Friday, April 30, 2021

The rumors on the radio that lockdown will soon be lifted turn out to be true. Nearly half a million  jabs given yesterday and 22% of the population have had at least one dose. With some signs the worst of this wave is past the President announced that the ban on travelling more than six miles from home will end this Sunday. Two weeks after that, on May 19th , restaurants will be allowed to start serving at tables outside. On June 9th foreign travel with proof of vaccination will start up again. All remaining restrictions, pandemic willing, will come off at the end of June in time for the  holiday season. I'm betting that the villagers will ignore the finer details of this timetable and get back to business as usual next week. Our second dose is still scheduled for Tuesday.

For Sophie and her family the important news is that we will soon be able to go back to our walks along the banks of the river and even more importantly head off to the drive thru bakers . There is curly croissant ends in the family divas not too distant future.

On our way to the strawberry farm this golden oldie played on Radio Nostalgie :

Thursday, April 29, 2021


Impatience gives way to exasperation as Sophie waits for Angus to find the car keys. The family diva opts for a quick nap while waiting for her master to get his act together . Before closing her eyes she emits an irritated ' Let me know when you're ready ' harrumph. The PONette is a creature of routine and she intends to keep it that way.

This morning the car covered in a light coating of yellow Saharan sand. It's thick enough that I have to use the windscreen washer. The winds heading up from North Africa are pushed high over the Pyrenees and then fall and dump their cargo of sand on us.  

En route to buy our breakfast berries we listen to the radio. Some French generals have said there will be a civil war if the country carries on its current path, the number of daily Covid cases has eased back slightly to below 30,000, and the British Prime Minister ( all things British being a source of amused consternation to  French radio ) lost his temper in  parliament over allegations he bought $1,000 a roll wallpaper. Nothing about when lockdown will be lifted.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The olive tree

The breakfast radio tells us that the French President is almost sure to lift the lockdown restrictions on May 5th. This won't be a moment too soon for the mother of the two tikes who can be heard having a 'moment' as we head off in the car to the strawberry farm. We catch the words ' Why did you think this was a good idea  ?' Sound travels from one end of the village to the other at this time of the morning. The radio also has a lengthy story about the British Prime Minister, sleaze and who did , or did not, pay for new curtains in Downing Street. You'd think this would be a relatively easy question to answer but has somehow taken on a complexity that bemuses the reporter in London and confuses me.

The man with anger management issues has bought himself one of those old, gnarled, olive trees from the nursery. The sort that comes in a large plastic pot and has to be delivered by a fork lift truck. We know this because he spends all day working in his garden digging a hole , muttering to himself and and inviting any passers by to come and look at it. On our mid-afternoon walk we meet him and are invited onto the patio to admire his handy work. ' Very impressive ' I say in what I hope is a tone of enthusiasm suitable for a newly planted olive tree.

By the chateau gates we meet the German billionaire.  He's wearing mustard orange dungarees and a maroon polo neck. This is a style combination that might work on a two year old but is a surprising choice for a grown man. He greets me, in English , with an unusual conversational gambit ' My physicality is now in top form'. I tell him how delighted I am to hear it.  

Apart from that the village remains in pandemic fueled silence.

A map of Europe showing population density , It seems there are places in France even less densely populated than our little patch of paradise. We, somehow, seem to be in a narrow band of development , shaded orange on the map, that runs from Toulouse up to Bordeaux. How quiet must the parts of France coloured yellow  be ? 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The drought ends.

After six weeks without rain the skies finally gift a brief, but welcome, downpour. You know for sure you've turned into your father when you use the term ' The garden needs it'. The wisteria along the front of the house looks rather the worse for wear this morning after the battering from the storm. The wisteria bloomed three times last year. Will it do the same in 2021 ?

France is still in quasi strict lockdown. No one is supposed to venture more than six miles from home unless on urgent business.  If anyone stumbles across this pandemic record in a hundred years time they should know the abiding memory of this strange time will be silence. No cars, no planes overhead, no school buses. Just the contented sound of the mothers and their calves in the field by the crossroads. Another two new arrivals  last night.

The grass is still wet but the grooming table just about dry. Sophie makes an executive decision to clamber up and enjoy her start of day nap in an elevated and more comfortable ' keep your undercarriage dry'  vantage point.

In the orchard the 'architectural' wild flowers make their first seasonal appearance.

Monday, April 26, 2021

What greater start ?

Sophie is harnessed up and in the back of the car for our daily  trip to the strawberry farm. We  manage to get there before any of the pushy Parisians in their large silver Mercedes show up. The strawberry lady tells me that her sales are down 45% but her outgoings are down even more.  Having three teenagers at home during lockdown keeps productivity up and wage costs low. What the teenagers think of this is not said.

Overnight the village has become home to three new inhabitants. What happier start to the week could there be ? 

 Once you start scrolling this wild flower website  becomes strangely addictive :
and this Borders garden hosts the remarkably named Yellow Rattle :

Whoever thought this Icelandic story would become popular ? One of Netflix's pandemic pleasures and now nominated for an Oscar :

Half of the UK's ambassadors are women. This lady in Beijing  manages to combine subtlety with the political. Who could object ? :

Sunday, April 25, 2021

15 months.

Fifteen months into lockdown. Fifteen months since we've been to an airport. For much of the time either the UK or France  has been closed to travel. 'The Font' had planned to pop back to London on British Airways when the flights resume on May 17th. In the good old days there used to be four flights a day. Now its down to one a day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. However, even this slimmed down service looks like it won't happen. France is still running forty thousand cases a day and the Brits are demanding that travellers spend five days quarantining on arrival and have tests showing they're Covid free. All the e-passport machines at Heathrow are closed and anyone entering has to stand in line and show their Covid compliant  paperwork to an immigration official. Sometimes the queues are taking six hours. What fun !  Arranging a travel test at the local pharmacy and getting the results in time sounds as though it should be easy; but isn't.

In the meantime we will carry on recording the routines of pandemic life. For humans this can be summed up as quiet, quiet and quiet.

By contrast the canine component of the family is enjoying being at the centre of things. This morning the high excitement of a walk through the barley fields down to a different stretch of the stream. As the sun rises Sophie paddles, looks at dragonflies and savours all sorts of scents from the animals that have been drinking there overnight. From time to time Sophie looks back to make sure I'm keeping up.

All the other villagers have cut their grass verges. Angus has also cut the grass but has left a long strip of bright pink wild flowers that were simply too pretty to cut.

Gentle and kind :

This little British company manages style and good taste :

Saturday, April 24, 2021


The weather moving, haltingly, towards summer. Another bright, cloudless, rain free morning. The local farmers all have their irrigation systems on. This lowers the water table which in turn means that the well water at The Rickety Old Farmhouse  is set to have an ever more finite life. The well water usually runs out in August. This year I'm betting we're done and running off water from the village lake by the end of June. The weather forecast calls for rain on Monday. As the weather forecast is a sure contraindicator this means that it will be a  scorcher of a day.

We stop and say hello to the old mayor. He's out and about with two of his grandsons watering the freshly planted Dahlias in the church flower borders. The grandsons, who are five and three,  are quite happy to potter around with him and be helpful  in a way they wouldn't with their father. Sophie is not sure about fast moving little humans and maintains a respectful distance.

Back at home the family diva is about to settle down for a restorative nap when she notices that the door stoop is carpeted in wisteria petals. These require careful studying . Sophie opts for caution and positions herself so that there's a good three inch gap between her nose and the wisteria.

Friday, April 23, 2021


That unmistakable ' It's six fifteen and we should be out and about !' look. Sophie does not hide her feelings.

A brisk walk in the cool morning air down to the stream.

Then home . A chance for the PONette to survey the garden from the front door. When it comes to checking on C-A-T-S a girls work is never done.

After all that excitement  perhaps just the briefest of moments for a restorative nap.

Some of the Manhattanites are thinking of relocating full time from New York to Vero Beach. This travelog on Miami was intriguing :

and introduced me to this Woolly Mammoth garden which isn't a garden :

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Open ?

The radio hints that the government lockdown will be lifted on May 5th. After that we'll be able to go more than six miles from our front door without a permit. Bars and restaurants might open up mid-month in readiness for the tourist season and flights to the UK could start up again in June. This optimism is welcome although, based on the latest figures, misplaced. The number of cases is still running at an obdurately high  forty thousand  a day. We are set for our second jab on May 4th although this may be sensibly delayed for a couple of weeks so that more folks can get their first dose.

For the PONette lockdown is wonderful. A family on call 24/7. Walks, tickles and treats on demand. This morning Sophie demonstrates her ' Stare at a door long enough and it will open ' technique. She then licks clean 'The Fonts' yogurt carton followed shortly after by Angus's. There is then time for a quick nap followed by some playful savaging of Wooly Mammoth.

The first flowering of the Wisteria past its best. The fronds starting to lose their colour. Angus has been up a ladder trimming wayward tendrils. After a thorough pruning all the shutters once again open and close without being obstructed by foliage. Sophie considers ladder climbing to be an intriguing pastime that requires close monitoring.


A new hotel in a train on a bridge :

Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Canine contentment. Sophie returns form her start of day 'comfort break' having excavated every mole hill on the lawn. There are many mole hills on the lawn but no moles. This in now way diminishes her sense of accomplishment. I point out to her that it's the mud on her muzzle that gives the game away. 

When we left Scotland to head to pastures both new and warmer we stayed at this hotel en route. We were accompanied by an earlier generation of hyper enthusiastic  PONs. The hotel was very different in those days but the location is wonderful for heading off to walk along Hadrians Wall:

Question for long eared dog owners. Zymox ear cleaner is wonderful. We've used it on all the PON's. We've been trying to order a new supply but with no success. I called the company in the US yesterday and they no longer export . What other ear cleaners would folks recommend for weekly use?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


The poolman packed up his tools and left on Friday. He was supposed to lay the paving but in the absence of materials he's moved onto his next job. This morning, bright and early, the stonemason is at the front gate with the new stone. 100 square metres of Travertine that should have been here a month ago. He tells me that his business has grown five fold during the lockdown. 

The stone crates are so heavy that at one point the mechanical arm starts to bend and the safety mechanism shuts of the power. It is at this moment that Sophie emerges to find out what's going on. She is encouraged indoors. One universal law of PON ownership is that you can be 100% sure they will always show up at the worst possible moment. 

Clear skies, a fresh breeze and a hint of warmth from the sun. Perfect conditions for out first walk of the day. The wild flowers not so much springing up as surging up. Our little patch of paradise full of bottled up energy. Sophie doesn't know it but she has her annual vat appointment this afternoon. Straight after lunch when we hope the surgery is quiet.

'The Font' has ordered some lanterns for the terrace. Four of them have broken glass. This is annoying as the firm has charged 90 euros for extra packaging and 'careful' delivery. I have some sympathy with delivery men but this one is in a hurry and is content to throw the boxes out of the back of his van. When I point out that 'Fragile' is written across the cartons he informs me that ' It ain't my look out' except he adds a colourful gerundival adjective to his thoughts.

Whoever knew there were shops specializing in nothing other than  table cloths ? :

Monday, April 19, 2021

Dripping Springs

A quiet weekend. Three walkers pass the house on Sunday . So do four tractors and five cars. The PONette greets each and every one.

Sophie starts her Monday digging under a bush and spreading the dirt across the pool tiles. She gives me that ' What's it to you?' look.

Sophie is altogether more charming when she trots into the kitchen to join me for breakfast. Nothing like a yogurt pot to gain my canine companions undivided attention.

A good forty five minute walk follows. Nothing passes us.

The Euphorbia springing up in the verges. How the year is moving along.

At the end of our Monday morning circuit of the village Sophie spies an impudent C-A-T. Impudent C-A-T has enough sense to head off at high speed.

This hotel, next to Malmesbury Abbey, traces its roots back to 1220. We used to stay there 40 years ago but on a more recent trip 'The Font' found that it had gone downhill.  It has been bought by a couple from Dripping Springs, Texas ( what a wonderful name ) who are going to give it a 'refresh'.

A quick Google search of  Dripping Springs turns up this rather charming website. Seems you could spend a weekend there contentedly imbibing  :

A poem that was one of the highlights of the last week :

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Rare skills.

Out of the gate and along the lane. Sophie chases after three C-A-T-S spotted at various stages on our walk. The Old Mayor is up early. He and an  octogenarian mate are cutting back the shrubs around the car park. Both are villagers born and bred. The Old Mayor tells me that under the new town hall, built by his father, are cellars of an old medieval  building. It may have been the chapel for the chateau before the Wars of Religion. After the exceptionally long rains earlier in the year he thinks the cellars may be filling with water. This may be part of the reason water has started to build up in strange places and flow into the village hall kitchen.

A bit chilly this morning. Sophie hunts in drainage ditches for fox or boar delights. We talk about world affairs. India and China are arguing over how a new Dalai Lama should be chosen. Beijing says the next Dalai Lama should be chosen by picking lots from the golden urn in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. India prefers the “dough-ball method which  entails writing the names on a piece of paper, encasing them in dough balls, placing these in a bowl before a sacred object for three weeks, and then publicly rolling them around in the bowl until one falls out. Behind such esoteric choices lies control of Tibet. 

Some virtuoso bagpipe playing at yesterdays funeral of Prince Philip. Playing the pipes indoors without overpowering the listeners is a rare skill.  Overall, a difficult event handled with grace, understatement and exemplary good taste :

And on a separate note - the last woman in the world who knows how to do this - sea silk from clam secretions – a rarefied skill, literally hanging on by a thread on the Sardinian island of Sant’Antioco :




Saturday, April 17, 2021

Zero interest.

One of those perfect mornings. We pass the new mayor who is standing behind a trestle table outside the village hall kitchen door. That's all he's doing. He greets us but then continues standing there, immobile, peering into mid-distance. Perhaps he's finding his inner karma ? The trestle table is bare of anything - paper , pencils, wallpaper brush, can of paint , sandwiches - that might provide a clue as to what he's doing or who he's waiting for. Food is not involved so Sophie has zero interest .

No less than four delivery drivers show up. New cushions for the terrace, risotto rice ( which is delivered by a frozen food van ), a replacement printer ( the third in 12 months )   and a book on the environment written by Prince Philip in the 1970's. The book comes from America in less than 36 hours. How fast is that ? Parcels from the UK are still taking three weeks - if they don't fall foul of French customs and sit in a warehouse for months. Sophie sits on guard for the arrival of the next van. This is her idea of excitement.

We thought we'd seen the last of the pool man for a while. We were wrong. He's forgotten to cut a hole in the liner for the cleaning tube. While he's here the pump gives up the ghost. He'll find out what a replacement will cost us and come and fit it when he can. 

We're running late and by the time we get to the strawberry lady she's down to her last three punnets. Something about this years weather that is filling the strawberries with flavour. Warm afternoons and cool mornings must be the perfect recipe for strawberry growing.


This is an unusual occupation :

The Trug she makes is the sturdiest and most practical garden companion you'll ever find. Someone has 'liberated' ours so a replacement needs to be ordered. She made medieval style rush wall coverings for the chateau at Azay-le-Rideau. Quite something for the French to call in a British artisan. You can see them in the two links below:

Friday, April 16, 2021

Rolling along

The new pool liner is grey. The solar powered pool cover is blue. This is helpfully pointed out by the pool man. He also points out that the skimmer flap and the light surrounds are white. ' Some folks might like the contrast' he says with what I can only imagine is sullen contentment. Angus quietly wonders to himself why the pool man couldn't have said something earlier.

Emptying the pool was easy. Filling it slow. The water has been on for 36 hours and it only seems to be three quarters full. The stone to replace the old tiles around the pool was supposed to be delivered last week. I call the stone mason. ' We'll get round to you just as soon as possible' he says employing French non-commitedness before adding ' Covids keeping us very busy'. The pool man who was going to lay the replacement stone says he'll come back when its delivered. One step forward, two steps back ?

Sophie, who by character is more of a supervisor than a 'get your paws' dirty participant, watches the pool man with disdain. Three days in a row he's been here and no Jaffa Cakes. The sun is a bit bright this morning so she moves to the grass where it's cooler for carefully observing what's going on.

Daily walk excitement update ! Behind the village hall we find the new mayor talking to two gentlemen rolling a large diameter drainage pipe along the road. Two more gentlemen are standing by a mechanical digger looking at the two men rolling the pipe. It seems that water has been leeching from the churchyard into the village hall kitchen. How and why this is happening seems to be ( as with so much of life in a French village  ) a mystery. Sophie,  sniffs the piles of gravel, the drainage pipe and the workmens shoes. All prove to be interesting but not that interesting. We make polite but brief conversation and head on our way leaving the workmen to their remedial drainage work. The new mayor knows Sophie's name and tries to chat with her. She ignores him.

Passementerie. A word I'd never seen before. This is a skill that nearly died out in the UK but has been revived ( saved ?) at the last minute :

Why  there is a company in Glasgow doing this I don't know. I found myself reading the the past projects page from top to bottom.  Fore-edge painting is the creating of images on the edges of book pages.  This is the last place in the UK that does this. Came across this site when looking for someone to rebind an old book that has fallen to pieces and glad I did: