Thursday, September 29, 2016


And so we start learning how to deal with a lively dog that needs to be kept calm and quiet for two months. 

The surgeon suggests a 'character' like Sophie will get depressed if left somewhere too quiet.  When the surgeon operated on her own dog she kept him in the living room. Sophie is set up in a large cage inside the front door. We take away the upper part of the cage and leave her inside the high sided bottom half. A pen is erected around it. This enables her to sit up and see what her brother is doing while being kept in one place. Bob lies in front of the roofless cage and guards. 

It is an 'interesting' night. The discomfort/shock/inactivity are clearly upsetting. Angus sits by her and watches the US Presidential debate in full. He then reads a book on Belgian Foreign Policy in the 1920's. Finally, at three, she falls asleep for two hours. When I wake she's somehow managed to get out of the half cage and into the pen. 

At first light Bob is taken on a lengthy walk. He's so much happier now his sister has returned. Donkeys, horses and cows are communed with.

There was a glass phone box on the village green by the church. One of those things that would only accept France Telecom pre-paid cards. ( When was the last time anyone bought one of those ? ) This morning the phone box goes. Removed in the space of twenty minutes by a crew of zealous, early rising, workers. In its place a pile of fine gravel. The phone box was part of Bobs daily christening routine between the fire hydrant and the box hedge around the war memorial. I explain to him change happens. He sighs and christens the new gravel.

Angus is now going to catch up with his sleep. Later today he will telephone the Volkswagen garage to find out what has happened to the 'Loonj'. Nothing has been heard of it since last Friday. 0/10 for their after sales service.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The patient is home by eleven. She is completely silent on the journey back but insists on sitting up all the way.

What a bandage !

Half an hour spent with the surgeon and the vet. This first operation turned out to be more complex than thought. There are signs that two vertebrae have been chipped and some spinal damage caused. This may lead to arthritis in the back legs . Her weight needs to come 3 kilos to 20 kilos. Back to the hospital for X-rays in 2 weeks. If this operation shows signs of succeeding then the second leg may be done in early November. Both vets comment on the fact that Sophie ate a healthy dinner and let the night staff know that she wasn't used to spending her evenings with two recuperating cats, a tortoise and a grey shaggy mutt called Thibault.

The brackets holding the bone together are substantial.

Bob keeps a careful eye on her but is wise enough not to get too close.

When innocence trembles, it condemns the judge.

Bob is out at the front gate at first light looking for his sister. He's frustrated that we don't seem to understand she's gone missing.

On the others side of the lane the presence of the veritable Ford Transit motor home would indicate that the Old Farmer and the Belgian lady have returned from their trip to Belarus. 

The gardeners show up at 7:30 to lay the turf. This activity absorbs Bobs attention for all of five minutes. After that he's back into his Mr.Glum mood. The three morose lads are blind to his attempts to have them Throw the Furry Fox. Bob is not impressed.

Long walks and chats with the donkeys, horses and cows relieve some of the anxiety.

We await the return of the family diva. The surgeon phoned in the afternoon to say the op was over and she was sound asleep in the recovery room. The Font has just this very minute headed off in the Volvo to pick her up.The night staff have asked that we be there 'early'.

Yesterday, when Sophie saw the surgeon she turned on her back, waved her front paws in the air and squealed with delight. Another adoring fan. I fear that she won't be so calm the next time we take her in. Innocence lost is the way of the world although I'd have preferred this little dog to have kept her belief in the goodness of strangers just a little longer.

Those little things too unimportant to be written in a diary but too much part of life to go completely unrecorded. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The day.

The flags are up on the war memorial. Something to do with the Indo-China or Algerian wars. Village opinion is divided as to which. Monsieur Bay is of one opinion, Madame Bay the other. The mayor , who knows the answer, is nowhere to be seen.

The gardeners arrive and start preparing the ground for the new turf that's going to be put down in Sophie's recuperation zone. They finish at eleven and promise to return when they've found some turf. '' Our usual supplier is out of it ". 

Bob guards.

This morning at first light Sophie is carried out into the garden and allowed to play with an empty yogurt carton. Then she's loaded into the back of the car for the drive to the hospital in Toulouse. Sophie has never spent a night without her brother or one or other of her owners so this is quite a day for her.

We can only hope the night staff at the specialist hospital have ear plugs.  After her last ' operation' the night nurse at the local surgery called at midnight and asked us to come and pick her up. They'd never known such a 'vocal' patient.

Thank you for all your kind wishes. The diva will be back with us tomorrow morning. Bob is completely flummoxed by the disappearance of his sister.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A moment of detente.

Out early with Bob. Twice in the last month we've found that the greengrocer is out of oranges. Today, there's a fresh consignment from Australia. It's unusual to see Australian oranges in the northern hemisphere. Wherever oranges usually come from at this time of year ( South Africa ? ) must be having a problem with their harvest.

Redcurrants make an appearance. A harbinger of winter and jam making season.

Sophie is being acclimatized to the little courtyard. She hates it. An unremitting chorus of ' Why would you want to put me here ? '. She does her glum routine. The gardeners are due later today to lay the turf. Whether they'll show up is another matter. I've set up a table and chairs in a corner of the courtyard so that Sophie can remain the centre of attention.

In the evening the diva is carried onto the grass by the peony border. The peony border is her venue of choice for a moment of 'detente' as it offers both privacy and proximity to the safety of the house.

So starts a dog centric week in deepest, deepest France profonde. A record of those 'little' things too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A warm September day.

There is a small courtyard on the side of the house that faces the lane. The gardeners will come early next week to shovel away the gravel and replace it with soft turf. This enclosed, quiet, space will become the divas 'recuperation' zone. A spot where she can see the comings and goings from her cage. Interestingly she's been able to haul herself to her feet, unsteady but unaided, twice today.

Sophie, furious at her enforced idleness, eats through the bottom of her bed. She chews the foam rubber then spits it out with a loud 'thwah' sound. I've said it before, I'll say it again. She is not a placid patient.

Bob and Angus go in search of a replacement bed. The man who designs the seats on the Volkswagen Sportsvan 'Loonj' must double up designing dog bed covers. They are all hideous.

When did dog beds become so expensive ?

There is something deeply disturbing about the arrangement in the lobby of the garden centre. Bob and his master stop to look at it but move quickly on.

At the greengrocers an American import. We have absolutely no idea what it is.

They've laid a lot of it in.

Pumpkins are more popular with the locals. 

Just one of those warm September days in deepest, deepest France profonde when nothing happens.

Here's an interesting and unusual article on how intelligent fish are : 


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Savour the moment.

The little Skoda is cleaned before being traded in. The front seats still carry the remains of the insulating foam that Angus inadvertently sprayed through the front window. 'The Font' notices that at some stage someone has joined up two 'splats' with a smiley face.

At the garage Angus is offered a coffee. Bob is given a bowl of water. '' You're on your own ? " asks the dealer surprised that 'The Font' isn't here to savour the moment. '' Sadly " I reply without alluding to the fact that cars don't rank high on 'The Fonts' to do list.

Passport checked, utility bills photocopied, we are ushered into the ' Delivery Room '.  At one end four overalled mechanics are standing in a line alongside two secretaries in micro skirts. The young ladies pointedly ignore the mechanics. All try, with varying degrees of success, to hide their boredom. The lady from the reception desk arrives. She's wearing black leggings that stop below the knee, improbably high red high heels and what appears to be a heavily accessorized pink nylon fur jacket. There is a gold chain round her left ankle. '' I'm late " she says unapologetically to no one in particular. The manager claps his hands and makes a little speech. '' As the only Volkswagen dealership in the department we view all our customers as family. We applaud your excellent choice in becoming the owner of a beautiful Volkswagen Sportsvan Loonj ". At the word '' Loonj " the youngest mechanic whips off the tarpaulin to reveal the ever so slightly dented vehicle beneath.

There was a time when the salesman would hand you the keys and off you'd go. Those days are gone. Now the proud new owner is expected to say something to affirm their lifestyle choice. '' How lovely " says Angus. The receptionist totters forward, opens the passenger door, waves her arm with a theatrical flourish and points inside. A routine she's clearly done many times before.  Angus feels duty bound to look at the interior. The inside of the Loonj is primarily black plastic with seats in a grey and white plaid with what appear to be lightning flashes running across them. The ambience is decidedly unlounge like. Maybe the Germans do have a sense of humour. 

'' What luxury " adds Angus with what he hopes is a convincing tone of voice. This implausible observation seems to satisfy everyone. Bob leaps in the back. A run through of the various knobs and dials and we're on our way home. Except we're not. Angus turns the key in the ignition, the dashboard lights up and an annoying bell chimes. The car goes into the service bay for an hour and a half to sort out a problem with the 'Park Assist'. '' These things happen " says the dealer with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders. Angus makes it very clear they don't. While we wait Bob gets his revenge by christening three Golfs on the forecourt. The 'Loonj' needs a replacement part they don't have in stock. After a 'discussion' we get a demonstrator to take us home. We'll  return on Monday. When we come to turn on the demonstrators ignition a sign comes on saying the battery is flat. Another, third, car is hastily supplied. What are the chances of that ? Bad luck or a sign that our relationship with the dealer is going to be a frosty one ?

Am I alone in thinking the world gets odder ? Is this another sign I've turned into my father ?

Sophie spends an hour and a half in the garden. We wait for some movement, any movement, but are disappointed.

Bob stands on his stump seat. He watches the demonic eight year old tike heading back home from the school bus. The demonic tike is clearly not enjoying being back at school. He drags his satchel along the tarmac behind him.

Soft gentle sun. Sophie spends her afternoon getting some warmth on those little limbs. Leaves fall from the plane trees and drift gently down. She finds this intriguing.

Big brother guards. Angus has a glass of wine to lower his blood pressure. Sophie 'moves'. Everyone is happy.

So passes another day in deepest, deepest France profonde. Things too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Canine psychology.

Bob stands on his stump seat and watches the morning rush hour. The perennially late school secretary breaking the speed limit in her little Renault , the lady with the beehive hairdo brushing the hair of her two five year old boys as she drives by five minutes after classes have started and the cleaning lady at the German billionaires chateau in her Peugeot. The itinerant Spanish melon pickers also drive by - later than usual. They are all greeted with a bark.

Sophie is deposited in a quiet spot in the garden. A spot where she can feel free to do whatever she feels the need to do. An hour or two away from her pen in the fresh air.

No doubting it. The family diva is glum. She will however get better.

Sophie is brought in out of the sunshine. Big brother guards her. Bob is taking this whole affair seriously which is an interesting insight into canine sibling psychology.

Today is the day when the new car is due to be delivered. The garage phones to say that I'll need to bring three utility bills, my passport and a certificate from the bank saying that I'm who I say I am. This bureaucracy is presumably to prevent crazed money laundering Jihadists from buying cars. It is improbable that a crazed money laundering Jihadist would buy a Volkswagen Sportsvan Loonj with a metallic dog grille.

This may come in useful :