Sunday, July 31, 2011

Diplomatic skills and the world garlic champion .

The start of the weekend garlic festival in the little market town . Wilf joins me, bright and early, on the croissant run . Although it's barely seven the square outside the cafe is already bustling . In the market hall a huge vat of garlic is boiling away in readiness for lunch , the stalls are doing a brisk trade selling garlic strands to Dutch tourists and a pipe band is somewhat incongruously practising for the noontime ' Garlic Queen ' parade . The highlight of the day, this year as every year , will be an attempt to break the world record for garlic peeling .The record stands at 26.5 kilos in 30 minutes .

On the way back we're followed down the drive by a white van with a large cartoon chipmunk brandishing a power saw painted on its side . It's the tree surgeon that I phoned after the April storms. He looks at the oak branch dangling menacingly above the barn and says out loud ' that's not good. You want to get that fixed '. I bite my tongue while thinking of a wide variety of responses that a less diplomatic individual might come out with . He clambers up the tree with all the agility of a monkey , examines the offending branch , and then shimmies effortlessly down again . ' I wouldn't park the cars there if another storm comes along ' . With that he's off down the drive promising to come back in November to remove the offending branch . Progress, of sorts .

Another white van arrives shortly thereafter . It's Audes friend from the womens cooperative with her cement mixer , crew cut and dungarees . She glowers , stubs out her cigarette and gruffly informs me that she's come to regrout the terrace walls. . Today , she's wearing a tee shirt that says ' You've just got lucky ' printed in large capital letters across the front . For the second time that morning I employ my diplomatic skills and remain silent .

Wilf sensibly ignores all this activity and settles down for his post-breakfast , pre-lunch, doze. Ever the optimist , experience tells him that it's better to ' count the garden by the flowers , never by the leaves that fall ' .

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I've installed an alarm

The old farmer from the other side of the lane appears at the front door to tell us that he's off to Brittany for a family wedding . He's wearing black track suit bottoms , yellow running shoes, a string vest and a tartan cap ; the latter worn at a rather jaunty angle . I congratulate him on his wedding outfit but he looks back at me blankly in much the same way as one might look at someone with Tourettes Syndrome . English and French humour remain a universe apart . ' Would you keep an eye on the house for the next week ? ' he asks before adding , ' don't worry . I've installed an alarm ' . 'Self installed ' - the two most truly terrifying words in any language . For a brief moment I conjure with the idea of asking him why anyone in their right mind would want to break into his house but think better of it .

Out for our early morning walk . An overcast , cloudy , start to the day but sun is promised . Wilf makes it to the war memorial just as the old farmers motor home heads off down the road . The becapped figure inside beeps the horn , crashes the gears and waves . " See you soon " he shouts from the window and with that he's off , a faded length of chintz curtain hanging forlornly out of the back and flapping in the wind as he goes . Holiday time in France Profonde .

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stealth , speed and bribery .

Another day , another skill set . Thanks for all your advice . Yesterday we knew nothing about giving nose drops to a blind dog . This morning , we are experienced pros . Suffice it to say that blind dogs are quite protective about having their remaining senses interfered with and can be 'lively' patients . For those who ever have to do it our advice is to use those tried and tested staples of dog ownership - stealth , speed and bribery . It's also easier if there are two of you. One to dangle a piece of ripe camembert in front of the patient so that his head is up at a 45 degree angle , the other to quickly and quietly squeeze a pipette into the nostril . With practice it can be done in 3 seconds - max .

It was the senior vet who gave us the news about the cancer spreading into the nasal passages . ' The font ' asked if the family fellow was in any pain but was told categorically no . He's "just drifting down the river ". The vet spent a full hour giving Wilf tests and didn't charge . Peoples kindness , vets and dog bloggers alike , still a source of throat catching amazement . Wilf carries on oblivious . His days spent happily herding his flock , eating , and dozing in the sun . PON common sense : " How can something bother you if you won't let it ? "

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Has anyone given their dog nose drops ?

Has anyone ever had to give their dog nose drops ? Wilf has developed polyps in his nose . The cancer is on the prowl again .These have closed down his right nostril. The most important thing - he's not in any pain and the vet is hopeful that a course of eye and nose drops six times a day will alleviate the symptoms . Applying eye drops is easy but has anyone got any tips on how to apply nose drops ? Not as simple as it sounds ! There's nothing on Google or in Dr.Fogle . The vets is now closed for the day . Someone on the dogosphere will know .

For her or for him ?

On the way back from our morning croissant run I stop the car and walk , Wilf by my side , through the sunflower fields . Millions and millions of yellow faces rolling in seemingly endless waves all the way to the Spanish border . This early in the morning they're still droopily asleep , heads held low , waiting for the sun to rise . Thousands , possibly tens of thousands of starlings and redshanks swarming noisily through the serried rows in search of seeds . Rush hour in Tarn -et - Garonne .

Nine thirty at night and Wilf is snoring noisily away on the warm tarmac outside the front gate . Kelly the hover dog lies beside him , delighted to have canine company , her tail happily pounding away . Wilf , tired out after a day with his family , is completely oblivious to her presence . As the sun sets the old widow comes to fetch Kelly home . We chat a while , then as she is about to go she turns and says : ' One may go a long way after one is tired ' . A sweet old French proverb . Was it meant for herself or for him ?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A PON with a mission .

It's finally stopped raining . Into town to discover that a sausage stall has appeared in the market square next door to the newsagents shop . Within seconds of being lifted down from the back of the car Wilf is off , nose held high in the tantalizing air . A small white polar bear on a mission . The family fellow sits , immovable , entranced , in front of this catalogue of earthly delights .

As we join the beer and absinthe set for a morning coffee and croissant at the cafe he carries a small spicey beef batonnet in his mouth . A study in fluffy , four legged , busily chewing , happiness
The best fifty cents I've ever spent . Sometimes rules are just meant to be broken .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gaps in the rain .

A heatwave in the US , grey skies and rain here in France . Wilf wisely times his pit stops to coincide with the occasional dry spell . " In youth we learn , in age we understand " .

Monday, July 25, 2011

The tressle table and the baguette .

To the market with Wilf . The cheerful bread stall owner ( who continues to think Angus is Australian ) slips our canine companion the end of a baguette . Wilf , delighted by this not wholly unexpected turn of events , settles down under the tressle table, his heading poking out, a sliver of bread proudly positioned between his paws . Happiness .

Onto the cafe for coffee and a croissant . Yours truly , who has been lecturing the family about Wilfs diabetes , is caught on camera , slipping a sliver of dough towards a small ever hopeful polar bear . The polar bear then looks expectantly around . '' When hope is hungry , everything feeds it "

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tired contentment .

Party time for Wilf . Usually he's tucked up in bed by ten thirty but last night he stayed up until gone one ' chilling ' with his boys . This morning he's regretting the excesses of the night before . On his first walk of the day he managed to saunter straight past Kelly without even noticing her . A long , restorative , post breakfast nap is on the cards . In readiness he's taken up position in the middle of the upper hallway and the likelihood is he'll stay there until he joins us for lunch . Tired contentment . The perfect day lies ahead for an old PON and his owner .

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A peaceful charm .

The morning news headlines a shock . A madmans work . All those Scandinavian capital cities - Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen - have such a peaceful charm in the summer . Can innocence return ?

Nothing like a patient saunter around the village green with a blind old sheepdog to restore balance and give unspoken thanks for the inestimable value of a life free from fear . For our Norwegian friends and god children this morning a Polish phrase which I hope is true : - ' When you get to your wits end , you will find, God lives there ' .

Friday, July 22, 2011

A quieter spot .

Hot and humid . The sort of day to stay indoors or sleep under the shade of a chesnut tree . At lunchtime a short , ferocious , mountain storm that has the rain exploding out of the gutters . Faced with the unruly elements Wilf moves from his spot on the front doorstep to a quieter spot inside . His executive decision for the day . The sort of PON wisdom that knows that ' Everything will be okay in the end . If it's not okay , it's not the end '.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Better , not bitter .

Madame Bay is here bright and early . M 'Ongoose receives an alarmingly passionate birthday kiss from the saintly septaguenarian . No such thing as a demur , anglo-saxon style , peck on the cheek where Madame Bay is concerned .Today she is sporting a purple and orange head scarf , what appear to be shiny blue track suit bottoms , glittery gold open toed sandals and a long orange and green linen striped jacket secured at the front by red buttons the size of milk bottle tops . She brings with her a large brown cardboard box full of gaudily packaged French cleaning products . These all appear to have jaunty , near identical , names like Jif, Mif, Splif or Bif .

Madame Bay is soon cheerily at work in the family bedrooms with this toxic mix of gallic chemicals . She's whistling while working so all must be well with her flock of daughters and grand daughters . Wilf , who hasn't yet understood why Madame Bay is getting this particular run of rooms ready , embarks on a slow walk to the fire hydrant before retreating to the relative peace and calm of my office for a leisurely three hour nap . His life now measured by a fixed routine of food, pit stops and sleep . Amazing how the old fellow maintains an attitude that says " the difficulties of life are intended to make us better , not bitter ".