Tuesday, November 30, 2021


Bitterly cold. Thank heavens we filled up the heating oil in August when the price was low. There is a constant light drizzle which you could mistake for snow. Sophie, of course, loves this weather. Something deep in her DNA kicks into action when the temperature nears zero.

Angus and his shaggy companion have a forty five minute walk by the river then return home for a cup of coffee followed by a quick tour of the village ( Sophie's cold weather energy levels are amazing ) before heading off to the good bakers. 

Since yesterday the bakers Christmas decorations have appeared. These are last years, recycled. 'Do you like them ?' asks the woman behind the counter. 'They're wonderful' I reply, untruthfully. She takes this answer at face value and seems happy.

Our timing is spot on this morning. Todays croissant fresh out of the oven. Baked to perfection, the crust golden, the dough soft.  Angus gives it a 9.2/10. Sophie thinks there's far too little of it but what she gets scores 15/10. Her tail goes into syncopated paroxysms of delight. We pick up a 'Nordic' loaf for 'The Font'. What goes into a Nordic loaf apart from rye, barley and flocons d'avoine is a mystery. Once again that strange man who talks to his shaggy dog is the only one brave enough to sit outside on the terrace. The locals remain inside, unmasked, in the warmth and glance at us with a mixture of alarm and pity.

A hint of Hammer House of Horrors about this video. Naked flames, Christmas trees, a wild organist and red Gothic stage lighting. What's not to like ?  The good folks of Jarvso seem intent on having a good time. The fiddle music at the end is fun :https://youtu.be/pbxFmOIF4uI?t=2397

Best language school add ever ? :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxxAwDHgQhE

Monday, November 29, 2021

Heathen parts

Yesterdays award ceremony went well. In fact it went so well it lasted for a full three hours. Through it all The Old Farmer dispensed wine from his tea urn. The Parisian guests were not served from the tea urn. They, and the new mayor, were served wine from a bottle.  The black mask wearing  Parisian visitors did not linger. They were off in a chauffeur driven Citroen within 15 minutes of presenting the old mayor with his gold long service medal. The Parisians must view these trips into the depths of France profonde in much the same way a 19th century explorer would embark on a visit to 'heathen parts'. 

We stood outside and slipped away when we'd been seen by most of our neighbours. There must have been at least ninety folks there. Masks were in evidence at the start of the proceedings but were quickly dispensed with.  There was also much kissing and hand shaking. Our 'aloofness' was probably the right and safest strategy.

This morning we head off to the modern bakers. No croissants today - the bakers already sold out -  but dog and master sit in the back of the car and share a carefully de-raisined pain au raisin.

How interesting that the car park at the hardware store is full to the brim even though it's barely light. Presumably tradesfolk stop here before heading off to their scheduled 'jobs'. With so many folks from the big cities moving to the countryside getting anyone along to do work on The Rickety Old Farmhouse is well nigh impossible. The electrician, who hasn't been seen in six months, has promised to come by on Friday.

A quick detour to the greengrocers. The La Reunion pineapples have shown up. Were pineapples always sold with their stalks ?  I reckon a third of the cost is inedible stalk. 

To the bakers.  In addition to some cakes Angus also buys an advent calendar.

Monday am. To Washington for an all masked up and unusual ( Welsh ? ) Advent song :https://youtu.be/vQ-0On2ktww?t=2311

Drinking champagne out of these would be fun although perhaps too French for Calvinist tastes :https://www.matchesfashion.com/fr/products/Campbell-Rey-Ensemble-de-deux-coupes-Cosimo-X-Laguna-B-1359858

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The presentation

At 11.30 this morning the old mayor gets presented with his medal for 38 years of service. His father was mayor before him and his grandfather before that. For all I know his great grandfather might also have been mayor. The village hall has been set up with a hundred or so seats. These are all closely packed together. A sign has been sellotaped onto the front door with the admonition that 'Masks must be worn'. With case numbers soaring we will 'circulate' when people gather outside and then quietly slip away. This will hopefully combine the etiquette of sharing in his big day while avoiding danger. The plan requires the rain to ease off. We have our fingers crossed.

It's bitterly cold outside.  The rain has that strange frigid consistency that tells you it can't decide whether it wants to stay rain or turn into snow. Sophie wanders into the kitchen to suggest that Angus finish off his coffee so that we can go for a long, leisurely walk across country.  Angus looks out of the window at the grey skies and sleet and informs his shaggy companion that there are reasons people have C-A-T-S. Sophie choses to ignore this.

There is yet more non-verbal communication as Angus puts on his shoes . Sophie settles down on the hall floor with a loud harrumph that hints at irritation. ' Get a move on ! The best of the day awaits ! '.

Post walk Sophie is toweled rigorously dry. I head off to change my trousers which are soaked through. This morning the strong wind has driven the downpour horizontally so my knees are drenched. The PONette seems completely untroubled by these frigid conditions.

When I come back downstairs the family diva has made the executive decision to fall into a deep and supremely happy sleep. Sausage Dog has been savaged and then discarded. There can be no doubting that this PON girls life is filled with high adventure.

Advent already ! Where did the year go ? By my reckoning it should be mid-February not the end of November This morning a parish church in Sweden starts it's  socially distanced Advent celebrations with a no nonsense light the candle and sing approach . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFkm62IFF_Q

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A mystery.

Clear skies and a temperature just north of freezing as we head off along the lane this morning. Sophie thinks this weather is absolutely wonderful. She sprints on ahead like a puppy. Being oblivious to cold weather is one of the benefits of having a thick double coat. The weather forecast says there will be snow tomorrow. Winter is about to announce its arrival with a blustery fanfare. 

Within five minutes the chill temperatures and a biting wind impart a 'casual' look to my canine companions fur. Her fur becomes ever more 'casual' the longer we're out.

Sophie joins me on a trip to the good bakers. Getting in the car is a chance to get out of the wind and warm up. This mornings croissant a delight. I'd reckon it's ten minutes out of the oven. A more than passable 8.9/10. Once again we are the only ones to brave the outside terrace. Even the hardy municipal refuse men are seated inside. There is a difference in our fellow customers this morning. All of the folks coming into the cafe  are wearing their masks so that both nose and mouth are covered. The Omicron effect ?

On our way home we pass a car on its side in the deep drainage ditch at the foot of the hill. I stop and check to make sure there's no one in it. The air bags haven't deployed which you'd expect if it had run off the road at high speed. A quick look around shows there are no signs of rapid braking or tyre marks . How the driver managed to get out of the car is also a puzzle. Pushing open the door and getting out of a small saloon that's lying on its side must have been exceedingly difficult. From the evidence I'd guess it had been stolen and, for some reason, pushed carefully off the road onto its side. 


Friday, November 26, 2021

Tightened up.

Good morning from Sophie who, despite the early hour, has already managed to cake her muzzle in mud. 

The big news here is that France has decided against another lockdown. Instead, the 3rd jab will now be mandatory. Without it you can't go out to restaurants or family gatherings or fly. Not surprisingly the health service booking system went down yesterday under an avalanche of folks trying to get a slot before the holidays. The regulations on mask wearing are also being tightened up. All of this seems sensible. We're still unsure how to play Sundays medal ceremony for the Old Mayor. We so want to go but the thought of a hundred folk crammed together in a poorly ventilated village hall requires some thought. It screams 'super spreader' event.

Two deer race past us as we're heading down the hill. What deer are doing running down the middle of the road is anyone's guess. By the time I enter the security code to get the camera working they've headed across the fields and are bobbing happily into the far distance. Sophie thinks of giving chase but by the time she's registered what's happening they're long gone. PONs, it must be said, are not hunting dogs.

Heading back home the donkeys look up as we pass but make no attempt to wander up the hill to greet us.

A queue already forming at the Orange store. They used to open at nine thirty but since the pandemic they've started to open at eight. Christmas lights have been installed along the showrooms roofline . 

In the greengrocers all sorts of winter vegetables make an appearance. I buy two cauliflowers for Sophie. Apart from the occasional 'Greenie' (what do they put in them to make dogs love them so ? ) Sophie is on a very healthy regimen.

Some of you asked earlier in the week if the local Sapeur-Pompiers calendar was full of 'Hunks'. This may answer your question. 

This toy is an immediate collectible :https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/mobile/walmart-pulls-children-s-toy-that-swears-and-sings-in-polish-about-doing-cocaine-1.5678364

A question I had never asked myself :https://theconversation.com/why-do-frozen-turkeys-explode-when-deep-fried-168933

The Toulouse radio stations summery offering on this cold, damp morning. I'm tempted to put the windows down so Sophie's ears can fly up ; but don't :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVxawLsN48s

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving.

A Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. 

This morning my shaggy companion promenades by the river and chases an audacious duck. Something 'wonderful' and crunchy is found under a tree and quickly swallowed . After a morning like this, Sophie along with everyone in The Rickety Old Farmhouse, agrees there is much to be thankful for.

On our way home Angus pops into the frozen food shop for some smoked salmon. Since our last shopping foray the smoked salmon has been moved to a new, and remote, corner of the store. It takes some finding. The display cabinets are now being filled with a selection of high cholesterol Christmas goodies.

Some Buche de Noel flavours are already selling out. The lady who runs the franchise tells me that getting new supplies is more 'difficult' this year. There is a shortage of drivers. I like the lady who runs the store. With all her children having 'flown the nest' she wondered what to do with all her free time. She got a franchise from a large national food corporation and opened up a store. Covid gave her some sleepless nights ( what a time to open !) but the outlet is now popular and has brought a touch of the wider world to our remote corner of France.

This mornings croissant reverts to its usual standard. An 8.2/10. We sit outside which the other customers find either amusing or alarming.

Post croissant music listened to on our homeward journey.  Although France doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving it seems a good choice to start the day  :https://youtu.be/P3QS83ubhHE

Not sure I'm adventurous enough to stay this far away from Central Park but the bar on the roof looks like great fun. There's talk of another lockdown on the way so next weeks dental trip to London is cancelled and thoughts of heading to Carmel for Christmas with family and friends have, finally and definitively, been binned :https://www.thewilliamvale.com/

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

First job of the day.

We wake to the sound of banging from our neighbours garage. The Old Farmer is up and about early. His time keeping has become more 'fluid' recently which may explain why he's started work on his car at five in the morning.  He greets us and says  that he's never known such a  mild, but misty, end to the year. 'The last time it was like this was 1958' .

Outside our gate the lane and the field opposite are now carpeted in leaves. The Old Farmer wonders if Loic could come over to blow away a small mountain of them that has started to build up outside his front door. I tell him that Loic will be here on Friday and it will be his first job of the day.  

Sophie, like all PONs, enjoys the noise the leaves make as she ploughs her way through them. Why walk quietly when you can walk noisily ?

The Old Farmer assures me he's well. His hip isn't painful and his leg doesn't bother him. Today, he's changing the spark plugs on the venerable Mercedes. Tomorrow, he will change the oil on the motorhome. When you're 92 there is comfort in settled  routine.

We leave him to his labours and head off round the village. My companion leads the way. From time to time she turns to make sure I'm following. An unvoiced but unmistakable ' Do Keep up !' look.

In the little market town the ambulance is parked on the square with its lights flashing. For a moment I think there might have been an accident but closer inspection shows the volunteer ambulance team are enjoying their first coffee of the day. We don't join them as they're at the cafe with the owners that don't like dogs. The driver shouts across to tell me he has Christmas calendars to sell and that he'll be along to the village this afternoon so I can buy one.

So starts another day of high adventure in a small French village where nothing, but nothing, ever happens.

 A new hotel in Paris .:https://madamereve.com/en/

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Quite an event.

The Anger Management Man is heading off to work. He stops his white Qashqai to remind me that the old mayor will be presented with a medal by the Interior Minister on Sunday morning. ' It should be quite an event ' he adds. " Wouldn't miss it for the world " I reply , although the thought of going into a crowded village hall has the words 'super spreader'  stamped all over it. Perhaps we can stand , masked up, at the back and by a window ?

Fog and humidity do nothing for Sophie's fur. Standing in the water while barking at ducks also doesn't help.

On our way home we stop off at the good bakers. The municipal refuse workers are just leaving as we arrive. They roar off in convoy. The second truck beeps it's horn and the driver waves. I tell Sophie that not every Polish Lowland Sheepdog lady has a coterie of adoring orange overall wearing  fans.

This mornings croissant is fresh out of the oven. It has an unusual look to it. Another three minutes in the oven were needed. The dough stringy and chewy. Sophie gets given more croissant than she usually does. For her stringy and chewy hit all the right buttons . I'd score it a 6.2/10. The PONette's enthusiasm indicates she's more likely to score it 12/10...possibly higher.

Cake aux noisettes packaged in clear plastic boxes are on sale at the bakers cash desk. What makes these worthy of stand alone packaging is not explained. Perhaps it's a local pre-Christmas specialty ?

A walk round Stockholm. The dog in the window at the 7:34 mark says what it's like to live in a country where it's dark before four. In an age of Covid I find these walking tours strangely compelling :https://youtu.be/QFSXSRXY_IY?t=446

This mornings post croissant music :https://youtu.be/617jUxf-yPE?t=36

Monday, November 22, 2021

A three C-A-T morning.

Can you spot the C-A-T sitting on the wall in the first photo? It was one of three seen in the rose beds as we set off on our Monday morning tour of the village. Sophie is incandescent with rage. The three C-A-T-S hurtle sensibly ( and balletically) onto the garden wall . They are pursued by a decidedly unballetic PONette. It never enters the PONettes head that the C-A-T-S might have clambered onto the wall and be above her looking down. There is considerable sturm und drang while Sophie ensures the garden is free from interlopers. 

At the shopping centre car park Sophie sniffs the hedges, looks for discarded McDonalds wrappers and chases a solitary mallard.

The family diva is harnessed up when we come across a TESLA  being recharged. TESLA has a dealership in Toulouse so they are occasionally spotted in these remote parts. Angus worries that Sophie might set off the vehicle alarm if she sniffs the tyres.  We head off for a shared croissant . The shopping centre car park has a dozen or so electric charging points but this is the first car I've ever seen being charged up.

Closer to home the village hall has been made ready for a birthday party. One of the nurses at the special needs home has her fortieth birthday today. A surprise lunch has been arranged in her honour. This is the first time the village hall has been used for a gathering since the pandemic arrived.  Through the window I'm surprised to see a smattering of black balloons on the tables. An inflatable number 40 , also in black, is leaning  against the back wall. Black seems an unusual party colour to Anglo-Saxon eyes.... or at least this Anglo-Saxon's eyes. A boom box and karaoke machine are clues that there may be dancing. 

Our morning croissant collecting music :https://youtu.be/4mJayYlfcWo

Sunday, November 21, 2021


A hearty Bonjour from Sophie who has been up and about since 5:45.

We head off across country. As we walk Angus talks on the i-Phone to a Manhattanite about inflation, Belarus and Kyle Rittenhouse. The Manhattanite would like a meeting in New York. Non-committal noises are made. It doesn't seem like a great time to travel.  Austria is closed down, cases in Germany are surging and the Dutch police have fired on anti-Vax protesters. A trip back to the London dentist to have the interim crown replaced and a new, permanent one, put in place will be travel enough. 

Sophie and her master detour to the bakers in the little market town. The bakers wife is alone in the  shop. When I say alone I mean she's surrounded by five hyper active toddlers. She is just filling the display cabinets with todays offerings as we arrive. A peach flan is recommended. 

The alternative is an iced raspberry, blueberry and violet sponge . This is a difficult choice to make.

We opt for the peach flan but also take two small raspberry, blueberry and violet cakes to try them out.

Angus asks about Christmas orders. ' You'd better get them in over the next couple of weeks. We're snowed under already'. It seems our remote and unfashionable part of France has seen a wave of house buying by Parisians. Being remote , sparsely populated,  unfashionable and law abiding the department has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Estate agents have had their best season ever and the incoming Parisians are stocking up for the festive season well ahead of time.


Saturday, November 20, 2021


Daybreak. We've already had two walks but the vision of loveliness follows me round the house as I open the shutters. She makes it clear another walk would be appreciated. Failing that why don't we head off to the bakers for a croissant ?. 

Sophie has had a fur trim. A good inch and a half came of the ears and chest. Despite the haircut there is still a couple of inches of fur left to keep my companion warm through even the fiercest of French winters. How can her fur grow so quickly and thickly ?  Her fur is still long enough to drag in leaves and twigs whenever she comes into the house.

We head off in the dog car to the river. It's sunny up here on the ridge but 200 metres lower by the water there's a thick fog. My companion is oblivious to the  cold and damp and heads off in pursuit of a duck. There is much howling but the duck remains unconcerned.

By the end of our walk Sophie has developed her rescue dog look. Any semblance of ever having been groomed has gone. One good thing; following her trim neither ear nor tummy fur dangle in the water. 

A little shop in Paris. If ever you want an old fashioned wine decanter that's not heavy and clunky then look here : https://www.marinmontagut.com/