Sunday, May 31, 2020

The dose of awesome we needed to carry us into the weekend.

No matter what the weather all PONs treat each day as a gift of inestimable wonder and delight.  Female PONs start their daily routine by fixing you with their eyes and wondering why it's taking so long to go out.

Impatience to get things going is partially hidden while Angus waters the pots by the pool.

Then we're off across the fields towards the next village. Not a soul to be seen. It's a holiday here on Monday and it would seem that many folk have opted to head off early to the coast. 

If there's one thing Angus would like to take back to Scotland it's this bronze statue of a goose. Something about the way the finish catches the light. Sadly, it belongs to the chateau. Sophie is more interested in the remains of a picnic someone has left on the grass in the car park.

A sign of the times :

$300k -$500k estimate on this old newspaper :

This article contains the line ' The dose of awesome we needed to carry us into the weekend '. American English is truly a wonderful thing. A dance off between US and South Kotrean marines could be described in many ways but 'awesome' is not one that springs readily to mind.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Restaurants and cafes will open up again this coming week. So too will hotels - although who will come and stay in them remains a question. The 100 kilometre limit on journeys is also to be lifted. Late last night the new mayor dropped four masks off at The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Two for each of us. He came by at 11.30 so he's clearly taking his new role as village health supremo extremely seriously. Sophie's sleep was interrupted by the sound of the mayors  car and the opening of the mail box. Sophie becomes extremely grumpy if her routine changes. This morning she pointedly lies by the side of the pool to make it clear she could do with another half hour in bed.

On our morning walk we chat with the old mayor who is watering the roses around the war memorial. Sophie is given a tickle and a hearty greeting. I tell him his successor was out working late. ' He'll learn the ropes soon enough '. This  said in a tone of voice that suggests that delivering face masks near midnight is something he most certainly wouldn't do . The phone rings. A west coaster checking his screens before going to bed. ' Is it true Merkel has refused to attend a G7 meeting at Camp David next month ?'. Angus confirms it. No chance for a feel good photo opportunity from a woman with whom the host has little personal chemistry.

As we circle round the village walls we pass the pond and catch moorhen mother and her four young ones out and about. The chicks hurtle across the lily leaves into the safety of the shrubs. Mother follows along behind. Two mornings in a row - the benefits of early rising.

Back at the house Sophie wonders what we're going to do next.

In 250 million years Canada will border Nigeria:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The crooner look.

A very fine ' Bonjour ' from Sophie who has chased the C-A-T from the woodpile and pursued two audacious collar doves who had been walking across the lawn as if they owned it. Her satisfaction  is plain for all to see.

She is informed that she will not be joining me on a trip to the Volvo garage. She is less happy about this.

She does however get a full hours walk down to the Holy Well and back. The sun on our return fast heating the air. Soon we shall have to be out on our way before six.

'The Font' is of the opinion that Angus should wear brighter clothing. It is suggested that he have one or two of these in his wardrobe. Angus is rendered speechless. He isn't quite ready to adopt the dress for Happy Hour in Palm Desert  look. Thankfully, the suggestion can be brushed off.  It seems Hawaiian shirts - or at least shirts with a Hawaiiany feel - have a darker meaning :

Fields of flax

Angus is up early talking to men in dark suits . Hong Kong, the frugal four and Israels  relationship with China our cheerful morning topics. A slightly quizzical ' good morning ' from Sophie who , while I've been talking, has drunk from the water barrel , chased the C-A-T that sleeps on the wood pile and  managed to get grass seeds caught in the fur on her ears. Quite a list of achievements considering its only just gone six.

At this time of the morning no one in the village is stirring ..

... but the Moorhen family are out and about on the water lily leaves. Angus just manages to catch a snap of a blurry fast moving mother shepherding her little ones into the safety of the shrubs by the pond. Mother moorhen seems surprised that anyone would be up and about before the frogs start croaking.

The flax fields on either side of the lane coming into flower. Although not as 'electric 'as the sunflowers the flax fields have a calm beauty. Another three or four days and they'll be in full flower.

Today a return trip to the Volvo garage for the repairs that required a part ' to be ordered '.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Grape grazing.

Some mornings the rising sun lets you know it's going to be a scorcher of a day.

'The Font' has found a recipe for roast chicken stuffed with peaches. Angus thinks this sounds sweet. 'The Font' wonders when Angus ever started to worry about things being sweet. Sophie is loaded into the back on the Volvo and dog and master head off in search of peaches. The back of the Volvo is hugely spacious in comparison with the VW. Kind of like flying in 1st Class rather than coach. Sophie is delighted. - she can pace while being driven. We detour to the bakers at the roundabout for a shared croissant. Everyone stands 2 metres apart - even the white van men.

Then onto the greengrocers. Angus puts on his special mask that has been designed for applying toxic chemicals. This gives him something of a Hannibal Lecter look. We're at the front door in time for opening at nine. Ahead of us a gentleman with elasticated waist trousers and a  lady with a toile patterned face mask. They both look at Angus with a degree of apprehension. This is what you'd expect if Hannibal Lecter joined your shopping queue. 

In and out in exactly three minutes. Hands washed with gel on entry, strict distancing and large plastic partitions between the check out counters. Angus  glares in a suitably Presbyterian way at a maskless woman who grazes in the grape aisle. She feels the grapes, then when she finds one to her liking she pops it in her mouth. Angus can't decide whether he's more aggrieved by the lack of the hygiene or the 'wasteage'. Another sign I've turned into my father. The 'signs' seem to be coming more frequently these days.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the peaches are delivered to the kitchen and Angus and Sophie head off for an hours walk in the rapidly warming but still fresh air. Today Sophie is lucky in finding a copious amount of fresh badger poo in the long grass. This seems to do her no harm whatsoever. We can only assume she has a cast iron stomach. This was not true of any male PON we ever owned.

In lockdown the BBC plays rerun upon rerun of Midsomer Murders. Foreigners must have a very unusual view of life in the UK. This seems to sum it up pretty well.

'The Font' chuckled away at the replies to this question over breakfast :

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

An important task.

We're still in this strange half in , half out stage of lockdown. The schools, which were supposed to re-open, remain closed. The local teachers unhappy with the arrangements for spacing. Sometimes a school bus arrives at the war memorial, waits three minutes, then it leaves the village empty. Presumably the driver has returned to work even though he has no passengers. The two tikes celebrate their extended freedom by  zooming around the countryside on their two-stroke bikes. Yesterday, two friends joined them. Nothing like the rasp of four two-stroke engines to tell you summer's here.

If we're going shopping we tend to be up and out early in the belief that we can be in and out of the store before anyone else shows up - or certainly before they get crowded. Some folks wear masks, others seem to view them as an impertinence. We'd be much happier if mask wearing was mandatory as the epidemiological studies seem to agree that wearing them cuts down transmission rates by 75%. I'd say that only half of the folk you see are still wearing masks. At this rate we'll be down to a quarter by next week.  What all this hints at is a decline in infection rates through the summer and then a return when the heat dies away and we enter into the autumn cold and flu season. Loic came to drive the garden tractor again today. The matrons warning about getting a very bad cold seems to have registered . He stood a good ten feet away and shouted at me.

Today we walk to the neighbouring village. Sophie leads the way. From time to time she stops and turns to look at me. I'd like to think she does this for reassurance. More probably it's her ever so slightly irritated way of saying ' Do keep up !'.

Men in dark suits are on the phone from Singapore. We discuss the new vaccine arms race between China and the US, the peculiar case of Dominic Cummings ( Angus falls in the camp of believing his behaviour to be corrosive ) and the outlook for the Greek tourism industry ( not good and accounting for 80% of the economy on some Aegean islands ).

While I talk Sophie takes herself off into the garden. If find her on the grooming table by the swimming pool. Why she clambers onto the table to sleep is a mystery. Her brother and her PON predecessors all did this. Maybe they enjoy the flow of air on their undercarriages. She opens an eye, briefly, to look at me and then carries on with the important task of dozing.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The seasons

A steady stream of tractors and combines from dawn to dusk. When I say a steady stream I mean twenty or so during the day. The local farmers getting ready for the summer harvest. Sunflowers are being sown where the wheat has been taken in. This year for the first time the hay stacks wrapped in plastic. Not good for the environment but the price of fodder has soared during the lockdown and the plastic makes it easier to transport as well as keeping it fresh. I count 56 wrapped bales in just one field. Sophie enjoys playing hide and seek among the bales. 

The strawberries getting smaller as the season winds down. The farmers wife is starting to shift the team of happy Senegalese towards the cherry orchards. She'll stop the strawberries altogether by the end of this week.  Another of those small signs that the year keeps moving right along.

Sophie is groomed ...

... and has a bath.

The internet with all its faults can surprise with beauty and refinement. The Lincoln Center, being the Lincoln Center, has music you wouldn't find elsewhere :

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A different lustre.

That wonderful time of the year when the days are getting longer and the predawn air is laden with the scent of wild roses . In the field across the lane from The Rickety Old Farmhouse the wheat is growing an inch a day. The young sparrows are up and about early. In fact they've been up and about since four arguing and flapping their wings in the gutters. They have reached that age when they can make short trips - solo. They are all making full use of this new found skill.  I don't know how many baby sparrows live in our eaves but think Coney Island on Memorial Day and you're on the right track. The noise level is also Coneyesque. Sophie adds her decibel enhancement.

'The Font' is stirring and opening the shutters. In the early morning rays the 'woggly' glass in The Rickety Old Farmhouses  windows glint. The uneven old glass was imported into France as ballast in ships returning from Vietnam. A local glazier would fire it up so that it could be reshaped to size. Over the years the glass has run. Age has given it a lustre quite different to modern glass. 

By seven, and our second walk, the sun is up. The sparrows are still arguing.  It was a national holiday on Thursday - Ascension Day.  Many folks have made a long weekend of it. This morning the parking area in front of the church full of cars disgorging enthusiastic hikers.

Two vans show up. A family from Toulouse have booked the village hall. There will be ten of them - the maximum allowed by law - and are planning to have their Sunday lunch in the Salle des Fetes. The mayor reminds them they must be a metre apart, at least. ' No problem Mate' says a gentleman in a black Adidas track suit who, I presume,  must be the father. This is perhaps the oddest lockdown activity I've witnessed. I'm betting there will be at least twenty of them by the time lunch is served. A flat bed truck arrives and a man starts to unload four armchairs.  The mayor and Angus exchange looks.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cool grass.

A  C-A-T has taken to sleeping on the wood pile in the barn. Another C-A-T sleeps on the cool grass under the oak tree by the far gate. Sophie hurtles out of the front door to deal with these 'interlopers'.  5:50 am and our day gets off to a noisy and active start. It goes without saying that neither C-A-T is in any danger of being cornered by the family diva. The PON full throated hunting technique gives her prey ample warning of impending doom. 

This morning we're off to the garden centre. It's a rule of life that you always need to go back to the garden centre to get the 'right' number of geraniums.

Angus picks up some bright yellow hibiscus. They were by the cash desk and looked 'cheery'. Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse 'The Font' is less sure.

In the New York Review of Books three pages on an exhibition on George IV at the Queens Gallery in London. An unpopular king with a taste for food bordering on gluttony. Seems the attendance numbers at the exhibition suffered due to the Covid-19 lockdown.  The London Times writing of Georges death in 1830 described him as ' a bad son, a bad husband, a bad father, a bad subject, a bad monarch, and a bad friend'.  In good contrarian style the NYRB says he was the last British sovereign to possess genuinely good taste in painting, architecture, music and literature. It goes on to say with a hint of republicanism that ' the British monarchy has been distinguished by philistinism' ever since. The review also informs its readers that the Duke of Windsor in his French exile with Mrs. Simpson always used to wear a kilt for dinner . I've never heard of this before and wonder if it can be true. Getting dressed in a kilt is quite a time consuming process and not something one would wish to do every night. In a no longer used bedroom that used to belong to Cost Centre 3 I come across an old Gilray cartoon of the king. He was indeed a larger than life character.

Friday, May 22, 2020


The eaves of The Rickety Old Farmhouse alive with nesting, argumentative, sparrows. As we head out for the PONettes pre-dawn comfort break a dozen young ones fly down and settle on the grass. They exude a 'What joy to be alive' spirit. Sophie considers chasing young sparrows to be beneath her dignity so they are left alone. She's saving her energy for the brown C-A-T that's taken to sleeping on the log pile in the barn.

Lots to talk about with men in dark suits. Poor Hong Kong. Pompeos dog walker. Was Open Skies important ?  Sometimes it's a relief to head off in the car to the stream and leave human affairs behind. When we get to the valley Sophie leaps down and races to the waterfall.  What better way to start a day than a long beard drenching drink from a stream ? Sophie tries to fish for minnows but they dart too quickly for her paws to get anywhere near them. This doesn't stop her trying.

One of the farmers has set up a bird scarer which makes a most almighty bang every two and a half minutes. Sophie is not keen on angry sounds. Our walk is curtailed and she's soon back in the car. Coaxing her on is a waste of time. The family diva has made up her mind.

It's going to be a hot one today. The weather forecast on the radio ' chaleur, chaleur, chaleur'.

Lockdown genius. A site that rates those rooms in the background of video interviews :

Thursday, May 21, 2020


The temperature nudging up towards 30 degrees. These late May mornings have that perfect combination of sunshine, gentle warmth and even gentler breeze. As we head out of the front door it's clear that Sophie has had one of those nights. Her hair has developed a life of its own.

She heads over to the pool to demonstrate that there is nothing as refreshing as the three day old rainwater on the pool cover. To get to it she adopts  a less than ladylike pose.

By the time we're ready to set off on our morning walk her coat has settled into a less 'rescue dog' shape. The power of gravity.

The Volvo garage has supplied a courtesy car.  You'd think all Volvos would be spacious on the inside. This isn't true. We decide this one must be made for svelte twenty something contortionists.

I show the bee orchids on the village green  to the old mayor. He says the hedgerows were full of them before the late unpleasantness. The 'late unpleasantness' he's referring to is the German invasion in 1940. The last time I'd heard this term was more than forty years ago in the Piedmont Drive in Club in Atlanta when a very grand southern lady used it to describe the ' war between the states'.

Sophie takes a very dim view of this :