Wednesday, March 31, 2021



The year moving into top gear. March ending with a flurry of activity.  Fresh flowers appearing in dark corners of the house ( collected from the garden every morning after they've been knocked down by inquisitive badgers ). The weather warmer, borderline hot. Certainly no need for a duvet which can be stowed away until autumn. Most tellingly, the wisteria coming back into bloom. 

Still no indication of when we'll get the vaccine. 'The Font' calls the pharmacy and the medical centre twice a week to remind them of our presence. All the local rental houses are full. The little 24/7 store car park full of Audis with Ile de France  plates. Usually the area sees an influx of Brits and Dutch for the Easter holidays. This year it's Parisians who have taken the houses on  long term let. 

For the first time this morning there was criticism of the government on the national  radio breakfast programme.  A doctor said that ICU beds were all now full.  She went on to say that the country would soon be suffering the 'Lombardy effect' -  a term I'd not heard before. It's that point all politicians fear when patients have to be treated in corridors because the wards are full. 

Angus gives the planters at the front door a fresh coat of  paint. He then power washes the terrace and cleans the outside tables and chairs. Umbrellas are brought out of storage.

Sophie sits in the half shade of the peonies and observes everything that's going on. Being a diva she's happy to supervise . With the mercury rising it will soon be too hot for that long , leisurely afternoon walk.

This made me chuckle ( although his English accent would raise eyebrows in London ) :

Chicks learning the worm grabbing move from their mother :

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Dog in clover.

Sophie's start of day walk takes her through a field of clover.

Then it's off down the ox track to the Holy Well. Some intriguing delectables to be found in the long grass this morning. This slows down out rate of progress.

We circle back up the hill and along the lane. On the village hall notice board the remains of a poster dating back to summer 2019 and a neighbouring villages summer party.

Something dystopian about this scene. If this was a clip in a post apocalyptic zombie  movie a young woman would study the poster and then turn to her boyfriend and ask ' How long did you say we'd been asleep ?'  It's easy for us 60 somethings to step back from a year of life. What is much more difficult is working out how to get a desocialized five year old back into the swing of things after a year of lockdown and closed schools.

We get a call from the Belgian lady who has heard from the builder that we're getting a grey pool liner. 'is it light grey or charcoal ?'  She has some friends who would like to come and see it. I explain that we have ordered the grey liner but that the pool man hasn't fitted it.  She will get a call as soon as we hear from him which may be some time. She sympathizes.

A second call from a man who apologizes for phoning out of the blue. He's a Parisian academic with five children who has friends in the region. They've somehow tracked down the land line ( who phones on the land line ? ). He needs to work from home and Paris mid-pandemic is impossible. He was wondering whether we'd consider selling the house if we were moving ?  I thank him for his interest but say we have no plans to move. His call does however make me a little nervous about how bad things must be getting in the capital.

Monday, March 29, 2021

A judicious PONette.

As we head off on our Monday morning walk we pass Black C-A-T  asleep under an oak by the far gate. I prepare for a howling but Sophie trots out of the gate in silence - serenely  oblivious to the intruders presence. The family diva can smell a croissant at two kilometres and is usually  driven to distraction if a feline presence even thinks of wandering onto her territory but this morning nothing. Not a peep.  Figure that one out. 

A field of young cows down in the valley. They wander, purposefully, over to see us. Sophie checks them out warily. The young cows are at that age where they associate the presence of humans with being fed. They trot along the lane by our side. Sophie ensures that Angus is positioned between her and these beasts. A girl, no matter how brave, can never be too careful. A judicious PONette.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

2 tonnes of cheese.

For four months of the year, from mid November to mid March, The Rickety Old Farmhouse  is a quiet place. Home to drafts, slamming shutters and the screeching owls that line the plane trees on the lane. Then at some point nature flicks the switch and the gutters are full of argumentative sparrows, the ditches busy with amorous frogs and the wisteria heavy with absent minded bees that wander indoors and have to be carefully shooed out. Yesterday was when the switch was flicked. This little patch of paradise tripping over itself with life.

Sophie skips off down the ox track, nose down, tail high. No time to dawdle. One things dogs understand better than  people is that life is an adventure you can't postpone. Why waste a moment of it ? During lockdown our horizons have become more prescribed, our daily routine more limited yet time seems to be not rushing but flying by. Sophie, living entirely and fully in the moment, is unaware and uninterested in such things.

I'm all for this if it keeps people employed. British Airways will serve you dinner at home :

Scottish isolation for two. Presumably a honeymoon suite :

Somethings you don't want to hear yourself saying.This may only make sense to folks from Montana but the comments are wry and amusing :

Use words like 'blob' and 'vanish' if you want to make astrophysics interesting :

We have ordered some cheese from these monks who had 2 tonnes they couldn't sell due to the pandemic. How French is that ? :

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Twice in a month.

The association of local mayors had their quarterly meeting in the Salle de Fetes. Lights burned until gone midnight. On our close of day perambulation across the village green ( after watching Scotland beat France in the rugby final ) we counted sixteen cars and five vans. As expected the meeting room windows were firmly closed and masks were not to be seen.  Wine and 'nibbles' were provided by the ladies of the Beautiful Bye Ways Committee. Thank heavens the virus knows not to travel into the countryside. It seems one of the topics under discussion was the possible imposition of a new nationwide lockdown due to the surge in case numbers. Go figure.

The electronic bell engineer showed up late in the afternoon and adjusted the church bells for the weekends time change. This means the chimes will be out of synch until the clocks are moved on Sunday morning.

With the temperatures now in the 20's Sophie has had some hair trimmed from her undercarriage and her flanks. The end result may not look professional but we console ourselves with the view that she must be much more comfortable. 

The new pontoon that has been installed on the river is again checked but PONette prudence urges caution. It is sniffed but no attempt is made to walk along it.

Back at the Rickety Old Farmhouse a dead robin comes tumbling out of the sky. A victim of the pair of magpies that have taken to roosting in the orchard. I've gone through my entire life without ever seeing a bird fall from the sky and now I've seen it twice in the space of a month. Last time it was a small bird of prey after a run in with a kite. This time it's the plucky little fellow who stood on the gate pier and checked the Rickety Old Farmhouse inhabitants in and out.

The smoked salmon arrives. It was scheduled to take 36 hours but made it in 39 . Angus has also ordered some Arbroath smokies which will be tomorrow mornings breakfast. The salmon smoker in Scotland has got round the Brexit blockade by shipping a truck load of salmon to a middle man in France who packages it and couriers it on.

Before the Statue of Liberty there was the Lady of Suez :

Friday, March 26, 2021

The bench in the sunshine.

We have ordered some smoked salmon from Scotland. It is supposed to be delivered with 36 hours by a 'super fast courier'. We've never used a 'super fast courier' before. Quite how they will deal with post-Brexit French customs remains to be seen. We've not received anything non-Amazon from the UK since the start of the year. This morning , on our start of day comfort break, we see our local delivery driver zip  by along the lane but he doesn't stop. The super fast couriers 36 hours will be up mid-morning.

We also see the French teacher. She has had her jab. Two vials of vaccine, each containing ten doses, were delivered to the local health centre. A message was left with the school secretary asking our neighbour to come in at lunchtime. She was seen immediately and asked to wait for ten minutes afterwards. A bench has been placed outside the front door for this purpose. Newly jabbed's can enjoy the sunshine and a view of the car park.

On Wednesday night the village council held a meeting in the Salle de Fetes. A dozen maskless folk all crammed together round a table. No attempt to open the windows for ventilation or maintain some degree of social distancing. 'The Font' decided this was pandemic central, made excuses and left - super quickly. Tonight, there's a gathering of local mayors. Twenty of them. Same table. Same lack of social distancing. I'm betting the windows will be closed too. The ' it doesn't apply to us it's only a problem in Paris' mantra.

The pale sunrise of winter now giving way to a more fiery hint of summer to come. Sophie's coat turns orange then red as the sun rises. Marmalade dog. She seems rather pleased with this.

Octopus sleep :

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Those bells .... again.

Angus heads out of the front door to open up the car. He is passed by a determined PONette heading out on a mission.

The reason for her determination is soon clear. A black C-A-T has been sleeping under the little Volvo. Sophie heads off into the garden to give chase. C-A-T watches the PONette rush past then stands up and saunters slowly off to the gate. C-A-T does not seem unduly alarmed by the howling dog that is now a hundred yards away.

Having a delivery driver live locally has the huge benefit of placing us first on his early morning schedule. He shows up at the front gate with the remainder of our wine order. 'The Font' checks the delivery list while Angus unpacks the boxes. Sophie is still intent on hunting down the, by now long gone, C-A-T.

The new mayor seems to be as technology allergic as the old mayor. The church bells start to ring in a maniacal way. Seems the new mayor has tried to reset the timer in readiness for the clock change this weekend. He's ended up giving the electronic system a nervous breakdown. The old mayor and the village odd job man arrive to help. After fifteen minutes of mayhem they cut off the power supply to the belfry. The electronic bell man has been called and will try to get here before Friday. In the meantime the village lives in bell free silence.

After all that excitement PON and owner head of for a long walk across the fields in what is shaping up to be the first shirt sleeve day of the year. If this warmth holds a bath and a trim are forecast for Sophie's immediate future.

 Hats off to Vox for producing this. How I wish more folks would watch  it :

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Best observed from a distance

The local authorities have invested in new school busses. The old bus was beginning to show its age in a sagging suspension sort of way. This morning the village children are collected in a brand new Peugeot twenty seater in arctic white.  The new bus also has a new driver. The gentleman who has driven the route ever since we arrived has been replaced by a stern middle aged lady who drives with her eyes straight ahead and her hands on the wheel at a text book 'ten to two' position.  She says something I can't quite catch to the two tikes as they board and head down the aisle to their customary position at the back. They ignore her, not so much out of rudeness, but because they don't start functioning like humans until later in the day. The tikes teenage sister sits at the front behind the driver, presumably in the aim of putting as much distance as possible between her and her siblings.

Excitement as we turn the corner onto the lane behind the church. A mole. Sophie sees it first. She stops, rooted to the path, and stares at it.  She is encouraged along.

The excitement of saying hello to the village children and meeting a mole take their toll. Sophie settles down for a much needed post walk nap.

Today the PONettes nap is taken on the cool grass under the box bush on the lawn. The first morning of the year when the suns warmth warrants being in the shade.

The start of 'The Fonts' Pasadena community college on-line tutorials means that breakfast conversation now revolves around issues like this :

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Never time to say 'no'.

A calm and untroubled night. Sophie's stomach ailment proves to be a one off affair. Thank heavens !

On our start of  day walk we discover the first slipper orchid tentatively coming into bloom. Soon there will be thousands of them. Nature as showman.

Angus talks to Manhattanites in dark suits. A range of topics  this morning. Biden's  plans for another $3 trillion in spending. Shootings in Atlanta and now Boulder. As always the impact of the pandemic. At last the FDA has approved the Astra Zeneca vaccine and the doses stored at the facility in Baltimore can now be shopped to Mexico and Canada. Alreadt the Allergy Institute is questioning the findings.  A cynical Manhattanite points out that the AZ vaccine is produced and sold at cost. The other vaccines are made with healthy, sometimes muscular, profit  margins. He for one thinks it's not commercially surprising that there's been a whispering campaign against it. I wait for someone to contradict him but no one does.

After a walk down by the river Angus and Sophie return home to find 'The Font' has started a new course with the  college in Pasadena. Todays lecturer is our old friend the mega hip fleece wearing black hole expert. He speaks quickly and asks if ' you guys cool with that ?' at the end of each sentence. He never leaves enough time for anyone to say ' no'. Most of the class, despite a supposed post Alaska diplomatic  cooling in relations, seem to be fresh faced Chinese twenty somethings with triple PhD's.

After what seems like an eternity Angus tracks down and receives a copy of this book which, if the first chapter is anything to go by, is an intellectual delight. The author still lives in Beijing .

Angus doesn't understand Bitcoin ( what happens if there's a power cut ? ) and this article doesn't make understanding it any easier :

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sleep deprived.

Monday morning. Polish Lowland Sheepdog and companion head off along the lane at a fast pace.  We meet the French teacher on her way to work in her maroon Renault. She's hoping to get the jab this week. It was supposed to be last week but the AZ vaccine was withdrawn for three days and there's a chaotic backlog at the doctors surgery. To make matters worse their systems are 'down'.

Sophie and Angus sit on the concrete storm drain and look across the valley. Sophie is told, as she's told every morning, that this is her home. My companion  had a rough night  - which, for a girl with a cast iron stomach - is unheard of. Not once in eight years has she been ill.  Something she ate disagreed with her - five times. This morning she's as right as rain.  Angus , who has been up , cleaning up, every two hours - is slightly sleep deprived.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse Sophie decides the best thing to do on a morning like this is have a quick restorative nap outside the front door. Angus may join her.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

No side effects.

Bright and breezy. The sort of day when you want to grab a furry friend and hurtle out into the garden.

Nothing as satisfying as a bout of pre-breakfast 'savaging'. Isn't life wonderful ?

The Old Farmer arrives in the silver Mercedes. He's planning to take his lady friend to Marseille in the venerable Ford Transit motor home. They hope to head off on Wednesday but before they go he needs to change the oil and replace the empty calor gas bottle in the kitchenette. He's also going to give the brakes a quick check. This trip to the south coast is a belated 90th birthday celebration. I think of mentioning the lockdown around Cannes and Nice but why spoil an adventure  with mundanities  ?

Both he and the 'lady friend' have had their second jabs. Neither of them suffered the slightest after effects. Not even a sore arm.

Sophie listens to the conversation but her attention is fixed on a C-A-T standing in the middle of The Old Farmers driveway. The audacity of it !

Angus hasn't heard of half of these singers but he does recognize best of class mask wearing when he sees it :

For 30 years my dental hygienist has lectured me on brushing properly. Seems I'm not as careful as a  Neanderthal :

And 'The Font' has just finished reading this delightfully exciting book and found this link. Highly recommended. A PON owner who is a long time blog friend and kind and intelligent. If you're going to buy a book that covers an adventure mystery in Scotland, Maine and the South buy this one:

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Express Train.

The highlight of the week has been the sighting of a moorhen on the village pond. Even better, this morning, 'The Font' has seen not one but  two moorhens paddling unconcernedly along . Although the shrubbery along the banks has been cut down by the German billionaires in a bout of 'improvement'  the moorhens have been resourceful. They seem to be nesting in an old drainage culvert that is safely out of the way of any feral cats and aggressive gardeners. For some reason the return of these village neighbours puts pandemic risk in perspective. A  smile inducing reminder that life adjusts to change.

Down by the canal Sophie spots a duck. I attach her lead. There is something ever so slightly 'edgy' about the PON mentality that makes it uncertain whether she will, or will not, live completely  in the moment and give chase.

The Bordeaux-Toulouse Express rushes by. For an eight year old PONette things don't get much more exciting than that ( duck chasing excluded ). If the number of faces at the windows are anything to go by the train is full. Parisians escaping the capital before a months lockdown is imposed tonight. 

It's only been a couple of days since were at the canal but new varieties of wild flowers are bursting into bloom ...

.... everywhere.

It pours with rain. The only other person we see is a lady with a well behaved Labrador.  Sophie is very keen to see the Labrador but he's up and into the back of his mistresses car before she knows it. As they drive off he peers at her wistfully from the back window. Perhaps next week ?

 'The Fonts' favourite furniture shop has gone virtual :

This playing all the time on the Toulouse radio station :

Friday, March 19, 2021


By the time we get back from our morning walk the courier has been to the gate and  delivered more wine. This should see us through into the summer. Having a local courier is good news. He loads up his van at the depot in the big market town every night, then drives home with his deliveries for the next day. We have become the first port of call on his daily round. That is just fine by us.

Half an hour later a second courier arrives. 'The Font' loves dark chocolate. The more bitter it is the better. The local chocolatier sells 100% strength bars made from  Ghanaian beans. These are tart bordering on astringent. Angus consumes chocolate by the bar. 'The Font' has one square, and one square only, after lunch.

Some milk chocolate has also been ordered but I haven't studied the website carefully enough and the package contains 'blond' chocolate which is that toffee coloured variety that used to be sold, many years ago, as Caramac. 

A book on skyscraper design and construction in Stalin era Moscow is finished. It was a surprisingly jaunty read although it's a topic that is unlikely to arise even in the most esoteric dinner conversations. Despite the authors best efforts to sprinkle a little magic over her subject the Russian Foreign Ministry remains one of the most depressing high rise buildings on the planet. In the 1980's Angus once stayed in the Hotel Ukrainia - another Moscow high rise. A stay memorable for a ferocious blizzard, a room with a grand piano full of used champagne bottles and a bed that was still being used by the previous occupant. Nothing in life could prepare you for the gentle bordering on somnambulant pace of the hotel elevator or the alarming noises it emitted.