Saturday, June 24, 2017

Great plump things.

Sophie joins me in the office. She's seen a squirrel in one of the oak trees and wants to know what I intend to do about it.

Bob has had his whiskers trimmed. I must have taken off a pound weight in fur but he still looks as shaggy as ever. Thankfully, today is much, much cooler.

Wild strawberries make an appearance in the greengrocers. We used to grow them in Scotland but they were tiny things with the faintest hint of woodiness to their texture. Here the fraises des bois are great plump things. A quart sized flavour squeezed into a pint pot.

The sound of summer ( its being played everywhere ) and very difficult to get the words right . The speed of the delivery made all the more remarkable by the fact the singer used to have  stutter :

Friday, June 23, 2017

Is it Friday already ?

Bob is up at 5:00. He wanders into the bedroom, pokes a cold wet nose in my ear and then, satisfied I'm awake, walks out into the hall. This has now become an illicit daily routine. It is triply enjoyable for being illicit.

The mayor is out in the flower beds outside the church watering the petunias. He tells me it was the hottest night of the year. Or, he might have said it was the hottest night on record. My attention is distracted by Sophie screaming aloud as she hurtles after a pigeon that's perched provocatively on a flower trough. The mayor also says he's found someone to decorate the church porch. We bought the wallpaper and the paint last year but the first decorator claimed he had the flu and couldn't do the work. 12 months on and we're getting round to a second attempt. Everything in a French village moves at a less frenetic pace than in the Anglo-Saxon world.

The plane trees along the lane are shedding their bark in the heat. Sheets of it lying on the tarmac and the verges. It makes a very satisfying crunching noise as the PONs walk on it.

We took a couple of pedestal fans across to The Old Farmer after his return from the hospital. This morning he stands in his dressing gown holding on to the terrace railings and shouts out '' They were very useful . Do you want them back ? ''. I suggest he keeps them until the heat wave has passed. It seems the old man has had Phlebitis for the last four months. The specialist was horrified to find out that no one had diagnosed it. A district nurse will now come every day and give him an anti-inflammatory injection.

The school is still closed because of the high temperatures. As we pass the French teachers house she's opening her shutters. She cheerfully informs us how wonderful it is to have an unscheduled holiday.

We buy some whole wheat bread from the lady at the market stall then head to the cafe. Bob and Sophie share a bowl of water ( chilled with ice cubes despite it being barely dawn ) and share the end of a baguette.

The newsagent is stocking a new line in birthday cards.

Angus has a coffee and finishes a book ' American Nations ' describing the eleven tribes that make up America. These are not, as you might imagine based on race or ethnicity, but on the moral outlook seeded by the early settlers. Dutch commercialism takes root in the financial capital New Amsterdam, Quaker rejection of hierarchy and authority in Pennsylvania. The author doesn't much like the Scots-Irish in the Appalachia's who are considered to be war like and completely ungovernable.

We leave the cafe at seven just as a large Irish wolf hound called Gerald arrives. We would linger but sometimes there's no point in tempting providence. Diva + brother + large wolfhound called Gerald = one of 'those' moments. Geralds water bowl with ice cubes is put on the table rather than under it. 

Little observations. Too inconsequential for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

Here's a question that needs answering : 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday morning heat.

Another scorcher of a day. The PONs are out with their master at 5:30. The mayor, resplendent in a  pair of dungarees and his red plaid pork pie hat is standing in the flower beds outside the church watering the rose bushes. He greets Bob and Sophie. They, observing the hosepipe in his hand, maintain a respectful distance. The national 'Village Fleuri' committee are coming on their annual tour of inspection on July 3rd. The mayor is hopeful that we might get a second rosette. Last years attempt was ruined by The Very Old Farmers son who sprayed weedkiller over his lawn. This somehow leeched into the village pond and killed the water lillys. The judges were not impressed.

The school children have been sent home. The class rooms were redecorated over the Easter holidays and the electric fans, that were supposed to have been safely stored away, have been lost. New ones can't be sourced until next week. The temperatures inside the class rooms hit 40 degrees.

Bob and Sophie are grateful for the cold tile floors. The Rickety Old Farmhouse with its metre thick stone walls remains gloriously cool inside.

The PONs get two long morning walks and then, bar brief comfort breaks during the day, are inside until sunset and  it gets cooler . They are adjusting to the new routine with relative good grace.

The first field of sunflowers is almost in bloom.

In the greengrocers local corn makes an appearance. The hot weather has again overloaded the air conditioning system . A thick bank of cold air condenses as fog which cascades out of the chiller unit onto the aisle. The PONs find this intriguing ... and refreshing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Like mountains, high soaring above.

It's ' The Fonts' birthday. Bob and Angus are up at five to cut roses in the garden and lay the breakfast table.

Sophie wanders in to see if there's  anything for her to eat. She stands and stares in her best guilt inducing way.

'The Fonts' father always said that first thing in the morning and last thing at night we should talk to family dogs as if they're our best friends. This way whatever disasters may occur during the day they know they're 'forgiven'.  I tell Sophie she's a beautiful girl. After twenty minutes chasing squirrels this may not quite be the best description but her tail goes into hyper-wag mode. Angus is rewarded with a lick.

Bob watches me as I top up the swimming pool. Amazing how much water is lost every day through evaporation.

After a hectic start to the day the PONs settle down in the cool for a deep sleep. Their owners head into Toulouse. It's nearly nine when we get there but the town has that deserted post-apocalypse look that you only see in 'B' movies.

We wander into the cool cathedral. A strange building. It was going to be huge but the construction was interrupted by the Black Death. What is left is a smidgen of what was planned. An overly tall side aisle and various enormous chapels. None of them aligned with the other.

The cathedral deserted. We're joined by a trendily dressed young French father ( at that age where there's only one child and he's managing to get some sleep ) who points out the figures in the stained glass windows to his two year old daughter. He tells her that one shows '' Justice like mountains, high soaring above ". Presumably he's a lawyer. She giggles and holds out her arms to be picked up. Father and daughter pirouette out of the church to the sound of her ever louder laughter. Summer innocence.

Alone again we watch the sun light up a little side chapel. On the wall a huge 18th century picture of a virginal saint about to be put to a particularly grizzly death by a group of hairy heathens holding a variety of blunt objects.

The Old Farmer returns from his appointment at the hospital. He's gone in his late wife's car. Carefully polished and made road worthy for the occasion. Later today we'll find out what the prognosis is.

Who'd have thought it  ? :

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Our first 100+ day forecast.

An unallayed vision of loveliness joins me in the office.

'Rough night ? ' I ask.

Sophie's coat is a wonder of silky thickness. By contrast Bob has a 'quick run through with a comb' type coat.

This morning, while sitting on the concrete storm drain, we wave at the Senegalese melon pickers rushing past on their way to work. They, like shaggy dog owners, start their day early in summer heat. Our first 100+ day forecast.

A different way of looking at the world . You'll need to move the cursor across the page to make it work :

Monday, June 19, 2017

A telling aside.

Bob wakes early and sticks a wet nose in my ear. He then pokes the bedside table. It rocks ever so slightly, one leg making a highly satisfying thunk-thunk noise on the floor. He does this five times before remembering that the bedroom is out of bounds. He leaves - tail banging against the wardrobe doors in the dressing room. 

The usual morning pandemonium. The PONs hurtle out of the door and check the garden for c-a-t-s. After ten minutes they return. Bob has his harness put on. Sophie shrieks to let me know that's she should have hers put on first. 'No chance of forgetting you' I find myself saying aloud.

Into the little market town. The PONs walk past the bandstand ( which Bob christens ) , alongside the church and into the town square.

There are a group of pilgrims resting in the shade.

The cafe was recently written up in the New York Times. The author described it as one of the best cafes in France. He clearly didn't try the coffee. We take a table inside out of the sun. The PONs settle on the floor and the barman brings them over a bowl of water . He also brings over two of those tiny, tasteless little biscuits the French have with their coffee. These are received with two almost inaudible whimpers of delight.

Back at home we take a brief detour to see the calves. No births overnight but Thursdays new arrivals are already growing quickly. 

The joiner stops his car to say 'Bonjour' and to let me know that less than half the villagers bothered to turn out to vote in Sundays parliamentary elections. An unusual development in a village where the turnout is usually 100%. 'What's the point ? ' he adds in what may, or may not be, a telling aside.

Seven thirty on a Monday morning and the PONs have already had an exciting day.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The most amazing thing.

The lime tree on the village green already alive with thousands of tiny early rising bees. The humming sound audible from inside The Rickety Old Farmhouse. Of all the things in this little French village the humming lime tree is perhaps the most amazing. It is the sound of summer.

Today is the second and final round of the French parliamentary elections. The 14 original candidates whittled down to two. The mayors wife waves at us as she puts out a tray of honey croissants on the trestle table by the town hall door. The little lady in the purple hat shouts out a cheerful 'Bonjour' . Although little more than ninety pounds she will again be on 'security' duty to check electoral registration cards and turn away 'undesirables'.

Sophie stands on her hind legs and watches passing voters . From the howl of disappointment she lets out as the villagers walk by it can be assumed she wishes to have a staring role in the electoral process. I do wish she wouldn't stand on her new hind legs but they seem to able to withstand the stress and she certainly isn't bothered.

The little market town busy with locals shopping before the heat builds up. Bob and Sophie share a quarter croissant and a bowl of water. Their owners have a coffee. The PONs are soon contentedly asleep under the cafe table.

On our way home we get stuck behind a melon lorry. At corners and speed bumps melons fly off the back. The driver finally stops at the motorway tollgate to find out why so many cars are flashing their lights at him

And here's some Polish music for a hot Sunday morning :