Saturday, May 28, 2022

Solid.


The restoration of power and the internet has brought The Rickety Old Farmhouse back into the 21st century. Electricity only arrived in the village in 1950's , so for two thirds of its life the old building has survived by candlelight. It's owners are of the view that two nights without modern conveniences is quite enough.


The road that leads into the village remains closed. A large yellow sign with the words ' Route Barree ' has appeared at the 'Y' junction . The purpose of the large hole that has been dug remains unknown. We would ask the new mayor but he has chosen this week ( sensibly ?) to go on holiday.


Sophie has been completely untroubled by the lack of modern accoutrements. Barbecued chicken with her kibbles has kept the standard of cuisine on offer at an acceptable level.


This morning we're up at five thirty to watch the sun rise slowly over the sunflower fields. Give the young plants a  month and the little village will be surrounded by a sea of yellow. Our daily tour of the village to check on the neighbours horses, donkeys, cows, geese and goats is untroubled. All are glared at. Some minnow fishing is attempted in the stream but the minnows, as always, remain safe.

This mornings croissant much improved. A solid 8.6/10.


 Now, there are three days worth of e-mails to attend to.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Reconnected.


Late on Wednesday afternoon the workmen start digging up the road. They work for an hour. During this time they sever the villages power line and the fibre optic cable.  They then leave.

Thursday is a bank holiday in France. The power and the phone companies aren't working. French holidays are religiously and rigourously observed. The utilities answer phone message tells us to ' call back later'.

We are without power - which 'The Font' thinks is romantic in a ' eighteenth century' type way.  We dine outside by candlelight and cook on the barbecue. The allure of cold showers is short lived.

Earlier today we are reconnected to the electrical grid. 

A few moments ago the internet and phone sprang back into life.

Sophie has risen at first light and gone to sleep when the sun sets.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Lip smackingly wonderful.


Angus talks at length to a group of serious Manhattanites. This means we're late heading off for the morning croissant. Sophie does her best to hide her exasperation with my tardiness. She doesn't succeed. PONettes are not good at hiding their emotions.


The sunflower plants in the field on the other side of the lane seem to have doubled in height overnight. From the look of the  soil we must have had a shower of rain in the wee hours. The ground needed it. The fact that I even comment on over night rain is yet another of those ever mounting signs that I've turned into my father. 


This mornings croissant decidedly subpar. Somethings gone wrong with the dough. It struggles to get a score of 6/10. Sophie, by contrast, thinks it's lip smackingly wonderful.


The tamarisk that line the verges outside The Rickety Old Farmhouse is starting to come into bloom. One of those small but sure signs that Summer is about to arrive. There are roadworks on the lane at the 'Y' junction. The reason for the roadworks is unexplained as is the absence of any workmen. There is however a sign saying the road will be closed until June 9th. This means that traffic through the village is forced to make a major detour around it. With the road blocked the only cars that pass by the gate belong to the matron of the old folks home, the new mayor and ourselves. The village has gone from merely quiet to a form of prelapsarian  stillness.


 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The funeral.

Sophie absorbs the news that she's not coming to the village funeral with an air of disbelief. She will be left alone for an hour to guard The Rickety Old Farmhouse.

The funeral is more of a black jeans than black tie affair. The two sons acknowledge each others presence with a nod but otherwise remain frostily silent. Each  embarrassedly tries to pretend the other isn't there. One sits with his wife on the left hand side of the church, the other ( in a shiny blue track suit and open toed sandals ) sits on the right . Three ex-wives sit together with a smattering of what are presumably their children. The word 'unruly' springs to mind.

I ask The Old Mayor about the sons 'unusual' names. One was  named after John Wayne and the other after Warren Beatty. In the France profonde of the early 1980's naming your children after foreign movie stars betokened an exciting openness to all things international and new.


The priest who officiates retired 25 years ago. Today, he has ventured out of the old folks home for the ceremony. He's a game old thing who lights candles, delivers the sermon and organizes the pall bearers with cheerful bonhomie. Music is provided by a boom box which is placed on the lid of the coffin next to the notes for his sermon. The boom box tape has stretched with use which renders the hymns unrecognizable.  Amazing Grace is sung but we're two verses into it before I recognize the tune.


It is a very French village affair. Unpolished but heartfelt. The priest exudes great kindness and well honed dignity. The villagers do their duty and attend. In deepest France profonde lifes waypoints are still observed. As the priest pronounces the blessing the sun, which has spent much of the day hidden behind cloud, suddenly decides to burst out. The little church is filled with light. As 'The Font' says there's not much more than sunshine and kindness you could want at a funeral. 

At the end the wives and the two sons head off in sullen silence to the old mans house. Presumably, to 'discuss' the inheritance. We invite The Old Mayor , The Old Farmer and a dozen waifs and strays back for a glass of champagne. The Old Mayor tells 'The Font' how difficult it is to go back to an empty house. He visits his wife three times a day  but she doesn't recognize him .


Sophie enjoys having company. She hopes that the visitors will drop their canapes. None of them do. It is clear she considers this to be the height of bad manners. 

So passes another day in a small French village where nothing ever happens.


Monday, May 23, 2022

Diminished exoticism.


Thunderstorms are forecast. They grumble away in the far distance. Up here on the ridge it's sunny but clammy.


After a cold, damp start to the year the temperatures are soaring and we now seem headed towards a serious drought and heat wave. This morning , while watering the new lavender, the well water 'sputtered' for the first time. Can the ground water really be drying up already ?

Sophie thrives on a daily adventure . She's up and in the car and raring to go at an hour when sane folk are still in bed. We're the first customer at the bakers although the car park is quickly filling up with staff from the supermarket next door.


This mornings croissant dry and with a consistency more like processed bread than a croissant. Sophie has the ends and the flap from the top. How's that for a good start to the week ?


The frozen food store has a special on frogs legs. I see they come from Indonesia and are processed in Belgium. This rather diminishes their exoticism.


Today is the day of the reclusive mans funeral. Wayne and Warren, the two non-communicating sons, together with various inheritance seeking spouses, are expected to show up at the church a little after two. I explain the nuances of the situation to Sophie who listens with rapt attention.


Last night we dine , virtually, in California :https://themadronahotel.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Madrona-Dinner-Menu-April-21.pdf

The tipsy broadcaster. A piece of British history :https://twitter.com/LawDavF/status/1527746510213025794


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Pretense

Louisiana weather this morning. Hot and clammy. The PONette is not a great fan of hot and clammy.

While we're in the cool of the kitchen the bell at the front gate sounds. It's the strawberry lady. The Gariguettes are finished for the year. Instead she delivers a kilo of some local variety that is sweet and soft. They are a poor substitute. The strawberry lady reckons she has another weeks worth of picking to go before the crop is finished for the year. How time flies !

Then it's into the car and off to the bakers. Sophie enjoys having the aircon turned up to Arctic levels.

We buy a Frasier. Sophie gets some discarded choux pastry from this mornings eclair production. Her tail wags in that that manic ' I've gone to heaven ' way it does when she's overwhelmed with joy.  The family diva has to be told to leave the shop three times. Selective deafness is a PONette trait triggered, in this case, by the presence of viennoiserie. 


This article reminds me that Sophie and her humans exist in the happy pretense she's fully trained ...... or at least ( let's not kid ourselves ) adequately trained. Sophie is of course 'selective' in how and when she applies her training :https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/dog-training-myths-busted/


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Volcanic


On 'The Fonts' flight home the next door seat seat was taken by a gentleman with his guide dog. The dog made herself comfortable on the floor at his feet. Every time the aircraft encountered turbulence the dog would sit up. Every time it sat up his owner gave her a biscuit. The dog seemed rather happy with this arrangement.

The heat continues to build. Monsieur Bay is up and about  in the pre-dawn cool. He informs me that the recently deceased villagers sons are called Wayne and Warren. This seems highly improbable but it was apparently chic in the 70's to give your children  American soap opera  names. Wayne is the son with four wives. Fireworks are to be expected at the funeral. Over the years Wayne has promised ownership of his fathers house to each of his spouses. Someone is going to be disappointed. I'm sensing the village is expecting a 'volcanic' funeral .

After opening the church Sophie sprints off to the war memorial. There is a C-A-T lurking in the shrubbery.


This new place is an hour down the road : https://www.troplong-mondot.com/en/

And one day we'll stay here. Every time we've gone the road has collapsed and we've had to back track to Pebble Beach :https://deetjens.com/. Then there's this place which comes recommended : https://www.theinnatnewportranch.com/

Friday, May 20, 2022

History we all recognize.

'Bonjour' from Sophie who alerts Angus to the fact that it's almost six and it's light outside. Why waste a moment of a perfect day ? There may be C-A-T-S to chase.

We head across the village green to open up the church. The bee tree isn't yet in full bloom but it's humming merrily away. The bee tree is one of the seven auditory wonders of the world. Moses had his burning bush. The village has its humming tree.


As we're leaving who should show up but The Old Mayor himself. The priest is down with the flu so the funeral has been rescheduled for Monday. It seems the dead mans family is not a happy one. He  has two sons who aren't on speaking terms and four ex wives that ' do not get along ' . The Old Mayor says this in a way that makes it clear this is no normal familial discord. He adds an ' Oh la la ' to provide added emphasis.  All the wives have phoned The Old Mayor to say they intend to attend the funeral. It's been decided that there won't be a vin d'honneur in the village hall.  'Grief, alcohol and a family like that is a mix that can only end in tears'.

The Old Mayor has shrunk. He's smaller and thinner. I ask him if he's alright. It seems his wife, who he refers to as 'the love of my life' was taken into the Old Folks Home yesterday.  She'd got a serious urinary tract infection after her fifth hip operation and was 'confused'. She didn't know who he was. 

Over the last couple of days she'd fallen out of bed four times. His wife was too heavy for him to lift so he'd had to call the Sapeurs Pompiers. The young doctor in the health centre didn't come out to the house but arranged for her to go into the home and have 24 hour care.  'We've slept together every night for sixty eight years' he tells me in that peculiarly intimate way the French do. He quietly folds in on himself and weeps . I find myself standing in the lane with my arms around this old man wishing him ' bon courage'. He doesn't think she'll come home again.

This blogger sometimes complains that nothing ever happens in this little corner of paradise - but pages are always turning and chapters opening and closing. This is a hushed history we all recognize and share. 


 https://cosmosmagazine.com/history/ancient-dogs-morphology-europe/



Thursday, May 19, 2022

Wherever and whenever

Sophie has been left alone with Angus while 'The Font' is visiting the far North. The standard of the food on offer has taken a decided turn for the worse. Sophies face says it all.

Although it's barely gone six the local courier driver drops of some cases of the wine at the front door. The family diva watches as the cases are unloaded. Sadly, there are no Jaffa Cakes on offer.

We open the church doors. The dry air seems to have evaporated the water that's leaked from the roof onto the floor tiles near the door.  There's going to be a  funeral tomorrow. The reclusive old man who lived in the cottage by the Holy Oak was rushed into hospital on Sunday night. There were, in the words of Madame Bay,  'complications with his legs'.

Yesterday, a motor home from Anjou stopped outside the village hall. A couple got out, wandered round the war memorial and finally made their way into the church. They spent all of two minutes inside. These are the first visitors I've ever seen go into the church.

Heading home from opening the church doors we say hello to Anger Management Man who has bought a newish black Toyota. ' Goes like the clappers ' he informs me in a tone of voice that is uncharacteristically jovial. We also stop and chat with The Old Farmer. He has taken to spending much of the day sitting in the shade on his terrace in nothing but a string vest and a voluminous pair of woolen drawers that extend below his knees. I promise to bring him one of the bottles of the wine that have just been delivered. He'll put it in the fridge to chill down and will invite his mate ,who served with him in the Army in Algeria, over for a nightcap. They will sit there, as they usually do, until well past midnight putting the world slowly to rights.

Sophie doesn't even make it onto the stoop this morning. After that manic social whirl she just drops on the brick paving outside the door. A girl has to take her sleep wherever and whenever she can.


Norways one and only dinosaur fossil : https://sciencenorway.no/dinosaurs-fossils-oil-and-gas/norways-only-dinosaur-find-was-a-complete-accident/2024542




Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Hot tarmac

Another scorcher of a day promised. Angus and Sophie are up and about in the garden before daybreak to avoid the heat. It's cool enough for me to water the newly planted lavender and for Sophie to keep an eye open for the audacious C-A-T on the woodpile in the barn. Well before six we've had breakfast and set off  on our tour of the village. This morning the local French radio news bulletin informs us that Madison Cawthorn has lost his primary in North Carolina. Angus quietly wonders how many listeners in deepest, deepest France profonde have ever heard of Mr Cawthorn... or North Carolina.


When we get back to The Rickety Old Farmhouse  the family diva spends a full twenty minutes sitting, on alert, in the courtyard waiting for something to happen in the C-A-T department.

Nothing does.


Sophie finally takes up her 'head out, rump in' position on the front stoop.

This is where she'll stay until the sun is on her nose .  Then it'll be time to move into the cool of the kitchen. A girls day is never dull.



Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A sensible position.


The installation of the new kitchen in the village hall seems to be taking a pause. The old units have been ripped out and are piled up in a corner of the stage. The new stainless steel counters have been delivered and are squeezed into the lobby. On our way to open up the church we meet the new mayor who says the firm that were supposed to be doing the work have been called away ' on an emergency'. He shrugs his shoulders as he says this. C'est la vie.  

The new mayor also provides a potted update on the 'excavator' saga. The gendarmes are continuing their investigation. The builder was out of town and claims complete ignorance... and innocence. The Anger Management Man is saying the gendarmes are friends of the builder and aren't impartial.  The new mayor is doing his level best to ignore the whole thing. This seems a sensible position to take.


Sophie heads down to the vets for her final check up and delayed vaccinations. A little roughness in her breathing so she'll have a scan in a couple of weeks. Probably an age thing but best to have it checked. Apart from that she's as right as rain. She skips out of the surgery and leaps into the safety of the car as quickly as those titanium knees can carry her.


On the way home a detour to the bakers. We're the first customers to venture out onto the terrace. Curly croissant ends prove to be a suitable reward for a trip to the vets.


 Have you ever seen such a Swedish hotel ?:https://www.etthem.se/

Monday, May 16, 2022

Sprinting home.


Five thirty. There's a lunar eclipse this morning. It's low on the horizon and just above the tree line so finding it is surprisingly  difficult. There's an unexpected bonus. The Space Station catches the rising sun and lumbers across the sky in front of us like a slow motion shooting star. Three local farmers drive by on their tractors. They see us standing in the garden and wave. You can almost hear them thinking how odd these foreigners are to be staring upwards at a featureless sky at this unearthly hour.

As we're up early, and its cool, Sophie gets a trip to the modern bakers in the big car. 

No croissants yet. The baker is still waiting for them to come out of the oven. We do however get a, still warm, pain au raisin. The family diva  gets some sugar and raisin free 'edges'. This variation to her diet is accepted with enthusiasm. The pain au raisin has a 'crunch' you don't get with croissants.

White asparagus in the greengrocers. Usually it sells out quickly but this morning there is a mountain of the stuff. Go figure.

Back in the village we take a walk down to the Holy Oak. Then we retrace our steps back up the hill to the church. By this time it's already in the high teens and getting steamy. Guess that means it will be in the mid-30's by lunchtime.

Sophie picks up her pace as the heat builds.


Up on the village green she's fairly sprinting along. This morning she doesn't even bother to turn around to make sure I'm keeping up. Breakfast in the cool awaits ! For this girl priorities are priorities ! Soon Angus will close all the shutters to keep the heat out.


 This is the official video for the Ukrainian song we mentioned yesterday : https://twitter.com/carlbildt/status/1525878088445329411