On our morning walk we pass the small patch of ground by the churchyard. Someone has pastured two small horses there. The horses are of the variety that believe every passing stranger is carrying a sack of carrots . They race over to see us. One puts his chin on the gate and shows his teeth. Sophie leaps back. She will be delighted when these enthusiastic visitors go. Our morning tour of the village is completed at a super fast pace.
On the village green the lime tree that's always covered in bees has a new sign hanging on it, 1789 - 1989. It is improbable that the lime tree could be that old. Some of the oaks could quite possibly be that age but not a short lived lime. It is also highly improbable that the revolutionary villagers of 1789 having set fire to the castle, executed the owner , dealt with a breakdown in law and order and faced an Austrian invasion would have prioritized planting commemorative trees on the village green
Local French peaches in the green grocers. We shall for the next month be a on a high peach diet. First strawberries, then melons, now peaches. The year has its unshakeable cycles.
This morning we go to the bakers that deals in cakes in primary colours.
We sit outside by a table that has been set up against the air conditioning unit. This makes conversation difficult so we skip through the impact of the new Hong Kong security law and the Russian 'bounty' revelations. Sophie has her croissant ends and water quickly. Angus, who finds the coffee scaldingly hot, takes a little longer to finish.
A man in a dark suit texts me this link : https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-could-it-be-burning-out-after-20-of-a-population-is-infected-141584
The Old Farmer and his 'lady friend' set off in the venerable Ford Transit motor home at five in the morning. They have planned an early departure so they can drive through the cool air. Today their goal is Narbonne. Tomorrow they plan to make it to the sea at La Napoule. The sound of slamming doors and the engine wheezing into life at the third attempt gets Angus out of bed. As he wanders downstairs a certain dog appears somewhat surprised that it's already time to be up and about.
The cafe on the square deserted at this early hour. The coffee, indifferent croissant and bowl of water come quickly. A woman smoking a cigarette comes and sits at the table next to us. She coughs repeatedly. Why with a hundred empty tables does she have to choose that one ? Amid her coughing we leave. She might at least put her hand to her mouth to cover it. The pandemic is making Angus impatient with those who are oblivious to good hygiene.
Sophie gets a long walk along the old Roman road on the valley floor. A family of wild boar have been this way during the night. Sophie finds evidence of their passage in the grass verges. What a start to a day !!!
Home to greet 'The Font', have breakfast and then recover a little equanimity by flipping on her back and falling asleep. So starts a Polish Lowland Sheepdogs Monday morning.
A hearty ' good morning ' from Sophie who is harnessed up and ready to head out by five thirty. Never let a moment of a great day go to waste.
In between thunderstorms the wheat fields have been harvested. I'd have thought Sophie might find the stubble hard on her paws but it's still soft and pliable. She skips off down the hill towards the stream. En route we pass the rather proud looking bull, his harem and a bevy of calves. Sophie redoubles her pace.
At this time of the morning the little waterfall a magical place. Th deer and badgers and who knows what else have been drinking here overnight have just gone. The mud still alive with their smells. Dog heaven.
At the cafe a shared croissant. This morning the croissant is brought to us in a paper bag. It's straight out of the oven so scores a hearty 9.3/10.
The Old Farmer and his 'lady friend' are back. He's up a ladder. Not a good idea for a gentleman who recently fell and broke his hip. He's got a can of paint in one hand and a paint brush in the other. His lady friend explains that she's not going anywhere in the motorhome until the paintwork is 'pristine'. He's touching up the green coach line that runs around the roof. Of all the things that the venerable Ford Transit motorhome needs doing to it the paint work is perhaps the least important.
Masks seem prudent : https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/face-mask-war/
So does this : https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/covid-19-coronavirus-face-masks-infection-rates-20200624.html
The psychology is difficult : https://ideas.ted.com/why-some-people-wear-masks-but-others-dont-a-look-at-the-psychology/
We were supposed to go out to celebrate 'The Fonts' recent birthday al fresco at a local restaurant. Our first excursion in four months. Mid afternoon the sky clouds over. A check of the weather forecast shows a mountain storm and winds of 120 kilometres an hour are expected at eight. So is hail. We reschedule dinner for next week.
The storm when it arrives does not disappoint. The garden looks quite magical, lit by lightning and blanketed in white. A touch of winter in June. Sophie seems oblivious to the deep growls of the thunder. Perhaps all she can hear is the hail ricocheting off the gutters. I wander down to check on her but she's sound asleep and snoring.
Four thirty in the morning. The noise of the storm has gone to be replaced by the sound of scattering gravel and the slamming of car doors. This tells us The Old Farmer has returned. A peal of high pitched laughter indicate he's there with his 'lady friend'.
At five thirty , when Angus and Sophie head off on their morning walk, the 'lady friend' can be seen on the balcony washing the roof of the venerable motorhome with a hose and a mop. Her beau is doing something under the bonnet and muttering to himself. PONette and master slip silently by.
On our return we're spotted. 'Bonjour M'Ongoose' says The Old Farmer. 'Best to be up early in this humidity if you want to get anything done'. M'Ongoose agrees. The Old Farmer adds that he and his lady friend feel that they deserve a break after being cooped up for three months. ' We thought we might drive down to the Cote d'Azur. The ladies always enjoy a bit of luxury '. Angus makes a diplomatic throat noise that might be taken for agreement. The motorhome with its fibreglass repairs and mouldy window frames is not everyones idea of luxury. The thought that it might make it to the Cote d'Azur is a sign of positive thinking befitting Mike Pence. ' We won't touch the motorway. Better to stick to the back roads ' observes our neighbour. Angus can agree with this wholeheartedly. The Old Farmer will soon be eighty eight. His companion eighty five.
Be choosy when picking an airline : https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/25/business/pakistan-fake-pilot-intl-hnk/index.html
For mathematicians : https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-geometric-perspective-cracks-old-problem-about-rectangles-20200625/
Some folks block off chairs, others put up plastic barriers. This is a very Parisian way of maintaining social distancing :
And finally Twitter philosophy : https://twitter.com/PDLComics/status/1276171569128062976
Before heading off on our morning walk Angus pops into the kitchen and has a yoghurt. Sophie sits by his side and silently, but powerfully, lets it be known that she ADORES yoghurt. The pot is licked dishwasher clean. Make that industrial dishwasher clean.
We head off in the car, windows down, radio blaring to the cafe that makes the really really good croissants. This mornings soft and flaky. 9/10. Just after dog and master have finished the council sanitation department staff show up. First one truck, then three. Sophie is now known by name by the entire sanitation department workforce. How chic is that ! A diva indeed.
Ephemera du jour
Mozart Indian style :
The temperatures getting up into the high 30's. Sophie and her master set off at 5:30 to avoid the heat.
At this hour there's no traffic but the lime tree on the village green is already abuzz with happy bees. The sound can be heard from The Rickety Old Farmhouse as we turn out of the gate. The buzzing bee tree ranks as one of the auditory wonders of the world. Who knew a tree could be so alive with noise ? There must be thousands of bees hard at work on it.
Home for a cup of coffee and a chance to talk to men in dark suits about the economy. Years ago we planted the area round the terrace with roses and lavender. This years heavy rain followed by heat have made both roses and lavender grow as if there's no tomorrow. The idea was to have waves of scent roll over our morning breakfast. It's worked.
Sophie waits almost patently. She adopts her ' Talk if you must but the croissant will be getting cold ' pose. The pose is accompanied by the PONette unblinking stare.
Some folks clearly don't want to get out of bed . It's a local French product : https://bedchill.fr/
The hotel and airline industries are busy sending out e-mails. This morning Angus finds an e-mail from Hyatt informing him that the Cleveland Clinic is advising them on germ control. This is reassuring. They also say I can have private bee keeping lessons on the roof of 'certain' hotels. This is less reassuring. A hotel in Arizona sends an e-mail that is effusive in its enthusiasm to welcome me back. ' It's been too long ' they say chirpily. In fact it's been twenty five years since we stayed there amid a disastrous family holiday in Tucson. Little did we know that Arizona had a rainy season that can put Scotland to shame.
The gendarmes have been to the village to interview witnesses about the altercation and subsequent hedge felling incident involving the man with anger management issues and the German billionaires builder. The Belgian lady has provided a statement. The old mayor and the new mayor find themselves on different sides of the dispute. Being foreigners we have opted for the ' We're a bit simple and no speekee the French so good ' approach to village quarrels. ' The Font ' rather delphically thinks this is a role Angus will have no problem playing.
Off for our early morning shop. At the frozen food store frogs legs next door to the Sea Bass. You don't find that in the UK.
In the large greengrocers a sign prohibiting customers from using their fingers to pick up the cherries. A scoop is provided. Angus looks on in horror as a man ahead of him picks up one, then another and then a third. Having eaten the cherries he then places the cherry stones on the edge of the display cabinet. No cherries for us today. Angus is once again unsure whether his discomfort is based on the mans lack of hygiene or the theft involved .
To the cafe that serves good croissants. Angus orders two but 'The Font' speaks to the waitress and changes that to just the one. Angus and Sophie are disappointed. Todays croissant is a 8.9/10. A second would have been a 9.5/10.
Today we breakfast among the early rising gentlemen of the local sanitation department.
They have brought their trucks with them. Sophie sits with her nose high drinking in all the exotic smells. Canine contentment. She wanders over and checks the dustbin mens footwear. They coo at her but she's quite oblivious to anything other than their perfumed boots. The life of a diva is truly wonderful.
Australia shares this brand of humour. Possibly the US. Canada too ? Not many places would be allowed to scorn their politicians : https://twitter.com/Darren_Dutton/status/1275344859885379584
Americans apparently drink this. Having read the story I'm no closer to knowing what it is :
Can this be happening in Texas ? : https://twitter.com/PeterHotez/status/1274312975340486656
Barely gone six and it's already warm. New born calves and their mothers lying basking in the morning sun . One calf is too busy suckling to notice as we pass. Sophie has no intention of greeting them. She hurries along, head down. If you don't see them they can't be a threat.
At the cafe on the square new perspex screen have been installed to stop aerosol dispersion. They don't look at all bad. Angus could quite happily live with these. How scientifically efficient they are at such a low height is another matter.
Infection rates are continuing to fall as people move outside. Even at this early hour the outdoor cafes are beginning to fill up. The general rule - Outside : good. Inside : bad. The country is soon to open up to foreign visitors, That will be the first real test of how things are under control.
In front of the cathedral they've dug an enormous hole. It has a surprising number of large beams/ pipes running across it. Whatever can it be for ? The wonderful little wine store that sold Grand Cru Chablis at a great price has pulled down its shutters for the very last time. Another pandemic casualty.
This is the UK's new ambassador in Washington sensibly focusing on the important question of the day : https://twitter.com/UKdefUS/status/1275108301500448768
Just a little reminder that our times aren't that turbulent ... yet . You will need to click on the letter with its wonderful postscript : https://twitter.com/CitizenWald/status/1275118384355651586
For heavy metal fans : https://consequenceofsound.net/2020/06/grateful-dead-deodorant/
Schools start back today. As we return from our morning walk the two tikes and their elder sister are standing by the war memorial. The sister is texting on her phone and is oblivious to the world. The two tikes do a fair representation of Louis XVI on his way to the guillotine. They clamber onto the school bus in head bowed silence. So ends four months of unexpected freedom.
Sophie heads off with Angus to the cafe in the square. This mornings croissant looks the part but is a lacklustre 6.5/10. We discuss the John Bolton book which has been reprinted, in part, in the morning papers. The waitress brings over a bowl of water and puts it down. No sooner has this happened than an amorous Jack Russell makes a beeline for Sophie. Sophie makes her feelings plain - very plain - she's here for croissant not adventure. The family diva emits an almost silent, but explicit, growl from the back of her throat. The Jack Russell, wisely, retreats. Nothing but nothing gets between a girl and a curly croissant end.
We head off to the really good cheese shop. The young lady behind the counter tells me that 5% of the customers wear masks. ' We had so few cases here people don't think they're at risk '. She adds that those who do wear masks are ' your age '. Angus passes over this comment in silence.
This morning we opt for a red ferocious looking thing for 'The Font'. It's a Boulette d'Avesnes which the young lady says is strong. It sounds ideal. Angus wouldn't go near it with a barge pole but 'The Font' will love it. 'The Font' also loves pickled herring. He also orders some Brie de Melun. Sophie , after her interlude with the Jack Russell, is rewarded with a sliver of Salers.
So starts a warm sunny Monday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde. The builder has promised to come over today to 'price up' the tiling job. We shall see.
Sophie races down the track to the stream and waterfall. This morning she doesn't even bother to check that I'm following her. Too beautiful a day to think of anything other than warmth and sunshine, blue skies and badger poo.
There is a duck sunbathing on the side of the stream. It waddles off when it hears the sound of a howling PONette in hunting mode . The duck paddles into the stream. PONette tries to brake on the slippery mud but doesn't manage to slow down in time. Outcome ? One wet and unhappy PONette. The duck is unperturbed, as in completely unperturbed. Angus tells his furry companion that he'd read that PONs were supposed to be intelligent dogs. This attempt at humour is ignored.
On the way home in the car we discuss the unusual Barr - Berman spat and the stonker of a line ' you have chosen public spectacle over public service'. Sophie thinks this is an example of the pot judging the kettle .
A sodden Sophie is left on the lawn to dry out.
Another walk along the lane soon has her coat dry. We maintain a brisk pace this morning because of the cows in the field.
Even more alarming for the family diva is the presence of a solitary bull that wanders towards her. Our morning pace moves from brisk to hurried. Angus is positioned between bull and family diva who is told there's no need for alarm. A solitary bull in a field of thirty or so heffers must be a very happy but very tired fellow .
No luck with finding a restaurant on Saturday night for 'The Fonts' birthday. It's also Fathers Day and seating has been moved outside. There's probably only 25% of the seating that is usually available. I book somewhere for Thursday night. Better late than never.
Village life .
A fun read :
Supposedly the best restaurant in the world
'The Fonts' birthday. Angus and Sophie are up and out early to get to the bakers to pick up a cake. In fact we're out so early the shops haven't opened yet. There's ten minutes to wait. From the door of the church we can see one of the flower ladies getting things ready for tomorrows mass. The seats in the nave have been socially distanced but even so they're too close for comfort. The church was built in the 1260's and is an enormous barn of a thing. Far too large for an agricultural town that's shrunk to 1500 souls of whom 60, on a good day, may attend mass. The state of the interior is dire - what the revolution failed to destroy neglect has accomplished. Stone flaking, paint peeling, wood rotting. There must be thousands of these old churches dotted around the country mouldering away. What do you do with them ? Who will pay for their upkeep ? What happens when they go ?
The bakers wife isn't wearing a mask. She's had electric sliding doors installed so that only one customer at a time is allowed in. We have to ring a bell and wait while she appears from the kitchen. She's carrying a tray of freshly baked croissants and dealing with a toddler that's clinging to her skirt. ' You're here early ' said in a tone of voice that's more admonitory than factual.
Angus, who is wearing a mask, listens as the bakers wife spills out her woes. No rugby club/ private party / school graduation orders. These accounted for 40% of their business. Their turnover is less than half the levels at this time last year. The good news is they're not paying taxes and there's a rent holiday. They survive.
Angus waits while birthday greetings are piped on the cake. He orders some croissants ...
a peach tart ....
.... and a tub of freshly made white peach ice cream together with a tub of peche de vigne ice cream.
Now that's a library : https://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/samuel-taylor-coleridges-childhood-home-up-for-sale-complete-with-pool-party-room-and-library-for-22000-books-216137?f
Something about Alaska : https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2020/06/18/state-removes-infamous-into-the-wild-bus-after-years-of-hiker-rescues-and-deaths/