Monday, January 31, 2022

More mist than fog.

Grey and decidedly nippy. There is freezing fog but it's more mist than fog. This has been the dampest winter in the twelve and a half  years we've been here.

The dead leaves that were covering the surface of the zinc bath have sunk to the bottom. As a consequence the water has taken on a rather unappealing brown tint. In the sheepdog scheme of things this makes it all the more delicious.

The interesting things people make. 'The Font' finds this  :

I'm not saying the pandemic is driving us stir crazy but every evening before dinner we've taken to printing off a restaurant menu , reading it aloud and imagining that we're somewhere exotic. On Saturday we pretend dined in Berlin.  Last night we moved on to Baltimore : .  You can be sure that American menus always have ingredients that neither of us have ever heard of. This either means Americans are more knowledgeable or that menu writing has blossomed as universities churn out liberal arts grads with a Masters in creative writing. Having time to explore a menu at leisure is interesting. It's amazing how many recommended restaurants we've crossed off our 'to visit list' and how many we've added. Some menus cry out to the ' I've been on a plane for 10 hours ' traveller. Others consider themselves to be too grand.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Normality ?

At last the number of daily new cases is easing back from the 500,000 levels seen last week. 330,000 yesterday.  Perhaps in a week or two things will be back to some semblance of normality ? In the meantime life at The Rickety Old Farmhouse revolves around lots and lots of brisk walks with the family diva. No freezing fog this morning which is a big plus.

Passing the village pond we wave at the matron of the Old Folks Home heading off to work. She has replaced her old white Peugeot 208 with a new(ish), white Peugeot 208. The French, or at least the villagers, view foreign vehicles with suspicion. The ' where would you get replacement parts ?' syndrome. The matron stops to say 'Bonjour' to Sophie. I congratulate her on the new car. 'Very stylish ' I say with a degree of enthusiasm a little white Peugeot might not expect to receive. No sooner has she gone than Anger Management Man appears. He seems calm today .He greets us with a cheery  'Miserable weather' . We say it could be worse  but by then he's accelerating off down the lane.

The best laid plans of mice and men .... Organic farming causes problems in Sri Lanka :

Ordering a coffee in the US used to be a simple affair. Now it's a heavily nuanced procedure. This article explains , in terms I can understand, what a dry cappuccino is - although asking for a latte is a much easier transaction :

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Surplus ingredients.

The weather forecast  promised a warm, wet start to the day. This  proves to be completely wrong. We wake to yet more freezing fog. This mornings freezing fog seems, if that's possible, to be even more freezing than yesterdays.

The shaggy dog and its human companion do a tour of the village in the sort of weather you'd expect to see in a BBC Dickensian thriller. A Jack the Ripper backdrop to our walk. On our tour it's evident that not all the Christmas decorations have been taken down. A single row of lights twinkles away forlornly in the village hall window.

The man with the cousin with the fishing boat passes in his little white Renault van. He's on his way to the coast to meet the boat when it comes in. ' If I find a lovely bit of cod I'll make sure you get some '. He says this in a conspiratorial tone of voice that sounds as if cod is being rationed. 

You'd think the Moorhens would be hibernating. Not a bit of it. The entire family is out and about on the ice. As we approach they rush towards the safety of the shrubs that line the edge of the pond . With the surface of the pond ice covered they slip and slide and make decidedly irritated noises. This is comedic - for me - if not for them.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the local courier driver drops off some wine. I unpack it and load the empty cartons in the back of the car. There are some advantages to having a delivery driver as a neighbour. Pre-breakfast wine deliveries are one of them.

Faced with impenetrable fog and another day of Covid lockdown 'The Font' decides to use all the surplus ingredients and make a Christmas pudding.   The kitchen turns into a steam bath as things start to  boil away. Sophie makes it quite clear that she will be spending her day in the kitchen keeping a watchful eye on things. 

 British pubs are going upmarket :

And here's one of this new breed in Scotland :

Friday, January 28, 2022

Without embarrassment.

So much for the Atlantic storm that was forecast. The day starts still and calm with freezing fog and temperatures that remain obdurately close to freezing.

The  valley may be shrouded in fog but the village sits on the top of the ridge basking in the sun like a New Jerusalem. Or, to be more precise, a New Jerusalem with the grand total of 67 inhabitants. The Christmas decorations have finally come down. The mayor, the old mayor, the old mayors best friend and the village odd job man all lend a hand. The village odd job man is wearing dark wrap around sun glasses. ' A glass of wine too many last night' he informs me. This may explain the 'leisurely' and haphazard pace of his work.

The sled and a slumped Santa ( without its head ) remain on the village green as a reminder of Christmas past.

Sophie is in no rush to get home. The melting frost is throwing up tantalizing scents. The wild boar have been grubbing their way across the village green in the small hours. Sophie has discovered that they have left 'delicious' calling cards.

Horse makes a reappearance. Sophie gives horse a suitably wide berth. A girl can never be too prudent when it comes to large inquisitive neighbours. Then it's off home .The PONette has learnt how to take a 20 minute power nap without embarrassment. This is a social grace any well brought up sheepdog girl needs to master.

Europe and America have very different climates : :

An unusual place to stay. The blurb says it's ideal for exploring the grounds of the Central State Hospital.  Did anyone know Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia during the late unpleasantness ? :

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Be governed not by the tyranny of the urgent but by the elevation of the important

Last night Sophie had hake for dinner. Today, she will also have hake for breakfast . The fish was bought for dinner last night but after checking it 'The Font' decides that it's alright, but not great. A word will be had with the fishmonger. The fishmonger is  a man in the next village who has a cousin with a boat in Arcachon. He visits his cousin  twice and week and sells whatever has been landed that morning. Usually the fish is pretty good - his cod and langoustine are trawler fresh  - but hake might not be his thing.

The weather forecast indicates that this will be the last of our perfect mornings for a week or so. A rain bearing front is due in from the Atlantic. The freezing temperatures will be a thing of the past with the temperature set to rise back into double digits. Strong winds are also forecast.

After a long walk across country Sophie discovers there is nowhere quite as warm and comfortable as the back of the car with the tailgate up and the morning sun streaming in. The perfect place to dose.

There again the tartan bed ( toys determinedly discarded to make space )  is the perfect spot for a serious nap. As all PONettes know ' Be governed not by the  tyranny of the urgent but by the elevation of the important'.

French song of the day - listened to while collecting the breakfast baguette. Don't think this will be in the US charts anytime soon :

Wednesday, January 26, 2022


Another 500,000 cases reported overnight. France now the second country to reach that daily level. The pandemic means we continue to live in a world of small horizons. Shaggy dog and early rising owner can be found out and about as the sun rises. This early in the morning the sky is still shrouded in mist and the grass coated in a layer of frost. By the time we've made it to the cows field the sun has burnt off the mist and the frost. For the first time in 2022 the sun is warm on my face. We've already spoken to some serious folks in Delhi. Angus suggests they read this brief note on Ukraine by the Wilson Center:

From the Roman Road we can look up and see the mound where the first legionaries  in the region set up camp. Today the fort they built is covered in trees and two millennia of weathering has rounded its contours and smoothed its slopes . This doesn't stop intrepid urbanites from venturing out at weekends in search of treasure. Very occasionally , like once every five years, a lucky metal detector operator will find a coin or a piece of pottery. 

Roll on Spring. Warmer weather will bring with it a major trim of the family divas coat . A saunter through the mud to the waterfall makes a matted coat a mud caked coat. Sophie is very comfortable with this look.

Even more plane tree seeds have fallen overnight. They line the lane and cling to the family divas paws. A good ten minutes has to be spent removing them and some, if not all, of the mud.

Played on radio NRJ as we head off in the car for breakfast croissants. This could only be a French song :

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


1:16 am. The phone pings to let me know I've got a message. Must be important to be sent at that time in the morning. Turns out it's the phone company with the news there's an 'exciting new range of payment plans coming your way'. I have somewhat uncharitable thoughts about the phone company and its exciting new payment plans while trying to get back to sleep again.

The recent frost has caused the seed pods on the plane trees to burst . As we head off on our morning walk the verges on either side of the lane are thick with seedlings. It goes without saying that Sophie's fur attracts plane tree seedlings like a magnet attracts iron filings. Perhaps this happens every January but I've never noticed it before.

To avoid Sophie becoming completely covered in the things we head off to the seed free atmosphere beside the river.

Both pontoons have now been retrieved and towed back into place although there's no sign of the small yacht that had run aground on the sandbank midstream. Sophie chases after a leaf that blows across the concrete dock. This requires the PONettes close attention and some deft footwork. Apart from a young black Labrador and an adventurous Yorkie there is no one to be seen. Sophie's absolute favourite pastime is her walk down by the river. Doubly so when there's frost underfoot and exotic 'scents' are suspended in ice and waiting to be discovered. 

All our previous PONs were tail less. Sophie's tail, it has to be said, is an architectural thing that has a life of its own.

After an hours walk in the fresh air we head back home in the car. I suggest that Sophie joins me in the garden for some yard work. She opens one eye and imparts  a diva look that makes it 100% plain that beauty sleep is her priority.

This is one way of looking at things :

Monday, January 24, 2022

Morning slapstick.

Six am. It's dark and bone chillingly cold.  Neither of these factors dissuade Sophie from wanting to get her day started. Angus has already been up for an hour talking to Manhattanites about Russias ever shriller rhetoric and Americas decision to withdraw its diplomats from Kiev. Not the most light hearted of ways to start a day. Sophie, who is unconcerned about such things, hurtles off into the darkness in inelegant pursuit of something only she can see. The sound of a PON hurtling through, rather than around, a laurel hedge is unmistakable.

Today, serious conversations over, we head off to the drive thru bakers.  Dog and dogs companion share a rather uninspiring croissant in the back of the car. There is then time to chase the mallards and explore the waste paper bins outside the new gastropub before the workers arrive and the car park fills up. Sophie would be happy spending all day exploring the bins ( a cold burger patty is in there somewhere ) but is 'encouraged' back to the car.

On the way home we stop off at a motor way service area. The weather is beautiful so why not squeeze in an extra walk ? French motorway service stations are a delight - arguably the best in the world - and light years ahead of their miserable British namesakes. This one has a road that winds up into the hills for a good kilometre. The view from up high is worth the climb. Sophie enjoyed the shopping centre car park but the service station scents are of an altogether different calibre. They send her into olfactory raptures.

Back in the village we catch a glimpse of seven moorhens.  There is the thinnest layer of ice on the pond. As the moorhens scurry into the safety of the foliage they slip on the ice. Pandemonium ensues. I laugh at this morning slapstick routine.

So starts a quiet Monday morning in a village in deepest, deepest France profonde. 

Unusual story of the day :


Sunday, January 23, 2022



The sort of winter weather that could have come straight out of a Disney fairy tale. Blue skies, carpets of white frost and a Cecil B DeMille sunrise. Sophie is born for weather like this - which explains why she ( and her human companion ) can be found out and about at six thirty on a Sunday morning.

Yesterday, a large bus deposited sixty or so pensioners in the village. The inhabitants of an old folks home in Toulouse. They had a picnic on the village green and spent the afternoon wandering backwards and forwards along the lane. All of them were kitted out in identical bright red windcheaters - a practical touch in case any decided to wander off. Sophie , standing on her hind legs at the gate, greeted each and every passer by 'enthusiastically'. The visitors were just as happy to stand and say hello to her. This is the third or fourth time we've seen a group like this arrive in the village. Town dwellers keen to get out into the fresh air and enjoy simple pleasures after a long spell in lockdown. The fact the village hall has easily accessible public lavatories may also be a factor in why we're becoming a venue for day trippers.

This morning something rustling in the frost attracts my companions attention. Everything stops while this is explored.

Further up the hill an enticing scent gets the full 360 turn treatment.

Finally, a small pile of leaves at the road side has to be carefully studied. This is a job that cannot be hurried.

So starts a quiet Sunday with a Polish Lowland Sheepdog  in deepest, deepest France profonde .

Remarkable :

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Going slowly ?

A beautiful morning down by the river -  but boy is it cold.

Sophie paddles in the river, gets her muzzle dirty in the mud , finds a single pigeon wing with the feathers still on it ( what joy !) and spends a good five minutes staring at the swans. 

After that it's off to pick up the breakfast croissants. We've also been tasked with buying some flowers which means a quick detour to the supermarket shopping precinct.

None of the assistants in the florists are wearing masks. Angus scoops up a dozen or so bunches of flowers from the buckets at the front door. Apart from tulips and roses most bunches seem to only have three stems in them. The young woman behind the till has the annoying habit of shouting out each purchase ' One bunch of roses - five euros ninety. One bunch of tulips - two euros thirty '.  Having run through the purchases she then asks if I have a frequent shopper card. I don't.  She then wants to know if I want one. She then regales me with all the benefits of having one. I put on a second mask. This action brings the conversation to an end. She has clearly decided I'm a bad tempered loon with no interest in saving money. The concept of aerosol transmission is, it seems,  not universally shared.

How can it be Saturday ? You'd think time would go by slowly in a close to home pandemic . The strange thing about pandemic living is that the days seem to run seamlessly into one another. Is this because there are no trips to the big city to break them up ?


Friday, January 21, 2022

One to take away.

So much for the electrician showing up at four. He arrives at quarter to six. Angus was just opening a bottle of wine to let it breath before dinner when he arrives in the kitchen.  I could grumble but the man has clearly made an effort to see us before clocking off for the day. He also wears his mask - mouth and nose covered -  without being asked. As he goes he is thanked profusely.

Friday dawns grey and damp. There's a biting wind blowing in from the Bay of Biscay. On our morning walk the weather can't decide whether it wants to rain or sleet. We do our tour of the village briskly in an attempt to keep warm. It goes without saying that the family diva relishes these conditions. She is keen to explore the flashing Christmas lights strung between the wooden reindeers but is harnessed up and  'encouraged' home. Will the decorations come down this week or will they still be flashing away in February ?

We go to the drive through bakers. The young lady behind the window informs me they have a special on Galette des Rois.  We order one to take away. Sophie and her companion sit in the car park, watch the electrical store staff arrive for work and share a croissant. This is hardly the chic French lifestyle that most people dream about but it works for us on a dreech pandemic Friday morning in January.

Back at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the wind has picked up and the palm tree outside the front door is shaking its fronds like a thing possessed. Sophie takes an executive decision. She settles down in her bed and is soon sound asleep with her harness still on.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

More specific ?

The electrician is due today. We ask the office when he might arrive. 'Some time today' comes the reply. We ask if there's any chance of a more specific time. 'Probably around four but it might be before lunch ' . The receptionist says this with well practised imprecision. Not that it really matters. With cases running around 500,000 a day we are still in 'abundance of caution' mode and unlikely to stray far from the house.

Sophie's coat is at maximum shagginess. There's nothing like a tangled double coat for fending off the cold on these winter mornings. 

The super smart Los Angeleans call while we're walking along the valley floor. They want to talk about Ukraine. It's eleven pm for them so they must be concerned. The consensus is that the US doesn't want to upset the Germans. The Germans don't want to do anything that hinders gas deliveries from Russia. The French want the whole thing to go away. The Poles and the Balts are nervous.  That leaves the Brits and Canadians. That says all you need to know about how things will turn out.

Back in The Rickety Old Farmhouse kitchen 'The Font' has appeared and is making breakfast scrambled eggs. Sophie is immediately enraptured. Angus is ignored.