Sunday, October 31, 2021

Sunday : The very end of October

The clocks change. No one tells Sophie. Our six am tour of the garden undertaken at five.  Some routines cannot be changed.

Sunrise. Sophie disappears, at high speed, into the garden. She has seen or heard something that requires her undivided attention and the full on application of her PONette hunting skills. There is the sound of branches snapping as she pursues a path through, rather than round, the box hedge. By the time I've brought the car up she's sitting quasi patiently with that unmistakable 'What kept you ?' look on her face.

More and more types of pumpkins make their seasonal debut in the greengrocers. We've passed that point in the year where winter and Christmas seemed distant .

Back in the village The Old Farmer is out and about on his lawn tractor. He's taken to cutting his lawn once a day which indicates, to me, that he's bored. 

Last night I found our neighbour sitting dozing on the chair on his balcony. He'd fallen asleep in the sunset and was still there when the village street lights came on. I slam the front gate loudly three times. On the third slam he wakens and I see him stand up and wander indoors out of the cold. That's all I need to know. We are at that stage where we quietly check on him two or three times a day. He for his part remains obdurately independent. Being a watchful neighbour requires a light touch.

An Indian Diwali feel good advert. Tech and tradition together :

Golden oldie. Sunday morning music as we head home from the bakers , windows down, PONette ears flying  :

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Saturday morning by the river.

Autumn well and truly here. The leaves falling fast now. Loic is hard at work in the garden blowing them into piles. Sophie is hard at work undoing his handiwork. Loic doesn't notice.

At the frozen food store we stop off to buy some Naans. They're made in the UK and have been hard to find. Something to do with shipments being held up at customs because of Brexit.  France and Britain seem to be squaring up over some esoteric fishing dispute so it might be a good idea to stock up with them while we still can. Fishing accounts for a tiny portion of both the UK and French economies but there's nothing like a good dispute with a neighbour to boost a governments popularity among the 'nationalist' crowd.

The bakers wife tells us there's a fresh batch of croissants in the oven. They'll take another ten minutes. We settle for the batch cooked an hour ago. The bakers wife brings out two to compensate for any disappointment. I'd score them 8.2/10. Sophie thinks double croissants should be scored on volume over quality  and gives them a double 24/10 score. Her tail goes wild.

After double croissant there is a lengthy walk by the river . The houseboats have all gone and we have the place to ourselves. At one point a lively young black labrador appears. He looks at Sophie and then disappears as quickly as he arrived.

Croissants and a river walk. Sophie is more than happy with this start to her day.

 A very Swedish website for axes. They run courses and make different varieties!  :

Friday, October 29, 2021

History and geography.

It's pitch dark at six am. Not that this bothers Sophie who is keen to get her day started. There is a strong wind blowing and the power goes off as I come down the stairs. Angus lights the candles on the library table. This requires finding a box of matches in a darkened kitchen. No easy job without light. Angus stubs his toe.  No sooner have all the candles been lit than the power comes back on. Sophie, being an inveterate diva, imagines all this to be part of some daybreak fun designed for her. She rushes over for an ear scrunch.

The road to the greengrocers the busiest I've ever seen it. After last years pandemic lockdown half of France seems to be on the move to clean up family grave sites ahead of All Saints Day. Chrysanthemums are flying out of the florists forecourts. The radio has a long story about Britain and France arguing over fishing rights. I'm often told by folks who should know better that nowhere else on earth are there two nations do dissimilar. That's nonsense. By history and geography the Brits and French are like cojoined twins. Linked together in a common body but each determined to highlight their differences from the other - no matter what.

In the greengrocers the 'exotics' counter is looking suitably exotic. Angus has never seen anyone buy anything off the 'exotics' counter and finds it hard to believe that there is healthy demand for such things in this ultra conservative corner of France profonde. 

The dead flowers in front of the Halloween display haven't been changed. They become ever more dried out. Angus can only assume that the dead flowers are part of the display that is supposed to remind pomegranate and pineapple shoppers of the temporal nature of life. 

A new product on the dairy counter. Meringues and double cream. A Swiss import. The price seems steep for a small pot of double cream and half a dozen tiny meringues but why let cost stand in the way of a Swiss sugar rush ?

A collection of chocolate Santas has been put next door to the Halloween display.  French retailing never takes a break. Halloween segues into Christmas without pausing for breath. Having bought the meringues and clotted cream there is no need to buy a chocolate Santa .... today.

Time to turn the volume up. The faces of the other orchestra members always says so much  :

Thursday, October 28, 2021


The owls were out in force last night. Six of them held a lengthy and shouted out  conversation on The Rickety Old Farmhouses window ledges. 'The Font' slept through it but Angus and Sophie were aware of every nuance of owl speak concerning voles and shrews. Never believe that an out of the way French village is a quiet place.

Sophie peers out into the courtyard and observes that it is suddenly patterned with fallen leaves. Loic will be here on Friday to start the Sisyphean task of blowing them into piles. Sophie doesn't like the sound the leaf blower makes but loves leaping in, and out of, Loics assiduously collected leaf mountains.

Spiders webs everywhere today. All Souls Day now bringing visitors into the village. The parking spots in front of the church already full - even at this early hour. A car from Picardy, another from Yonne and a third from Lot. All families doing their annual duty of tidying up their ancestors graves and potting out a fresh chrysanthemum. By the end of the month 90% of the graves will have had a 'freshening up'.

Look carefully in the centre of this blurry ( and hastily taken ) photo below and you can see the male of the remaining Moorhen family heading off at high speed into the safety of the shrubs that line the village pond banks. His white feathers wave maniacally to let his partner know that there are 'intruders' in their neighbourhood. In a hectic world the routines of village life are a grounding of sanity.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

State of hearing

France entering the All Hallows holiday. The schools closed for the next couple of weeks.  The village tikes , ordered out of the house by their long suffering mother, spend the daylight hours driving their 50cc motor bikes up and down the lane. They do wheelies and whoop loudly as they hurtle over the speed bumps.  Their mother sends them out of the house wearing helmets but by the time they've made it to the village green these have been hung over the handle bars. The teenage sister spends her afternoon on the bench under the Chestnut tree talking intently on her mobile phone . We have a suspicion that she and the Anger Management Mans sixteen year old son may be 'seeing' each other.  This is as good a euphemism for what bored teenagers get up to in a French village as any.

Sophie and Angus have a long walk to the Holy Oak. Twenty minutes there and thirty minutes back. The return journey is conducted at a more leisurely pace as every blade of grass has to be sniffed.

Flu jab time. We go to the new medical centre but are redirected to the pharmacy. Flu injections are being given in the broom cupboard behind the left hand cash desk. Angus asks the pharmacist which arm she wants to inject. She replies rather abruptly that ' I couldn't care less'. Angus opts for the left arm. The right arm can wait for next weeks booster jab.

The Old Farmer spends much of his day sleeping in a chair in the corner of his balcony. This is fine while it's sunny and warm but what will happen when winter sets in ? Today , cracks in the fibre glass roof repaired, he sets off for a tour of the countryside in the venerable Ford Transit motor home. It makes a noise that indicates there is something seriously wrong with the engine. The tappets perhaps ? I cautiously mention the alarming noise to him but he assures me he can't hear anything wrong with it. Best to leave the state of his tappets ( and his hearing ) there .... for now. 

Some folks say that this airport restaurant is the best of its type anywhere :

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


Sophie's day starts with a bout of hyperactivity. She has a flock to round up , a garden to be checked for the presence of C-A-T-S and a tractor to be barked at as it heads down the lane. After that there's time for a quick restorative nap at the front door before being loaded into the car . A PON girls work is never done.

At the river it's misty. Perfect weather for chasing ducks. The ducks hurry into the water where they paddle around unperturbed by the shaggy creature on the shore. The shaggy creature on the shore is delighted with her head back, tail waving, full on hunting skills. I don't disillusion her. Today we are suffering from wet paws. Someone forgot to brake quickly enough as the ducks entered the lake and ended up , ankle deep, in the water.

'The Font' joins us on our daily croissant run. We venture out onto the empty terrace while the bakers wife waits for the croissants to come out of the oven. As we enter Sophie is greeted by each of the five orange clad municipal refuse workers. They now know her by name which says something about a PONettes charm or at least her expectation that everyone she meets must surely have a biscuit on them. 
Next month trips to the US are to be allowed for those who've had two jabs . This opens up the country for foreign visitors for the first time since early last year. The Astra Zeneca jab - which was popular in the UK - was originally not recognized by US authorities but last night they changed the rules and put it on the approved list. It's absence made 'proof of vaccination' unduly difficult for the airlines who required extensive supporting documentation. We've both had double Pfizer doses and will have our third 'top up' next week. Later this morning we should get our flu jabs . We'll pick up The Old Farmer and take him down to the pharmacy with us. We've both noticed a change in him. He's slowing down - markedly.

The Indian summer continues. It's due to get up into the 20's this afternoon. Up here on the ridge we've got cloudless skies. A group of young calves and their mothers peer at us as we head along the lane. Sophie picks up her pace.

 The new hotels keep on opening . This one is in Provence :

Monday, October 25, 2021

Mexican vibe

A Monday start of day promenade round the shopping centre. How chic is that ? Someone has dropped a partially eaten ( and by now exceedingly stale ) Big Mac on the ground in front of a waste paper bin. Sophie makes a bee line for it at high speed . A sliver of cold pickle is scooped up and held triumphantly in her jaws for all the world to see.

My shaggy companion is not at all happy when it's suggested she  leave it well alone. The remains of the Big Mac are 'liberated' and dumped in the bin. I am given that ' Why are you such a misery ?' look. We head off for some shared croissant to help alleviate the loss of the burger patty. Sophie makes it sulkily plain that in the scheme of things nothing , not even a curly croissant end, compensates fully for the loss of a cold burger patty.

Fresh olives show up in the greengrocers together with some just harvested local garlic.

The Halloween decorations have grown over the weekend. The corner between the pickles and bananas has taken on what is presumably a Mexican barrio vide. A faux lace tablecloth battles with a green patio umbrella and some grass fronds for dominance.

Angus, being rather averse to the commercial excesses of Halloween, notes that the flowers might be fresher. Perhaps they'll be replaced later today ? There again perhaps they're supposed to be faded in a memento mori type way . Am I alone in thinking the skull looks rather like Hitler ?

 The best terrace in Florence ? :

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Zero interest.

The early morning sky crisscrossed with vapour trails. Seems that the ports are so blocked up that importers are chartering passenger planes to bring in goods from China. Booking an empty Airbus would have run $400k for a return trip to Shanghai this time last year. Now the airlines can charge $2m for the same trip. They fill the belly of the aircraft with cargo and then stack boxes on the passenger seats and fill the overhead bins. Toy retailers are especially keen on this solution to  'Christmas' demand. It goes without saying the airlines are only too delighted to help out.

Supply chain disruption and inflation are subjects that Sophie has absolutely zero interest in discussing. She's up , out and along the lane at break neck speed. There are village C-A-T-S to be chased.

Two moments spice up our start of day tour of the village. We meet the retired professor from Toulouse who weekends in the Old School House. Despite having had two jabs earlier in the year he has had Covid, felt 'drained' for ten days, and is now fully recovered. ' M'Ongoose , You cannot begin to understand how tired I felt '. He self isolated and his wife remains Covid free. They have made the decision to stay in the village and avoid the centre of Toulouse until after Christmas.

Our second morning moment was the passage, at high speed, of a combine harvester along the lane. The farmer at the far end of the valley is only now getting round to cutting his sunflower fields. This is a sure sign that the countryside is being put to bed and that winter is just round the corner.

We are thinking of installing a heat pump but had some concerns over the noise. This video answers all my questions. The intro is wonderful.   It is the sort of video that is 'priceless' on so many levels . Jason is out of central casting in terms of accent, clothes and delivery . He could be every builder we've ever used in England it also seems that heat pumps aren't at all noisy :

No fuss shopping :

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Bovine matters.

There's a strong mountain wind this morning. It whistles round The Rickety Old Farmhouse like a shutter rattling banshee. Sophie has got to that stage in life where a strong wind is a signal to remain curled up in the warmth just that little bit longer. I wander downstairs, turn on the lights and find the PONette dozing comfortably on the floor of the library. Her tail wags but I pretend not to have noticed.

After a few minutes Sophie saunters into the kitchen to let me know that she's ready to go out. There is an enthusiastic start of the day greeting, my yogurt pot is licked cleaner than any dishwasher ever could and then we head off down the ox track to the waterfall and the little stream. As we go we discuss the sad Alec Baldwin story. Today, the young cows in the field by the crossroads are given  the ' If I don't look at you , you're not there ' cold shoulder treatment. As we pass them Sophie also picks up her pace, just in case.  Angus is carefully herded into a position between the family diva and a particularly audacious cow  that wanders over to greet her. A girl can never be too prudent when it comes to bovine matters.

The heating is now on and it's probable that some time in the next week we shall light our first autumn fire .

So starts a quiet Saturday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde. A trip to the bakers for some curly croissant ends now beckons.

18,000 people live in this one apartment complex. What must the wait for an elevator be like ? :


Friday, October 22, 2021

The first display.

A hearty 'Good Morning' from Sophie who has woken early with mischief on her mind.

She chases squirrels while waiting for Angus to get the car keys.

Friday morning starts with a trip to the bakers for an indifferent croissant.

This is followed by a detour to the greengrocers for a pineapple. We are the first customers to arrive and the first to be overwhelmed by the greengrocers Halloween display. There is much that is unintentionally frightening about the display . Who would ever think that someone would make paper plates like that ? However, it's the six candles set out in front of a pile of highly combustible straw that attract my attention. They scream out 'fire hazard'.

A pumpkin has been given a cursory lantern makeover. Perhaps a pumpkin with a hint of a smile might have been a better idea ? 


 Who is happier ? The people or the whale ? :




Thursday, October 21, 2021

Easily written.

Sophie was given a thorough grooming yesterday. You'd never know it. She was also given a mud removing face wash. How easily that last sentence is written. How difficult it was to put into practice. There was much squirming and a variety of new and experimental 'unhappiness' noises.

A trip to the river followed by a long search in the grass verges for badgers poo can run riot with a girls hair. Sophie adopts a ' Who cares ?' attitude to such details.

The weather forecast called for rain and gale force winds. It turns out to be sunny and is now expected to reach 28 degrees later in the day. Usually we're the only ones on the cafe terrace but this morning there's a smattering of brave souls enjoying this last, late taste of summer.

Todays croissant is more than passable but lacks the 'zing' factor. I'd reckon it's been out of the oven for a good hour and has started to lose some of that je ne sais quoi of croissant excellence. I'd give it a 7.9/10. Sophie is, as always, a more positive judge of croissant quality.  She gives it 12/10 for taste but 1/10 for serving size. In a better ordered world the entire croissant, and not just the curly ends, would appear in front of her. There's always hope for tomorrow.