dog-a-get-out-of-jail-card-in-lockdown-spain?

Interesting article of the day : https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/23/us-medical-supplies-coronavirus-appeal-aid/

Monday, March 23, 2020

Full ferries.

A brother in Scotland calls and comments on the number of London folk filling the Oban ferries and escaping to rented accommodation on Scottish islands. A rather fancy Audi RS8 driven by a City lawyer and his wife looking a little out of place among the lobster creels. What will happen if they get sick ? Hospitals in the far north are scarcer than in Kensington and Chelsea. Here in the village a young man in orange overalls goes along the lane pushing a rotavator. He's followed by twenty riders from the horse farm cantering through the village on a start of day outing. How very medieval that seems . A tractor goes along the lane and then comes back. The German billionaires wife heads off in a 1953 silver drophead Mercedes with a red interior.

Now the ground is dry(ish) dog and owner walk past the church and down the hill towards the Holy Well. The better part of six months since we've been here. Sophie seems to know where we're going without being told.

Along the path there's a couple of places where the water bubbles through the clay and makes walking slippery. Sophie employs 4 paw drive while her master follows along behind a little more gingerly.

At the foot of the hill, where things dry out , a sprint across country towards the well. Sophie races ahead. This means that if she finds a dead shrew she can swallow it by the time her grumpy companion catches up and can say ' No ! '

On our way home she disappears into the furrows made by the old cart wheels. How exciting is that ?

Another quiet Monday morning in a part of the world where you'd have thought things couldn't get any quieter. We stand and watch a horse in a field.

This is an interesting insight into the Bro Wage Premium : https://www.perell.com/blog/the-price-of-discipline

And if you want to know how a good company manages in this environment click on and read this twitter feed : https://twitter.com/chetanp/status/1241090625530769408

And I can't help but feel that this is the way out of this mess ---- in four or five months. The risk / reward trade off makes sense : https://www.mercatus.org/publications/covid-19/accelerating-availability-vaccine-candidates-covid-19

A lot of links today but 'The Font' read this over breakfast : 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Keeping your powder dry.

'Bonjour' from Sophie who heads out of the front door to find two C-A-T-S walking across the lawn.Our day takes a frenetic turn. The C-A-T-S are through the hedge and over the wall before Sophie gets within 50 yards of them. This in no way reduces the sound and fury of her pursuit. Any villagers who thought of having a Sunday morning lie in will be quietly cursing the inhabitants of The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

At the little supermarket they have now installed wall mounted hand sanitizer dispensers by the front door. Customers are told to clean their hands before entering. The staff ( who are wearing blue face masks ) have instituted a new system.  One of the two cash desks has been closed off. You put your groceries on the first cash desk to the left of the cashier. You then walk through the closed off second desk  before returning to pick up your purchases and pay. This enables staff and purchaser to maintain a healthy 2 metre separation. It also causes some confusion on the part of the regions older inhabitants.

At The Rickety Old Farmhouse Angus has power washed the downstairs terrace and started on the balcony. The grass along the verge outside the house has been cut. Tomorrow he will attack the weeds in the drainage ditch and consider painting the shutters. This lockdown is likely to be extended so there's no point in going wild and doing everything at once. '' The Font '' calls this prevarication. Angus calls it 'keeping your powder dry'.

School closures and 'distancing' don't bother them .These Scottish primary kids have got the right song and attitude: https://twitter.com/DronganPS/status/1240973643728990209

Saturday, March 21, 2020


The weather is good which makes this period of self isolation easier to bear. Sophie gets double walks. Pre-breakfast with Angus, post-breakfast with 'The Font'. A similar distribution of labour pre and post lunch and then again pre and post dinner.

Thanks to all this exercise the family diva is sleeping like a log.

Loic the heavily bifocaled gardener shows up. This is a surprise. I ask him about whether he's asked the matron of his home if it's wise for him to be out. He looks at me blankly.  As he will be blowing leaves in the fresh air far away from anyone else it seems unwise to burden him with worries. Let Gods happy ones be happy.

The courier men have now taken to delivering parcels to the town hall terrace. This is presumably so they don't have to come face to face with us. Printer paper and Amazon books are found and carried home. This system works here but what about in less law abiding town centres ?

The Simnel cake ordered yesterday also arrives on the town hall terrace together with a very British coffee and walnut sponge. Even 'The Font' , who does not have a sweet tooth, finds it delicious and utterly un-French.

The tikes mother would probably agree with this sentiment : https://twitter.com/PickardJE/status/1241017604103376896

Some questions don't have an easy answer :  https://twitter.com/CALM_Taylor/status/1240669226890858499

My parents generation but amazing she's just had her 103rd birthday. Would a group of airmen be that well behaved today ? :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5C4meGkNyc