Monday, October 31, 2011
Wilf goes to the honey museum with ' the font '. He then spends the rest of the morning in the kitchen . Carpaccio de saumon et d' avocat au miel followed by filet mignons de porc marines au miel de chataignier et a l ' orange . Wilfs advice to the chef ? " Maybe just a bit more honey " . Once again the restorative powers of a morning in the kitchen become obvious . After lunch he reluctantly has his face washed . Honey and long haired PONs not a combination made in heaven .
Angus goes out to the supermarket for milk. He returns with foie gras souffles. ' The font ' fails to share his enthusiasm for this local delicacy . They are put in the back of the fridge .
A weekend spent stacking wood. For some reason the wood surgeon has carved a seat out of a piece of the tree trunk . Angus thinks this an odd thing to do. ' The font ' , as ever predisposed to looking on the bright side of things, pronounces it ' surprisingly comfortable ' . Wilf shows what he thinks by christening it and then retiring into the hallway to turn on his back, fall asleep and snore .
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Wilf spends most of his day in the ordered chaos of my office . While I write he slumbers . Twice he ventures out of the front gate to christen the fire hydrant. A tiring twenty metres there and back . Mid-morning and ' the font ' returns . After a brief display of tail wagging enthusiasm he quickly settles down and falls asleep . The vet thinks maybe there was a problem with the latest batch of insulin . She might be right . In the evening he eats some kibbles and then curls up at the front door for the night. This old fellow is a fighter .
'' Rivers know this : there is no hurry . We shall get there someday ''.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
A really tough night. Zero interest in breakfast . Too lethargic for a morning walk. New symptoms developing. No croissant run today .
Probably nothing to worry about. Stress over workmen in the house, my cooking, or the absence of ' the font ''. Possibly a combination of all three .
Friday, October 28, 2011
' The font ' heads off to look after ' granny font '. Wilf and yours truly are left alone . It pours with rain . The tree surgeon doesn't show up so the drive remains blocked by fallen branches. Madame Bay unexpectedly arrives but just as quickly departs . Aude, the bi-polar decaratrice, works for a couple of hours then also leaves. She brings with her another oat crunch from the womens cooperative so Wilf is happy .
We aren't alone for long . Mid-afternoon the mayor comes to look at the fallen oak tree. We have a conversation about grinding out the remains and removing the roots . The conversation is one sided as the mayor speaks quickly and my knowledge of French technical terms for destroying tree stumps is limited . Not that it matters . The mayor finally announces that it's quite impossible to remove and that I should grow roses over it.
Ten to five. The mayor returns with Tweedledum and Tweedledee - the regional archaeologists . They're here to inspect the foundations the builders unearthed while looking for septic tanks in the courtyard . These have now been reburied . Tweedledum says somewhat self-importantly " they should have been left for us to inspect. They might be Roman ". Angus doesn't think it wise to admit that it was he who'd ordered the builders to cover them over . Instead he exclaims "Builders ! ". He then repeats it again for effect . This response seems to work . The two archaeololgists tut, shrug their shoulders, mutter something gallic , announce that ' we'll be back ' and then go .
" What was all that about ? " asks Wilf over dinner . ' Good question Matey ' I reply in between mouthfuls of overcooked beef . Wilf has a little overcooked beef with his kibbles . He settles down and is soon dreamily asleep.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
A Wednesday in France Profonde . Madame Bay is hoovering the upstairs kitchen , Aude the bipolar decaratrice is busy at work replastering the guest bedroom , ' the font ' is at the front gate listening to the mayor explain his plans to instal four new street lights , the tree surgeon is felling what remains of the diseased oak tree and Angus is in the office calling the insurance company ; again . Wilf is very sensibly asleep in the downstairs hallway .
It is clear that Madame Bay is taken with the tree surgeon . Between nine and eleven , no less than three cups of coffee are made and then carried across the courtyard to him . Our saintly septuagenarian manages to spend much of her morning standing , arms folded, chiffon turban blowing in the breeze, watching '' ce jeune homme bien dans sa peau " cavorting in his oak canopy . For my benefit ' the font ' translates this little nugget of wisdom as " he's fit " .
In the afternoon Aude brings Wilf an oat biscuit , baked especially for him , by the womens cooperative . He takes it , eats it carefully, makes sure there are no crumbs left , beams , turns on his back and falls asleep. The stressed daily routine of a family dog .
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Lunchtime. There is a huge crash from the courtyard , followed by a drawn out whooosh , a house shaking thump and then a tinkling sound as tiles cascade onto the gravel . The tree surgeon , despite reassurances that nothing could possibly go wrong , has managed to get a huge oak branch to land on top of the barn roof . From fifty feet up a shout of " It wasn't supposed to do that ". A little squirrel , shaken but not injured , clambers out of the fallen branch and looks at us . '' The font '' laughs and says ' at least the important things are safe ' . The tree is quite rotten and will need to come down .
An evening walk with Wilf. The air warm, his fur glowing , the fields freshly tilled, farm geese cackling as we pass. He saunters, arthritically, down the lane. I try out an after dinner speech on him . Sometimes he walks ahead, sometimes behind,for the most part at my side . Plenty of time for an unhurried chat . He may be blind but he's strolling in the sunshine , uncomplaining . This wise old PON knows that half an orange tastes just as sweet as a whole one .
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Wilf loves this warm windy weather . At seven o' clock he's waiting for me by the front door ready to head off on the morning croissant run . As I search for the car keys the old fellow turns towards me with an unmistakeable ' get a move on ' look .
To the amusement and amazement of the beer and absinthe crowd we sit at a table outside . Angus is wrapped up against the breeze , red tartan scarf round his neck. . Wilf is lying on the pavement , head into the wind , fur rippling , ears flying upwards in the gale. The water in his bowl has waves on it . He's the very definition of sheepdog happiness . Seeing him sprawled out at my feet the famous Dorothy Parker line comes to mind : " They sicken of the calm who knew the storm ".
The heating has been turned on . Needless to say now the furnace has been started the cold weather has gone and the temperatures have soared . A balmy sixteen degrees this morning and high of twenty six forecast for this afternoon . Wilf is now asleep upstairs , snoring happily away in the super heated hallway . The tree surgeon is due to arrive today to report on how much damage the woodpeckers have done to the old oaks. These gusts hardly ideal conditions for shimmying up trees.
Monday, October 24, 2011
A case of New Zealand Cloudy Bay Chardonnay proved to be just the right thing for the early morning barbecue . The local farmers expressed amazement that New Zealand produced wine . They then grudgingly admitted that it was 'quite good '. Strong praise indeed for a product that isn't French .
The village hall was full to bursting but the mayor had saved a space for us on the floor right at the front by the wide screen television . So there we sat. Wilf with his chin on my lap. Me, cross legged, with a barely cooked hamburger in one hand and a glass of Chardonnay in the other . I was worried that the lusty singing of the French national anthem might worry the family fellow but he slept through it all . Every so often his nose would twitch in the vain hope that another hamburger was on its way .
This morning the skies are cloudless and blue but the Autan wind is blowing . In Scotland a 70 kilometre an hour wind would be considered inconsequential. Here weather warnings are being broadcast on the radio. Wilf loves the wind. There must be something in a sheepdogs DNA that responds to it . He managed another kilometre walk this morning . Quite something for an arthritic old chap . He has that determined sense of purpose to him that says : " I can summarize everything I've learnt about life in three words - It goes on ".
Sunday, October 23, 2011
A white van with a boxer dog sitting proudly upright in the passenger seat beeps at us as we turn out of the front gate onto the lane . The driver waves , the boxer turns his head and looks . Eight o'clock on a beautful , soon to be sun drenched , Sunday morning . The farmers, their male offspring ( mothers and female offspring sensibly still in bed ) and their dogs are already starting to congregate at the village hall. The rugby final between New Zealand and France . The local farmers clearly expect to win .
As Wilf and yours truly head off to the stream for our morning walk we can see the mayor , halfway up a ladder , nailing a large red, white and blue sign across the font of the salle des fetes : Nous sommes 65 millions a y croire. I shout out '' The population of the village has gone up a lot ! ". He looks back at me blankly .
Wilf has long walk today. The better part of a kilometre. When he gets tired, as he frequently does, he simply lies down on the road until he's ready to move on . Sometimes he'll turn on his back , point his four paws to the sky and let the sun warm his haunches . I laugh out loud when the sun catches his fur and he seems to briefly glow polar bear white .
On our return the barbecue is glowing outside the door of the village hall kitchen . The first of the sausages ready to be cooked. A line of ravenous five year olds beginning to form . As our contribution to the great day the font has made three large tartiflette au munster et jambon fume .
Wilf is having a short nap before we head across the lane to join our French neighbours , their tractors and their Jack Russells . The match starts at ten . Angus is trying to work out what wine should accompany the tartiflette. '' The font '' is of the opinion that at this time of the morning anything alcoholic would go .
Saturday, October 22, 2011
The week started warm and sunny . It ends cold and windy . A chilly three degrees when Wilf heads off for his early morning pit stop. The family fellow is back at the front door in record time a '' Blimey ! That's nippy " look on his face .
To the VW garage to look at a replacement for the rapidly ageing 130,000 mile + dog car . I ask the salesman if there are any special deals because of the slowdown in the economy . He somewhat sniffily informs me that VW doesn't know what a recession is. The phrase ' pride comes before ... ' springs readily to mind .
Across the lane the first of the farmers have arrived to set up the barbecue for tomorrow mornings rugby match between France and New Zealand . A sea of flags, rubber rooster hats, Jack Russells and milling children . Smoke from the charcoal curling into the sky . Ignore the combine harvesters and in the pre-dawn dark it could be a scene out of the middle ages . It's going to be a big party.
' The font ' finds Wilf lying in the downstairs hallway quietly crying . Straight down to the vet . He's given a thorough twenty minute examination . Arthritic paws . They say in humans that the pain is like walking on needles . The vet writes out a prescription for Angastura Vera tablets . It's too early to boost the pain medication . '' That's for a later stage in the journey " . Her answer tells us all we need to know . The joy of having caring professionals to look after him.
Someone has sent ' the font ' a book . ' Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging ' . This is the cause of much hilarity .
Friday, October 21, 2011
The lady who drives the little market towns ambulance also doubles up as the local taxi driver . She comes to collect me at the airport. I ask her what would happen if there was an emergency while she was away . '' Oh, that's no problem . My daughter works the radio so she could drive the ambulance. She's got the keys " . Prior to this she had just proudly told me her daughter was seven months pregnant .
On our wayback Madame Bunelle is evidently still in ambulance mode . The little Renault weaving and darting through the Toulouse rush hour traffic oblivious to white lines, speed limits and roundabouts . Things become even more enervating when we get out into open country. Cars, trucks, buses all overtaken with a style that requires the taxi to get as close as possible to the vehicle in front before suddenly whipping out blindly into the face of oncoming traffic. By the time we draw up at the rickety old farmhouse yours truly has had several full cardiovascular workouts .
Angus has bought a little oil painting of three chairs at a gallery in London . Done by an aristocratic Victorian woman who suffered from such deep depression that she was unable to leave her house for months at a time. To cope she painted the every day objects around the house. When she died the attic was found to contain scores of her works - none ever shown or exhibited. Her husband blind to her talent . Every picture tells a story but not necessarily the most obvious one . A hundred years later her brilliance at last recognized . How much of her work has disappeared ?
Home as the sun is setting . Wilf is tired . He stands up to greet me but after a lick from him and a tickle from me he's soon asleep . I look at him and for the first time see an old dog . A very old and very tired and very loved family dog .
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Chaos. ' The font ' heads off at dawn to Cahors to take the University French exam . Angus has to be in London to give a post-dinner talk to men in black . The drive is still blocked by the oak branch so a taxi is called to collect him at three thirty . Wilf has to be looked after by Madame Bay for an hour until ' the font ' gets home . In the middle of it all the plumber arrives to service the boiler .
A quick call from the airport before getting on the plane to make sure everything is ok. Wilf has settled in the kitchen and is giving his best : " Love was supposed to last forever , forever was shorter than I thought " routine . By the time he's shared some of ' the fonts ' filet de lotte et galette de riz croustillante he's feeling better . His hour clasped to the bosom of our chiffoned septaguenarian largely forgotten .
First thing in the morning . The joiner shows up, unannounced , to repair the French doors onto the garden . It's so long since we called him that we've completely forgotten what we needed him for . He works for half an hour then disappears. " Just going to getting my soldering iron " . He returns late in the afternoon .
Evening walk with Wilf. On the village green the shooting gallery is still in place . Lights on, music playing , plastic ducks floating round and round and round. Apart from the two ladies cleaning out the village hall and the pigeons nesting on the church roof there is no one else around . I find this every so slightly spooky.
The workmen have gone . Excess septic tanks filled in with sand , new storm drain laid and broken floor tiles replaced . They even cleared up afterwards. Miracles never cease. Wilf was given a farewell oat biscuit.
Late afternoon. Hot, cloudless and still. The hyperactive woodpecker family have done for another branch on the oak tree . It comes crashing down on top of the barn , scattering roof tiles everywhere. Miraculously, the branch misses the big car by inches leaving it completely untouched bar a thick coat of dust . It all happened twenty minutes after the builders had gone . This morning the first task will be to ask them to come back .
The new clock for the kitchen arrives from Harrods. '' The font '' looks at it and says ' how interesting ' .
For dinner avocat, lotte ; Tourte au poulet et aux salsifis followed by riz au lait onctueux aux pistaches . Wilf is very , very happy . Riz au lait onctueux aux pistaches a new PON favourite .