Friday, March 23, 2018


For Bob the 23rd of March is shaping up to be the best day ever. He's found and liberated his sisters favourite toy.

He proceeds to trot round the garden with it. Head high, toy clamped firmly between his jaws, tail wagging twenty to the dozen. It goes without saying that his sister protests loudly at this oafish behaviour. She does her highly theatrical  '' the injustice of it all " routine.

This morning , on our walk, Bob is not only surprised to see horses in the field but flummoxed by the fact they're lying down. Forward motion is delayed while Bob stops and absorbs this new equine behaviour. He is quite uninterested in the news that Bolton has replaced McMaster as National Security Adviser.

The striped wallpaper at the end of the hall was put in place yesterday. There will now be a delay of several days in the decorating work while the ladies of the Women's Cooperative recover from their collective cold. The skirting boards have got as far as an undercoat. Sophie has discovered the dust sheets. She has also discovered the excitement of getting under a dust sheet and dragging it round the house.

So starts another day with two enthusiastic dogs.

Congratulations to the restorers. This room in Windsor Castle burnt down not so long ago and now looks better than ever although the woodwork looks new. The Queen looks increasingly small.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Complete indifference.

Cold this morning. Sophie returns from her pre-breakfast constitutional. She's bearing unmistakable signs of enthusiastic mole hunting on her feet. Her muzzle isn't looking too pristine either.

When informed that '' mud on the paws cannot lie " she feigns innocence then indifference. 7:15 and the family diva has already made her mark on the new day. She does her best to avoid having her face washed.

The Old Farmer is waiting outside his front door, suitcase in hand, at 9:30. He'd asked to be picked up at 9:45 and, as is the way with old folk, was determined to be ready on time. I quickly throw on a jacket and take the car over to pick him up. En route to the hospital he comments on 1) the comfort of the seats ( although not as good as the ones in the venerable Mercedes ) 2) the variety of the seats power adjustments ( the venerable Mercedes is of an age where power seats were unheard of and 3) the GPS system. This he studies intently.

At the hospital he refuses my offer to carry his bag and ensure that registration runs smoothly. '' No thank you. I'll look after myself from here ". At the door he briefly tuns, smiles and gives me a curt wave. An old soldiers independence.

After lunch my mobile rings. It's The Old Farmer. He's been prepped and shaved in readiness for the operation only to be told at the last minute that the wrong sized replacement hip has been sent to the hospital. He's wheeled back from the theatre to the ward and then discharged. I find him waiting forlornly in the hospital reception area.

He's booked in again for April 5th. Thank heavens the surgeon checked the part before the anaesthetist got to work.

The French air traffic controllers are on strike. Weekend visitors from Paris have to cancel their trip.

This delay gives the ladies of the Women's Cooperative more time to finish their decorating. They are all here today including the three who think they're going down with a cold.  They are not exuding joy. Bob and Angus keep busy outside.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A big day.

The PONs start the day with a level of energy and enthusiasm that makes their master feel decidedly old. Bob bounces out of the front door followed by his equally bouncy sister. They hurtle round the garden in pursuit of invisible things. Sophie sees a blackbird on the lawn and shrieks at its audacity. Some dogs bark - Sophie's a shrieker.

In a couple of hours I'll get the big car out and collect The Old Farmer for his trip to the hospital. The front seat has been moved as far back as it'll go so that he can get in easily. Bob and Sophie's dog blankets have been taken out of the back to improve the air quality. The angelic duo will be keen to join us but PONs, an eighty six year old with a dodgy hip and a hospital admissions desk are not the ideal combination for a stress free day.

Yesterday The Old Farmer spent his day mowing the lawn and making sure the venerable Ford Transit motor home and the equally venerable Mercedes were polished and ready for his return. He seems cheerful enough. 'The Font' remains unsure that elective surgery at 86 is a good idea but we keep this thought to ourselves.

Here at The Rickety Old Farmhouse the ladies of The Women's Cooperative have settled in. They start to shift furniture then sit cross legged on the floor in a circle and smoke something that may, or may not, be entirely legal in France. They make their strange meditative noises. Little work is done apart from the stripping and sanding of the skirting boards. Three of them believe that they're going down with a cold. The afflicted trio leave after two hours.

I ask Aude, the bipolar decaratrice,  if the decorating will be finished today as promised. The reply is non-committal. The paper hanging lady has been busy at a architectural welding course in Bordeaux. She will be here this afternoon to put up the striped paper in the hall. Decorating the downstairs bedroom and snug will , I fear, have to wait.

Rather good to know that some anniversaries are still remembered :

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ash lover.

We're up early. The PONs have forgotten their incarceration in the k-e-n-n-e-l-s and are keen to get the day started. They are in their enthusiastic soft shoe shuffle mode. The sky, as we head out of the gate,  is also enthusiastic. The young garagiste has given up his motor bike ( that near universal girl friend related rite of passage ) and now has a small black Citroen C1 with an noisy engine. He sees us as we head off along the lane, slows down, beeps, waves , then floors the pedal so that we hear the rasp of the exhaust. Angus is impressed. The PONs less so.

Two ladies from the Women's Cooperative show up at ten.  The others are laying a concrete floor and won't be here to hang wallpaper until Wednesday.

Bob and Angus go off to buy paint. Sophie and 'The Font' experiment with Gigot en Croute in the kitchen. Sophie is a great fan of Gigot en Croute.

Loic shows up. He's due on Friday but what's a few days amongst friends ? Today he blows leaves and weeds the rose beds. Bob and Sophie enjoy the leaf blowing but soon tire of weeding. They chase invisible things backwards and forwards across the garden. Bob does so silently. Sophie emits intermittent and random ear splitting shrieks of delight. 

In the afternoon some men arrive to spray weed killer in the graveyard. They then seal the gates with orange duck tape and put up signs saying that the church grounds are out of of bounds for 24 hours. Bob sits on his stump seat and takes it all in. The workmen spend 45 minutes spraying then have an hour and a bit cigarette break.

Angus observes that East Coast Scottish houses have an outer door and an inner door.

Americans have mesh doors to keep out insects and the French often have little porches but the Scots have a small inner hallway that acts as an airlock to keep out the wind. Just deep enough for the outer door to be opened and then shut before the wind races into the house.

'The Fonts' choice of colour stands out from our neighbours.

Phil, the heavily face ornamented joiner, is still hard at work. This morning he parks his car outside the wee house. As he unpacks his tools he sees a tree which takes his fancy. He send Angus a picture. Phil, who is a Pict like Angus, loves trees, knows all about them and talks to them. He has also found some aged ash at a farm in Perthshire. He describes the colour and the texture and the smell. We agree that he should buy it to make a wardrobe and trays instead of tables on either side of the beds.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A new week.

A 5:52 am tongue in my ear indicates that Bob thinks it's time for Angus to get up. Post his trip to the kennels Bob is still unwilling to let me out of his sight. His timing is also a little wonky. Over breakfast I explain to Bob that the ladies from the Womens Cooperative will be arriving this morning to decorate the downstairs hallway. I tell him it's best to keep a low profile while they're here.

Sophie is decidedly unimpressed with the news. The tobacco chewing ladies with buzz cuts and bib overalls are not noted for bringing dog treats. Sophie sees little point in making the acquaintance of humans that don't share their croissants/cakes/sausages. The female PON applies this utiltity test to all humans. Few live up to her expectations.

An esoteric collection of cakes this morning. 

Noix Japonaise joins a tartelette of Ganache and Caramel in the display cabinet. The bakers wife seems to be over her post natal depression. She's smiling and greets her customers with something approaching warmth. As we go she says '' I speak English today Bye Bye ''. Angus tells her she speaks English like a native '. She beams. The three ladies behind us in the queue laugh.

The bar is unusually busy. We venture inside but turn around and venture straight out.

Our progress along the high street interrupted by the sight of a large brown Pyrenean Mountain Dog waiting for its mistress outside the butchers. We make a dog owners '' detour ".

So starts our Monday in deepest, deepest France profonde.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Equilibrium restored.

Bob spends much of the morning reacquainting himself with Furry Fox.

Sophie plots mischief.

Back here in the village The Old Farmer reminds me that I'm driving him to hospital for his hip replacement operation on Wednesday morning. I reassure him that the chauffeur hadn't forgotten.

The Extremely Old Italian Farmer is sitting outside his front door enjoying the sunshine. Sophie rushes over to see him. He tickles her chin and laughs. I ask him how old he was when he came to the village from Italy in 1924. '' Sixteen " he replies firmly and without a moments hesitation. This would make him 110 which is improbable. 

As we turn for home we stop to talk to the lady married to the man who drives a large truck. It seems he was admitted to hospital last week with a stomach hemorrhage. '' He had nine bags of blood before the bleeding stopped " she informs me with perhaps more detail than was needed. I ask her what caused the problem. '' They took all the tests but they don't know. Anyway, he's coming home on Thursday ". Angus quietly hopes they take some more tests and come up with an answer.

In the afternoon Bob and Angus watch Scotland play Italy at rugby. The Italians lose by two points but should have won.

In the greengrocers the first of the thick white asparagus.

Even better the first of the local Gariguette strawberries.

Those little things about life in a French village that are too unimportant for a diary but too important to go completely unrecorded.

The mystery of seeing things differently :

Saturday, March 17, 2018

All is well.

We pick up the PONs who are in fine form but exhausted. After a pasta and kibble supper they fall into that deep deep sleep reserved for family dogs who've returned from the kennels. It thunders outside but the PONs are curled up together - oblivious. Today will be a day for tickles, rug surfing and lots of games of 'Throw the Furry Fox'.

Our little journey was uneventful. We get to Scotland late.

Time to go to the local bookstore before dinner. One of those places where they offer you a cup of coffee and discuss your choice of books.

Next morning culture shock on seeing the bakers window. A high sugar content is needed to fend off the arctic chill.

Crocuses popping up everywhere despite the wind.

Angus avoids the interior decorator and shops for art .. and marvels at how quiet the main street of a Scottish university town can be in term time.

Round the corner from the wee house a gallery has just opened. Owned and run by a chronically shy lady who used to teach autistic children but was let go due to 'budget cuts'. A little victory of bravery over fear and quite something for a single woman to do. The owner looks at this unknown visitor, furrows her brow and says '' I have a picture for you'' before disappearing into the store room and re-emerging with a picture of Redwings ( that most Scottish of birds ) painted onto a map of Linkoping ( 'The Fonts' home ). A great choice as it's 43 years to the day since a teenage Scot met a young Swede in this little town and the rest was, as they say, history. What are the chances of wandering into a gallery and being shown something like that ? Serendipity is alive and well.

This is interesting :