Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Boat owners.


It's not raining this morning. Perhaps we shall see some ( or all ) of the workmen return to finish off the pool ?


It is a law of nature that the moorhens will appear and frolic unconcernedly on the water lilly leaves  when I don't have the i-Phone with me. When I do have it they quickly scurry into the safety of the iris plants that line the pond. Eagle eyed readers may just about make out mother and three tiny chicks paddling towards safety. 


Down by the river a group of boat owners getting their craft ready for summer. Kayaks also make a seasonal appearance. Sophie carefully monitors all these goings on. The boat owners tend to be gentlemen of  a certain age who are so engrossed in what they're doing that they ignore her. Sophie is not keen on being ignored. She yelps to make sure they know she's there.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The last remaining ....

The last remaining bell  in the little 12th century pilgrims chapel has got stuck in the 'up' position. This should, by the laws of gravity, be impossible. The old churches in this part of the world have bell walls with three openings for Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Father and Son were melted down during the occupation. Holy Ghost was hidden and survived. It is the gravity defying one.

The wet weather continues. This of course doesn't deter the family diva from wanting to go out and face the adventures that life may offer.

This morning, while 'The Font' slowly surfaces, dog and master head down the motorway to the drive thru bakery. Sophie does her usual ' I'm an orphan dog that's never been fed ' routine. She's discovered that this often results in our being given a second croissant. The ploy works. This morning is a second croissant day. Sophie scores todays offerings as 12/10. Angus thinks they have the texture of supermarket white and scores them 5.5/10.

To finish off our chic French morning escapade we do a lengthy tour of the car park. The two ducks that call the front of the electrical goods store their home are briefly, but inefficiently,  chased.



 A new and rather stylish store opening in London :https://www.pantechnicon.com/shop

The restaurant has the sort of menu The Font loves .... and Angus doesn't :https://www.pantechnicon.com/roof-garden


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Relief.


Ten o'clock on a stormy Saturday night. Three police cars with their blue lights flashing pull up in front of the church. Another three park by the village pond. Lights are turned on in the Salle de Fetes. From our drawing room window the new mayor can be seen deep in conversation with a group of gendarmes. More cars draw up. Villagers congregate by the church porch. More police cars arrive .... this time big powerful ones from Toulouse. The rain gets heavier. The man with anger management issues arrives at the front gate. A little six year old girl has gone missing from one of the new houses down by the 'T' junction. Everyone is drafted in to search outbuildings. The tracks that lead to outlying farms are checked. The wind picks up. Villagers pair up and set off in their cars to expand the radius of the search.

Then, as if a bubble has burst, the tension and the frantic activity stop. The little girl has been found on the side of the road, two kilometers away, drenched and frightened but safe. How she managed to get so far a mystery as is the reason she's wandered off.  Smiles of relief. Laughter. The police cars and the flashing lights disappear. By midnight the village is silent. We can only imagine what the parents have gone through. Doubtless, we will hear more of the story today.

Perhaps most memorable was the way the quiet, nothing ever happens here, village sprang into life. There is, despite what some politicians would have you believe, such a thing as 'society'. The lines from a Philip Larkin poem, taught for 'O' level English suddenly swim into focus from a long forgotten place  ' We should be careful of each other, We should be kind while there is still time'.


 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

What a display




After an abnormally dry March and April we are now facing an abnormally wet May. The builder, the men that are supposed to be laying the new stone tiles and the firm that have been hired to fit a new pool pump all call to say that they need a spell of good weather to finish off what they've each started. The stone layers, having consulted the weather forecast, think they might be back on Tuesday. In the interim The Rickety Old Farmhouse garden  is home to piles of sand, columns of stone and an orange cement mixer. PONettes find piles of sand intriguing. Piles of wet sand are doubly intriguing.


The wet weather is doing wonders for the wild flower meadows ...


which are borderline breath taking. More Swiss Alps than southern France. Its the number of wild orchids that differentiate this years from last years displays. This morning we walk for forty five minutes along the valley without seeing another soul or a passing car. In a sense the wild flowers really are an early rising dog owners singular gift.


 
There is something enticingly exotic about this - although for us this hotel is a mundane hours hop across the sea from Toulouse airport :http://www.darahlam.com/gb/our-experiences/the-memory-road.html


Friday, May 14, 2021

A F-O-X on the lawn.

The men in dark suits returning to their offices in New York. By the end of the month they'll be back at work full time. The novelty of working from home has dimmed . Today we discuss Israel, Palestine and new IRS rules on taxing Bitcoin.

This morning there's a F-O-X walking across the lawn. Words cannot describe Sophie's reaction. Thankfully, for the F-O-X, Sophie demonstrates her unique hunting skills. She goes left , the F-O-X goes right. There is much excited howling.

Excitement over we head off for our start of the day tour of the village. Despite the early hour there are cars parked outside the church. One of them, a Peugeot in lurid blue, has a strange contraption attached to its rear. Too small to be a wheel chair ramp, and anyway, the back of the Peugeot is too low . 


After peering inside the car for clues we are still none the wiser.

The roses by the war memorial are looking mighty fine after the overnight rain. Later today I'll come out and prune them.


Lost for years :https://twitter.com/dodo/status/1392977958776758274

Explain this if you can :https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-tuesday-edition-1.6022063/flock-of-extremely-rare-california-condors-wreaks-havoc-on-woman-s-home-1.6022603



 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The permit.


Eight am in the departmental capital. The prefecture opens at eight thirty. The cafe where we usually have a coffee while waiting firmly shuttered. We go for  a long walk round the town to pass the time . 


When we get back to the prefecture it's eight fifteen. Proof of that old rule that time flows at a glacial pace when you're standing outside a government office on a cold, grey morning with nothing else to do. There is a gathering crowd of asylum seekers. Bored school children lean up against the wall of the school opposite and watch us. French school children are world class people watchers. They exude teenage disdain.  By eight twenty five quite a crowd has gathered.  Syria, Mali and Chad are well represented as is the UK. The Brits stand in mournful silence , their fellow permit applicants sit happily on the pavement and chat away.


Finally, the security gates swing open. Angus uses long rugby dormant skills and weaves his way through the crowd. I'm supposed to have the first appointment of the day but by the time I've made it past security the two permit windows are already in use. ' You'll need to wait for them' says the receptionist pointing to the two queue jumpers and stating the obvious. She then goes on to tell me that I've got to go into the waiting room . ' You can't stand here. Don't you know there's a pandemic ?'  

It goes without saying that the waiting room has, by this time, become a social hub of densely seated humanity.  Angus thinks of saying something to the ice maiden about social distancing but thinks better of it. A cheerful gentleman in a bright purple shirt comes and sits next to me . ' The washrooms have  a ceramic sink, soap and a thermostatically controlled system that produces just the right amount of hot water to wash your hands' he informs me. This is an unusual conversational gambit.  Angus thanks him for this insight but has to take a few moments to think through  what a thermostatically controlled system might be. It's rather early in the morning to be discussing weighty matters like this with a new found friend from Mopti.

After fifteen minutes the process is done. I've had my finger prints taken on one of those electronic scanners that never seem to work, my photo has been down loaded into the system and I've signed a 'Brexit' document. The new residence permit will be mailed in the next six weeks. Progress !


 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Paperwork.


A super quick blog this morning. 5:50 am. Angus is up early. Today he has a 8:30 am appointment at the prefecture. An hour and a bit drive down the motorway in the departmental capital. Last week he received an e-mail saying his post-Brexit residency permit was ready. Instead of being a 'communitaire' I'm now a resident alien which enables me to legally spend more than 180 days a year in France without a visa.

Sophie is none too happy to discover her family is up and about before she's fully awake. She does her best to pretend that no one is disturbing her rest. That PON trick of pretending if you ignore them they'll go away. The sound of 'The Font' opening the fridge door has her on her feet.

On Sophie's  'comfort break' tour of the village we are surprised to find four pilgrims and six horses trotting along the lane. The first pilgrims we've seen in two years. The logistics of riding to Spain on horseback must be complex. Where would you find feed for the horses ? Where would you stable them ? Perhaps there are companies that arrange equestrian travel itineraries.


 This is one of those little magical pieces of prose that sticks in the mind :https://annagat.substack.com/p/on-not-disappearing


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Reverie interrupting


Overnight another mountain storm. A constant beat of thunder in the small hours lets us know its grumbling its way slowly over the ridge. This morning a few branches down and the ground satisfyingly soft after the rain. 

Breakfast Yogurt pots licked clean it's time for Sophie to head off on a Tuesday morning adventure. Today Angus, 'The Font' and the family diva are going for a long walk by the canal. We follow  a white van on the single track bridge that spans the river. The bridge was built in simpler, more leisurely days. For high speed 21st century living the bridge arches are alarmingly narrow. This doesn't bother the local white van drivers who zip along in speed limit denial.


The little porridge coloured Volvo is parked by the lock keepers cottage. We call it the lock keepers cottage and assume there is a lock keeper but we've never actually seen anyone emerge to do anything vaguely lock keepery. Perhaps, these days, it's all automated and the cottage is let out as a weekend retreat to Toulousians ? 'The Font' thinks that the capital investment needed to automate a canal that only has a handful of boats on it three months a year would be a very bad decision.


Sophie, as family diva, leads the way.


All goes well until the 7:32 train from Bordeaux to Toulouse ( stopping at Agen and Moissac ) goes hurtling by. The reverie interrupting train gets a full on PONette glare.


 So starts a new day with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog in deepest, deepest France profonde.




Monday, May 10, 2021

Double dose.

The weather all over the place. Nearly 30 degrees on Saturday.  Hail and 90 km/h winds on Sunday ( which pretty much did for the newly planted  dahlias and lupins ) . This morning grey and gusty. We're surprised to discover that one of the stone laying workmen is busily at work at 6:30.  We were told they'd be finished on Friday afternoon so this maybe a last minute rush to catch up.

The workman hasn't brought Jaffa Cakes. He is glared at then ignored. The family diva enjoys a brisk start of day walk down the hill followed by a  less brisk walk back up. The dog roses in full bloom after the rain.

Then its off along the motorway to the drive thru bakers. Three cars in front of us this morning. Mask wearing seems to be tapering off again - we seem to be the only people still wearing them . Purchases done Sophie and Angus then head off to a quiet corner of the car park to enjoy their croissant. The girl behind the drive thru window ( who did wear a mask ) was asked for one croissant but, following a conversation with Sophie ( who has yelped with delight ) , she's given us two. Such is the power of PONette mind control. Double curly croissant ends this morning.  Dog and master give this mornings offering a score of 11/10. 


To add to this mega stylish start to our day we then take a long leisurely stroll by the still closed shops. Sophie chases the car park ducks .A chic start ( by village standards ) to our Monday.


 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The ceremony.


Another May bank holiday. The second of four this month. This time it's the commemoration of  the end of WW2. Usually all that happens is the mayor comes along, borrows a ladder and puts out the flags on the war memorial. 

This year the new mayor - who is standing for re-election in May and who faces a National Front candidate- decides to hold a ceremony. A dozen or so old combatants show up at five to eleven. They are shepherded into line. The old mayor, resplendent in blazer, grey trousers and his tartan pork pie hat, holds the flag. They then salute ( twice as some of them didn't hear the command the first time it was issued ), lay a wreath, sing the national anthem and then head off to the village hall for a non-socially distanced glass or two of wine. We would have missed the ceremony altogether had it not been for the fact the new mayor had brought along a 'boom box' and a tape of the Marseillaise to help with the singing of the national anthem. The tape has 'stretched' ever so slightly. This generates a stirring but somewhat unusual fast-slow-slow-fast  rhythm. Sophie who is keen to see what is going on is 'encouraged' in from her vantage point at the gate.








 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Donkey.

Saturday morning. First light. A black and white C-A-T can be found contentedly asleep on the bench at the front door. It doesn't remain asleep for long. The C-A-T wakes, looks at Sophie, then escapes through the hedge . Sophie goes hurtling across the lawn in misplaced pursuit. C-A-T is safe; PONette happy.  

Grey and chilly as we set out from The Rickety Old Farmhouse. One of those days you know are going to be 'claggy' as soon as the sun is up and the heat builds.


A group of inquisitive young cows wander over to the fence to see us. Sophie is not amused. We pick up speed.


In the field where the slipper orchards grow wave upon wave of exotic looking blooms. Another variety of wild orchid ?

There was much commotion at the donkey farm three nights ago. This morning, way down at the bottom of their field, the reason for all the noise becomes apparent. The donkeys are too far away for the i-Phone to do them justice but a new, small, presence can be made out. He or she is enjoying a nap under the watchful gaze of a mother and two aunts. Could anything shout out 'French village' more than the arrival of a new donkey ?  I tell Sophie that all is well with the world.


After a morning full of  excitement the PONette is ready to lick the yogurt pots and have a reassuring ear chook before heading off to the strawberry farm.


 I'm not sure this is a very practical study. How would patient and bees work with one another ? :https://www.businessinsider.fr/us/scientists-taught-bees-to-smell-covid-19-infections-2021-5


Friday, May 7, 2021

Haughty indifference

 

Earlier in the week, when we were waiting for our jabs at the medical centre, a man wandered in to the reception to make an appointment for a vaccination. I'd expected that the staff would give him a date a month or six weeks in the future. Instead he was given an appointment the following day. Now, according to this mornings radio,  it's official. You can either turn up at the surgery in the evening to see if there's any vaccine left over or you can book up, whatever your age, and try for an appointment in the next 24 hours if there's a slot available.

Does this mean that the system is working to perfection ? Or, does it mean that take up of the vaccine(s) isn't what had been hoped for ? 


Here, the world is  calm and peaceful. A bit of a breeze this morning. The clouds ambling along above us. It was voting day in Scotland yesterday.  Despite the stormy weather turnout seems to have been high. It remains to be seen whether this helps or hinders the Nationalists with their call for independence. Sophie displays a haughty indifference to her companions conversation. She's much more interested in some fox poo she's discovered on the recently cut grass verge.

The man with anger management issues drives by. He stops long enough to tell us his court case against the builder has been delayed again. The fourth postponement due to the pandemic. 



Joan Collins is 82 and is releasing a new album of her greatest hits. The radio plays this as we head off to the river. Her voice really did have a remarkable tremulous clarity to it :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjA3FHAwIfk


Thursday, May 6, 2021

Chicks !

Great news. Two tiny moorhen chicks are seen bobbing about happily on the village pond. As we approach their mother shoos them into the safety of the irises . From their size I'd guess they were two days old and this was their first outing. 

The pool men show up to start work on laying the stone round the pool. This is a surprise as the last thing we'd heard was that they were coming at the end of May.

The pump on the pools filtration system gave up the ghost three weeks ago. Angus arranged for a firm to come and fit the replacement. They were due next week but show up ( unannounced ) this morning to find the pool men hard at work laying stone. The chief pump replacement man is an unhappy individual. ' We can't get this done with these people faffing around' he says in a tone of voice that somehow conveys both irritation and a firm belief that I'm sixpence short of a shilling. They go. The pool house containing the pump is some distance away from the stone laying workmen so this reaction is a surprise.

Sophie is oblivious to this drama. All she knows is that there are workmen here and they haven't brought Jaffa cakes. 



 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Second jab day.


A start of day promenade by the river. Sophie leads the way. From time to time she turns and makes it quite clear that I need to pick up my pace. Sophie is an expert in non-verbal communication.


Back in the village our next door neighbours daughter is training a young horse. Sophie puts her head down and picks up her pace as we pass. You never know with young horses.


The wheat is now springing up. It's shoulder high to Sophie. In a couple of weeks she'll be able to wander into the field and be completely invisible among the tall stems. Her brother used to love charging through the wheat. Sophie is keen on it as long as she knows one of us is close by. Not so much timidity as prudence.


To the medical centre. Finding a space in the car park a challenge. They're running ten minutes late which means we have to wait in a room with a sign on the door saying ' To be occupied by no more than four patients'. Today it has fifteen people waiting for their jab. Angus  notes that two of the fifteen are wearing their masks around their chins. Can you become crowd phobic ?  The procedure itself takes forty five seconds. The nurse does the vaccination while the pharamacist prints out an official government confirmation that we're fully dosed up. A separate confirmation is downloaded onto an app on our phones. This phone app ( supposedly ) means we can travel when restrictions are eventually lifted.