Friday, February 23, 2018

Declining an invitation.

Woke up thinking of this less known stanza from Yeats:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity".

Bob sits on the storm drain next to me as I recite it to him. The young garagiste on his motorbike en route to opening up the atelier sees us and beeps. I wave. Bob , unmoved, ponders and stares into the distance. Sophie, for some reason, has found a small fallen branch that she's chewing on intently. Sophie is not a Yeats fan.

The mother of the tikes drives by in the large white Renault minivan. She has a broad smile on her face. I assume she's left the father and the two tikes at their skiing lodge and returned home with the six ( or seven ) little ones. They can be seen bouncing around in the back. Peace and quiet when you have a large feral brood must be relative.

Down to the barbers. There is a man in black track suit trousers and a tee shirt who insists on getting up from the chair and kissing me on both cheeks as if I'm a long lost friend. I'd guess he had garlic for dinner last night. Bob eyes him suspiciously. His accent is completely impenetrable.

The three retired farmers haven't yet arrived. This means that while the man who smells of garlic has his hair cut I can read the local paper.

The barber is off to Peru for two weeks in mid-March on his annual holiday. Last year it was India. ''Better give you a trim that will last until I get back" he says. Angus tells him not to make it too short. The clippers get to work. Angus now sports a twenty five to life style  buzz cut.'' Goodness" says 'The Font' unhelpfully when we meet at the car park.

French breakfast radio news leads with the quote that 'a gun free school is a magnet for bad people'. The gulf between the old continent and the US just got wider.

Angus is invited to come to Moscow to talk to men in dark suits. It's -20 they inform him. Angus politely declines the invitation. It's - 2 here which is quite cold enough.

How long before the caption under this photo is changed from the Kerch Straight Bridge to the Kerch Straits Bridge ?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The first of the year.

The PONs are let out of the front door for their early morning comfort break. An ear shattering cacophony of barking, howling ( not just any howling but the full on PON howl ) and yelping follows. The angelic duo have found the first hedgehog of the year. A large dozy fellow who has just woken from hibernation. His arrival means Spring must be here although you wouldn't know it from the frost on the grass. Angus runs inside, finds a towel, and lifts the still groggy hedgehog up and gently places it on the other side of the hedge between the orchard and the wheat field. The PONs, having made enough noise to wake the entire village, look on in interested silence. They both have their noses and paws checked by 'The Font'. The hedgehog remains tightly curled up and seemingly untroubled on the other side of the hedge.

The angelic duo are directed, reluctantly, back into the house. After a walk along the ridge and a breakfast of kibbles and cabbage they're loaded into the back of the car. Noses are intact, normal service has resumed. How the villagers must love us and our 'quiet' dogs.

Bob and Sophie exude that quiet satisfaction that indicates that they believe they've done a sterling job in guarding their family from the hedgehog threat.

A little known part of Scottish culture with its slogan : ' Made in Scotland from girders ' : Click on the Wall Street Journal video link ( with subtitles) 

And here's one of the old classic adverts : 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Masculine silence .

Much brighter in the mornings now. If you look hard enough there are signs that winter is drawing to a close. Bitterly cold temperatures are forecast for next week but also an end to the rain. In readiness for the change in season the summer carpets are laid on the upstairs hallway. They're smaller than the winter ones but if you know how to leap on them at just the right spot and with sufficient speed they're great for rug surfing.

Bob rug surfs in masculine silence. Sophie has a different modus operandi. She scoots across the floor then lies on her back, waves her paws in the air and screams with delight. This is her patented ' I'm so happy. I'm being tortured with cattle prods ' scream. Inhibition in not a word associated with Sophie. While Sophie screams Bob naps.

So starts a day with dogs in deepest, deepest France profonde.

The 300 to 700 years to clean up line will be the one I remember :

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

''Do not come to your house today. I can speak English well ''.

It's still dark outside but the PONs are ready to get their day started. Sophie's paws show she's already been engaged in a little pre-breakfast mole hill digging.

It's half term in Scotland. The Polish cleaning lady and her husband the Polish odd job man are taking their children back to Krakow. 'The Font' has arranged for things to be delivered from Sweden. '' Do not be worrying ! '' says the Polish cleaning lady breezily. '' My mother will be visiting  in Scotland and she can open up the house. My father is old but he can help ". We agree that the parents will be there at noon to open up. Late morning a mysterious text arrives from the mother.

''Do not come to your house today. I can speak English well ''.

Underneath in blue : ''  I am writing  through telephon interpreter ".

The Polish mothers phone, like the front door of the wee house, remains unanswered. Which is, perhaps, just as well. 'The Font' and the carpet shipping agent in Malmo spend much of the afternoon rearranging deliveries. 

A local pizza maker is going to Paris to enter the Pizza of the year award. His tajine style creamed carrot, seasonal vegetables and deboned rack of lamb topping has got the local papers restaurant critic enthused. Angus silently wonders how much the Italians must loathe the French.

The local special needs school is having a lunchtime disco. Madame Bay, wearing a red knitted string hat, arrives to open up the Salle des Fetes. She 'pops in' for a cup of coffee. The young staff that look after the special needs kids are gentle and kind and patient. Madame Bay says they're the sort of people who'd " held you through a stormy night and guarantee the dawn ". The English translation doesn't do her words justice. 

This Italian song from Puglia is beautiful :

Monday, February 19, 2018

Not this morning.

Sophie is in one of her ' I refuse to move ' moods. This morning she decides that she's not heading out of the gate. Angus kneels and talks to her. She gets tickled. She is 'encouraged' along. She gets more tickles. Sophie remains  a complete 20+ kilo dead weight at the end of her leash. Why she doesn't want to go out along the lane ( as she has done four times a day for the last five years ) a complete mystery. 

There is a change of plans. Bob , who was coming with me to the garden centre, goes for a ten thousand step power walk round the lake with 'The Font'.

Sophie is loaded into the back of the ' Loonj'  and heads off with Angus. Despite her refusal to move she is in fine form. Eyes bright, nose shiny, gums just fine. Put it down to the psychology of a family 'diva'. She has a good long scratch.

There are goats at the garden centre. Sophie is greatly taken with the goats. The goats less so with her. She is kept well back. She emits high pitched ' I'd like to play with them ' whistles. 

There are chickens. These are also viewed from a healthy distance. The chickens don't elicit high pitched whistles. This may be because they don't have the same charming odour as the goats.

The family diva is allowed off the lead to explore the green house with the lemon trees. Some great examples. 

Finally, dog and master stop to look at the Anduze pots. When we arrived the medium sized ones were E200 each. Now 8 years later they're E279 each. During this time the government claims that inflation has never been above 2% per annum. Pot making must be an inflationary activity. On our way home we stop at the cafe where Sophie gets given some croissant slivers. Could it be that she's understood that without her oaf of a brother she doesn't have to share the morning vienoisserie ? Surely not.

A record of those 'dog' things that non-dog owners will never understand.

Factoid of the day for anyone wanting to go on a long walk :

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pedestrian counterparts.

Dawn. I turn on the lights and find Sophie waiting downstairs to greet me .

I compliment her on her film starlet appearance. Irony is something dogs, thankfully, don't understand.

To the cheese shop in the market town. They stock Brie de Melun. Sometimes, very rarely, they will have some Black Brie which is aged for six months.

Some Banon for ' The Font '. The PONs get a small sliver of Tome. Sophie lets out a barely audible whimper of delight. Bobs tail thwack-thwack-thwacks against the door.

They're selling pots of rice pudding and - something I've not seen in years - semolina pudding. Both the rice and semolina puddings are upmarket affairs. Orange and Cannelles and Rum and Raisin flavours marking them out from their more pedestrian English counterparts.

On the way back to the car we pass an old house with two palm trees in its front garden. Lack of light has forced the trees up. They must be at least a hundred years old. The trees , like the house, look as if they've suffered from years of neglect.

Back in Scotland the workmen remain hard at work on the wee house. The outer door has been painted and new locks fitted. Long distance organization is working .... so far.

The historic 'Gates of Hell' rediscovered :

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Looks a bit like Bob.

On Thursday it was close to ( or below ) freezing all day. Yesterday it's sunny and twenty degrees.

With the arrival of warm weather Bob is allowed to sit - on guard - with the front door wide open. An activity forbidden when it's cold. He's delighted. The front door step is his natural habitat. 

The first of the small orange bees is seen, drinking happily, on the Rosemary flowers. 

Daffodils have appeared on the roadside verge in the valley.

The internet connection finally arrives at The Rickety Old Farmhouse. There has been a technical 'delay' in linking the village to the fibre optic cables . Our speed increases 80 fold. Downloading this mornings pictures done almost immediately rather than taking ten minutes.

Mid-afternoon all the birds on the feeder suddenly stop what they're doing and scatter in every direction. They fly off in complete silence without even a chirrup of alarm . Spooky. The reassuring background banter of birdsong suddenly absent. The reason for the little birds disappearance down to the arrival of four Kites high overhead. The Kites circle, majestically, then drift away. The Bull Finches are the first back to the feeder. The chatter resumes. 

A Spring display at the florists. Bob considers christening the wooden boxes but is ' encouraged ' back to the car. The stern faced florist doesn't look like a dog person.

The boys in blue from the Mont de Marsan airbase have been grounded because of the constant rain. They're making up for lost time and are out and about in force. The PONs lie in the courtyard and watch unconcernedly as low flying pilots practise their tree top hugging skills. The PONs stay outside on the grass until the sun sets then they process in for dinner.

A list of little things too unimportant for a diary but too life affirming to go completely unrecorded. 

What a dog . I'm exhausted just looking at the video :

This new movie ( to be released in March ) opens the Berlin Film Festival. Anything described as dystopian is usually best avoided but the lead character looks a bit like Bob so we'll probably go and see it :