Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It seemed a good idea.

With 'the font' out shopping I was able to prepare the boyz showertime like a military operation. Towels were found and positioned. The shampoo bottle was opened and placed on the rack. The water was tested for temperature and the kink in the shower hose straightened out. Cotton wool was made ready and a pile of tempting treats prominently displayed on a shelf.

Taking the advice of those other PON owners - Pamela Terry and Edward - bathing attire was chosen carefully to provide protection and a firm footing. Faded blue Vilbrequin swimming trunks with a floral pattern were complimented by a pair of tangerine coloured Crocs - neither articles were mine but what their rightful owners don't know won't hurt them . To wash those parts of Wilf and Digby that the sun doesn't usually reach a pair of disposable gloves would have been useful but despite searching high and low they had completely disappeared, victims of one of Madame Bays cleaning purges. Instead use had to be made of a pair of bright yellow, elbow length Marigolds found in the deepest recesses of a cupboard under the sink. They were circulation threateningly tight but after some not so gentle coaxing they eventually got there.

Thus attired it was time to go in search of the boyz. They took one look and ran, or rather flew. Despite being nine years old they can be remarkably sprightly when they want to be. Having moved at the speed of light Wilf was finally found under a bed , nose sticking out through the valence, at the end of the upstairs corridor. After a little coaxing he was carried , like a dead weight, to the shower. Everything then went brilliantly. He didn't object to the water as it trickled over his back and head and stood there obediently as the shampoo was worked up into a fulsome lather. Result - a shiningly white Polish Lowland Sheepdog. Show ring here we come !

It was just as the process was being repeated on Digby that the front door bell rang. In the five months we've been in France that bell has never been rung. Hearing the unexpected noise Digby became suddenly energised. He skilfully threw himself against the shower door and then bolted ,trailing water and foam, through the downstairs bedroom. All 20 kilos of sodden sheepdog then turned left through the office before careering sharp right into the hallway. Wilf felt it necessary to join him in a frenzy of ear shattering barking.

Who should be standing there to greet us - none other than the post lady wanting a signature for the large cardboard box in her arms. Some people can feign nonchalance at such moments.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birthday Boyz.

It's Wilf and Digby's birthday today. They are now nine years old. Celebrations will include a lengthy doze in a shady spot ( it hit 80 degrees + yesterday), a game (or two) with a fluffy toy and something low protein , but exciting , from 'the font' for dinner - possibly roast salmon.

In readiness for the great day Wilf has been trimmed and groomed - as can clearly be seen in the official birthday photo .The shearing process is just beginning with an extremely reluctant Digby - rear paws were done yesterday before the session was cancelled amidst much vocal complaint. Little do they know it but bathtime also beckons. Tomorrows pictures will show two electric white sheepdogs.

Thank you for those of you who suggested we leave out the boyz fur for the birds. What a good idea. There is rather a lot of it so the finches and woodpeckers are going to be kept busy. Their nests will be very warm, soft, safe and luminously white.

Monday, March 29, 2010

If at first ...

Ok - I'll admit that maybe the first set of photos maybe didn't show Wilf in all his trimmed down glory. Here are two more showing the aerodynamic shape that has emerged. Also some quick snaps of this mornings visit to the market.

Notice the difference?

The process of trimming Wilf has largely been completed. He now looks like a puppy - admittedly a rather plump and still rather shaggy puppy , but a puppy nonetheless. Svelte is relative. The focus of attention today will shift to Digby. While Wilfs response to trimming can best be described as fractious that of Digby can be summed up in one word - impossible. At some stage in their evolution Polish Lowlands must have taken to heart the story of Samson . Certainly Digby is convinced that trimming his hair will remove his strength and may even lead to his becoming a cat. To prevent this emasculation happening every evolutionary trick in the PON handbook will be employed. As the top photo shows he is keeping a close eye on all my movements in readiness to do his disappearing trick at a moments notice.

In the warm sunshine the cool , round gravel of the driveway has become sleep central. Why they won't use the soft,forgiving grass to sleep on is one of those unanswerable mysteries of dog ownership.
This morning the distant Pyrenees are standing out as a thin bank of brilliant white on the horizon - a sure sign that another hot day is in store for us.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shaggy dog.

The clocks went forward an hour this morning. This loss of an hour of precious, hard earned sleep was a concept that Wilf and Digby found difficult to understand. The two of them made it out of the front door but then promptly slumped down for a refreshing doze on the lawn with their favourite toy. They increasingly act like two grumpy old colonels if their routine is tinkered with.

Boy, are these dogs shaggy. Yesterday afternoon Wilf was coaxed onto the grooming table for another bout with the electric clippers. At the end of ten minutes of canine fractiousness I had collected a waste paper basket sized pile of hair in front of me . Frustratingly, despite the removal of an ever increasing amount of fur Wilf continues to look as unkempt and shaggy as ever. Surely it can't grow back that quickly ! A svelte dog lies under there somewhere.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Haircut time.

The first hot as opposed to merely warm day of the year. Planting the new box hedge in the garden proved to be surprisingly thirsty work in the bright afternoon sunshine. Wilf and Digby carefully chose a spot in deep shade to watch while the soil was raked , holes were dug and young plants watered in. Within two minutes both of them were sound asleep completely exhausted by the responsibility of supervising the house and the garden.

Shrub planting over my attention turned to grooming the two boyz . Wilfs hair is strong and thick. Digbys is fine and silky. Digby disappeared as soon as he saw me appear with the Wahl clippers so I started on Wilf .

The first twenty seconds were met with stoic silence before resistance began. Wilf fidgeted, he turned around 360 degrees , he pawed, he looked plaintive, he played dead, he tried to leap from the table. All the time he kept up a variety of noises ranging from 'I'm being attacked' whines to low barely audible ' go on get on with it if you must' rumbles. Left flank, left front leg, and right haunch were completed bythe time Wilf decided that enough was enough and stopped cooperating completely. Any dog owner knows that point of diminishing returns. The pile of hair that had been trimmed off in this first brief encounter was simply enormous. We mutually agreed to take a days breather before moving onto the right flank, right front leg, and left haunch. If I manage half an hour a day with the clippers then both of them should be shorne and ready for the summer heat by next Sunday. Wilf doesn't seem to be bothered by the fact that he is smoothly aerodynamic on one side and shaggy and ruffled on the other.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Normal service has been resumed.

Not even the presence of the large white heffer peering over the gate can disturb two extremely contented Polish Lowland sheepdogs asleep in the sunny courtyard. There was joyful bedlam when 'the font' arrived home last night with both boyz literally flying across the garden in greeting and relief. This morning each of them has devoured a bowl of warm , rib stickingly thick porridge before seamlessly drifting into a deep contented doze. The look on their faces indicates that they are dreaming of life in a land of freshly cooked sausages .

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bright raiment.

'The Font' was back in London with 'Granny Font' for the night leaving the two boyz and yours truly in charge of the house. This means that I had to deal with the ancient ovens temperamental and life threatening gas rings while Wilf and Digby suffered from a sudden and marked deterioration in their culinary standards . Last night, despite following what were 'fool proof' instructions , the antiquated oven managed to chargrill the pizza. As the two of them crunched on a piece of burnt crust the full horror of the situation was evident in their eyes. At that moment 'The Font' phoned from Chor Bizzare, an Indian restaurant in Albermarle Street, to ask how we were getting on. My description of our progress was met with a sigh.

Madame Bay has arrived this morning to clean the house. Wilf and Digby trotted out to meet her hoping that she might be the bearer of sustenance - disappointed they have now settled down glumly in the courtyard to dream of roast chicken . It must be getting close to Easter - Madame Bay's outfit today is decidedly festive and is conjured out of what appears to be lilac crepe with an offsetting and theatrical burst of cascading orange chiffon . No need for a cup of coffee to wake me up . I am however minded to go and dig out the sun glasses for the summer.

There is an old French Calvinist Easter hymn that talks intriguingly of 'Angels in bright raiments' . In the original French it even more romantically describes the angels as being 'brillant de lumiere' - 'brilliant in light'. Perhaps we have an angel in the house? There again perhaps not. I have just heard what Madame Bay has said as she roots around for a duster in the cleaning cupboard and it's a decidedly unangelic sentiment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Over the Alps in a plane with propellers

The two boyz were waiting for me in the new marble clad terminal at Toulouse airport last night. When the family was reunited both of them flipped over onto their backs, legs undaintily akimbo in delight . Neither would deign to move before receiving a reassuring tummy tickle. Dogs certainly know how to chose the right place to do their embarrassment routine . The three stern looking soldiers with machine guns at the security barrier burst into laughter and came over to ask what breed they were and join in the tickling - only in France ! This morning Wilf and Digby are half in and half out of the front door enjoying the morning sunshine while savaging a toy squirrel. Digby's paw is less swollen and seems to be causing him less stress . The vet has prescribed a homeopathic remedy which together with the anti-inflammatories has substantially reduced the swelling.

The journey back required a plane change in Geneva. Rather than wait 3 hours in the Stygian gloom of the terminal there was just enough time to leap into a cab and rush down to the lakeside for a glass of champagne . Geneva has never been a favourite spot - too many right angles and horrible 1970's architecture - but yesterday it was looking at its best in the bright spring sunshine. Returning to the airport there was the mother of all security queues which made the connection agonisingly fraught . Talk about cutting it fine - the doors were just about to close. Glancing out of the window there was a momentary intake of breath at the sight of a propeller hanging there. Who would have thought that in this day and age they would fly across the mountains in anything other than a powerful jet ? There again the airline went by the unlikely name of Baboo. As we lurched and shuddered our way slowly across the Alps that glass of champagne at the Beau Rivage bar proved to have been a sensible nerve calming investment.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Off to Frankfurt.

Digby is full of anti-inflammatories for his swollen paw and seems none the worse for it. His big brother Wilf is being himself - going through life happily on the look out for sausages and squirrels. Overnight the local supermarket is suddenly full to the gunnels with Easter eggs and ' the font' is now waiting for the gas to be attached to the new range and for two doors to be delivered to finish off the units. I'm off to beautiful downtown Frankfurt to give a speech. Will be back tomorrow.

What is it with Sunday nights and dogs ?

Sunday night is dog crisis night in this household. It was a Sunday night when Wilf had his run in with the processionary caterpillars and it was a Sunday night when the bump on his head appeared. Of course late at night at the end of the weekend is the absolutely perfect time of the week to track down and talk to the vet ! Last night it was Digbys turn to alarm us - just before turning in for the night we noticed that he was manically licking one of his front paws. A quick examination showed a sore, raw swelling - probably an insect bite of some description . Being Digby he licked it through the night with the net result that by this morning the swelling has grown even further and now covers his entire paw.

Wilf is the sort of dog who suffers in silence .When Digbys ill he gives a theatrical performance of moans and groans that would shame Rita Hayworth . His repertoire of unhappy noises delivered at maximum volume is also guaranteed to keep all the other inhabitants of the house fully , and intimately involved in his misfortune. A sleep deprived 'font' is off to the vet with him this morning for a dose of some paw calming anti-histamines. Wilf and yours truly will stay behind to deal with the kitchen fitters.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Loic the gardener arrived bright and early with the petrol powered leaf blower. For Wilf and Digby the leaf blower ranks alongside the hoover on the spawn of satan technology stakes. Both boyz beat a hasty retreat indoors as soon as the demonic device was turned on. Wilf settled down across the front door and was soon asleep while Digby made himself invisible by hiding under the door curtain. Invisibility is of course relative and in Digby's case does not involve his nose.

France beat England in the Six Nations Rugby - a cause of intense happiness in this part of deepest Tarn-et-Garonne where memories of the 100 Years War still linger. Scotlands miraculous defeat of the Irish team by a score of 23-20 was quite naturally overshadowed by this French victory. Today is voting day for the regional elections so all the neighbours were up and out early doing their republican duty - the polls open at eight so there was quite a crowd standing outside the town hall when we went past. Lots of cheery ' Good result ! ' comments came our way as we sauntered along. The boyz of course assumed that all the comments were directed towards them so rear ends were wagging spiritedly away.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


City folk just don't know what excitement is. There was a strong wind last night which blew the gate from the cows field open and allowed the white heffer to get out. She was found this morning standing unconcernedly by the porch of the church , grazing on the cemetery grass. Digby had to be tied to the lamp post while I helped the farmer shoo her back to the paddock and the company of her sister. It was only a distance of 30 or so metres but a huge amount of energy was expended getting her to move in the right direction. White heffer safely delivered we resumed our morning walk. Digby then came across a dozen or so hens by the village pond. Talk about too much excitement for one day ! To my absolute amazement he segued straight into sheepdog mode , rounded most of them up (seven out of twelve if you want to be precise) , and then drove them into the neighbours farmyard. That's a sight I'll never see again - who would have thought he had it in him ? . Anything bigger than a chicken , for example like a sheep as in Polish Lowland Sheepdog , and he would have been standing behind me in complete terror.

Those of you who know Scotland or are of Scots descent will immediately know what I mean when I say that Digby is the sort of fellow who is always ready for a 'wee chat'. At certain times of the day ( ie at anytime when he's not eating ) he will siddle up and reverse, in a sitting position , onto your feet - a very PON type action . He adores the feeling of total security and the knowledge that he is at the heart of the action with every conversation directed towards him. Wilf by contrast is not a 'wee chat' fellow - squirrel chasing or swing biffing is more his forte.

The kitchen fitters dropped one of the marble counters yesterday. A new one is now being prepared. The current 'going live' forecast has been delayed until Monday afternoon. 'The font' faces another weekend dealing with the ancient and temperamental flame spurting Vesuvius that doubles as a cooker in the upstairs kitchen.