Monday, April 30, 2012

Wally .

A day outside in the garden . A dozen Kiftsgate roses to plant. No noise bar the never ending squabbling between finches, wrens and sparrows as they battle over the fresh grain in the bird feeder . While I heel in the roses , the old PON dozes on the soft grass under the cherry trees. On his back, snoring away , feet pointed skywards . We've got to the stage where he's sleeping twenty , maybe more , hours a day . That sheepdog mentality that just won't quit .

Angus cooks a steak for dinner . Wilf follows events with interest . As the smoke builds up in the kitchen he finally retreats outside to the terrace . Cuisine a l'Angus clearly not favoured by this gourmand canine.

Sunset . A slow, gentle, stroll along the lane. At the crossroads a hand painted sign has been put up to lure passing motorists . " May 12th , Village Saints Day , Wally's Giant Paella " . Above the village hall another , similar , sign . In this one Wally's Giant Paella has mysteriously become Willy's Giant Paella.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Seldom dissatisfied .

Four thirty in the morning . ' The font ' on the first flight to London . The car finally packed , engine running , waiting outside the front door. Wilf remains immovable. Completely uncoaxable . All the usual words -  ' Breakfast, croissant, treats ! ' - ignored . The old fellows firmly wrapped in his pre-dawn  ' cloak of invisibility ' . In the end he's picked up, bed and all , and deposited in the back of the car .

At the airport Angus stops off at the cafe . Early morning travellers scurrying through the car park on their way to the check-in desks pass a small  dishevelled polar bear and a strange foreigner. They're sharing a  croissant  . Old PON's know : " A dog owns nothing , yet is seldom dissatisfied ''.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A large canine contingent .

Friday night . Wilf and ' The Font ' head across the village green . The monthly Beautiful Byeways Committee meeting . A large canine contingent . Three Jack Russells, a Yorkie, and two fidgety Pointers . Wilf ignores the Jack Russells, settles at ' the fonts ' feet and sensibly falls asleep .

Half an hour late, the proceedings begin .The mayor , pork pie hat on the table in front of him , announces he has joined the cash and carry . Cost €35 . Ice Cream can now be served at the Annual Pottery Fair . The deputy mayoress ,who does ' something ' with Airbus, and is therefore assumed to be a business guru , interjects to say that the €35 is for a full years membership . '' All are welcome to use it " she adds magnanimously .

Item 2. The brunette with the beehive hairdo and the silver Ford Mondeo announces that the ' ladies ' will be making a giant paella for the Saints Day lunch .'The Font ' makes the mistake of asking what's needed to make a giant paella. ' A big dish ' comes the deadpan reply . " The Font " makes a mental note to phrase questions more carefully in future .

The mayor and the farmer with the red face and the swollen nose argue about whether alcohol should be served. The summer before we arrived there was an incident with the very old farmer, a half bottle of unattended armagnac ,and the village pond . The fire brigade had to be called. '' Now, surely , no one wants a repetition of that " the mayor says with a semblance of finality .

Wilf trots home . A hint of prawn curry added to his kibbles . Come ten o'clock he settles down by the front door and is still there, snoring happily away when I come downstairs this morning . Old dog knowledge . '' My strength is as the strength of ten , because my heart is pure " .

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mighty forces .

Wilfs daily routine. Conversation with the waitress. Illicit half croissant. Christening of the box hedge around the war memorial. Home for a morning doze. Lunchtime bark at the post lady. A nap in the back of the car while ' the font ' goes shopping . Afternoon walk by the stream . Forty winks on the terrace before dinner . Snuggled up asleep by ten .

He 's getting smaller . The muscle around his shoulders almost gone . This week the bloods returned . Starting to stumble as he walks . We check his eyes and gums. We worry . He thinks this ridiculous. What's the point ? He gets on with enjoying life . The capacity to generate laughter burning as bright as ever . Somehow dogs know better than humans - "Be bold - and mighty forces will come to your aid ".

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unusual .

A busy day for Wilf. Trips with ' the font ' to the picture framers, the curtain store and the fishmongers . The cheese lady lets him try a piece of particularly runny Camembert . Wilf licks his nose , does a little soft shoe shuffle and decides he must be in heaven .

Six o'clock . It stops raining . Blue sky briefly breaking into our monochrome world . A quick walk by the stream then Wilf and Angus head off to the rugby ground . The local team playing a group of farmers from somewhere near Toulouse . A late kick off. The visitors coach has taken the wrong turning off the motorway . While we wait Angus and Wilf share a hot dog from the stand in the car park . Angus wonders what could possibly have gone into the hot dog to give it such an unusual flavour . Wilf, by contrast , has that " Oh, the bliss of this glorious taste " look on his face .

The local team win 70-12. An outcome , in its own way, as unusual as the taste of the hotdog . Through it all Wilf snores contentedly , on his back , at my feet . Dreams of camembert and hot dog ? Maybe coconut ice cream ?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Making martinis .

More storms . Shutters slamming , downpipes sputtering . In Scotland the downpipes were great cast iron things . More like cannons . Here, they're made of lighweight zinc . When it rains the water clunks and rattles its way through them . In the middle of a downpour 'the font' thinks they make a noise like water on a hot skillet . Angus thinks it's more like the sound of a cocktail shaker making martinis.

Wilf wanders upstairs . There was time when he was imperturbable. No longer. The sound of the gale unsettles him . His old arthritic legs beat a clump - clump - clump on the wooden staircase . I'm working at the desk in the drawing room . He doesn't like the drawing room . Too much furniture to navigate around . He ventures slowly between an armchair and a side table before settling . He lets out a loud ' humph ',half of satisfaction,half of irritation . My feet turned into his hearth . He's brought up a filthy old chew that's been hidden in the garden ; saved for a moment like this. Wet and soggy, the ends tinged black, seasoned with something seriously indecorous . He proudly lifts his head to show me his prize. He exudes a quiet , infectious , happiness that words can't quite grasp and which humans can only envy . Three minutes later he's snoring gently away .

As Epicurus said " Skilful pilots gain their reputation through storms and tempests ".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Happy Lives.

The wind howls, the rain falls. Overnight, the little stream down in the valley turned into a raging torrent . In the garden the newly planted standard roses uprooted from the sodden soil . As for the geraniums ? The less said the better . Just like Caithness in February . Ten days of soild rain and more forecast .

Wilf is asleep, curled up , in his little brothers bed . A picture of warmth and happiness . I think of leaving him to sleep on . Wilf has other ideas . The very second the car keys are picked up from the hall table he's on his feet . A touch of rain won't stop a PON from his illicit half croissant . He pauses for a minute or so to blow the cobwebs away ( we're not quite as quick on the uptake as we used to be ) and then the family fellows out of the door and waiting by the back of the car . Old PON's know : ' The spirit of adventure makes for happy lives '.

Monday, April 23, 2012

String vests .

It's still raining . The centre of town a hive of muted Monday morning activity . A small crowd of beret wearing tradesmen standing under the dripping arcades . Each of them noisily providing his own analysis of yesterdays election results . A phalanx of shoulder shrugs, arm waving and pouts . Textbook Gallic body language . Wilf settles down under a table for his half croissant. The plumber buys Angus a coffee. '' I'll be out to see you later this week " . Angus smiles . The waitress tells Wilf he's looking very handsome this morning . Wilf smacks his lips.

Local white asparagus in the greengrocers. The height of the season . Wilf waits at the shop door while Angus buys a kilo. '' Picked fresh this very morning " says the greengrocer . A lady in a bright red headscarve with a matching string shopping bag talks merrily away to Wilf .

Back to find the old farmer working on his motorhome. Angus waves and says ' Bonjour '. Our neighbour looks up . '' What's good about it ? If that lot get in I might as well go and live in North Korea " . Someones clearly not happy with the election results . Angus wonders how many North Koreans wear string vests. Wilf , unbothered by such things, heads off to christen the fire hydrant .

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Regrets and consolations .

The mayor is up bright and early . A busy day ahead . The first round of the Presidential elections . Two tables and four chairs in position by the front door of the town hall . The mayor looking very dapper in blazer , grey crimplene trousers and beige shoes . The red tartan pork pie hat adding just the right touch of informality . The mayors secretary , unsmiling and efficient , in a blue suit and black stockings. Overnight someone has drawn a moustache, horns and a tail on the poster for the far right candidate . The mayor wonders if he should paste up a replacement . Angus asks him if he has any glue . He doesn't . He doesn't have a new poster either . Decision making made easy .

For the great day Madame Mayor has made a large plate of honey croissants . These have pride of place on the first table. Honey in the dough , honey in the centre and a honey glaze . Heaven for those who like honey . Wilf falls very firmly into this category . He takes a piece from me, settles down on the floor and sighs . Being a gentleman he doesn't let on that he's already had half a croissant at the cafe under the arcades . He tucks in with relish . After much tongue licking the family fellow looks back at me as if to say " That was good . I'm hanging around for another eleven years ".

Old , blind , PON's know that life may have its regrets but it also has its consolations . Excitement over , Wilf heads home across the village green for a nap .

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Muddy puddles .

Textbook April weather . Wet and windy . During a gap in the rain Angus decides to head off , Wilf in tow , for an afternoon walk . '' Do you think it's wise ? " asks 'the font ' , looking at the ever darkening sky . " It'll be fine . We won't be gone long " comes the reply .

We make it to the end of the lane . The first wild orchids appearing in the hedgerows. It starts to rain . Then it starts to rain heavily . Finally the skies open . It pours . Power shower precipitation . The wind springs up , thunder rolls , the tree branches wave wildly. Wilf takes the downpour as a heaven sent opportunity to sniff every flower, christen every tree , and roll - languidly - in every malodorous smell . The more Angus wants to hurry, the more Wilf wants to slowdown and savour the joys of nature . The selective deafness of a dog that's in his element . He stands, head high , nose sniffing the air , immovable. Muddy puddles a ' must walk in ' source of delight . Old , ' let me get my nose deep down in the grass ' , smells , reinvigorated by the downpour.

Wet, happy, dog and less happy owner are soaked to the skin when they return . ' The font ' looks up with a smile and asks " Is it wet ? " . Some freshly made fish terrine , a towel dry, and the old fellows soon asleep in the warmth of the kitchen . A scene acted out around the world ten million times a day ? Dogs and their owners . Lifes ever optimistic weathermen .

Friday, April 20, 2012

The dustmen vote .

It's just getting light . Wilf and Angus head off to the bakers . The mayor is already in the village hall setting up tables and chairs for Sundays voting . '' Busy day coming " he shouts out . '' It's the Presidential elections ". He pauses and then repeats this , slowly, in case we might be unaware of it . Unable to think of anything else to say Angus replies ' Ah , Oui '.

The local dustmen are holding some form of union meeting at the cafe under the arcades. A sea of day-glo yellow jackets . Raised voices and arm waving . Very Gallic. They seem unperturbed by the arrival of a fluffy dog and its bobble hatted owner in their midst .The beer and absinthe crowd , relegated to the inside of the cafe , sit in glum silence. They are clearly unhappy with this change to their daily routine. Wilf still gets his half croissant and a hair tousle. The dustmen are still there, voting on something, when we leave .

A poster in the bar window. The locals have discovered that an American company has got the rights to explore for shale gas. An anti-fracking movement developing . Angus makes a mental note to find out where they plan to drill .

A walk with Wilf along the roman road. The old fellow ploughs ahead . Head high . Amazing how he's learnt to cope with blindness . Truth in that saying : ' All things are difficult before they are easy ' .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

8 metres in height .

Another day of chill winds and April showers . Apart from a trip to the bakers Wilf opts to spend most of his day in the kitchen where ' the font ' is making a blood orange cake .

Outside , Angus is planting a blue garden . There used to be a huge Ceanothus in the park facing Buckingham Palace . Thirty feet tall at least . An exotic mass of deepest blue amid the Royal Park Services tulips and daffodils. A haven for bees and butterflies. Four or five years ago it was cut down to the ground. We tried growing something similar in Scotland but the North Sea winds kept the poor thing permanently pruned to a lacklustre three or four feet .

There were two varieties of Ceanothus tree at the garden centre in Toulouse. One dark, the other light. The American Horticultural Society guide to plants say they both grow to 8 metres in height. We'll see.

Wilf wanders off to bed at ten . He sleeps all the way through to seven . The six weekly cycle finished , he's back in his really good place .

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Inexplicable communication .

The sun comes out. Wilf wanders through to where I'm working and sits, half expectantly, half patiently, at my side . There's something special about the eyes of a blind dog . Open and trusting . Devoted . The focus somewhere just beyond and behind you. I lean over and scratch his head . He lies down , drums his two front legs excitedly on the carpet, and lets out a high pitched '' let's go and play " bark. He's not done this since he was a puppy . I laugh . The carefree Indian Summer of a dogs life.

Satisfied he's got my attention , he trots out of the office . Leading the way. By the front door he stops. A place beside him on the cool doorstep. I join him there . For once I've read it right . Exactly what he wanted . He turns, reverses himself onto my left foot and presses his full weight against me . A PON's favoured , facing forward, on guard, flock behind him, position . He can't see but he can feel. Something elemental that speaks to the heart .That inexplicable communication between dog and human .