Thursday, April 30, 2020

300 masks

Sophie is harnessed up for our morning excursion to the local bakers. While Angus searches for the car keys she takes the opportunity to catch up with her sleep. Sophie has turned impatience into an art form.

We meet the old mayor. 300 face masks  are to be delivered to the village. No date has been given for when they'll arrive. Our little corner of paradise is not a priority when it comes to allocations. The kids will need to wear face masks in class when they go back to school. I'm betting the two tikes are hoping that the masks will arrive sometime next year.... or even better the year after. It also seems that we will be allowed to go shopping up to 60 miles away if we have masks. Quite what the purpose of that is escapes me. It does however mean the Volvo can be taken to Toulouse for its annual service. This will hopefully stop the disembodied voice telling me that a service is due ' Immediately. Contact your garage Now !' every time I turn on the ignition.

In addition it seems the country will be divided into infection hotspots ( red zones ) and low risk areas ( green zones ). Travel between the two will be regulated. Looking at the lane this morning I'm betting we'll be a green zone.

Strange triffid like plants are sprouting on the lawn. Angus carefully cuts around them.

Some of this is amusing. Some of it's over the top. but it beats the DVD of Portlandia that we started to watch last night :

I'd like to see comparisons with Taiwan and South Korea ( and Oz and New Zealand ) but they would be embarrassing :


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

To the strawberry farm.

The Italian wine shippers send an e-mail saying that the two cases of wine have been lost in the warehouse. ' We shall attempt to replace them as soon as possible' . A vague answer but progress of sorts. 

'The Font' was due to head off to Ann Arbor today to a godsons graduation. The Lufthansa flight to Detroit cancelled two months ago. Now news that the airline is thinking of filing for the German version of Chapter 11. It will be years before the airlines get back to normal.   We still have flights to DC in September but the chances of us going are minimal. This WaPo news story with its alarming gif doesn't make me any keener to get on a plane :

Perhaps if the lockdowns are eased we'll drive back to Scotland for a few days ?

Sophie waits impatiently while I get ready to drive down to the strawberry farm. The farmers wife struggles on . Her takings are down 80%. She's having to do everything herself as the group of cheerful Senegalese pickers haven't been granted visas.  

Sophie is very disappointed in the strawberry purchase. She had been hoping for a trip to the sausage farm.

We are out of olive oil. Time to order some cases from Umbria. The Puglia harvest is being devastated by a disease that kills the trees. 2000 year old olive groves wiped out. Some folks think half of Europes olive oil production will disappear.

Can you get any more Texan than this ? :

For those who can't access the WaPo story here's another link to the gif showing what a cough does on an airplane :

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Much noise, little rain.

Thunderstorms through the night. They are of the theatrical variety. Lots of gutter rattling thumps but gentle rain, no hail and only occasional lightning. 

In the valley the cows are sitting on top of the bank to avoid the small muddy lake that's formed lower down. Sophie puts her head down and hurries past them. One cow looks at us ,the others ignore us. That's just fine by Sophie. 

Second walk of the morning. The traffic on the lane is heavier than usual as lockdown restrictions are increasingly ignored.  We wave at the man with anger management issues. He's off to work in a little Peugeot provided by the garage as a courtesy car. His Qashqai is in for its MoT which is taking longer than anticipated. ' They're waiting for a part ' he tells me through a crack in his window. Shortly after he's gone the young garagiste in the little black Citroen with the raspy exhaust passes. ' Changing my car. My wife's expecting next week ' he says from a suitably safe distance. I wish him well. ' Replacing this with a BMW ' he adds proudly . The BMW is to be a low mileage 3 series in metallic charcoal grey with air con. The joys of fatherhood. 

The Moor Hens on the village pond are completely unbothered by our passage. Mother, father and the four little ones parade happily across the water lily leaves. If Angus had his i-Phone camera with him they would remain firmly hidden in the undergrowth.

Angus checks the local pandemic website. Our department has had 3 deaths and 14 folks hospitalized. Out here we're remote and unfashionable. Data from the US shows that counties with prisons or large care homes have much higher incidences than counties which lack these facilities. We have a large 'special needs' home 10 kilometres away. The government put it into strict quarantine in early March which seems to have done the trick. The poor matron has had an awaful time explaining why families can't see their relatives. A police car is often partked outside the main gate.

A sign of the times :

Monday, April 27, 2020

Honored client.

Sophie is harnessed up and loaded up into the back of the car. Time to head off for the breakfast croissants. She gives me a look that suggests we could have gone half an hour ago. The radio tells us there has been more trouble in the Paris suburbs. Bored teenagers fed up with the lockdown. If there are riots now when the air's still cool what will it be like in the heat of August ?

Today will be spent trying to communicate with the Italian wine shippers about the non-delivery of two cases of wine. Their website has one of those annoying auto-replies - 'Honored Client - Due to unprecedented demand during this time of uncertainty we are not able to respond to your question in person. Be assured we shall attend to it at the earliest possible moment. Until then please do not contact us '.

At the bakers we see the tikes mother. We have a lockdown style conversation from across the road. She is hopeful that the schools may start again on May 11th. In fact she's praying that the schools open up then. The two boys and the adolescent daughter gave up talking to each other during the first week of lockdown and filial relations have not improved since. There is also a gaggle of smaller children who add an additional layer of chaos to this Edwardian sized family . 

'The Font' is starting a new online course. 'There's no point in hanging around wasting time' I'm told. Angus, who could easily win an Olympic gold in time wasting, wonders if this is a comment on his careful progress towards painting the terrace wall.  Much of Sunday was spent ensuring that connections and transmission speeds were up to scratch.  Angus is hoping that the teaching staff are as amusing as the last group of fleece wearing Californians who would drink enormous cups of coffee and mutter ' Y'awl cool with that ?' every four or five minutes. Presumably, they will teach from home.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Black bags gone AWOL.

'The Font' always orders black dog bags in the hundreds. Angus always says ' We'll never get through all those'. This morning he discovers we have.

A hectic rummaging around at the back of the dog cupboard unearths a box of 'free samples' retained for an emergency like this. The 'free samples' are luminescent green in colour, a tad too small to be practical and made of flimsy plastic that it is slightly sub-par for the job in hand.

These design features scream out 'dog owner beware'

Sophie is oblivious to the traumas facing her master. All she knows is that she wants to get her day started and a certain someone is being tardy - again.

We head off across country towards the waterfall and the little stream. Sophie leads the way. From time to time she stops to let me catch up. This is her 'taking my owner' for a walk routine.

Sunday morning music :

When was the last time you saw him on television ?:

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The light burns bright.

The grey skies and rain have gone. Instead we have blue skies and heat. The grass and weeds multiplying more quickly than Angus can cut them.

We head off to the waterfall. Although it's early it's already hot - and still - down here in the valley. Sophie considers chasing something small and furry but decides she just can't be bothered.

Angus sets off on a quick walk to see the cows. A switch inside Sophie's brain has been turned on. In this heat we don't do walks. We do ambles. She trails along behind sniffing the grass verges for 'finds'.

Later today we shall go to the dog sanctuary to give them a cheque.  Somehow a few faithful ladies are continuing to care for their charges. The number of abandoned dogs has skyrocketed just as donations have dried up. The faithful ladies soldier on despite the swelling numbers and the complexities of lockdown. 

The builder passes in his van. He promises to stop by to discuss when he can come to lay the new tiles for a dining area in front of the house. ' I'll be by in the next couple of weeks' he says with studied imprecision.

The cleaning lady is in lockdown. 'The Font' speaks to her once a week to let her know that we're praying for her rapid return. She may be away longer than planned. Seems she's slipped and broken a rib.

Loic, the heavily bifocaled 'gardener' , would love to come and drive the lawn tractor but the matron of his home thinks the gendarmes might take a dim view of this. We agree to monitor the situation.

Angus and Sophie find this being played on the radio as they drive back up from the waterfall - best listened to with the windows down and the volume turned up:

I'm late to this but it made me chuckle :

Friday, April 24, 2020

Some mornings.

Some mornings all a girl can do ...

... is follow her master round the house ...

....and wait patiently as he slowly opens up the shutters. 

Then when we finally get in the car what happens ?  He forgets the keys and has to go back inside !  

More waiting !

Thursday, April 23, 2020

As many as you want.

Antiseptic hand gel has reappeared in the little 24 hour store. A pantechnicon delivered an enormous supply of the stuff which is stacked, carton upon carton, by the sliding entry doors. 'The Font' presumes there has been a mistake in the order as the woman behind the checkout counter says 'You can take as many as you want. They're not rationed '.  This may not be exactly what's been said as the cashier's wearing a face mask that's rather too tight fitting to make her instructions entirely comprehensible.

Still raining. The wisteria battered, the roses too.

The Moorhen family are not willing to be photographed a second time. They do however keep up their cheerful chirruping. Sophie glares at the pond.

The grey skies don't stop us from heading down to the little waterfall. The stream has been supercharged after three days of rain. Sophie has a lengthy drink and fishes half heartedly ( and inpetly )  for minnows in the water. The local farmer has set up his bird scarer to stop the Magpies from eating his soft fruit. The bird scarer makes an angry ' boom boom' noise every two or three minutes. Sophie doesn't like angry noises. We return home quickly. Her executive decision of the day.

How to tell a Coot and a Moorhen apart :

Adults in the room :

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The surprised Coot.

South West France is known for its rain. It rained all day yesterday and is raining again this morning. While the gutters gurgle merrily away we talk to men in dark suits about Martha McSally and Cory Gardner. Sophie listens but soon turns on her back, waggles her paws ,yawns and then starts to snore.

Not a patch of sky to be seen through a blanket of thick grey cloud. Sophie skips through the puddles.

Mother and father Coot and the four baby Coots are as surprised to see us as were are surprised to see them. Angus just manages to catch a quick photo of mother Coot as she shepherds the last of her brood into the safety of the shrubs that line the village pond. There is much chirruping. Sophie stands and glares at them.

Mid-afternoon a black SUV with darkened windows drives through the village at a ridiculously high speed. The drug dealer fom Toulouse automotive look. It isn't prepared for the speed bumps and flies over them, it's suspension making an alarming crunching noise as it goes. After that silence. I'd almost believe the villagers have all gone off somewhere.

Later on today Sophie will have a nap and spend some time in the kitchen overseeing the preparation of a chicken marinade. There may be , if post nap time allows, a game of 'throw the furry rabbit '.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Just what the doctor ordered ?

A hearty Good Morning from Sophie who is looking very Polish Lowland Sheepdog like today. Her hair is vaguely doing what Polish Lowland Sheepdog hair is supposed to do. 

Angus weeds the old tiles at the front door every afternoon. By the following morning the weeds have grown again. Is there anything on the face of the planet that grows as quickly as a weed in SW France ? The heavy overnight rain and mild temperatures seem to have turbocharged their growth.

Some delivery drivers can find the parcel(s) in their vans straight away. Other rummage around in the back until they find what they're looking for.  Today we have a man who rummages slowly around and then throws the packages towards the door of his van. He finds two of the expected four cartons.  He is also of the delivery driver variety that replies to questions with a shrug of the shoulders. Not a word passes his lips. Not so much monosyllabic as non-syllabic.  Methinks he a) doesn't like his job b) doesn't like people who order wine and c) people who ask questions.

Angus spends the afternoon checking what's been delivered, composing an e-mail to the Italian shippers to say that only half  the order has arrived and choosing something to drink with dinner. Sophie is disappointed. She was hoping for something more along the line of Jaffa Cakes or sausages.

A bottle of wine is walked round to the old Parisian couples front door. The husband has been into hospital for an emergency cataract operation and his wife is very worried both about the operation and the current risks of going to the hospital. Being rather grand and rather Parisian they may or may not find a bottle of non-French wine to be just what the doctor ordered. A small bag of sanitizing wipes is left with the bottle in what might best be described as 2020 lockdown etiquette. Miss Manners would approve ?

No PON would do this :

When school work is beyond a father :

Monday, April 20, 2020

An oblivious walk.

Sophie continues through life oblivious to human concerns. She thinks having at least one member of her family on call 24/7 is a great improvement. Ear scrunches whenever they're needed. The lack of a shared breakfast croissant is an issue but is compensated for by more time spent in the kitchen .

The village was quiet over the weekend although sharp eyed observers might have noticed that there were at least three families lunching al fresco. The largest gathering - at the tikes house - saw a dozen diners. The smallest  - the man with anger management issues - a more restrained six. Angus and Sophie walk through the village pretending to be oblivious to this gradual breakdown in social distancing. Three weeks of lockdown was something the French could cope with. An additional month ? Less so.

Angus' job today is to find some way of contacting the Italian wine shippers.

Something readers of this blog will all understand :

So, so true :

Free for all to bake :

Something for all mothers with kids at home :