Monday, December 18, 2017

'Limited Edition'.

Sunday was cold and windy. Bob and Angus nestle in a corner of the rugby stadium out of the wind. Bob falls asleep over my feet. The local team amble amiably up and down the pitch. The visiting team does the same. It is a ' low excitement ' event. At half time the young fireman and the young gendarme from Saint-Etienne come over to greet Bob. He is not particularly taken with either. Jaffa Cakes might have improved his social interaction skills.

This morning The Old Farmer is up early. The '' star '' that has guided generations of pilots coming into Toulouse has suffered from metal fatigue. He's up early repairing the damage. A more tasteful but smaller replacement star has been found. '' My wife loved Christmas '' he informs me. '' I talk to her every morning and every night '' .

Melodrama rules this Monday morning. Bob leaps into the back of the car and sits in Sophie's place. There is a 'diva' moment. 

Bob gets down, Sophie hops up. She sits in her place. He clambers back into his. Cosmic karma is restored.

Sophie has a piece of carrot caught behind her teeth.

Her master removes it.

Bob is surprised, as he is every morning, by the presence of horses in the field at the crossroads. He stops and stares.

'Limited Edition' orange and lemon After Eights appear at the delicatessens. Angus wonders if this innovation for innovations sake is what happened before the Roman empire fell. ' The Font ' isn't sure that mint and lemon After Eights count as Gibbons style decadence.

Zebra lemons in the greengrocers. Unsure of what they are we buy two.

Some Christmas week Berlioz :

Sunday, December 17, 2017

'' There was no one there but the pews were always full "

Eight in the morning. A crescent moon slowly sinking towards the horizon as we head out of the front door. There's  a tabby cat in the garden. The PONs chase it. The cat, which has been asleep on the metal table under the terrace, screeches and rockets up into the high branches of an acacia tree. The PONs expend considerable energy looking, ineptly and theatrically, for it. There is much snorting. They finally give up and we head off for our morning tour of the village.  When we get back Bob sits on his stump seat and observes the Belgian lady getting into The Old Farmers venerable Mercedes.

Angus has had zero luck in working out how to deal with the sedimented feed pipe from the tank to the furnace. Since the tank was installed six years ago we've had a concrete patio laid. This of course goes right over the offending pipe. I find a specialist plumber who says he'll come out to look at in late January. He adds for good measure '' You've got an English accent that you could cut with a knife ". I thank him.

The bird feeders are replenished twice a day with sunflower seeds. Blue Tits, Goldfinches and Bull Finches much in evidence. Sophie glares at them all.

Back in the village the ladies of the Beautiful Bye Ways Committee are busy setting up the creche in the church. When they finish the church is locked. It will stay locked until the New Year. They've carried on decorating a creche since the village last had a priest in 1954. The locals may find this tradition charming . Angus thinks setting up a creche in an empty locked church is spooky in an Edgar Allan Poe '' At midnight there was no one there but the pews were always full " way.

Bob finds a knotted purple ( really its a most unferocious shade of  pink but I don't want to tell him )  rope toy under an olive tree. His delight is palpable. There is no sign of the cat in the acacia.

Just another Sunday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde. A record of those little things too unimportant for a diary but which make life, life.

' Let duty be well peformed '. Sunday morning music :

Saturday, December 16, 2017

More 'encouragement'.

Early in the afternoon Loic shows up unannounced to blow leaves. The sky is black and a thunderstorm is imminent. I suggest that he turn around and go straight back to the warmth and safety of the home. He looks crestfallen. We agree on a compromise. He can blow leaves until it starts to rain or he hears the first rumble of thunder. I fill the leaf blower with paraffin and off he goes. Two furry companions follow on behind.

Loic is not allowed to use machinery that is dangerous. Someone in health and safety thinks leaf blowers are dangerous. Loic and Angus think differently. Being allowed to wander round the garden blowing leaves is in some ways the highlight of his week. The same might be said for the two enthusiastic dogs that leap in and out of the leaf piles behind him. Loic works for forty five minutes then, as the first peels of thunder drift onto the ridge, he goes. '' We have chocolate pudding and custard tonight for dinner " he says with a broad smile.

The storm is straight out of central casting. Strong winds blow the cypress trees at improbable angles.  Rain turns to sleet then back to rain. The PONs luxuriate in the gale and the rain and the by now sodden piles of leaves. When the lightning starts they are ' encouraged ' indoors. Undoubtedly the best day ever.

The innocence of this made me laugh . Not every day you hear a school band playing the tune 'Campbeltown Loch I wish you were whisky, I would drink you dry ' :

Friday, December 15, 2017

Foot gloves on the subway.

The 'remarkable' 600 light tree went up a week ago, the Turkey has been ordered but the rest of our pre-Christmas preparations are slow to happen. This morning Angus is woken early to write Christmas cards. 

The sound of the Wild Child voiturette tells us we have a visitor. Madame Bay shows up at the front door. She has bought new glasses for Christmas. They are round and red and large and sparkly. There is something of the surprised owl about her look. Angus tells her they're chic. She beams. 

Next week we have promised to host the villagers for an annual pre-Christmas champagne evening. This is a chance for our neighbours to peer at the decor. The problem is that The Old Farmer wants to bring the Belgian lady and she is persona non grata with the villagers. Her ongoing battle with the horse farm has poisoned their opinion of her. ' The Font ' tells Madame Bay not to worry. We'll have two nights. One for the villagers and one for non-villagers and the Belgian lady and The Old Farmer. Madame Bay departs - mightily relieved.

Sophie and her brother join me on a walk to the little waterfall. Sophie is uninhibited in her digging. When we get back home she has developed a decidedly unkempt look. I tell her she looks chic. Tres chic.

The specialist who deals with sediment blocked pipes makes a strange gurgling noise in his throat when I explain our furnace problem. '' Sediment accretion is difficult to cure. It won't come cheap ". He tells me they'll need to drain the 10,000 litre fuel tank we've had buried in the garden and send a man down in a bio hazard suit to check the exit pipe. Angus listens to this spiel in silence but thinks to himself there is zero chance of this happening.

A picture from America. Spotted on the subway by a young doctor en route to the emergency room for the 11 pm knife and gunshot shift. A passenger wearing foot gloves. How cool is that ? 'The Font' isn't sure that cool is a word that applies to the apparel of people who ride the subway at 11.00 pm in foot gloves.

Modern day ethical dilemmas - San Francisco style. Are you for or against the robot ? : 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas delights.

The sky hints at snow but there is no ice on the dogs water bowl at the front door.

We have got through the night without burst pipes.

Even better. The plumber shows up at ten past eight.

The good news is he repairs the boiler.

The bad news - we've had a delivery of bad fuel that has clogged the feed pipe from the tank to the furnace.

The plumber can't remove the sediment. That's a 'specialists' job.

The problem could reappear and the system could 'breakdown at any time' he adds cheerfully.  

The PONs are keen to help the plumber. Heating oil, grease and dogs are not a combination made in heaven. They are 'encouraged' into the library where they sit and mope.

Angus heads off with them to the modern cafe at the shopping centre. Buchette de Noel make an appearance. Bob and Sophie and their master share a croissant. The young lady behind the counter keeps three customers waiting while she brings over a bowl of water. Bob is told he's handsome.

The hamburger store set up by two enterprising young Frenchmen reveals its Christmas delights.

Chicken breast, prawns, mango and 'sauce passion' burger for E 6:50 or Duck, foie gras and orange sauce burger for E 9:50. Instead of automatically thinking 'delicious' Angus thinks ' difficult to digest ' - another intimation I've turned into my father.

This 15th century Spanish music is fun . It sounds so modern :

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Almost full.

While  Bob and 'The Font' go for a power walk round the lake Sophie and Angus do a tour of the village.

We stop and sniff every tree and every lamp post.

At the village pond our pace picks up a little and we head off after a vole. The vole escapes.

There is a considerable pause while we stop and glare at the chickens .

The sky is cloudless. Angus frets about clear skies, freezing temperatures and the water pipes in a large rickety old farmhouse without a functioning boiler. Sophie is told about the Alabama Senatorial results but is distracted by a wood pigeon that coos audaciously at her. 

We head off to a hotel in the little market town. The Christmas decorations have gone up. This year a large bauble covered in lights sits in the middle of the square. It presumably looks better when lit.

Angus asks the stern lady behind the hotels reception desk if we can have a room for an hour. She looks at us suspiciously. I explain the situation with the broken furnace and why we just want to shower and go. The ' I've heard it all before ' look remains in place. It's still there when I hand back the room key. 

The Old Farmer wants to buy the Belgian lady a present. He has to sell two bottles of Cognac to pay for it. '' M'Ongoose do you know anyone who might be interested ? They're almost full ". So it is we end up with two bottles of Napoleon Cognac that have only had the smallest 'tasting' taken out of them . ' The Font ' wonders how much Cognac can go into a Christmas Pudding. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Avocado with custard .

The heating remains off.

The airline texts at 4:32 am to inform us that all the days flights to London are cancelled due to snow. 25 minutes later they text to say a full refund has been sent to our credit card. Usually the notice of a cancelled flight only comes after you've driven down and checked in.

We dress in 'multiple' layers.

'The Font' deals with the cold by setting out the creche in the dining room.

This is a not so subtle hint for Angus to rehang the curtains.

Angus phones the plumber and informs him that it's urgent he come to deal with the central heating  as tonight there will be two frail old folks in the house . The plumber is unimpressed and says he'll be here on Wednesday afternoon. Angus puts the phone down and mutters some decidedly unPresbyterian sentiments. '' Who are the frail old folks ? " asks ' The Font '. '' Us '' I reply. Raucous laughter dispels some of the chill.

Mid morning I turn on the boiler again in the belief that a rest might have done it the world of good. It lights on the third attempt and seems quiescent until it shakes alarmingly and emits a cloud of dense acrid smoke.

I turn it off before we become an item in the newspaper.

Bob and Sophie are oblivious to the cold.

Dressed as if we're going to the North Pole owners and dogs head off in the big car. Can it really be warmer outside the house than in ? The Volvo has heated seats. Bliss. 

A trip to the cheese lady ( some Salers for the PONs ) and then the fish counter.

Were avocados first imported into the UK to be eaten with Custard ? :