Friday, July 31, 2020

Even hotter

The early rising farmer is ploughing the field on the other side of the lane. Clouds of dust drift towards The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Sophie is hurried back into the safety of the garden. Today is going to rise to the mid 40's. At this early hour it's already 28 and not a hint of a breeze.

After the ploughing has stopped and the dust has settled Sophie is given a bath.  For once we have managed to rig up a shower attachment that leads from a downstairs bathroom to an outside paddling pool. Before she knows it Sophie is in the pool, shampooed and showered. Slices of carrot encourage her to remain almost still and almost uncomplaining.

Being a diva Sophie knows how to arrive - post bath - in the kitchen and demand more gratification. She gets more carrot slivers which seems a fair recompense.

Time for a fast outing in the car, windows down, to fluff up and dry our shaggy companion. Today in the greengrocers we buy some fresh peas ...

... and some rhubarb. This will be turned into a crumble and served with white peach ice cream. Sophie has decided white peach ice cream  is out of this world and should be a staple of her diet.

I found this interesting - but perhaps you have to be a child of the times :

Friendship dolls to Japan. This is one of the more esoteric things from MIT :

August 1st is National Mustard Day. This sounds like a truly bad idea but I'd try it ..... once :

Summer music :

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Hottest day of the year.

Three tiny white kittens asleep in a wicker basket on the terrace. When we get close they bolt and knock the basket flying. Sophie remains oblivious to their presence. Angus once again marvels at the PON breeds 'selective'  awareness skills - or lack thereof. Sophie has the excuse that it's going to be the hottest day of the year and at six in the morning it's already too hot and humid to be bothered about kittens.

Even the moorhen mother seems bamboozled by the heat. She has built a twig nest in the middle of the pond which is shared with four chicks. This morning she's walking backwards and forwards on the water lily leaves picking up insects which she feeds to her chirruping brood. Look closely and you can just see her.

We're at the cafe early but the throngs of city dwellers heading south are even earlier. We count no less than a dozen  tables taken when we arrive. Lots of cars from Paris. They must have been driving through the night to get here by six thirty.

We take a table at the far end of the terrace by the 24/7 baguette dispenser. A good distance between us and the other clientele. The waitress points out that as a ' pandemic hygiene measure ' they have now installed a credit card payment system. The waitress also tells me that there were 1400 new cases diagnosed yesterday. Sophie's bowl of water has an ice cube in it.

The croissants all sold out. A new batch is in the oven but will take twenty minutes. We opt for a pain au raisin.  The central gooey part of the spiral is raisin free. Sophie is more than happy with this change to her routine.

Sophie has white peach ice cream for the first time. This gives you some idea of her reaction  -

Whoever knew a hand sanitizer could be toxic ? :

There will be a market for this here in summer time France :

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A wilting candle

Down at first light to the stream for a drink. Usually you can't see the rocks but in high summer with the water level low they provide Sophie with a path to the far side.

Back up the hill to the top of the ridge and The Rickety Old Farmhouse. The village green looking somewhat parched. The Old Mayor used to turn on the irrigation system. The New Mayor seems to have little interest in gardening.

'The Font' has all the windows open in the hope that the warm night air will rush out and cool fresh air rush in. Angus isn't sure the seven am air is that much cooler.

Angus also notices that a wax candle on the mantle in the study is starting to wilt in the heat. That's how hot it is. A 'red' alert issued for Thursday and Friday. It's going to get even hotter. 

We try the modern cafe in the little market town . It's closed.

We opt instead for a coffee and what claims to be a croissant at the newsagents. Sophie considers the croissant to be delightful but her companion thinks it may be a byproduct of the petrochemical industry. 1/10.

We have literally hundreds of bats that live in the roof. As the sun sets they launch themselves in dribs and drabs into the night sky . In the morning one or two stay outs will still be aphid hunting. They, by enlarge,  seem to be small happy things. Not like these bats :

Improbable ? Rome to Vietnam  :

Has it been any worse than the UK ?  Madame Bay likes to drive down to the border for duty free gin. She now thinks it's too dangerous to do so :

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A Genet

Sophie does not enjoy 40 degree + days. After our 5:30 am walk round the garden ( already a steamy 25 ) she slumps on the cool tiles on the kitchen floor. One great thing about The Rickety Old Farmhouse is that the walls are so thick the heat takes time to work its way indoors. 

Comfort breaks and meal times excepted much of today will be spent in front of a fan . There may be a late evening outing to the stream but last night Angus saw what he thought might have been a Genet - a small wild cat. Although it walked by within two metres of Sophie she was thankfully completely unaware of its presence. Angus makes a mental note to ask The Old Mayor whether Genets can bite. 

There will also be a windows down , ears flying trip to the bakers for a curly croissant end.

It's too hot to go for a walk through the sunflower fields. Nonetheless, a bunch appear on the breakfast table.

I didn't know there was a skill to this :

Getting away from the heat :

Seems reasonable to me :

Monday, July 27, 2020

A Dutch Porsche.

The motorway is busy at six thirty.  Folks from the North hurtling to the beaches for three weeks vacation. Yesterday, a group of half a dozen pilgrims wandered through the village. Their brief appearance doubled the number of visitors we've seen this year. The new French Prime Minister was on the radio saying that if case numbers continue to rise there will need to be a second lockdown. No way the economy could survive that . It would mark the end of so many hotels and restaurants and all those other things that make France, France.

A silver Porsche with Dutch number plates drives slowly through the village on Sunday evening. Its engine gurgles as the driver accelerates over each of the three speed bumps. That, in a French village in high summer, is what passes for news.

The temperature is forecast to hit the mid 40's this week. This morning is supposed to be bright and sunny but clouds have blown in from the Bay of Biscay. They look dark and threatening  but only serve to make everything hot and muggy.  Sophie spends longer than usual sploshing in the much diminished stream . She is a lady who enjoys cool paws.

We go to the cafe in the shopping centre for a restorative Monday morning croissant. Angus and Sophie stand outside until the queue has disappeared. Todays croissant a miserly 4.5/10. Looks the part but inside like white processed loaf. Sophie devours her curly ends with gusto. She also chases three sparrows that have perched on the neighbouring table and are looking longingly at the croissant crumbs.

The cake selection is uninspiring. We lave without a purchase. Sophie simply cannot understand why this should be so.

Over dinner The Font wonders how many folks in the music industry must be suffering from no work during the lockdown :

Just what the world needs now :

This place comes recommended but I have no idea where Edison or Kenfdall Park are ( off the Parkway ?) but they serve 'immunity boosters'  which must be a first :

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Darker at both ends of the day. As we venture onto the village green the sun is just rising over the horizon. Sophie barks at the village C-A-T-S.  One is asleep on a bench as Sophie passes. It doesn't stay asleep for long. Nor, for that matter. do the villagers.  The female PONs concrete shredding howl is a wondrous thing.

To the bakers for our start of day croissant. The waitress is wearing a navy blue mask. This is the first time I've seen her wearing one. Parisian visitors have started to appear in the shop and she's worried that they will ' bring the disease with them'.  This says a lot about the local perception of Parisians.

The cake selection is rather humdrum. Can't believe that passing Parisians are going to be swept off their feet by these offerings. The croissant was however delightful, Straight out of the oven. This means Sophie has to wait for it to cool down. She squirms. The antics of Congressman Yoho have made it onto French breakfast radio. His surname causes the newsreader some difficulty. She finally settles on a strangulated U-hu as being the correct pronunciation.

One side of The Rickety Old Farmhouse abuts the old medieval ox track. At this time of the day it's dark and shady. Sophie and her master head off for a brisk walk while it's still cool. The ox track descends ,steeply, down to the valley. This  provides Sophies owner with a good cardiovascular workout. It is also prime territory for those interested in snacking on deer/badger/fox/civet poo. Our progress is leisurely as Sophie munches away.

This coming week will be peak sunflower season.

A bouncing sheep :

A Senator at 42:

It's going to be 40 degrees today. Hotter tomorrow.  This sight of Scotland cools me down . The Wee House is still there :

Is the new AA advert the best ever ? It reminds me of someone :

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Latin - undoubtedly

Angus is up and in the hallway putting on his shoes before the family diva wakes. Must have been a deep sleep and a great dream that's kept her occupied. She stands on the half landing wondering what's going on. PONs need a little time to get their brains into gear.

The fourth scarecrow has been placed on a bench outside the church. Last night someone put a mask on it. A touch of Gallican wit. This morning the mask has been removed. Perhaps the scarecrow maker doesn't think his creation needs improving ?  There again someone may simply lack a sense of humour. The new mayor seems to work during the wee hours. My betting is on him.

Angus and Sophie keep abreast of current events by discussing whether Congressman Ted Yoho's apology was really an apology, or not.  Sophie is of the opinion that politicians should spend much less time on personal invective and much more time on ensuring yogurt pots refill themselves. Back in France the daily infection rate which fell to the low hundreds is back above a thousand. The old ways of kissing on the cheeks reappeared too quickly - with predictable results. 

The trees on the road to the greengrocers are being pollarded. The tree fellers have closed off a lane and  instituted a contraflow system. Three impatient drivers in front of us ignore the red light - they are adherents of that ' I can make it through before the light changes at the other end ' approach to life. They meet drivers coming in the other direction who make their displeasure plain. We sit and watch in Anglo-Saxon primness as the tree loppers and the motorists attempt  to sort out the ensuing mayhem. Voices are raised and punches thrown as the 'You reverse'. ''No you reverse '' argument unfolds. Let there be no doubt - this is a Latin country.

All sorts of wonderful local berries in the greengrocers. All of them carefully packaged in pandemic proof clear plastic.

The Americas have been inhabited for much longer than people think :

Intriguing  :

Ghost dogs :

Friday, July 24, 2020

A non-gastronomic meaning

Sophie has had the fur round her eyes trimmed. This means she can see. This in turn means she's up at the crack of dawn, brimming over with enthusiasm  and following me round as I open the shutters. 

This morning she is exuding her ' What a wonderful day ! ' enthusiasm for life.  If this could only be distilled and bottled it would cure all the worlds woes.

As we wander round the house we discuss the spat between France and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. Sophie is rather disappointed to learn that the word 'Turkey' has a non-gastronomic meaning.

A fourth scarecrow has appeared on the village green. As I've said before one is amusing, two interesting, three too much and four borderline psychotic. Will there be a fifth ? Or, heaven forbid, a sixth ? Who ever knew that scarecrows were such an aspect of French rural life ?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Blogger goes wild

Angus spends 10 minutes on the blog every morning. This morning he logs in to find that the dashboard has changed out of all recognition. Why do they do this ? Angus has reached that age in life when change for changes sake is no longer considered a good thing. Try as he might the size of the print face won't come out the same. 

Down through the fields to the old chapel. This is a view that can't have changed much in a thousand years. Then along the old Roman road to the stream.  This morning the cows are grazing on the far side of the field. Sophie is aware of their presence but unbothered by them. When it comes to cows, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

Back in the village there are workmen hard at work in the graveyard. A ladder is leaning up beside the swaying Jesus. A quick conversation provides reassurance that the swaying has not returned. The workmen have just left the ladder there while they go into the church to discover which roof tiles blew off in yesterdays storm.

At the greengrocers fresh nuts are on sale. Why people would buy fresh hazelnuts is a mystery. Fresh almonds I could kind of understand.

So starts a quiet Thursday in deepest, deepest France profonde. Yesterday 'The Font' went to the hospital for the scan. They had turned the aircon off as a safety measure. Radiology departments need aircon.  Today, we shall head off to the doctors to get the results.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Soon disabused of that idea.

A hearty Bonjour from Sophie who has spent the night under the sideboard in the downstairs hall. Starting at three, and lasting for a full hour, there was a cymbal clashing thunderstorm. Sophie usually doesn't notice thunderstorms but this was one of those shake the foundations variety. It also seemed to have got stuck directly overhead where its grumbling and banging played to maximum effect.

By six there's little sign that there had ever been a storm. The sky is free of clouds , the air is crisp and the ground underfoot is dry. Sophie hurtles off to the stream. This morning she skips. Her start of day is made even better by a post walk trip in the car for a shared croissant. This mornings offering is light, fluffy and cooked just right. A 9.3/10.

Yesterdays birthday visit to the French dentist was an interesting insight into differences between the two countries.  

The surgery, when I arrive, is devoid of life.  A sign at the reception desk  informs me to 1) wear a mask 2) wash my hands in antiseptic gel 3) take a seat in the waiting room and 4) maintain 2 metres distance from other patients. Angus has a chance to observe a floral arrangement on the waiting room table. Angus had never thought that floral arrangements could be nightmarish but this one is. The sound of a high speed drill drifts through the air.

There's a twenty five minute delay in seeing the dentist. This fact is ignored by a woman in purple scrubs who emerges from a side door with a small blue plastic cup filled with a brown liquid. '' Go into the bathroom and rinse with this " she informs me with a matter of factness that is peculiarly French. She then disappears. Five minutes later she reappears and ushers me into the surgery. ' Get onto the chair and keep your mask on ' . Or, this I what I think I'm told but her dental mask and face shield make understanding difficult. 

The purple scrubbed woman is not the dentist. This it turns out is a younger woman in a canary yellow smock and lime green trousers. She is not wearing a visor but a mask and what appears to be a pair of ski goggles. Communication with her is easier but hampered by Angus's lack of dental French. Who ever knew two languages could have such different terms for teeth ?

After an x-ray, much prodding , a lecture on brushing more thoroughly ( this is a standard trope in all dental visits ) the brightly dressed dentist informs me that I need a crack repaired and a new filing.  ' How long will it take ?' asks Angus. '' No more than forty five minutes " comes the reply. Angus assumes it will be done there and then but is quickly disabused of that notion. I'm the last patient they're seeing before the surgery closes down for three weeks. I'm given a prescription for antibiotics , a medical mouthwash and an appointment on August 21st. On my way out the dentist notices it's my birthday. Suddenly three more women appear. They stand in a line behind the reception desk, congratulate me, take off their masks and sing 'Joyeux anniversaire'. This sweet little gesture may not do much for restricting aerosol dispersion - but there again I was the last patient for 3 weeks. For the first time I see them smile.

Reading while waiting for the dentist :

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Not all is lost.

Angus bites down  on a cherry stone and cracks a tooth. Today he'll be celebrating his birthday by going to the local dentist for some emergency treatment. His planned dinner of steak will be replaced with super soft pasta. Not all is lost. The bottle of Sassicaia will remain a key ingredient of the celebrations.

Sophie climbs into the back of the car and looks happy. She looks even happier as she chases field mice and other invisible things ( ineptly ) through the sunflower fields.

Here in France the first day of mandatory mask wearing in public places goes well. 95% acceptance. Those that don't wear masks are forgetful rather than libertarian.  Not all is smooth sailing . 25% of mask wearers seem to have difficulty understanding that the mask should cover both nose and mouth. Hopefully, the understanding that the nose should be covered will become more widespread.

Warning ! Rugby club language. This video from Huntington Beach gives an insight into Americas mask wars :