Thursday, June 30, 2011

" Tu es sage " .

A rough night with Wilf. For some reason his ' diabetic foot ' became inflamed and swollen to near double its usual size. The first time either of us have ever heard him cry .Off to the surgery in the early hours for a couple of shots and an antiseptic footbath . Thank heavens for caring vets who'll start work at day break . The family fellow beamed as the senior partner tickled him under the chin and said ' tu es sage ' . He's now much better and the swelling noticeably reduced although he'll be on a course of antibiotics and pain killers for the next couple of weeks . Wilfs attitude to this mornings adventures ? " Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless " .

Thanks to Suka for sorting out the 404 Error problem and suggesting switching to Firefox .

Blogger trouble

Nightmare time with blogger . The infamous and near impossible to resolve : ' Error 400 Bad Request ' . Will try to post later. Any suggestions on how to sort the glitch out gratefully received !

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A delphic response.

The clockman arrives with the mechanism for the old grandfather clock that was found in the attic . He goes away with the mechanism for the old Swedish clock in the downstairs hallway . " No wonder it's not working " he says . " Some chump has rehung the weights on nylon rope " . The chump remains silent but escorts him , quickly , to the front door .

Time to try the bakers seasonal raspberry cake . Delicious . ' The font ' counts no less than six separate layers of marzipan , fresh mousse , sponge , creme fraiche , jam and raspberry coulis . Strange how our little market town should have a baker that produces such wonderous things . In some ways France remains gloriously different .

Somehow Wilf has rubbed the inside of his front paw raw . He can't put any weight on it . A quick trip to the vet to make sure it's nothing serious . The prim Parisienne is on duty but just as the family fellow is about to go in to see her a second , kinder , vet arrives . Wilf and ' the font' are delighted with this change of personnel . He has the pad inspected and cleaned. Sore and tender but nothing worse . He should be better in a week . Paw problems are apparently common in diabetic dogs . Wilfs , somewhat delphic , view on the days events ? " A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn't " . .

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Exotic arrivals .

It's hot . 41 degrees yesterday . The heat so violent it's more of an enemy than a friend . General de Gaulle , the painter , has set up a production line in the shade of the barn . The shutters , which were first taken down to be sanded , then painstakingly rehung , have now been taken down for a second time so that the undercoat and top coats can be applied . The thought that there must be an easier way of doing things is left unsaid . Angus has learnt that anglo-saxon logic and French logic sometimes make uneasy bedfellows .

In the garden the slow process of clearing fifty years of neglect is allowing some weird and wonderful growths to reestablish themselves . Under the palm tree in the courtyard a score of exotic pineapple lookalikes have suddenly emerged from a long , weed covered , hibernation .

At the bakers the lady behind the counter slips Wilf the ends from a baguette. Hard and crispy and still warm from the oven . An early morning , lip slapping , treat . Angus buys the bread and a raspberry cream cake that the baker says is his summer speciality .

Wilf continues to sail through life . His attitude to advancing years and illness : " I plan on living forever . So far , so good " . A furry testament to the life affirming power of croissants , coconut ice cream and tickles.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In that way dogs do .

Out across the village green , past the remains of last nights bonfire , round the church and up the gentle hill to the site of the old roman fort . At the summit Wilf chooses a spot under an ancient gnarled lime tree to settle down for a rest . The air filled with the sound of bees busily scooping up nectar . Far away , across the wheat fields , the outline of the Pyrenees and the mountain passes leading south into Spain . A place of unspoilt beauty . Wilf leans into me and sighs contentedly in that way dogs do . " Life is so startling it leaves little time for anything else " . Then the old timer falls deeply asleep .

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Poulet Antiboise and a dog with a chimp on his back

Six thirty in the morning and we're down at the cafe in the market square . Twenty two degrees already. Forty degrees forecast for later today . Wonderful drying weather for the still sodden downstairs bedroom and office . ' The font ' liberates the food section of the British Saturday paper ( it arrives here a day late ). A recipe for Poulet Antiboise. One of those lost staples of French provincial cuisine. Olives, onions, chicken and thyme - best served lukewarm with a salad and good bread .

An interview on the papers inside pages with Jane Goodall , the anthropologist . ' Dogs and humans have forged a shared bond of understanding since man and wolf first joined forces but chimps also seem to get on well with canines '. She tells a true story about a chimp sold as a pet in the Congo who bonds with a dog that carries him everywhere on its back . The sort of gentle , unhurried prose that grabs you gently by the hand and refuses to let you go . Writing as an art form . While we read and chat, Wilf lies under the table listening . He's invisible bar a black nose and two large , fluffy , paws that peak out from beneath the table cloth .

Tonight the mid-summer bonfire in the village . Madame Bay and the ladies of the ' beautiful byeways ' committee are doing the catering . Goats cheese, anchovy, courgette and ground beef quiche the highlight of the menu . Lord preserve us ! The competing 'village fleuri ' folk have been working on the hanging baskets outside the salle des fetes . What the baskets lack in sophistication they more than make up for in orange , red and white , but mostly orange, cheeriness.

The frogs croak, the bees buzz . Another summer Sunday in deepest France profonde. Poulet Antiboise for lunch . Wilf dozes in the middle of the kitchen floor , his nose occasionally twitching . He's dreaming of chicken and thyme .

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An old PONs Saturday sagacity .

Summers arrival has brought with it blue skies , much needed heat and the first wave of tourists . The parking spaces around the market square now dotted with Dutch and British number plates . Large Jaguars and Volvos interspersed amongst the battered white Citroen and Peugeot vans of the locals . At the cafe all the outside tables are taken by northeners , their pale skin rapidly, and by the look of some of them , painfully , en route to lobster red . The anglo-saxon addiction to sunshine . Wilf settles down next to me in the insurance mans office as we discuss the landslide . He's quite happy to go anywhere just as long as one of us is beside him . After five minutes the family fellow is asleep , on his back , snoring gently . The insurance man , being French , quite used to dogs coming to visit . Business over , Wilf joins me at the bar for a bowl of water and a croissant . His take on this mornings meeting . " The large print giveth, but the small print taketh away " . An old PON's Saturday sagacity .

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wilfs olympic gold medal .

Recovery from the storm . 58 millimetres ( 2 1/4 inches ) of rain in an hour according to the local radio . By late afternoon ' the font ' and a turbaned Madame Bay have brought some semblance of order to the downstairs bedrooms . This is where the landslide of mud and gravel that ran down the hill forced its way through the patio doors into the house . Yours truly has less luck with the pool house. No sooner have I bailed it out than it mysteriously fills up with water again . Through it all General de Gaulle continues to work away at the shutters .

Unbothered by this human activity Wilf sleeps , curled up in his bed , soundly and unconcernedly . The 'books' told us that blind dogs sleep a lot . They are right. Sometimes it seems that Wilf is training for an olympic gold medal in dozing - anytime, anywhere, anyplace . Thankfully, that old PON mischief hasn't quite gone . On his morning walk he wanders into a small lake that's formed in a dip in the road . On his way back he ' accidentally' wanders through it again . " Sometimes mistakes are too much fun to only make once ".

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Impersonal standoffishness

The weather forecast said that the day would dawn bright and fair. It didn't . It continued to pour down . Faced with an office and bedroom under water ' the font ' heads off early to buy dehumidifiers from the hardware store in Toulouse . While Wilf dozes in his bed , the sodden turkish rugs are carried through to dry on a table in the covered terrace. Who would have thought wet carpets could weigh so much ?

General de Gaulle arrives at seven thirty, holds out his hand, and helpfully observes " it's raining " . Angus bites his tongue . Madame Bay shows up shortly afterwards. She is wearing her disaster relief outfit . This comprises a blue one piece jump suit , as might be worn by a forensic team at a crime scene , her trademark lime green turban ( this one brightened up by what appears to be the cullinan diamond ) and black wellington boots . She surveys the devastation and exclaims in best French style " Oh la la - la -la " .

The pool man comes at eleven . The pump and filter seem to have given up working . He tinkers with them, they spring briefly into life, then as chlorinated water bubbles up through the lawn , they stop. The electricity in the rest of the house stops with them.

On our lunchtime walk Kelly , the hover dog , bounds out from the old widows porch . She rushes over to Wilf, tenderly smells each of his eyes, and then bounds off . She yelps happily . It's as if she's recognized that his standoffishness is nothing personal . Can her sense of smell really be so sensitive that it can detect blindness ?

Wilf ambles along , happy with all the fresh scents the storms thrown up . As any PON will tell you " Life is always lived in the eye of the storm " .

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Misquoted, misattributed , misformatted .

Overnight a huge storm . Memorable as much for its duration as for its intensity . Three hours of solid , unrelenting rain , hurling itself at the shutterless windows . This morning trees down , the pool house under water , carpets in the downstairs hallway drenched , gutters wrenched off the roof and power intermittent . ' The font ' busy checking the damage and making running repairs . In the midst of this nighttime fury the family fellow decides on a pit stop . He stands at the front door listening to the angry rain pounding against the courtyard gravel , the thunder echoing and re-echoing off the mountains ; sensing rather than seeing the lightning arcing high overhead. That almost human state of indecision halfway between necessity and fear .

In the library , waiting with a flashlight and a towel to rub him dry , I come across a well known but much misquoted and misformatted line . A smile inducing poem that could have been written for this blind , totally trusting , once imperturbable dog . " When you walk to the edge of all the light you know and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen : There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or , you will be taught how to fly " .

Pit stop over , fear conquered , he wanders back inside and joins me by the sofa . A rugby playing PON attitude that says " It's not as bad out there as you might think ". The storm rages on . He gets a biscuit then falls blissfully , and unconcernedly, asleep . I chuckle .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A coquettish vision of loveliness .

High summer has arrived in our little patch of paradise. As the sun sets we sit in the garden with a birthday glass of champagne , a bowl of caviar , and buckwheat blinis fresh from the stove . As company the sounds of France profonde . A nocturne of rasping frogs , contented cattle, chirruping cicadas , a gently snoring PON , and the German billionaires paragliding above us . Our wealthy neighbours have taken to leaping of their battlements in their motorised parachutes . Three circumnavigations of the village and they land , one after the other , in the car park . Father billionaire , mother billionaire and two teenage billionaires in perfect line astern formation .

Difficult to get the words diaphonous, coquettish and gossamer in one sentence . Not , however, if you have Madame Bay as a housekeeper. She arrives this morning in her summer outfit. White stretch pants, white linen coat , white sandals ( with , I notice , little , faux , purple diamonds as decoration ) and a mass of white chiffon cascading around her neck . " You look like an angel " I say , quite truthfully . Madame Bay takes this as a huge compliment and Ongoose receives not two , but three , passionate kisses . General de Gaulle , who is still working on the shutters, stops, brush-mid air , as this coquettish, gossamer winged, diaphonous vision of loveliness brings him out a cup of coffee . Wilf is given a jaffa cake. The family fellows view of all this early morning activity ? " Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves " .

Monday, June 20, 2011

A thousand pigeons.

Off to Paris to give a Sunday lunchtime talk to an American company that makes aeroplanes . Those nice people at Air France , god bless them , cancel the early flight and consolidate it with the next flight two hours later . At the airport hurtle into a cab and make it to the front door of the hotel by the skin of my teeth . Opposite the hotel something you don't see very often : the Polish church has an overflow crowd that's spilling through the portico and onto the square outside .

Wilfs at the airport to meet me . He prefers to stay and wait in the back of the car these days , his wild tyre christening days a thing of the past . From a distance he looks like a vision of health but under all that shaggy fur he's continuing to lose weight. Down from 25 kilos to just under 18 . He really should have a good trim but he'd end up looking like a mere shadow of his former self . Into our ninth month and the subtle changes coming more frequently now. He's started to fall asleep in the most unlikely places , his usual spots forgotten or ignored . Some nights he's up every hour , other nights he'll snore away oblivious to everything . The first signs of nervousness . More worryingly meals being left half or three quarters eaten ; unheard of.

This morning on the village green a thousand happy pigeons pecking away . A trailer full of freshly harvested wheat has hit the speed bump scattering grain everywhere . It's ' the fonts ' birthday . Wilf ambles alongside us through the village scattering the pigeons as he goes . We look at him and laugh . The presence of the family fellow the best , if somewhat unexpected , birthday present . A testament to the restorative powers of sausages, coconut ice cream , and bisous . " For him in vain the envious seasons roll , who bears eternal summer in his soul " .

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The horse and the coachman .

Ladders, scaffolding and paint pots everywhere. The obstacle course otherwise known as life at the rickety old farmhouse . Some shutters are up , others are down . Some are closed while others are left open to let the bats nest , undisturbed, behind them . Last year it was bees , this year it's baby bats . Life is never dull . Of course now we've started to paint outside it's begun to rain incessantly .

On the dot of seven the mayor stops by to admire the hand forged eighteenth century nails in the woodwork . That, at least , is the reason he gives for appearing , smiling, at the front gate . Having commented on the ironwork he seems to be in no apparent rush to leave . So , he is offered, and graciously accepts , a glass of champagne . Like Prince Charles the mayor is of a school that believes one should never drink before seven in the evening . That may of course explain why we only tend to see him at that time of day. As they would say in Scotland, any excuse for a 'wee chat and a libation '.

Wilf sits quietly on the terrace listening to the conversation and wondering what's happening to the canapes . Despite his infectious optimism he has a suspicion that " it's always the same in this world. The horse does the work and the coachman gets tipped " .

For a reason .

We drive into town to find a coachload of holiday makers disgorging themselves onto the market square . Noisy, happy and crimplened . By the time Wilf has been unloaded from the back of the car all the seats at the cafe are gone . So too are the croissants . Wilf puts on his best Mr.Frump face . " Things just ain't as they should be " .

Home to find ' the font ' getting ready to prepare roti de cabillaud au bacon et olives for lunch . Wilf sits and stares. His PON telepathic powers letting it be known that he's been hard done by in the croissant department . A slice of bacon is cooked for him. That, and a kiss on the head from 'the font' and normal service is soon resumed . As any PON will tell you , " Remember : Whatever happens, happens for a reason " .

Friday, June 17, 2011

Baby Bats .

Wilf full of energy on his morning walk . He heads off to the far end of the village . A trip he's not wanted to make in at least four months . After a troubled night, this sudden burst of energy as unexpected as it is illogical . En route he passes Brunhilda sitting by the gate house of the chateau . She barks but he's far too busy ploughing , head down , along the grass verges to do anything more than look up briefly . It has rained during the night , the embedded wayside scents now maturing like fine , canine , wine .

Home to be told by the tall painter that he has found a colony ( nest ?) of baby bats behind the end shutter on the side of the house facing the church. They are a protected species and the volets can't be touched until they mature . Having had a house with twenty three green shutters and one grey one , we will now have a house of twenty three grey shutters and one green one . Plus ca change .

The family fellow spends the afternoon in the kitchen with ' the font '. As the roti de veau farci au chevre frais et la coriandre is prepared he enters his angelic mode . This entails sitting still while occasionally licking his nose , noisily. Very noisily . A reminder to anyone interested that he's still there. PON motto of the day : " Greed grabs , gratitude receives "

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to get a cup of coffee .

Back from a grey and cloudy Vienna to find that Madame Bay has taken a shine to the tall painter . In between hoovering and dusting our saintly septaguenarian takes him out not one , but two , cups of coffee . Over lunch I comment on this miraculous transformation . ' The font ' somewhat cynically suggests that perhaps all the workmen should learn to work shirtless .

The painter is currently managing to take down , sand , and then re-hang three shutters a day . It's not an easy job and at this rate it will be the end of the month before he starts putting on the undercoat . The good news is that depite two and a half centuries of neglect all of the woodwork is in good order . I'd expected him to tell me that half of the shutters would need to be replaced .

Wilf spends much of his day in the cool of the kitchen . He is particularly interested in the preparation of the Escalope Milanaise a la Parmesane . He sits transfixed , a look on his face that says : " If you have knowledge , let others light their candles in it " .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This old PON.

When I get home the painter is there. He is incredibly tall, at least six foot eight , and the spitting image of Charles de Gaulle . " Didn't come last week because of the rain " he says by way of greeting . He is apparently oblivious to the rain drizzling down outside . For a moment Angus thinks of asking why this weeks rain is any different to last weeks but , wishing to retain good relations with at least one workman , decides to keep this thought to himself.

To the womens cooperative with some material to recover the two arm chairs in the hallway . En route we pass Oliver , still asleep, by the old widows doorstep . Audes friend with the cement mixer , the bib overalls and the eighty a day habit is standing , smoking , outside the cooperative . " What do you want ? " or more precisely " Warra yewwan ?" she curtly asks. I explain and am told to leave the silk on a bench in the atelier. End of conversation . She doesn't look up from hosing down her van as we drive off .

Away for only thirty minutes but return to find that the 'eboniste ' has returned with the repaired grandfather clock. To be more precise this is the case for the grandfather clock , the mechanism having gone off somewhere else to be repaired . When we found it in the attic it was pitch black, riddled with woodworm, and sported a healthy patina of pigeon guano. Now, the woodworm has gone, the bulk of the soot has been removed and the guano thankfully scraped off. Underneath it all a riot of marquetry and painted flowers.

Wilf is happy now his family is back together. On our evening walk he positively dances along the lane. " I shall grow old, but never lose life's zest ; because the roads last turn will be the best " .