Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monsieur Le Comte and the Chatelaine were in fine form . She in her best Miss Jean Brody outfit complete with stout walking shoes and opaque stockings. He in a most bizarre high necked purple cardigan fastened by toggles and a belt . Together with his cravat and monocle this gave him the slightly louche air of an Upper East Side ladies hairdresser . A reminder that once outside Paris French dress sense can border on the bizarre .
Lunch served at a table that could seat at least twenty but which had been laid for four. One setting at each point of the compass. A small log crackling, half heartedly, in the grate. The walls of the dining room covered with portraits of ancestors. Most of whom seem to have died fighting the English in horrifyingly gruesome ways. '' Our countries histories are as entwined as those of Siamese twins " I say , diplomatically . Our host looks at me strangely . "Mushroom soup ( ' the font ' thought it was pumpkin ), chicken chasseur, followed by roquefort and celery. Through it all the chatelaines six Pekingese retain an aristocratic indifference to Wilf . Not that he's bothered . He settles down under the table and is soon asleep on his back , snoring loudly .
Home to find the chimney sweep waiting in the courtyard . He was due to come next week but decided , unilaterally , to come early . " I knew you'd not gone away " he says by way of explanation . The mysteries of the French tradesmans psyche.
On our evening walk with Wilf we discover that a portion of the garden wall has started to lean alarmingly . Time to phone the builder. Again .
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
A lunch invitation from the local grandees . This will give us a chance to see inside their chateau . A great ancient stone blob of a thing set on a little mound beside the river . No towers, no ornamentation , no side wings , no outbuildings , no garden. Just an enormous oversized square punctuated by permanently closed shutters . Castle Gloom beckons .
'' The font '' being a social animal is looking forward to lunch . Angus , having briefly met the owners is less sure . The chatelaine a woman in her early sixties with stout walking shoes , red stockings and her hair in a bun . He rather older with a cravat , jeans , a blazer and a monocle . '' The font '' has visions of great finesse and luxury . Yours truly is betting on austerity - a lunch of tepid minestrone , chewy beef and one of those rennet based milk puddings . The dining room probably heated to near arctic temperatures .
With Wilf to the bakers. I chose the largest fresh cream cake and an advent calendar. The cream cake shall be taken , together with a bottle of wine , as a lunchtime gift . That way there might be a chance of avoiding blancmange . Wilf , after a grooming , will be joining us on this expedition .
Monday, November 28, 2011
Up here on the ridge a third morning of thick, wet, impenetrable fog . A real pea souper . What east coast Scots would recognize as a haar .
Our morning routine . Croissants and baguette from the baker , coffee and bowl of water at the cafe . A trill of ' Bonjour Wilfee's ' from the early morning beer and absinthe brigade . The waitress laughs as she slips Wilf an illicit , and now routine , treat . I look down to see two paws, the tip of one large black nose and the illicit half croissant poking out from under the tablecloth .
On our way home there's time for a quick walk down by the stream . The sky brighter down here in the valley. The young calves and their mothers slowly wander over from the far side of the field to see us. They stand and stare . The young males inquisitive and hoping for food . Wilf ploughs along the verges , nose down , completely oblivious to his gathering audience . Old PONs never stop exploring .
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Wilf comes back in from his early morning saunter in the fog . His hair contorted into a series of disobedient wisps by the damp . Not so much a bad hair day more a frightful , beyond redemption hair day .
Magret de canard au raisin frais et basilic and tatin de navets a l'orange for lunch . The old fellow positions himself on the floor of the kitchen ready to offer ' the font ' his moral support . He's soon asleep , snoring gently . Wilf knows that it doesn't matter how slowly you go as long as you don't stop .
This afternoon Wilf and Angus will be off to watch the rugby while ' the font ' goes to see a movie called ' Twilight '. This apparently is about vampires and has been a sell out at the little local cinema .
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Thick Dickensian fog . The sort that drips like rain from the trees and eddies round the street lights . By the time we get to the ' big ' supermarket the visibility is finally starting to improve and an increasingly impatient Wilf is raring to go . Despite being blind and having only one functioning nostril there is nothing he enjoys more than a leisurely saunter across a car park. To humans just another parking lot. To an old dog a Bodleian Library of scents and impending adventures.
' The font ' shops while Wilf and yours truly slowly navigate our way past Renaults and Peugeots and Citroens . The old fellow carefully attends to all four tyres on a very large and very new silver Mercedes SUV . The model of canine concentration . Contentment PON style .
Home to find that someone has unexpectedly dumped a large pile of earth on the pathway in front of the house . Have the gardeners returned ? Are they about to start filling in the holes ? Why In France does no one ever telephone to tell you what they plan to do ? Why do they never call to find out if you'll be at home ? The mysteries of living in another country . The family fellow finds the wet soil tantalizing . He is quickly escorted to the kitchen .
As Wilf might say : '' Never regret anything because at one time it was exactly what you wanted " .
Friday, November 25, 2011
Aude , the decaratrice , has finally finished . The bedrooms all freshly redecorated in time for Christmas . After lunch she packs up her scaffolding, takes her cheque and disappears off to deal with an unruly Alpaca . It seems that the eleven females in the recently acquired herd are gentle things. By contrast the sole male , Ellio , is a bad tempered grouch much giving to eating the rose bushes , baring his teeth and spitting . Today, he's escaped from his pen and is grazing on the flower beds . From the drawn look on Aude's face I can't help but feel that the womens cooperative are singularly ill prepared to deal with the arrival of this solitary male presence in their midst.
The Christmas decorations have gone up in the local supermarket . To be more precise a wooden garden shed has appeared in the aisle between the books and the electrical equipment . Some creative soul has liberally scattered soft toys , wrapping paper and tinsel around it to give the thing a festive feel . Despite their best efforts it still looks like a garden shed . No need for Macys to worry just yet.
The foreign foods section is much depleted . No Carrs Water Biscuits . No Jacobs Cream Crackers . In fact foreign culinary exotica is reduced to a pack of Oreos, a can of treacle and a couple of bottles each of Sarsons Vinegar and Lea and Perrins sauce . Perhaps the staff have been too busy erecting the garden shed to bother about restocking the shelves ?.
The weather is finally due to change . Today bright sunshine and blue skies . Tomorrow thick fog and plummeting temperatures are forecast .Wilf spends most of his day on the front doorstep soaking up the rays . He stirs himself to bark at the post lady before turning on his back to continue his nap. The hectic life of an old PON .
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Off bright and early to buy the breakfast croissants in the little market town . Another sunny, cloudless day . Can winter be far behind ? There is a garlic buyers convention in the Salle Polyvalente and by the time we get to the boulangerie all the croissants have gone . The same story in the cafe under the arcades . Somehow half a rather battered looking croissant is found for Wilf . In return the waitress receives a lick .
Home to find Madame Bay sitting at the end of the kitchen table talking animatedly to 'the font '. Madame Bay is nursing a large cup of coffee in one hand and a slice of heavily buttered toast in the other . She sees me , puts down her coffee , then holds up her hand , palm forward traffic policeman style and says " M'Ongoose, M'Ongoose Le Rhume ! Le Rhume ! ". I look bemused . She then moves her hand to her brow and repeats this incantation. An involuntary image of Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey , in a turban , flits through my mind . It seems that our saintly septaguenarian has had the flu and wants me to stay well clear. She announces that she will return when ' I am recovered and not before '. With that , and a derogatory comment about all the dust Aude is making , she goes.
Wilf settles down in the hallway with his stuffed penguin. There was a time when a toy like this would have been shredded within five seconds but these days he's happy to use it as a chin rest . The old fellows Thanksgiving Day PONder ? You can't buy happiness but you can buy coconut ice cream .
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Seven o'clock on the dot . There's a beep of a car horn as the mayor pulls up at the front gate in his battered , once blue , now much resprayed , Renault Megane . '' Bonsoir M'Ongoose . I was just passing " he shouts out cheerily. His face lights up when offered a glass of champagne . '' No, no I shouldn't . Well only the one . It's been a long day " he says, sprinting up the stairs to the drawing room with a surprising degree of agility for man well into his seventies.
Three glasses of champagne and an invitation to the village finance committee meeting later, he goes . It seems that our local Member of Parliament is coming to the village to discuss funding for the restoration of the church and its frescoes . '' We were wondering if you could look over the proposal for us ? " . ' The font ' says I'd be delighted to . Angus is less sure . As the mayor leaves he turns to me and says " You do know that our MP's a Radical Socialist ". As the mayor drives off Angus is left standing in the lane wondering what this little nugget of information could possibly mean .
Through it all Wilf sits in the downstairs hallway happily playing with a squeaky penguin . Old PON wisdom : - " Just remember , once you're over the hill you begin to pick up speed " .
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
After six days of adventures and misadventures the cheery gardeners finally go . They promise to come back ' soon ' to reseed the lawn where the burst water main washed away the grass . '' Next week ? " I ask hopefully . In return I get a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and a smile .
Upstairs , Aude , the decaratrice , continues to paint the bedroom walls. She may be finished by Friday . Before she goes for the day she has a long , overly technical , conversation with me about solvent based undercoats . My French is up to understanding maybe half of what she says . Something about wet plaster discolouring the lime render . I make occasional non-commital glottal noises to show I'm listening.
Wilf listens to the days comings and goings from his cosy spot by the front door . As old PON's know ' one way to get the most out of life is to treat it as an adventure '.
Before he heads off in his van the youngest of the gardeners surreptitiously gives the family fellow half a croissant . This is gratefully received .
Monday, November 21, 2011
That great rarity - a day without builders, decorators , plumbers or gardeners. Incredibly , no Madame Bay, no mayor , no head banging Goths . After a leisurely post-breakfast saunter through the village Wilf settles down on the doorstep for a restorative nap . He resurfaces two hours later . It's a warm day . While I set up the lunch table on the terrace the family fellow wanders into the kitchen to give ' the font ' his advice on cooking . Creme de Potimarron et lard croustillant, Magret a l'Orange et riz complet, finally Cake au poires et gingembre . He gets some tiny shredded slivers of duck with his kibbles . Ginger cake added to that list of 'most favoured ' treats . He falls asleep under the table, on his back, snoring gently . I'd swear there's a smile on his face .
He's been a little more confused this past week . Two or three times a day he walks into a room and immediately forgets why he's there . We find him standing staring blindly at walls or back of chairs . He'll stand like that for ten or fifteen minutes , his mind in neutral . Other than that he's in a sweet spot . Energy for three walks a day , a hearty appetite , interest in what's going on around him . Eyes and gums still healthy , a sense of mischief as he blusters noisily through the fallen leaves. . Constant laughter - a dogs gift to his family.
PS - A special early Thanksgiving week thank you to Pamela and Edward at the wonderful www.fromthehouseofedward.blogspot.com blog.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
A smart oceanside hotel In Santa Barbara sends an e-mail suggesting we come and stay with them for Christmas. The gushing marketing missive ends with the words " and you can't grumble at Molten Brown smellies ! " . ' Oh yes you can ' thinks Angus . ' The font ' tells me they probably mean Molton Brown toiletries .
The night of the Black Sabbath meets Dire Straits concert in the village hall . The band made up of four , thirty something , head banging , Goths . Two Dutch, two French .The lead singer alarmingly hyperactive in yellow velvetine trousers and black morning coat. In between songs they revive themselves with chili con carne eaten off plastic plates . Dire indeed. We return home after ten minutes. Wilf greets us as if we've been away for a month.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Another warm sunny day . Wilf spends the better part of it on the front doorstep , dozing contentedly in the autumnal warmth . Builders, gardeners, decaratrice all ignored . This habit of falling asleep on his back and snoring is a new thing . Perhaps it relieves some internal discomfort . Whatever the reason , the old fellows undercarriage is getting a good and much needed airing .
Progress in the house. Aude , the decaratrice , has nearly finised applying the lime render to the first of the bedrooms. The lime finish subtly changes its tone and colour with the light . This is the way the walls and woodwork would have been finished when the house was put up three hundred years ago . It's quite simply right . We shall not use paint again .