Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Wilf's look this morning as we came back from the morning walk said it all - 'it's hot'. Even the French weather forecast is now calling it a heatwave. It's going to be in the high 30's again today . What a change from just a week or so ago when we were seeing the coldest temperatures in more than two centuries. With the thermometer already touching 25 degrees by eight o'clock Wilfs trip to the light industrial zone, cafe and bakers is having to take place earlier and earlier in the day.

Got to the airport in a thunderstorm to discover the flight had been delayed. Worse was to follow. When we did finally board , the bus taking us onto the tarmac drew up alongside an aircraft with propellors. The jet in the schedule had gone to be replaced by what appeared to be a toy plane with engines from a Ford Pinto. What the airlines politely term 'equipment change'. I've said this before and I'll say it again. If you're going to fly over the Alps in thundery weather then you want to fly in a plane with jet engines. Getting up close and personal with a mountain range is the last thing any sane passenger wants. Full marks to the Swiss pilot who weaved through the menacing storms, lightning flashes, hail and mountain peaks and still managed to get his shaken and stirred passengers down on the ground barely an hour late. You always know when a flight is really rough - the cabin crew strap themselves in, tightly, and a strange sepulchral silence fills the cabin. No cabin service so not even a chance of a purely medicinal glass of Gods amber nectar.

Wilf was at the airport to meet me last night. A 747 full of holiday makers from Corsica landed ten minutes before our scheduled arrival so 'the font' wisely kept him away from the milling throng in the terminal. He was delighted. The airport car park was full of tyres to be christened and exotic scents to be sniffed. We came home with all the windows down in the car, an old Bruce Springsteen CD on the stereo,and a shaggy PON basking in the gale force wind behind the dog guard. After twenty minutes of late night rug surfing he finally fell asleep , on his back, in the hallway. Thank heavens for cool, tiled floors.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Action photos.

Wilf is not enjoying the heat. Activity has to be squeezed into a cool three hour period between six and nine in the morning and again from nine thirty to eleven thirty at night. He will deign to venture out to bark at the post lady or the plumber at other, more humid, times but his heart really isn't in it. You wouldn't know it from the photos but he's now sporting the PON worlds version of a Marine Corps buzz top - this aggressive trim has done something at least to help him deal with the soaring temperatures.

On our early morning, post coffee, walk we came across these fresh new carrots at the greengrocers - perfect for Bolognaise. We also saw the World Cup toys in the local supermarket being discounted from €10.50 to just €0.50. What a difference a week makes!

Rushing off to the airport to take a flight to speak to another group of men in dark suits. Will post tomorrow. Did you know that worldwide, life expectancy is increasing by five hours a day?

Summer storms.

It started off hot and it got hotter. This didn't seem to deter the crowds who were soon flocking into the village, scouring the bric a brac stalls in search of hidden treasures and marvelling at the festive scarecrows at the bus stop and outside the pharmacy. By ten the village was full and visitors cars were parked, higgeldy piggeldy, all the way along the lane and under whatever shade was at hand. The mayor gave a brief, largely inaudible formal opening speech, in which he thanked all the antique dealers for coming . Looking at the motley array of limbless dolls and three wheeled prams on offer one couldn't help but feel that the word 'antique' has a uniquely broad range of interpretations.

By five in the afternoon the heat of the plain and the cool air from the Pyrenees were colliding, sending huge columns of white cloud tumbling and jostling high into the sky. The antique dealers eyed the developing anvil heads, folded their umbrellas, filled their vans, and before you knew it were off. By seven it had become overcast and humid - not just humid but that thick cloying, lethargy inducing humidity that you find in Savannah and Charleston in high summer - even the frogs in the village pond fell silent in the heat. Then at ten to eight just as the church doors had been pinned open in preparation for the saints day procession the skies opened, the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled. The remaining onlookers scattered, the organising committee raced to carry the tables and chairs for the 'feast' inside, and within five minutes all signs of the festivities had disappeared. Everyone bravely said the storm would last ten minutes but by nine, as we stood in the church porch watching the water coursing and eddying down the hill, it was clear that the bonfire, the fecund dancing and the procession would have to wait.

After a glass or two of reviving wine in the salle de fetes ( no storm was going to stand in the way of the villagers real business of the day) we made our excuses, said farewell to Madame Bay who was hard at work in the kitchen and dashed the twenty yards across the green to our gate. We tumbled into the hall laughing and soaked to the skin to be met by a look from Wilf that said ' where do you think you've been ? Don't you know it's wet out'. We fell asleep to the sound of accordian music wafting across from the village hall - the storm had not dampened all the villagers spirits.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The great day arrives.

The great day has arrived and the village is gearing up for its saints day festivities. By seven, when we came back from our morning walk, the mayor was already in his office preparing for the day ahead and the first of the bric a brac stalls was being laid out under the lime trees on the village green. I waved at Monsieur and Madame Bay who were happily squabbling over something inconsequential and slipped through the open door of the church to take a quick photo. The statue, high on its pedestal in the nave, has been freshly kitted out with a garland of olive branches in readiness for its annual outing. There was something timeless and welcoming in the way the clear early morning sun had settled on the drab,hallowed old figure as if to say 'it's your day'.

Outside the village is looking at its best. The shrubs around the war memorial have been trimmed and weeded, the gravel swept, and the grass cut short. The two committees have done their work well. As I walked back across the village green to the front gate all I could hear was the frantic buzzing of the bees hard at work on the lime trees and the croaking of the frogs sunbathing on the water lilys in the pond. France profonde as it has always been.

Wilf is going to have a trim later on today. He doesn't know it yet and is sitting out unconcernedly by the pool in the shade of a large old damson tree.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

38 degrees - snoozing weather.

It's hot. Very hot. Yesterday the mercury touched 38 and today it's forecast to be the same. At this time of the year Wilf is out and about on his morning walk by six and back home and sprawled out on the cool gravel of the courtyard with a sock for company by seven. He gets his second walk of the day late at night when the heat has died down. In between he dozes under the oak trees or takes refuge from the heat on the cool cellar floors.

Last night we went to a performance of a St.Saens symphony (L'Orgue) in the regional capital. The cathedral there has all the beauty of a railway terminus in upstate New York but the bland, barn like interior enjoys wonderful reverberating acoustics. Just as the symphony was reaching its climax a sudden, brief , Pyrennean thunderstorm opened up. Orchestra, organ and thunder all at the same time - spectacular.

The cold snap earlier in the month has decimated the roses. Let's hope they recover. The last bedraggled remnants have been scattered in vases around the house. A bit early in the year to be talking about the last rose of summer.

They were supposed to be in by Easter but after umpteen delays the vets new surgery is finally finished and open. 'The font' took down a bottle of champagne to the team to celebrate the completion of the facility and to say thank you to them for looking after Digby. To our surprise they have put his photograph on the wall behind the reception desk. Seeing his photo still stings seven weeks on.

The local farmers and their tractors have been rumbling up and down the lane since first light bringing wood for tomorrow nights 'saints day' fire. The ever growing, and now rather large pyre is due to be lit at 10.00 pm and the feast and music making will continue after that on the village green.On Monday photos of this great event and the hopping and dancing .

Friday, June 25, 2010

Heavens iconoclasts

Got to the airport, parked the car, cleared security and was just heading off to the gate when the phone chirruped . A text had arrived - "We regrets to inform that due to strike action your flight has been cancelled". Great timing. All flights from the airport had been cancelled due to a nationwide Air Traffic Controllers strike. France is in an uproar over plans to raise the retirement age to 62 from 60. Perhaps someone should tell them that it will soon be 67 in Germany and 66 in the UK.Wilf was delighted to see me come home . 'The font' who was up a ladder painting, slightly less so. A hectic burst of phone calls to cancel hotels and flights and tell the organizers of the conference that their dinner speaker wouldn't be there (nor as it turned out would be three quarters of their audience who were stranded in Paris).

The heat has arrived. It was 31 degrees yesterday and is set to hit 35 today. That's 100 something in old money. This morning Wilf is lying on his back, taking the opportunity,while it's still cool, to air those parts that need to be aired.

On Wednesday afternoon two post office vans came to the house to deliver a parcel. Not just any parcel - but a parcel from America ! In deepest Tarn-et-Garonne this is an event of some note , hence two postal vans. Out of the blue had come the most charming gift from our friends at A marvellous hand made momento box with Digby's photo on top and a Siegfried Sassoon poem on an illustrated scroll inside. For a second or two the memories of our little companion came flooding back. What a kind thing for someone to do. What a heart warming reminder of the tenderness and compassion of people one's never met. In an impersonal world it seems that dog bloggers somehow share the secret of heavens canine iconoclasts - hearts can be listened to, emotions allowed to speak and the gift of the soul never forgotten.

For Wilf the package contained something even more interesting, some toys and a box of Jaffa Cakes. Proof that they do exist in America and the source of much delight for Wilf.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer sleepiness.

One of the unanswered questions about French villages in summer is what happens to all the people ? Our little village is deserted - not just quiet - deserted. From dawn to dusk not a soul is to be seen and not a sound , apart from the crickets and the amorous serenade of the frogs in the village pond, is to be heard. Yesterday a grand total of six cars and tractors passed along the lane outside the rickety old farmhouse, and two of those were post office delivery vans. Summer torpor has arrived in deepest France profonde.

The pool man and morose lad in blue bib overalls #2 came to clean the pool yesterday afternoon. Despite her recent locum induced hypocondria Madame Bay was at her 'golden years' dance class in the nearby market town so everything passed without incident. We took it in turns to haul bucket loads of wayward swimming pool frogs back to the village pond to be reunited with their kith and kin. This morning 'the font' has re-netted eight little blighters who have hopped back from the pond during the night to reclaim their highly chlorinated habitat.

After his trip into town with me Wilf has settled himself down on the cool grass in the shade of the oak trees. Last night he scratched at the door at one thirty am to be let out - a sign that this latest stomach upset was a bad one. This morning , the problem passed, he is as bright and as happy as a dog can be. He was even allowed to get a piece of fresh croissant from the girl behind the bakery counter. Bliss can be seen on a dogs face.

Have to rush off to the airport to go and give a speech to a group of men in suits. Back on a six am flight tomorrow. Did you know that if the Chinese continue to buy cars at the current rate then with thirty years all the worlds oil production will be needed just to keep the motorists of Beijing and Shanghai on the road ? What interesting times we live in.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Two years ago, when we were still living in Italy,Wilf was poisoned. He went out into the garden one morning and found some tantalising chicken nuggets under an oleander bush, less than twenty metres from the door, in our fenced off front garden. These lethally tasty, irresistible morsels had been liberally laced with organo-phosphates and left there by the local hunters to kill off foxes. To this day I get furious at the cavalier way they came into our garden with their poisons. It was a searingly horrid experience. Within ten minutes he started to shake uncontrollably, lost control of his bodily functions, and his breathing became sharp and raspy. After a forty five minute hectic drive we got him to the emergency room just in time. Perhaps because of this trauma he later developed severe pancreatitis. To this day he routinely gets a sore stomach and loses his appetite once every ten days to two weeks. The ailment lasts about twelve hours and seems to come no matter what we do to control his diet, his routine or his stress levels. Yesterday was one of those days. He lay uncomfortably in the hallway, stomach acid growling, trying to sleep it off. Poor old fellow.

This morning he is fully restored and was at the front door, basking in the morning sunshine and ready for the trip in the car to the light industrial park to christen the fire hydrants. I really wonder who enjoyed this return to normality more - Wilf or me?

This afternoon the pool man is set to return. 'The font' has arranged this at a time when we are 99% sure our saintly housekeeper will be at her 'golden years' dancing class. For the peace of the world let's all hope so.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The dance of fecundity.

The sun has made an appearance for a second morning in a row. Can it be that after two weeks of solid rain and chill temperartures summer is at last arriving? Wilf seems to think so. He has sprawled himself out on the grass to soak up the early morning warmth . After our walk to the light industrial park we stopped off at the fishmongers for some prawns for a risotto. There were six salmon heads staring unblinkingly at me on the counter. Who in their right mind would buy a fish head? At the greengrocers they were selling flat peaches - unsure what they were used for they were left well alone.

We didn't think that there was much more that could surprise us about life in our sleepy little village. That is until this morning. Madame Bay, who is still very taken with the new locum : - "Il est vachement bandant!" - arrived with a spring in her step and a smile on her lips. She was collecting for the 'antique' ie 'bric a brac' stall for Saturdays saint day festivities. I gladly scouted around for some pieces that she could take away with her. Then she dropped the bombshell. 'Had we made reservations for the dinner on Saturday night?'.

It seems that every year the two mutually loathing village committees hold a 'feast' after the yard sale and at the end of the religious ceremonies. At six in the evening the statue of the local saint is paraded around the village ( yes, that's right past all eight houses ) to scare away evil spirits. Then after the hard work is done everyone from the village and the outlying farms ( a grand total of 67 including yours truly and 'the font' ) repairs to the village hall for a night of festivating. At midnight, which by my reckoning is at least five and a half hours after the armagnac and floc have been opened there is a 'feu de la St.Jean'.

I caught a look of horror on ' the fonts' face as the description of a 'feu de la St.Jean' came tumbling out - "Ces feux, tres anciens,sont investis de vertus magiques : ils purifient et protegent contre les sorcieres, les maladies, les puces ... le village se reunissent pour des danses et des sauts fecondants par-dessus le feu". In other words the fire is invested with magical properties which purify and protect against sorcerers, illness, insects ... the village all gathers together for a fertility dance and hop around the fire.

The sight of the slightest tremble on the fonts lower lip told me that we were both sharing the same tear inducing vision of a chiffoned Madame Bay dancing and hopping around the village bonfire in a solstace frenzied druidic fertility dance. A French Boadicea. What have we done? Where have we come to? Would the young locum be there? Would the knee problem disappear as suddenly as it arrived? Welcome to the world of John Updike.

Wilf is not bothered by any of this- he's dreaming of fish heads and the fact that there maybe a place that's even better than the butchers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The locum and sore knees.

Wilf is in fine form. After a week of solid, Orkney type rain, the sun has returned and with it his irrepresible
zest for life. As soon as he heard me putting on my shoes he was downstairs at the front door ready to get outside and chase squirrels.

The dry weather also means that we can segue back into our morning routine. After a walk round the light industrial park we settled down at the cafe for our morning cup of coffee and bowl of water. Then it was off to the butchers for some chops . The butchers shop is Wilfs absolute favourite venue and one that even puts the cake shop in the shade. He sits transfixed, staring in serendipitous delight at the sausages and salamis - dog heaven. Then it was off to the spice shop for a bottle of vinegar and a bottle of walnut oil.

Madame Bay is supposed to come in to clean on Tuesday and Friday mornings. In practice this means that she pops in whenever the spirit moves her. This morning , her moving spirit was working overtime, and she arrived just as we were finishing breakfast to announce the she was on her way to the doctors. As Madame Bay has a constitution that would put an ox to shame this was rather surprising and alarming news. 'Nothing serious I hope ?' said 'the font' only to be met with a girlish giggle and the announcement that there is a handsome new locum here for the summer while the old doctor is away. " Il est ravissant!". I'll wager that the poor man manages to last at most two weeks before scurrying back to Toulouse. Nothing, but nothing in his previous medical training could have prepared him for our libidinous septaguenarian and the sudden, and inexplicable, problems with her sore knees.