Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Madame Lulu.

The weather forecast on the back of the local newspaper predicts heavy snow and freezing temperatures . A mass of angry black clouds and blizzard symbols filling the top half of the page . The second ice age comes to France Profonde . Instead we're greeted by blue skies and warm , gentle , sunshine . The waitress brings Wilf his illicit half croissant to our table outside . He gets a hair tousle . Rain , sun , snow . He's happy .

The bottom half of the local papers back page is filled up with the horoscope. By nature and upbringing Calvinist Angus is deeply dismissive of such things. However, today he finds his eyes drawn to Madame Lulu's eccentric pronouncements on love, life and health. Madame Lulu writes in a strange subset of the French language that is unique both in its style and content. Exclamation marks scattered round the page as if they're going out of fashion. Today's outlook is true to form .

General Outlook : Some unknown elements will energize you !!!
Love Life : Passionate !!!!!
Health : A tiredness in the extremities ! Watch out for your allergies !!!!!

Angus can't help but think that number three somewhat hinders number two. Wilf being a sensible old PON takes the view that " It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters ".

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mustard and marzipan .

Cold but no sign of the snow that had been forecast . After lunch our weekly trip to the Rugby ground . A poor turnout. The chill northern wind putting off all but the most enthusiastic of spectators . Perhaps a dozen hardy farmers, three hyperactive Jack Russells, Yours Truly and Wilf .

Angus raids various bedrooms and ventures out in a Princeton hoodie and a lululemon bobble hat . ' The font ' decidedly unimpressed with this recycling of the Cost Centres cast offs . Wilf sits on the bench next to me . Head on my lap , snoring softly, happily ignoring the shouts from the pitch . At half time we share a hot dog. Wilf remembers that he likes mustard . I get a tartan blanket from the back of the car and lay it over him . A contentedly loud '' this is what living is all about " snuffle from the small polar bear as he settles down again.

To the bakers on our way home . A marzipan cake chosen and carefully wrapped . We stop outside the town hall to read the notices . A large photo of an accordionist looks back at us . He seems to be grinning maniacally rather than smiling . The most interesting part of the poster the jovial 1950's dancing figures at the bottom . They could be straight out of ' I love Lucy '.

The Christmas decorations are still hanging on the box hedge around the war memorial. Oversight or French custom ? A mental note to speak to the secretary of the Beautiful Highways Committee to find out . After dinner Wilf discovers he likes marzipan . Mustard and marzipan in one day. Old PON's know that life rocks.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday morning .

Out of the front gate and left along the lane. The clouds low - snow is forecast for tonight . A young calf has escaped from the safety of the barn and is standing , eyes wide, on the grass verge by the gate . It watches the two of us as we zig zag past . The lure of the rich grass overcoming fear .

We stop by the stream. On the other bank, barely ten feet away, a woodpecker works at a lichened stump. His black and white body crowned by a crimson plume. Only nature, or a two year old boy, capable of dreaming up a colour scheme this improbable.

Everywhere around scores of finches; green, blue,yellow, gold. Grubbing on the ground,climbing tree trunks, jostling noisily in the branches. A parliament of colour and movement .The males chests puffed out in bravado, the females glorying in a new day. The old fellows Sunday morning walk suddenly a journey of joy.

Wilf can't see but he listens. Head raised to sniff the air. Sensing the deer behind the elder copse. To the murmur of water and birdsong he falls asleep. Head resting contentedly on paws. Grateful owners of old dogs know that some walks are meant to be remembered long after they're done .

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Groomed .

Friday afternoon . Wilf gets groomed . Reluctantly . In fact extremely reluctantly. The process accompanied by a medley of highly theatrical moans and groans . An Oscar winning performance . After twenty minutes of brushing and combing he's beginning to look like a PON. Twenty minutes later, following a quick walk to the fire hydrant , he's regained his wild , pre-groomed , look . A final roll on his back in the grass and all pretence at finesse has gone . He falls happily asleep, twigs and moss poking out of his fur. As old PON's know : ' Appear as you are. Be as you appear '. Roast Chicken with his dinner kibbles . One happy , if scruffy, family fellow .

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Best a Man Can Get .

Back from a trip across the Alps. A ' fun ' night with unsmiling folks in dark suits. The snack on the aircraft bordering on the surreal . Possibly a sausage. Possibly not .

As usual Angus is viewed by the worlds airport security staff as an existential threat. At Toulouse it's the rollers on the carry on bag that attract attention . In London it's the shoes that bring out the wand of shame . In Zurich the shaving foam . '' The Best a Man Can Get " glowing on the x-ray screen as brightly as a kilo of Semtex .

Wilf usually greets his nearest and dearest in dignified silence. Not today . He's in puppy mode. The old fellow pulls himself up and heads across the marble floored arrivals hall at a surprisingly ( for him ) rapid pace . ' The font ', in hot pursuit. He's heading, in what he thinks, is my direction . Canine sixth sense. The old chap apprehended before disappearing behind the sliding doors that lead through to customs .

Reunited . Flock all accounted for . The family fellow lets out three high pitched yelps of delight. An enthusiastic face lick . Then he turns on his back and falls asleep. The happy stage in life where you simply don't care what people think. ' The font's ' greeting more demure . Laughter all round .

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flow .

A change in the old fellow this week. Sometimes almost like having a stranger in the house . He wanders down corridors and falls asleep in empty bedrooms, waking up, barking, in a panic . Turning right where he's always turned left . That slightly confused stage of the journey where ' if you can't fight, and you can't flee, flow ' .

The height of sophistication .

A new pizza restaurant has opened up in the little market town . Angus and ' the font ' stand at the front door reading the menu. Angus finds number 21 - chicken, apricots and raisins - to be the most improbable . ' The font ' is left speechless by number 16 - chicken, goats cheese, honey, with or without nuts . Wilf sits sniffing the air beside us. It's clear that he considers all pizzas to be the height of sophistication .

A battle royal .

Census day . In Britain it happens every ten years. Here in France every five. The mayors secretary comes round in person to watch us fill out the forms and check their accuracy . She's due at nine and shows up in her little Citroen at ten . A model of punctuality by local standards . '' No coffee for me. If I have another cup I'll be flying " she says somewhat improbably . We go into the dining room. Wilf settles under the table with a Ryvita. The mayors secretary places a briefcase on the table, opens it, and hands us each a form. '' Are you sure there's only the two of you here ? " . She asks this with a tone of voice that implies there are fifty illegal immigrants hiding in the cellar .

The last census showed that 67 intrepid souls called the commune their home. According to the local paper there are rumours that some smaller villages might be combined into ' super villages ' of two or three hundred inhabitants . An attempt to save costs . A battle royal looms between the local mayors.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mustard and laughter .

Well behaved weather. Rain at night. Dry during the day . A gentle breeze . Ideal for PON walking . In the afternoon Wilf and Angus head off to watch the rugby . A poor turnout . The visiting team slow and unadventurous . At one point the young left wing ( who doubles up as a mechanic in the local Peugeot garage ) wanders over to the touch line to ask after Wilf . At half time the family fellow shares a hot dog with Angus in the car park . Wilf has a bowl of water. Angus a beer . Wilf discovers he likes mustard .

Home to discover that ' the font ' has opened a bottle of wine . Solitary drinking on a Sunday afternoon - generally not a good sign . While we've been to watch the rugby , ' the font of all knowledge ' has been to the village council meeting . Surprise, surprise they have unanimously elected a new Secretary . '' It just happened ! " says the new office holder in between gulps of a 2005 Pauillac. '' I tried to say no " . Wilf falls happily asleep to the sound of raucous laughter .

Saw this BBC video about psychic dogs : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16676728

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Black leotards .

Into town to buy flowers. The florists one of those modern, minimalist, places. Under the tastefully subdued lighting the three shop assistants are wearing what appear to be black leotards. An impenetrable mass of monochrome bamboo on display inside. Outside , an array of bulbs nestling in straw wrapped pots . When did florists stop selling flowers ? Another sign of advancing age .

Flowerless , Wilf and Angus pop into a local cafe for a coffee and a bowl of water . The cafe dog , a sweet tempered and very arthritic old thing , pops out from behind the counter to look at Wilf . Silently she stands and stares - besotted . Sadly, Wilf is quite oblivious to her presence . The lady behind the cash till and Angus both laugh . The interactions only dog owners see . You're never alone when you travel with a dog .

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Built into the DNA.

Back into our daily routine . Coffee, bowl of water and illicit half croissant at the cafe under the arcades . A quick stop off at the bakers to buy a cake for lunch . Wilf waits patiently at the shop door . His single nostril working overtime. Angus emerges with an amaretto meringue cake with fresh raspberry filling . Wilf stops waiting patiently and looks energized . His face has taken on that imploring " to be your friend was all I ever wanted " look . Hope springs eternal in an old dogs heart - and stomach .

Home. While I write , he sleeps. When I finish writing , he sleeps . A slowing pace of life . Lunchtime. Petites Tourtes Forestieres. Nothing slow about the old fellows sprint into the kitchen .Hard wired into Wilfs DNA the knowledge that ' there is no failure except in no longer trying ' .

Friday, January 20, 2012

The mayor, the MP and the leather patches .

An overcast morning . The font heads off to the IKEA in Toulouse to stock up on pickled herring and other Swdish ' delicacies '. At eight the builder arrives to finish repairing the hole in the wall. For much of the morning , he and Madame Bay argue loudly about the mess he's made. In the midst of this lengthy disagreement the mayor arrives at the front door with our local Member of Parliament.

The MP is not as I thought a Radical Socialist but a Radical Republican . Angus has no idea what this means . He could be anywhere on the political spectrum - either a French Barney Frank or a French Rick Santorum ? . Angus decides to keep off the subject of politics altogether . Wilf , who has had his sleep interrupted, pointedly wanders off to the quiet of the dining room and settles down under the table with a huff and a sigh .

The MP has leather patches on the elbow of his jacket . Something I last saw forty years ago on a teacher at school . Perhaps leather patches are coming back into fashion ? Our MP also speaks with the rapidity of a Kentucky tobacco auctioneer . Add to that the strong ' Oc ' accent and the communication is decidely one sided. Angus smiles and does his best politically neutral deaf / mute routine.

Over the statutory glass of champagne - " Oh well. Just the one " - the mayor informs me that the government will pay for two thirds of the cost of restoring the First World War frescoes in the church . Angus decides not to mention government cuts and the crisis in the €urozone. Lesson #1 when living abroad : As a foreigner never ever comment on the politics of your host country.

In the afternoon a trip to the supermarket for Jaffa Cakes . One very happy Wilf . Another day in France Profonde.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More mileage.

A rough day for the old fellow. Something not right inside . He simply can't settle . '' The font " takes him down to the vets . The first time in four months he's been there . Thankfully, the prim Parisienne is away . The senior vet, an old friend to Wilf, administers an anti-emetic injection . Wilf sits there on the examination table. Half enjoying the atttention and half frozen with fear . More liquid around the stomach, possibly a kidney issue, signs that the tumours are stirring again .

The vet very sensible. No point in putting him through a battery of tests. The prognosis ? A concise and very Gallic ; '' Wilf will decide whether it's time to turn the page or close the book ". As they leave the surgery the vet shouts out " See you next month ". ' The font ' laughs.

Two thirty in the morning . Angus can be found sitting on the floor in a dressing gown and slippers. A Tale of Two Cities in one hand, a glass of Burgundy in the other . ' The Big Bang Theory ' , badly dubbed into French, on the local comedy channel . Family fellow finally asleep head on my knee . Wilf's coat , hard and coarse at lunchtime, definitely softer to the touch . When ' The New Girl ' comes on the screen ( perhaps the plot makes sense in English ) it's time to leave him alone to sleep off the injection. After a turbulent day reassurance that there's still more mileage in this old boy.

Old PON's know " If today was perfect there'd be no need for tomorrow ".