Saturday, October 31, 2020

A large pile.

The first full day of the lockdown.  Angus prints out and distributes 'Attestation de deplacement derogatoire' to the older villagers who don't have computers. The new mayor is supposed to have come round with these travel forms but the printer in the town hall office has chosen the start of the confinement to have a 'moment'.

The Font has ordered three thousand litres of heating fuel just in case we can't get the tank topped up again this side of Christmas. Fuel deliveries are not covered by the lockdown but there have been rumblings of staff shortages at the refineries. The delivery driver rather enjoys the restrictions. ' There are no cars on the roads so I can get my route finished nice and quickly'.

Angus has calculated that in a direct line the stream is less than a kilometres away . By road its probably double that but for the duration of the lockdown we will be using 'as the crow flies' measurements. This enables Sophie to get down to the waterfall to drink, fish for minnows ( ineptly ) and watch the dragon flies flitting  backwards and forwards. Afterwards she wanders along the old roman road to glare at the farmers goats. The goats seem oblivious to being glared at.

Loic, is gloriously unaware of the lockdown. The matron of his home phones to say that as far as she's concerned his work is a 'deplacement pour motif familial imperiaux'.  She roars with laughter as she says it. Loic enjoys the ride on the garden tractor and the matrons delighted to get at least one of her charges out for a couple of hours. This morning he blows the leaves into a very large - and for Sophie very satisfying - pile.

I've just started this. A reminder that every generation thinks that things will never get better - and yet somehow life carries on.

Have you ever seen an orchestras musicians sway as much ? :

Friday, October 30, 2020

The last shopping day before Christmas.

Yesterday was hectic. The imminence of lockdown means a hasty rearranging of plans . 'The Font' heads off to pick up the dry cleaning before the owner shuts up shop for a month . Angus and Sophie head off to the fancy greengrocers which will shutter at noon. We live in a sparsely populated  part of the world where there is no traffic. Thursday morning saw traffic. In fact there were traffic jams. The car park at the greengrocers chock a block at five minutes to opening time. Angus watches as a phalanx of French women head towards the entrance . Some put on masks as they go. Others carry them in their hands.  Angus arrives at the entrance and can see that several hundred French ladies are intent on stripping the shelves bare. Joining them would not be a life enhancing experience. He returns to the car and  explains to Sophie that the swarming ladies look like they would kill for that final pack of dried lentils .

As of today we are allowed out for an hour a day within a kilometre of home. We must also carry a certificate showing where we live and at what time we've left the front door.

Dog and master head off to the drive thru bakers. 

The young woman at the sliding window takes our order and then pushes our purchases at us. She is wearing not one but two masks.We then repair to the car park where we raise the tailgate and share a pain au raisin and coffee.

As we watch the traffic driving past it becomes clear that this frenetic activity is because people think this may well be their last day to do Christmas shopping. At least a hundred people enter the electronics store as we're sharing our viennoiserie. The sleepy little market town is as busy as Rodeo Drive on a Saturday.

Deliveries are still taking place at The Rickety Old Farmhouse. This morning a pair of new Wellington Boots arrive. The old ones, which were bought when Angus still lived on an island, have rotted away. These French replacements are a little more stylish than British Wellington Boots.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

4 weeks

The French always refer to their President as Le President de la Republique.  A somewhat lengthy and fussy construct to Anglo-Saxon ears. Anyway,  President Macron was on the television at eight last night. A four week national lockdown announced. Bars and cafes across the country to be closed. Permits needed if you want to go out. Earlier in the year the country was locked down for two months. This time round the dark skies and cold weather will make it all the more necessary but also much more unpopular  and much more difficult to police. For the first time in his speech a hint  that there will be real economic and political damage.

This weekend is supposed to be All Hallows. A time when families get together. Not the best of times to impose travel restrictions. 2020, as in so many things, will clearly be different. On the churchyard gates a notice has appeared. The police are advising visitors to the graveyard to watch out for car thieves and make sure their vehicle is locked. On the other side of the gate both the old and the new mayos can be seen busily at work sweeping the gravel paths in readiness for visitors coming to their family graves. 

This morning we head off again for a walk down by the river. Our last  chance to go there until the lockdown is lifted. Sophie is now well versed in clambering up and down the car ramp.  She is less keen on the new tailgate which rises and falls with the press of a button. She regards the tailgate with a ' What manner of magic is this ?' wariness. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Too close !

This morning we meet the new mayor heading along the lane.  ' I'm off to the town hall ' he says by way of greeting. He tells me that he receives daily official bulletins on the progress of the pandemic. The hospital ICU's are close to being full - 2 beds left - but so far there have been no cases in our canton.

A little later we meet the German billionaires wife walking the new labrador puppies. She is off to Switzerland. She's heard that the young couple with the farm on the road to the next village have tested positive although they are displaying no symptoms. Perhaps someone should tell the new mayor. ' Too close to home for my liking !' she says breezily. Angus wonders if it's entirely sensible to be driving backwards and forwards across Europe with an entourage of hairdressers and flunkeys. Not being a billionaire he keeps this prosaic thought to himself. 

With nothing to do writing a blog in pandemic times becomes rather difficult. Thankfully, 'The Font' insists we do something 'new' every day. So it is that Sophie is loaded into the back of the dog car and we head off to the water park. This sounds dreadful but is actually the site where the rivers Tarn and Garonne flow into each other.

The confluence of these two fast flowing rivers has created a vast lake that is home to all sorts of wild fowl. I count forty swans.  It looks placid but the force of the two rivers has carved out a channel half a kilometre wide.

In the paper an article about a police dog cemetery. A very French and formal resting place for the nations four legged guardians.


I'm tempted to buy the flying pig print for the wee house in Scotland.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The asterisk.

The man with anger management issues is coming along the lane as Angus and Sophie head out for their first walk of the day. We don't recognize him to start with. He's wearing a baseball cap back to front and has the collar on his coat turned up. He's also carrying a canvas backpack and has some soup plate sized mushrooms in each hand. He nods in a guilty, conspiratorial way as he passes. 

'The Font' has the suspicion that our angry neighbour buys and sells mushrooms out of his garage. For all we know his supposed mushroom foraging might be highly lucrative. Strange visitors ( strange in the sense that they're not villagers ) can be seen showing up at the door of his house late at night. These visitors arrive empty handed but always leave with a carrier bag, or two,  filled with something indeterminate.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse our day is proving to be one of mystery and adventure. The courier delivers a box of 20 washing up brushes.  Angus has the suspicion that someones finger has inadvertently typed in 20 rather than 2 on the keyboard. We now have a lot of washing up brushes. Angus puts them somewhere safe so that we can easily find them when needed. 

A  gentlemans grooming product arrives courtesy of Amazon. It is to be hoped that this new purchase will lead to an improvement over the Fonts first ( and last ) attempt to give Angus a trim using the heavy duty dog shears. The first foray into self grooming produced a look that was more jaggedly serrated than stylish. The bearded man on the box appears to be cutting his hair himself. This seems to be improbable . Angus observes that there is a small asterisk next to the words ' self-cut'  on the box.


This Twitter thread about getting into Harvard was interesting :


Monday, October 26, 2020

Body clock chaos.

Another quiet morning in what are turning out to be exceptional times. 52,000 new cases yesterday which adjusted for population size would be equivalent to 320,000 in the US. Sophie hasn't quite got the hang of the time change yet so PONette and master , although early risers by nature, are up and about while it's pitch dark.  On our second walk of the day, when it's getting light, Sophie is allowed off her lead. This morning she can sense the presence of a C-A-T but it never enters her head that her nemesis might be sitting on the wall above her.

We think that we'll be the first folks at the fancy greengrocers. It's a thirty minute drive away along the motorway. Seems that the clock change hasn't only affected Sophies routine. The car park is unusually full at three minutes to opening time with folks who are getting used to the body clock change. Lots of '75' plates (  Paris ) with a sprinkling of 33's ( Bordeaux ) and three or four from the Vaucluse ( 84 ). Angus still manages to buy lemon and limes, carrots for Sophie and a variety of yogurts in less than three minutes. He is the first at check out and the first out.

Being a large nationwide chain the fancy greengrocers has become very American in its approach to the seasons. I'm sure Halloween never used to be this big a thing in France.

Sophie waits stoically for my return in the back of the big car . She has displayed  some semblance of patience although I get a ' where do you think you've been ?' glare as the tailgate swings open. As a treat she gets taken to the drive thru bakers. Service is delayed while the manageress on duty remonstrates with two customers who have walked inside and are refusing to wear masks. The young manageress , who is a mere slip of a thing, informs them to put their masks on or get out. ' Can't you read the sign at the front door ? It says masks are obligatory and that means you !'. This later part of her message not so much said as shouted. The two offending  middle aged men in shell suits meekly comply. 

You've got to feel sorry for some people.  After 17 years of restoration work this hotel has opted to open now -- just as travel restrictions are put in place :


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Deeply irritating.

Another 45,000 cases reported in France.  There are rumours that if the numbers continue to rise the curfew hours will be extended two hours to begin at  seven at night rather than the current nine o'clock.  This makes sense in Paris but is a little excessive for our 67 inhabitants. As soon as the colder weather arrived folk flocked indoors and the numbers rose. The linkage to being indoors in unventilated rooms seems to be pretty well borne out. A lot of fancy Parisian registered cars in the greengrocers car park this am. The exodus of city dwellers continues.

The world may be suffering from pandemic woes but this is of no interest to Sophie who spends a full ten minutes minnow fishing. This is carried out with her usual ineptness. Refraction is a concept she doesn't understand and which allows the minnows to remain 100% safe. With a final yelp of irritation we leave. This morning the family divahas tried both the screaming at the minnows technique and the standing still and glaring at the minnows technique.  Neither worked.

Angus would also like to emit a yelp of frustration. Yesterday, the builder arrived as promised . He informed me that he doesn't think he'll have time to dig out the foundations for the pergola. Instead he drops off one of his colleagues to lay the stone tiles on the concrete slab outside the French doors. Angus points out that the pergola was supposed to be up and ready nine months ago ' We've missed the entire summer' I add with more than hint of impatience.' Haven't we all ?' replies the builder. Angus can think of nothing to say in reply to this so storms indoors to vent his frustration on 'The Font'.  'The Fonts' view is that we can hardly expect to use the pergola in the winter so why get het up ?.  There is something irritatingly sensible and logical in this view. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Will the builder show up ?

Milder this morning. A layer of cloud wrapping the ridge in warmth.  Sophie and her master wander along the lane. We stop to greet the horses who look at us , unblinking, and hope we've brought carrots. Then it's onto the storm drain. Sophie sits next to me and leans in as I discuss the state of the world. She has her ears tickled and is told, as she's told every morning, that this is her home. Some days she acknowledges this with a quick lick of my cheek but not today. She's off at high speed in pursuit of a young deer that's popped out of the shelter of the walnut trees onto the lane. The family diva pauses to absorb the audacity of this behaviour then throws her head back, howls and chases after it. She goes all of twenty yards then stops. Sophie belatedly recognizes the deer has gone and that further pursuit is hopeless. 

The village completely quiet. The local restaurants and bars once again closed. The schools on Halloween holidays. Another 42,000 cases reported yesterday.The unsmiling woman who owns the little restaurant near the power station is giving up the uneven struggle against the lockdown. She's closing for good despite it being the best restaurant in twenty miles. The curfew rules means she has to close by nine. Here that's the time most French are thinking of going out to eat. The man who has the shop that sells lawnmowers and garden implements kept going through the first bout of the virus but has now laid off his staff and opted to stay at home and excavate a swimming pool. This second 'autumn weather' wave will have a deeper economic impact than the first.  In Scotland there are some signs that the spread of the virus is slowly starting to tail off.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse I check the garden for fallen branches and discover that the deer have helped themselves to the recently planted cyclamen.  The builder is due this morning. 'The Font' thinks it will be most unlikely he'll show up on a weekend. Sophie fixes me with that PONette stare which makes it quite plain that the garden can wait. Curly croissant ends are a more pressing priority.


The accents are what you'd expect to go with these pictures :

A human trait :

Friday, October 23, 2020


Off to the pharmacy with 'The Font' for our annual flu jabs.  Sophie considers all outings, even those for flu jabs, to be great adventures.  Overnight a shocking 42,000 cases reported in France. As of Saturday we will be under curfew - residents need  to be in by nine at night and can't go out before six in the morning. For the villagers this will not prove to be a hardship....or a change to their routines.

The pharmacy has introduced a strict one way 'Covid'  system. Customers enter through the side door , wash their hands in gel,  then walk past the reclinable chairs and detour round the vitamin counter before arriving at the cash desk and the vaccination room. There is no one else in the pharmacy at this time of the morning so this triumph of organization is somewhat lost on us. While preparing the needle  the masked pharmacist engages Angus in polite conversation. He breeds ferrets and went to Dumfries in Scotland to visit his pen pal on his thirteenth birthday.  Angus can only assume that this conversation is straight out of the French medical textbook on ' making the patient feel relaxed by engaging in uplifting conversation' .  'Do you want the injection in your left or your right shoulder ?' I'm asked. Angus opts for the right.

Sophie gets a trip to the drive thru bakers. After the trip to the ferret breeding pharmacist we're running later than usual . We find a bean tree to park by and enjoy our croissant together. Angus sits on the tailgate, his furry companion under it. We discuss the debate, how Kristen Welker did as moderator and watch the staff arriving at the electronics store.

In the greengrocers some Costa Rican 'Eddos'. Angus rather likes going to the greengrocers. Every day there is some new and exotically sourced product. Local shoppers are left to ponder what Costa Ricans make with 'Eddos'. 

Absolutely nothing staged in French music videos :

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Quiet. So, so quiet.

After last nights strong winds the day dawns unseasonably warm and bright. The lane is covered in fallen branches. The horses in the field by the 'Y' junction wander over to see Sophie who ignores them. Why cows should be seen as intimidating and horses aren't is one of those imponderables of the canine psyche. The builder drives by. He has a new Mercedes electric van. The van is both very shiny and very large. Unusually for a van it is finished in a silver metallic rather than the more usual white.  He announces that he'll be along on Saturday morning to get the tiles laid and the foundations for the pergola poured.  ' M'Ongoose. We'll work through the weekend to get it done '.  The man with anger management issues also passes by. He stops and informs me that his court case is still on for the week of November 18th. He then says something remarkably rude about the German billionaire before heading off.

A large black and white C-A-T is asleep on the town hall steps. It wakes and moves off at the speed of light when it determines that a howling diva is heading in its direction. Sophie is delighted that her ' up front' guarding technique has worked so well.

With the little market town out of bounds Sophie is getting half a dozen lockdown induced walks a day. I'd like to say all this additional exercise is making her 'svelte' but it isn't. There again under all that fur who knows what's going on ?


Wednesday, October 21, 2020


Angus talks to Manhattanites in dark suits. 6:00 am French time. Midnight in New York. Do they never sleep ?  What might happen between now and January ? What decisions do the East Asian allies make ? How will those Michigan and Wisconsin college towns vote now there's no students around  ? Could Don Jr be the chosen one for '24 ?  Will the stimulus package make it to the Senate floor before or after the election ? Sophie displays her interest in the conversation by turning on her back and snoring. Sophie does not snore quietly.

Weighty matters out of the way Angus and his furry companion head out for their morning tour du village. Some wild boar have been by during the wee hours and left their calling cards. Sophie devours these with relish. Sophie then has  a long drink from the zinc bath by the village pond.  On our way home we meet the Parisian lady who is here for the school holidays with her husband and 16 year old son. All the kids at the Henri IV wear masks but social distancing is a problem.  No sooner has the Parisian lady scurried away than one of the ladies from the womens cooperative pulls up alongside in her little silver Dacia. She asks whether there is anything they can do to help. ' Keep smiling. I know how difficult it can be at your age' she says . Until now Angus had never thought that he was at a 'difficult age'.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Blowy this morning . Loic comes to deal with the fallen leaves but the wind makes his task a Sisyphean one. No sooner has he got them in a pile than a gust undoes his handiwork and they go flying. For once the havoc can't be blamed on Sophie.

The family diva spends her morning following Loic around . She uncovers hidden treasures that her late brother had painstakingly hidden around the garden. That old family favourite, Lamb on a Rope , expertly buried alongside a rose bush, is rediscovered. So too is Green Toad. Sophie is delighted to be reunited with these old acquaintances.

With much of the country in lockdown life has taken on a gentler pace. We are reading a lot. Angus finishes this book on the German revolution of 1918.  Although largely forgotten, the author ranks the events of November that year alongside the French, the American and the Russian revolutions as being one of the great political changes in history. Its success was obscured by development 15 years later. Not an easy book  but  well worth reading for its insights and the ' what might have beens'.

Today we spot two cars with Dutch plates, one British registered Mazda drophead, three Spanish vehicles and no less than five cars with Belgian plates. Many, if not all, the local rental homes are let out - at peak season prices to Parisians and other 'incomers' fleeing the lockdowns. Ireland has imposed a six week lockdown so I'd expect to see some Irish plates joining the mix.