Monday, April 24, 2017

No surprises.

The first round of the election is over but the state of emergency continues. Outside the museum in the little market town two fresh faced soldiers stand on guard. Three ladies heading towards morning mass on their bicycles, the sort with wicker baskets over the handlebars, cycle slowly past them. The ladies ( tweed skirts and knitted berets and of a certain age ) dismount. They turn and walk their bicycles up to the boys and thank them for '' keeping us safe ". One little lady stands on tip toe and gives the shorter of the soldiers a chaste kiss. 'The Font' notices his attempts to look stern but he quietly wipes tears from his eyes. France is different.

The first round of the election results as expected. For once the pollsters have got it right. The PONs are blissfully unaware of the electoral drama that might have been. In the village a council truck comes and takes away nine of the eleven billboards. Two are left for the second round in two weeks time.

After our morning constitutional Bob lies soaking up the early sun. A PON in clover.

We choose a light Strawberry mousse cake for lunch.

White asparagus from the greengrocers.

A trip to the frozen food store that sells excellent ( made in the UK ) Naans to go with the dinner time curry. Dogs are not allowed in the frozen food store so the PONs wait impatiently in the back of the car.

Back at home a long walk down the hill to the stream and the waterfall. There is a PON attempt at fishing.

So starts our Monday morning.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Phew ! The mayor delivers the results.

Election day.

Dogs and master are up early. Another startlingly bright but chilly morning. The sky the perfect blue only seen in estate agents photographs. On our morning constitutional we pass the mayor opening up the town hall. His wife is  whistling while setting out a plate of honey croissants on the trestle table at the front door. Bob and Sophie are keen to say hello to the mayors wife and her honey croissants but are hurried along. The little lady with the purple hat is also there trying to open a thermos of coffee. She will be manning the 'security' table. Bees buzz, frogs croak and roosters crow. The sounds of a French Sunday morning. As we pass the mayor shouts out from the terrace '' I hope we don't vote for Frexit ! ". I laugh politely.

Amazingly, all eleven election posters have survived unscathed. The horrid little tike and his brother have resisted the temptation to draw horns and moustaches on them. There again even the tikes have understood that in a village of eighty seven souls it wouldn't take long to work out who the culprits were.

On our way home a small silver car drives slowly along the lane. Such is the peace of a Sunday morning this unexpected visitor is worthy of comment. In twenty minutes the combine harvesters carrying the young farmers will start to draw up on the village green in readiness for the opening of the Mairie and the start of the voting.

And here's a relaxing sound to start the day :

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Renegades and mutineers.

Strange weather. 25 degrees during the day slumping to barely above freezing at night. Overhead, the skies quite cloudless. The central heating, which has been off for six weeks, is switched on again. 

The dress rehearsal for Sundays Presidential elections goes according to plan. The mayor , resplendent in pork pie hat and blue dungarees, instructs the town councillors on their duties. His unsmiling secretary looks on. A table is set up on the town hall terrace and the furniture inside rearranged. The outside table is a new 'security' feature. Its purpose leaves Angus quite baffled.

Bob has shredded one of 'his' toys and scattered the stuffing across the garden. He is introduced to a replacement.

There is wild excitement and made charging around the garden as Sophie attempts to 'liberate' the new arrival. She employs her ' Bob ! Come over to the orchard and see what exciting things I've found ' routine. Bob falls for it. The PONs human companions laugh riotously at these madcap antics. Professional comedians would find it difficult to generate this much mirth.

The bees, which have been busy on the wisteria above the front door, are gradually migrating to the flowers on the tilleuil on the village green. We now live to the sound of stereophonic buzzing.

The special needs children have an afternoon discotheque in the village hall. The young staff show enormous patience and great love. Bob and Sophie watch on in amazement from the front gate. By the end of the day we've got to know this song well. It has a very strong bass line and from the number of times it's repeated is clearly a favourite. Gods 'renegades, pioneers and mutineers ' have had a great time dancing to it. Somehow it's strangely and touchingly appropriate :

Just another of those sunny days with dogs when nothing happens .

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's bound to get interesting soon.

The mercury showing a chilly 2 degrees this morning. Bob and Sophie wake full of energy. Blue, completely cloudless skies and cold temperatures triggering something in their DNA that says this is PON weather. They head down the hill noses close to the ground, tails waving. Their master follows on more sedately. Thankfully, they pause to observe the cows in the field by the stream which enables me to catch up.

Back home they follow me round the garden.

Today is a day for synchronised garden watching. Bob adopts his '' Sophie just you watch. It's bound to get interesting soon " attitude. Sophie has a lower boredom threshold than her brother and wanders off for a doze in the rose border.

To the bakers for some fresh meringue. A dinner at the Hayes Street Grill reminded us that fresh meringue, fresh strawberries and some home made butter milk ice cream is as good as it gets. Bob and Sophie discover meringue crumbs. From their enthusiasm it can be safely assumed that they think this has developed into the best day ever.

The butchers counter showcasing goat. I'd never thought of goat as a French thing. The duo are hurried by.

Henry Kissinger writes these two paragraphs about Jared Kushner in this weeks Time magazine. Perhaps it's the allusion to Icarus that makes me think this is diplomatic language at its most opaque. It is a masterpiece of obfuscation. You may need to scroll down: 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mind over matter.

The Old Farmer has somehow managed to struggle down the steps from his terrace and get his old Mercedes out of the garage. He's squeezed himself into the drivers seat with the zimmer frame propped unceremoniously on the passenger side. The old fellow sets off for a spin while the roads are quiet. The original intention had been to drive to the polling station on Sunday in the equally ancient Peugeot. However, this has  a manual transmission and pushing the clutch is too painful for him. The Mercedes is an automatic.

Such small victories make the world turn.

Out on the ridge Sophie's too busy hunting down tantalizing smells to notice how clear the air is. The tamarisk bushes in full bloom. We tried growing them in Scotland but ended up with wee stumpy things that never flowered. Here they're ten feet tall and luxuriant.  Amazing what a bit of sunshine and the absence of gales can do for a plant.

Who would have thought six months ago that the family diva would be navigating rough terrain with the ease ( if not the grace ) of a ballerina ? This morning is a morning for the angelic duo to roll over and over and over in the grass.

An unusual sight. Two American ladies in the bakers. They're making cooing noises at the cakes and telling the young lady behind the counter '' We don't have pastries like this in Zanesville ". The young lady behind the counter smiles at them but, speaking not a word of English,  has absolutely no idea what they're saying. I leave the two American ladies discussing whether slices of vegetable quiche would be the sort of thing '' real French people eat for breakfast ".

Immersed in their appreciation of the bakers products the women remain gloriously oblivious to the fact that a lengthy and increasingly impatient queue has formed behind them.

Fermented milk makes an appearance in the grocers. Why are the shelves suddenly full of it?

Is this the best advert of the year ? :

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I'm glad I'm in here.

The town hall is open early. The mayor and his unsmiling secretary preparing for the first round of the Presidential elections on Sunday. This year the polling booth ( the mayors office ) will be open from 8.00 am until 7.00 pm. The mayors wife will be providing her honey croissants as sustenance for the tellers. 'There will be three officials in attendance at all times ' says the mayor with great deliberation. A dress rehearsal will be held on Thursday.

The school buses have started running again after the Easter break. The annoying tike and his elder brother are standing, heads low, waiting by the war memorial. They look miserable on this first day of the new term. Glumness made flesh. For a while the village will be spared the sound of their rasping motor bike.

After the farmers warning about a severe drought Angus waters the laurel hedge. The PONs watch him. They enthusiastically lick the drops from the irrigation pipes. Why drink from a bowl when you can drink from an irrigation system ?

The tree peonies past their best. The standard roses coming into bloom.

On our morning walk Angus notices small clouds of pollen dust floating in the air as the PONs barge their way through the long grass. The big car coated in the stuff. Peak allergy season.

Time for a haircut. Bob accompanies me. At the barbers the sickly aspidistra, which doubled up as an ash tray, has finally succumbed to nicotine poisoning. It's been replaced by a small nondescript plant which now stands forlornly in the window. Bob ignores it and settles down in his customary spot and is soon asleep. After wards we go the car wash. Bob enjoys the car wash in a '' I'm glad I'm in here and not out in that weather " sort of way.

Music for a sunny April morning :

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Some 'moments'.

The world may be changing but Bob and Sophie's daily round is etched in stone.

Pandemonium while harnesses are put on. Then the 'what's keeping you ? ' stare while I look for black bags. Finally, everything in order, we turn right out of the gate and head along the lane. The  battery in the Old Farmers Peugeot has gone flat after three months of inactivity. The young garagiste has recharged it and is putting it back in place. The Old Farmer , resplendent in fur trappers hat with ear flaps, striped pyjamas , brown dressing gown and zimmer frame is peering under the bonnet and telling him not to tighten the leads too much.

Sophie is engrossed in tracking down some badger droppings. She fails to notice the horse by the side of the field. When she does, she nearly leaps out of her skin. She moves behind my legs and glares at the equine presence. She also glares at her owner for letting her get into such a dangerous position.

We walk down from the escarpment to the valley floor. Then we walk back up again. We meet a farmer who tells me that we're going to have the mother of all droughts this year. '' Haven't ever seen temperatures this high in April ". He pauses then carries on " You'd better start irrigating your laurel hedge ".

At the cafe on the square a Boxer stares at Sophie in a sort of admiring  ' I'd like to get to know you better' way. Angus finishes his coffee and the PONs their bowl of water. We hurry away before Sophie has a chance to let the Boxer know what she thinks of him. Some dog owner 'moments' are best avoided. 

Back home Bob and Angus sit on the storm drain and watch the donkeys in the field below. Bob is told, as he is told every morning, that this is ' his country '. Sophie is in the kitchen supervising the preparation of a prawn risotto.

So starts a Tuesday morning in deepest, deepest France profonde. Little things too unimportant to be put in a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.