Wednesday, February 29, 2012

But what is life ?

Despite a strike at Frankfurt airport an uneventful journey . On the flight home across the Alps an exceptionally tall - 6' 7" at least - priest sits next to me . Red buttons on his cassock. Probably a Monsignor. He crosses himself on takeoff and again every time we hit turbulence . It's a rough flight . The Monsignor has a diet Coke. Angus, unnerved by this sacerdotal presence with a fear of flying , has something stronger .

Home to find bright sunshine and Wilf and ' the font ' having lunch at the little restaurant under the arcades. I sit down . Wilf puts his chin on my knee and sighs. Two minutes of reassurance and he's back under the table, asleep again . As the plates are cleared away the old fellow picks himself up and tries to follow the waiter into the kitchen . He's gently reminded we're not at home . In return a '' But what is life if you don't live it ? " look.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tuesday Morning.

'' There are days when I wonder what it feels like to be fully awake " .

Laid back Monday .

" Dreams are the soul's pantry. Keep it well stocked and your soul will never hunger ".

A thespian PON.

Angus heads off to talk to serious folk in dark suits. A five am departure. The line " it puts kibbles in the bowl " doesn't wash with Wilf. He does his Mr.Glum routine. Sad face resting on paws. A thespian PON. I think it may be the black leather shoes and the suit that give the game away.

Before I go ' the font ' reminded that the old fellow needs a walk in the garden every forty five minutes after his seven in the morning and six in the evening insulin injections . A sleep deprived '' Yes. yes I know " from somewhere under the duvet.

'' I'll be back on Tuesday '' I say to Wilf when closing the front door. He's already asleep .

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What counts ?

An overcast start to the day. A chill morning breeze battling with the mild air. The breeze wins . Angus puts on a jacket .

After a trip to the cafe under the arcades we head down to the valley for a quick walk . For a blind dog fresh scents and adventures doubly important . Wilf may not be as fast on his feet as he once was but his enthusiam for sniffing and christening remains undiminished . A full twenty minutes of head down adventure . Then he tires, settles down on the grass verge, and dozes . '' Success is not final , failure is not fatal ; it's the courage to continue that counts ''.

Back home . He smells Swedish meatballs cooking . I'd swear that he skips into the kitchen .

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rivers of Babylon.

This morning the waitress tears Wilfs illicit half croissant into bite sized pieces and feeds them to him . She chats away to the family fellow quite unselfconciously . Angus reads the paper .

Wilf returns from the morning croissant run to find all the windows thrown wide open and music blaring out across the village green . Madame Bay has returned from her snow induced exile . Gold metallic ' Wild Child ' voiturette parked jauntily in the courtyard.

Boney M day on Radio Nostalgie. Madame Bay, hoover in front , sways down the upper corridor to the sound of Rivers of Babylon . Watching her , I can't help but feel that there must have been a time when she was quite a girl. Madame Bay doesn't speak a word of English but this doesn't stop her from singing along , lustily, with each track. Her take on Boney M's ' When a Child is Born ' particularly inventive . Wilf attempts to retreat to the quiet of the library but receives a passionate kiss before he can make good his escape.

Bees busy on the window boxes on the terrace. Scores of them buzzing round the hyacinths. I watch one of them, head down, drinking pollen for a full five minutes. It emerges drunk with joy. Sometimes you're brought up with a jolt by the simplest of things. Bye Bye Winter. Hello Spring . Wilf celebrates by falling asleep in the sun.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sprats and Banana Splits .

Another sunny day. In the garden the snow damaged shrubs slowly coming back to life . ' The font ' spots Sprats at the fishmongers. Angus is unimpressed . He wanders off to the cafe with Wilf. Time to have a coffee and ponder what it is with Scandinavians and fish .

New, laminated, menus in the bar. Must be going upmarket . Too early to have an early morning Banana Split ? Not often you see them on menus these days. The waitress gives Wilf his illicit half croissant . Angus decides against the Banana Split. Maybe if we go back in the afternoon ? Wilf settles down under the banquette for a nap. By the time ' the font ' rejoins us he's snoring away .

A caravan appears in the old farmers driveway. Its left wheel at a jaunty , gravity defying, angle . At least 15 degrees off true. '' Getting ready for the holidays " the farmer shouts out, eager to share his happiness. Today he's wearing black track suit bottoms, open toed sandals without socks , a red check shirt and, despite the warmth, a large, faux fur, Russian style hat . Angus looks at the caravan and wonders if it will make it as far as the layby at the top of the road. Best to say nothing .

For dinner Wilf has sprat filet on his kibbles. Afterwards a little coconut ice cream. He licks his nose and falls asleep. Yes, dogs can smile. Angus has a steak .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday morning.

Wilf sprints ahead . Pausing only where the lane coming down the hill crosses the lane running along the valley . He's safe. Cars here in deepest France Profonde a rarity . What tractors there are trundle past at dawn and at dusk . The concept of a morning rush hour beyond comprehension . That's not quite true. The receptionist at the old folks home lives in a steep roofed house by the crossroads . She's always late . Racing past the rickety old farmhouse at two minutes past eight on her way to work in the little market town. Three minutes past five coming back home. Regular as clockwork - but late . Her little black Citroen doing 90 in a 30 zone . I used to think her mad. Now I've got used to it. Rush hour France Profonde style.

From a distance it looks as if Wilf is rubbing his back on the soft grass verge. Close up it's clear that he's drifted into a gentle sleep. The sound of snoring, the breeze in the leafless branches, the woodpeckers hard at work on the stump of an old elm. Warm sunshine. He finally picks himself up, shakes the grass off his coat, and trots off. The enervating power of a quick nap. This week his breathing rougher . Doors presenting more of a problem . Some days , most days , lucid. Others confused. The melanomas spreading. Our slowing daily routine . Little, everyday things that will be missed. Details too small for a diary but just right for this dogblog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Confident .

Papilotte de Cabillaud aux Carottes et Huile de Tandoori for lunch . Wilf gets some cod crumbled over his kibbles . He carries on licking his bowl enthusiastically long after any trace of the fish has gone. For dinner , Roti de Veau de Lait a la Sauge et Aux Legumes Anciens . Same routine . After the last morsel of veal has been digested he's still nose down looking for more . Hope in action .The nose licking and langourous sighing indicate that both were well received .

Afternoon walk in the sunshine . I whistle as I walk . This enables Wilf to hear where I am and follow along behind . If he's unsure, he stops , still as a rock , and waits until I go back for him . His confident adjustment to blindness a reminder of how resilient dogs are . When we get onto the straight , familiar, track of the old roman road he races ahead .

On our way home we stop off at the new bakers for some mille feuilles. Absolutely delicious. The pastry crisp, the icing firm, the custard smooth. Others must agree. They've sold out . While I shop Wilf sits in the back of the car with the tailgate up. Time for old tired bones to soak up a few rays. ' Only he that has travelled the road knows where the holes are deep '.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Always use a trowel.

The sun shining, the water main repaired, the baker back to making baguettes . Life in deepest France Profonde after the storms .

At the newsagent three ladies with string shopping bags are having an intense conversation with the purple rinsed hair lady behind the counter. '' At six she was sitting by her fire. By nine she was in hospital and on the operating table " . Angus waits in line for his paper . After five minutes he recognizes that the four of them have become so engrossed that they're oblivious to everything else. He puts the paper back on the rack and leaves . None of the ladies notice his departure. This morning Angus has learnt that the French for gallstones is calcul biliaire.

'' Take a look at this ". The owner of the cafe proudly escorts me into the newly redecorated ' restaurant ' behind the bar. The air still heavy with the smell of recently applied gloss paint . The beer and absinthe set never venture here, preferring to get their nutrition straight from the bottle.The owner has fixed an illuminated Fosters Beer commercial on the wall next to an advertising sign for Clan Campbell whisky and another for Ricard. I know that the sign is illuminated because the electrical wires are hanging out of the back.

'' C'est superbe ! Non ? " he inquires . '' Yes, it is ", I reply with a lack of conviction. The owner looks crestfallen at my half hearted response. '' C'est magnifique ! " I add , wondering if the French understand irony . He beams. Angus , the local arbiter of taste, gets a free coffee. Wilf gets a bowl of water and half a croissant .

Lesson #4 when living abroad . When applying praise always use a trowel .

Sunday, February 19, 2012

" Incroyable ! " .

Spring has arrived and with it sunshine and a wave of 'incomers '. It's the half term holidays in Paris and the summer homes are being opened up and dusted down after the long winter . The car parks suddenly full of large cars with Parisian number plates. The little shops in the market town now selling garlic and upmarket roulades to Prada clad spouses.

The German billionaires are back at the chateau. Wilf spends much of the day barking at a new, and very shiny , Arctic white Ferrari that cruises noisily up and down the lane . Each time it hits the speed bump there is an expensive crunching sound from the suspension. Wilf seems to find this noise strangely satisfying .

The senior vet stops in on his way back to the surgery . He's been out visiting a herd of cows at a neighbouring farm and happened to be passing. He gives Wilf a quick fingertip check . His conclusion ?. '' Dix-sept mois ! Incroyable ! ".

We sit , under the mimosa, enjoying the warmth from the evening sun. Wilf falls asleep on the vets feet . For him not so much a vet more an old friend . Time to share a glass of champagne and toast the healing powers of unburdened optimism ; PON style. Our laughter just about drowns out the burble of the Ferrari .

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mille feuille.

The water mains still broken . Our usual baker standing glumly at the door of the shop turning customers away . He's tried using bottled water to make the dough but it ' just can't be done '. The council workmen have promised him the work will be completed by this afternoon . He shrugs .

Off across country with Wilf in search of an alternate supply .The new bakers in the little market town is doing a roaring trade . The window chock full of cream cakes . The inhabitants must have a very sweet tooth . Each of the retired ladies in front of me buys a baguette and a cake so there might be some truth in this observation .

To the cafe . The man behind the counter fills up Wilfs bowl with water. He doesn't have a croissant left . He does however have the end of a baguette . Wilf accepts this with good grace then settles down on the floor and goes to sleep. The coffee is bitter and burnt as only an €0.80 coffee can be . Somewhere between bracing and undrinkable.

By the time I've finished Wilf is already snoring gently. A quick '' Come on matey !" and he's on his feet and following me out of the door. Seeing him walking confidently along , navigating doors and kerbs, you'd never believe he was blind. There again old PON's know : ' When the winds of change blow, some seek shelter, others build windmills '.

Friday, February 17, 2012

'' It's quite a job ! "

A few small ribbons survive here and there but the snow's largely gone . The rising temperatures bringing an outbreak of burst pipes. The bakers once again without water . Wilf has to forego his illicit half croissant . He gets a hair tousle instead. No water for coffee at the cafe so we wave farewell to the beer and absinthe crowd who raise their pre-breakfast beer glasses in return.

The workmen digging up the square tell me that the mains will need to be repaired. " It's quite a job ! " the foreman adds by way of embelishment . Angus nods , looks in the hole at nothing in particular, and makes what he hopes is a suitably Gallic sound . He aims for surprise mixed with horror but it comes out sounding as if he has a bad case of phlegm . Wilf sniffs the air.

Back in the village , the old widows water pipes have also burst. A lake forming in the dip in the road outside her front door. Wilf circles the lake cautiously, then decides to walk through it. Angus bangs on the door to break the bad news . The location of the stopcock unknown . '' My husband dealt with things like that " . Eventually it's found . Angus, supported by a small, white, increasingly muddy, polar bear digs a ditch to let the water drain away .

The plumber says he's busy but after being reminded that ' she could be your grandmother ' arrives after lunch . Rule #3 when living abroad : Where reason fails , try shame.

Life in deepest France Profonde . A corner of the world where people still understand the old maxim : ' Go often to the house of thy friend , for weeds choke the unused path '.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Unheard sounds .

To the airport with ' the font ' . The lawyers insist that the rental agreement with the folk from Boise be signed and witnessed in London .

On the way back home Angus makes a quick detour to McDonalds with Wilf. This being a French McDonalds there are macaroons . Angus chooses a Brownie . Wilf gets a wholemeal muffin and a bowl of water . Wilf then falls asleep on his side under the table. This early in the morning the McDonalds is empty so it is only Angus, the waitress, and the two young men behind the counter who hear Wilfs snoring .

Wilfs hair is plastered down where he's been asleep. '' You're looking a bit squiffy today " I say while lifting a small , somewhat disheveled , polar bear into the back of the car . Wilfs face seems to say ' If a man points at the moon, an idiot will look at the finger ' . His Thursday morning PONder .