Monday, November 30, 2020


Another day of writing a blog in a world where you can't go more than a kilometer from your front door. Angus is getting stir crazy. Sophie is loving the fact that her 'flock' is on call 24/7.  More cars out this morning. A sign that folks are returning to work ? 

The weather changing. Mid to high teens about to be replaced by rain and  low single digits. Sophie and her master are out making the best of the sunshine before winter settles in. Sophie's coat has suddenly developed its lush bad weather thickness and texture. Not a moment too soon.

Big decision of the day. At the T junction we pause and head off right down along the lane and then down the path to the valley.

The roses, lulled into bloom by the warmth, are about to get a sharp shock.

Saw this  . No land is shown, only the places people live. You can make out towns in New Zealand and Siberia. The populations of China, India and Indonesia dwarf Europe and the States. Obvious, but when you see it like this you understand what it means. Best to zoom image out.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

My fault.


Sophie waits in the car while Angus goes back inside to get his Covid travel permit. When he returns she is sporting that unmistakable ' Get on with it look '.  

We're still using the big car. The dog car has developed a major problem. I'm not exactly sure what it is because the mechanic speaks with the rapidity of a tobacco auctioneer. The gearbox and the engine will have to be removed. I have to ask him to repeat the story three times before I can piece together what's going on. The rest is impenetrable. The dog car will be off the road for another week. He says this is 'unusual' in a way that somehow hints that I'm a foreigner and that it's my fault.

Sophie is  in one of her 'vocal' moods. She has taken to 'yodeling' which seems to be a character trait of female PONs. Certainly none of her male predecessors ever yodeled although they would happily hold long conversations with themselves ... and each other. 'The Font' thinks Sophie is allergic to silence and this is her way of dealing with it.

After a trip to the stream, a tour of the village and quick detour to the local store for a bottle of milk the family diva settles down in front of the house for a scratch and a nap. This is for the best as her hair hasn't become any more manageable.

The first Christmas link and a reminder that outside London life has a different 'pace' :

Something v beautiful in this photograph of Times Square :

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Boredom ?

Sophie's enthusiasm for the new day reminds me why owning a dog during a lockdown is a must. Boredom ? No such thing exists when there are C-A-T-S to chase, scents to sniff and drainage ditches to explore.

At the storm drain Sophie is told, as she's told every morning, that this is her home. The mud on her paws tell you that she's quite aware of this. She ignores the friendly horse that wanders over, as it wanders over every morning, to peer at her quizzically. Routines, in a PON household, are sacred.

Here in France C-19 infection rates are falling fast. The lockdown may be lifted - or at least eased - on December 15th. Our first trip will be to the fancy greengrocers in the market town.  In Scotland the first vaccine shots in Glasgow and Edinburgh may be available in ten days.

I'm not sure what we'd do with one but how could I have not known the Irish had invented this ? :

A sign of the times and a more unusual Christmas present .Literally selling off the family silver :

Angus used to wear something similar as a 19 year old - but in those days they cost ten bucks. The fact I notice the price - and comment on it -  another sign I've turned into my father . :

Friday, November 27, 2020

Painted over.

Out for our morning walk to the storm drain. The farmer on the far side of the valley still has his apple trees wrapped in mesh to stop the flocks of finches from feasting on them. We discuss why so many people object to the candidacy of Michele Flournoy - a lady who who is both highly talented and capable. Angus wonders if some folks think she's too centrist. Sophie thinks it's probably because there's an old guard that objects to the fact that she's a woman even though France and Germany and Britain have had women in that role.

The dog car has been in the garage for three days. I called the dealership  yesterday and the service engineer ( who spoke with the speed of an Arkansas tobacco auctioneer )  informed me they were checking with the cars eyes and ears ( les yeux et oreilles de la voiture ). Presumably, this means the engine diagnostics. Since then I've heard nothing. This could imply 1) they haven't started work on it yet 2) something techno-serious has been discovered that means importing a part from Sweden or 3) the garage subscribes to the French approach to after sales service - which leans to the non-existent side of minimalist. I will call them again later today .

Sophie trots up the ramp into her oversized space in the back of the big car. We follow our walk to the storm drain with a trip to the 24 hour store in the next village. En route we notice that the skull and cross bones on the chateau gates have been painted over.

After all that excitement there's time for Sophie to empty 'The Fonts' yogurt pot then settle down outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse to recharge her batteries.

Probably the remotest self catering in Scotland. Beaches that put the Caribbean to shame.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

An act of defiance.

The post lady arrives bearing a letter from the British Embassy in Paris.  A lengthy list of things that have to be done before the UK leaves the EU on December 31st. We did everything on the list three years ago, so there's no need for panic. Pity the poor souls who are only now waking up to the fact that they will soon be treated as 'aliens'.

The post lady also bring Obamas new book for 'The Font' .

No excess of caution on the part of the gutter cleaning man who shimmies up his ladder with gravity defying ease. He throws down handfuls of leaves . Sophie finds this to be soul hearteningly exciting. She stands at the bottom of the ladder and howls her support. Every clump of leaves that tumbles down from on high is carefully sniffed. What joy!

Sophie settles down on the front doorstep for a restorative nap. The builder arrives. There is much excitement in the village. Overnight someone has painted a skull and crossbones on the gates of the chateau. Underneath the words ' Virus ! Danger !! '. Angus can't help but think there is something rather medieval about this response to the arrival of the pandemic in out little corner of paradise. The builder volunteers his view on who might be responsible . It goes without saying the man with anger management issues is the prime suspect. This  story is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Holiday music from a more innocent age.This song one of the few things I remember as an 'alien' child from  the American Thanksgiving of the 1960's. It's certainly the right music for an unusual Thanksgiving :

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

An executive decision

The builders, or more precisely, the builder continues working on the pergola. The stone has been laid , grouted and sealed. Today the metal structure should be assembled and put in place. ' We'll need to drill into the stone ' says the solitary workman with a hint of uncertainty in his voice. This sense of impending complexity is reinforced by his parting comment  ' Hope we've got a drill bit that's large enough'. 

With a quarter of the village now self isolating Angus has taken to carrying a mask with him on our morning walks. This is a prudent if somewhat unnecessary precaution. On our excursion across country this morning we see no one.

Faced with the presence of the two large horses in the field by the crossroads Sophie makes an executive decision. She  discovers that by walking along in the drainage ditch she can become invisible. They can't see her and she can't see them. She can also make a very satisfying noise by walking through the crinkly leaves.

Lockdown pick of the day.  Surely some of the most beautiful English music ever ? :

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The virus arrives

The day starts off well. At eight the garage texts to say that the pickup truck will be at the house in an hour to collect the 'dog' car and take it back to be repaired.  Forty five minutes later a second text says the pickup truck will be there in an hour and a half. Mid afternoon a third text says the driver couldn't find the house and has returned to the garage.

Angus texts back to say that ' The driver is welcome to give me a call any time to get directions. The number is the same one you're using for the texts'. This is met with silence. Perhaps sarcasm doesn't translate ?

Sophie and Angus use the big car. This is supposed to be a Sophie free zone. Canine free zones make some sense when you're trying to keep dog hair off potential passengers. In a pandemic lockdown passengers are few and far between.

Sophie rather likes the back of the big car. It's four feet longer than the space in the back of the dog car. First class as opposed to coach. The downside is that it has light grey carpeting which isn't a perfect match for wet muddy paws. Sophie is oblivious to this dirt/texture mismatch.

The workman is still finishing off the grouting. This was supposed to have been finished by lunchtime yesterday. Sophie has taken a shine to the workman and settles down to observe his actions with quizzical interest. She seems to have the belief that he's hiding a pack of Jaffa Cakes that will be opened and presented to her at any moment.

In the evening the builder shows up. It seems the German billionaire, his wife, their chef, their secretary and their sons have all tested positive.  This is what happens when you drive backwards and forwards across frontiers and assume the regulations are applicable to others but not you. The gardeners, the cleaning ladies and the odd job men who work at the chateau must all go into quarantine.  When he hears this the Calvinist side of Angus finds vocal expression with some decidedly non-son of the manse phraseology. It just ain't fair.

 This is interesting. I'd have got Murphy, Smith, Martin, Melnik and Andersson. Possibly Papadopoulos.

Todays music. A small thank you to hospital trauma room doctors :

And who can resist a little Bruch played in Scotland in lockdown ? :

Monday, November 23, 2020

A new week

A new week. There is a solitary workman here laying the stone slabs for the pergola floor. He hopes to be finished with the grouting today and will start on the metal framework for the pergola tomorrow. 

The temperature has fallen. Last week it was in the teens. This morning a bracing two degrees. A hint of frost on exposed parts of the lawn. Sophie's coat is growing an inch a week so she can sit in the morning sunshine , oblivious to the chill,  watching the stone being laid. For some reason she completely ignores this workman. By contrast the morose lads elicit her concrete shredding bark.

Infection rates seem to be falling in France. A couple of weeks ago there were 80 thousand confirmed infections every day. Now it's down to the low  20 k's.  The President faces a difficult choice. If he keeps the lockdown in place through Christmas infection rates will be kept low but it will kill the economy. If he removes the lockdown the economy will recover but infection rates will rise again. We're betting they'll allow the shops to re-open but keep restaurants and cafes closed.

In case we're allowed back to the greengrocers we've invested , thanks to Amazon, in these new masks. They come with a replacement filter that can 99.99% deal with the virus. You wouldn't want to wear them for more than 10 minutes but that's long enough to do a whistle stop tour of the fresh fruit counters. For longer outdoor walks , in town, we'll revert to the standard blue masks which make talking easier. Blue outdoors, black indoors.

This is the sort of picture the very young and Angus could enjoy :

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The humming noise.

Our day starts uneventfully. We go for a trip to the waterfall in the month old dog car. Sophie fishes, ineptly. When we try to return to The Rickety Old Farmhouse we discover the car is making a strange high pitched humming noise. Coming back up the hill the  engine starts powering up and powering down which makes for a 'jerky' ride. As we turn into the village the noise and the surge are joined by an alarming metallic clickety-clack. Things get worse. A smell of burning greets us as we arrive back at the house. Angus opens the bonnet . Why he does this is a mystery. The days of tinkering with an engine went many years ago with the advent of electronics. An e-mail is sent to the Volvo garage asking them to come and pick the vehicle up. Having a temperamental car seen to in lockdown is challenging. Angus is now steeling himself for the forthcoming battle with the garage who will reply and claim we are too far in the countryside for them to send a truck to collect it.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Faithless electors.

We're up early talking the twelfth amendment, faithless Michigan electors, Don Jr's symptoms  and the 1887 Electoral Count Act with the Manhattanites in dark suits. They continue to work from home. The commute from Rye to Park Avenue still out of bounds. The Manhattanites expect to be back in their offices by the end of March. Those who have invested in Moderna hope to be behind their desks in mid-January.

After these weighty conversations Sophie and her companion head off for a tour of the village.

Ducks, geese, horses, cows and donkeys all greeted. The moor hens are rather surprised that anyone should be up and about this early and head off squawking , at high speed, to the safety of the shrubs that line the village pond.

When we get home there is one solitary builder hard at work laying the stone slabs. The concrete base is supposed to be 4 meters by 4 meters but has somehow 'expanded'.  The slabs require cutting into a suitable shape to fit the enlarged area. Stone dust flies everywhere. Sophie is encouraged indoors.

Loic arrives to blow leaves. He has asked for a new leaf container. This has been ordered and shipped by Amazon. He's delighted with it. I see him heading off to the furthest reaches of the orchard with a spring in his step. Who'd have thought that anyone could be so happy about a new leaf holder ? He's even happier putting the piles of leaves into his new gardening aid. Later on this morning he will have a twenty minute ride on the lawn tractor.

Don't think I've ever seen a 'bunk room' advertised before. This hipsterish hotel looks like fun if you're a twenty something :

Most folks will have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to a talk on how to solve the climate crisis but this is good and some compensation for being in protracted lockdown :

You can now order a virtual walk if you can't get here. The wee house makes a cameo appearance at the 2.23ish mark. Proof it still exists . Angus is now getting to the stir crazy stage  of lockdown and is keen to get back to Scotland -

Friday, November 20, 2020

The builder arrives ?

Sophie is up the ramp at first light. Exactly a year ago the ramp was bought to stop Angus having 'twinges' lifting our titanium kneed companion up into the back of the car. Sophie weighs 22 kilos. The ramp 10. Lifting her up was easy. Getting the ramp out and then stowing it away again is  so much more complicated. Sophie, being a diva, has taken to the ramp like Naomi Campbell to the catwalk.

The builder is due any moment to start laying the stones for the new pergola. He has texted to say he'll be here by eight. Things must be very slow for him to volunteer his  movements and plans.  Sophie and her master have just enough time to squeeze in a quick drive down to the waterfall for a drink, some inept minnow fishing and a chance to look at the clouds of dragonflies. It's 13 degrees this morning. Tomorrow its forecast to fall to 5 degrees . Winter is fast approaching and with it the dragonflies last cavorting of the season.

Thursday, November 19, 2020


The Turkish stone tiles arrive. Angus wonders why French delivery drivers never phone ahead to say they're on their way. A call is made to the builder who promises to show up on Friday morning to restart work. We shall see.

The flags are still out on the war memorial. They are starting to look a little  wind blown and 'squiffy'. Armistice Day was eight days ago. Perhaps i's time to have a gentle word with the new mayor ?

Sophie recognizes the sound of the post lady's little yellow van. The post lady's little yellow van must always be greeted with a torrent of barking. It's one of the inviolable laws of the universe. All other vehicles must be ignored.

After all that excitement it's hardly surprising that the family diva repairs to the wooden grooming table in the garden.

There she can settle down and watch the world go by. The fact that there is no world to go by during lockdown doesn't matter one iota. In fact it helps her catch up on her post walk beauty sleep.

If you see anything better this morning let me know :

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Even less.

On our start of day tour of the village we meet the man with anger management issues.

The court case , which had been rescheduled for Monday, has been postponed again. I ask him if it was because of the lockdown. Seems it wasn't. The German billionaires builder claims to have developed a throat problem that will require surgery. A new date for the hearing has yet be set. ' I'll give him throat surgery' says the anger management man, drawing a finger, blade like, across his throat in a piratical manner.

After that excitement we head down to the stream to watch the dragonflies.

So starts a Wednesday morning in a little village where little ever happens - and even less happens during a pandemic lockdown. The flags are still up on the war memorial. Perhaps I should mention this to the new mayor ?