Sunday, February 28, 2010

Basking PON's

So, Scotland lost to Italy in the Six Nations Rugby. To Italy ! We now seem set to win the wooden spoon. Not even the accompanying bottle of Chateau Figeac could dull the pain . After the match an Italian friend phoned to say the Scottish team would always be welcome in Rome - a double edged comment if ever there was one.

While I was making strangulated noises of despair on the sofa upstairs Wilf and Digby were basking in the sunshine outside. Wilf managed to find an ancient starfish to while away the time during the first and second half. This toy is notable for keeping its 'squeak' for more than a year - quite a record when they usually last less than five minutes under the pressure of a Polish Lowlands chomping. Digby, being Digby was content to just bask.

Another simply beautiful sunny day with scudding clouds so out early with Digby for our gentle morning stroll. This has now settled into a fixed routine of barking at the church, sniffing the war memorial, and a protracted period of rolling around on the village green. While Digby and I sauntered distractedly around Wilf and 'the font' headed off at high speed in the opposite direction. Wilf has all the energy of the Italian front row while Digby is as gentle and laid back, some would say comatose, as the current Scottish line out.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The trimming begins.

It's going to be 20 degrees today on the beaches in Biarritz. While we're enjoying bright sunshine the north of the country is stealing itself for 120 kilometer winds and more snow. Weird. Another sign that the climate is changing even if its not necessarily getting warmer.

The Wahl clippers came out on Wilf and Digby yesterday afternoon. You wouldn't notice it from the photos but a half bucket load of hair came off each of them ( mostly from the undercarriage and the rear) . The process will be repeated next week and the week after until they start to look less shaggy. After the kicking and beating they received in last years robbery both boyz have become nervous at being left alone in unfamiliar surroundings. I took them to the local groomer but Wilf just trembled and cried ( most unlike him and something he's never done before ) when I tried to leave. After the traumas the two of them went through that night what's the point of making them more stressed? So self-grooming it is. Happiness is paramount and their hair will grow again .

Friday, February 26, 2010

Twenty to the dozen.

A gentle, soft breeze greeted us as we ventured off on the morning walk. For the first time this year there was no need for a warming jacket or jumper - shirt sleeve weather has at last arrived. The even better news is that Digby's sore hip definitely improves when the cold and damp of winter is replaced by the heat of the new season. He scampered along next to his big brother , little legs pumping away twenty to the dozen, for the first three hundred yards before electing to sit out the rest of the expedition.

Back at the house the tiler is doing something unspecified and unscheduled to the floor of the kitchen while the English joiner and his Irish mate are installing the cupboards in the dog room. Wilf and Digby will soon have a special storage area just for them where toys, grooming brushes, towels and the rest of the paraphenalia of dog life can be stored. This should bring an end to the mad morning rush of trying to find harnesses and leads that somehow manage to move and hide themselves overnight.

We're hoping that the weather will hold and that it will stay warm enough to have lunch and possibly dinner on the outside terrace. This years long extended winter is finally drawing to a close. The Wahl clippers beckon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Parallel parked.

Up bright and early to find Wilf and Digby parallel parked in the hallway - they'd fallen into a deep, deep sleep at around midnight and hadn't moved an inch overnight. The emotion of the family reunion had clearly taken its toll on them ! It also seems to have triggered Wilf's once every ten day stomach upset. Having refused breakfast he is now sitting at my feet, stomach gurgling loudly away, feeling very sorry for himself. When a PON feels sorry for himself everyone in the household knows.

London Fashion week was not the best time to go to see our lawyers in the UK. There could be no escaping the fact it was 'Fashion Week' because every hotel was full and the town was populated by young and not so young ladies (and gentlemen) dressed from head to toe in black. This uniform dress code meant that a visit to London was rather like attending a LA starlets funeral, but on a grander scale. Dinner with old friends at 'The Ivy' restaurant on Tuesday was a mistake. The Ivy is usually a safe choice, but complete bedlam when taken over by partying fashionistas - reserve is not a virtue much admired on the catwalk.

In the security line at Heathrow the gentleman ahead of me wore more 'bling' that one would have thought humanly possible. After divesting himself of his jacket, hat and canary yellow shoes the serious work began. First to be removed was the diamond studded belt, then what appeared to be a chain mail waist coat, two gold amulets from the left wrist and then three from the right,and most interestingly of all a thick gold appendage from around his left ankle. More mundane accessories such as a watch the size of Coney Island , a jewel encrusted mobile phone and a variety of rings that were bigger than anything in the crown jewels followed. Naturally,having held up the line for ten minutes he sailed through security while I was stopped for a 'random' search.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


London was cold and very, very wet. Altogether bone chillingly miserable. My brothers in Scotland tell me the weather has worsened in the north with the return of heavy , constant snow - a dreadful time to be farming. Braemar recorded temperatures of minus 19 earlier in the week - just imagine what it must have been like there with the wind chill ! More Montana than Aberdeenshire. Thankfully,here in the south west of France it's now a rather lovely 18 degrees (70 in old money) and altogether pleasant.

The flight back was only delayed by an hour due to the French air traffic controllers latest five day strike . This is the second closure of the air routes we've suffered in three months so they must be upset about something. Yesterdays flights faced a slew of cancellations so I'm rather relieved we were only held up for such a short time. Having landed on terra firma we now face the problem of gasoline shortages due to the national strike of French oil refinery workers . In my absence 'the font' has been busy bustling around the lesser known filling stations of deepest 'France profonde' keeping the cars full of petrol.

Wilf and Digby are in fine form and are now in a deep, deep sleep after a wildly emotional reunion and much throwing and retrieving of tennis balls.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dog for adoption - A note to UK followers.

It was strangely quiet at breakfast this morning - a sure sign that Wilf and Digby were engaged in a nefarious adventure. A search of the house found them in one of the guest bedrooms with Digby jealously guarding a toy squirrel with his big brother looking on in mute impotence. The look on Wilfs face said it all : ' this simply ain't right'.

I'm off to London later today for two nights so much hectic rushing around to get everything ready. Considering I'm only taking one carry on bag it's amazing how much time it takes to ensure that everything is packed. It's even more amazing how much stuff I manage to leave behind in hotel rooms - mobile phone chargers and shirts being the usual victims of my absent mindedness.

A note to readers in the UK. If anyone wants to adopt a PON please let me know and I'll send you on the telephone number of the breeders in Derbyshire . They have had a 2 year old returned by his owners who were simply too aged to look after such an active dog .

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A gentle Sunday.

Wilf and Digby are in fine form. They spent their Saturday afternoon outside happily watching me plant bulbs and dig up dead shrubs. Every so often one of them would notice a squirrel and go chasing off after it but a combination of age and the warm afternoon sun meant their efforts were half hearted at best. The previous owners of the house were certainly not garden fanatics and there is a lot of work to be done just to stop the wilderness taking over entirely.

With the worst of winters snow and cold behind us the countryside around is coming to life. The first daffodils have shown their yellow faces in the woodland copses and the walnut and hazelnut trees are now in bud. In Italy we lived in the centre of olive groves, here in France its walnuts and hazelnuts that surround us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Heaven on earth.

Digby was undoubtedly the runt of the litter. He's much smaller than his brother, has respiratory problems, and is beginning to suffer from arthritis in his back legs. He bears his ailments with quiet dignity and never complains. Sometimes I manage to catch in his face a wistfulness that makes me smile - its as if dogs in their innocence can hear the reassuring songs of angels.

In readiness for the Easter rental season the local village supermarket has unveiled its 'international products' section. Oreo's, Carr's water biscuits, and that exotic anglo-saxon product , Heinz chicken soup , are all there for the foreigners when they arrive. Barbecue sauce and lemon curd complete the range of 'exotics' on offer.

Wilf is still enamoured with his stuffed sheep. It is heading to the washing machine today .

In the afternoon a 45 minute drive down to the airport hypermarket in Toulouse for champagne to replenish the ever dwindling supply in the cellar. Two hundred metre aisles of sparkling wine and champagne to chose from. HEAVEN.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Proof that the tongue has recovered.

Wilf has recovered the ability to lick his nose clean - final proof that any effects of his run in with the processionary caterpillars were short lived. He spent yesterday lounging in the sunshine , periodically checking on the workmen to see if they had dropped any jaffa cakes, and just generally enjoying himself. The toy sheep is still very much flavour of the day although it is rapidly becoming a very muddy and tattered looking plaything.

We entertained our French nuclear physicist neighbours for dinner last night. They are quite delightful but small talk is not their forte. At the end of three hours of weighty conversation, in French , I was physically drained but am at least an expert on Iranian production of Thorium. 'The font' seems to be making much better progress with the language so from time to time I was able to excuse myself from the dinner table and take the boyz for a walk or open another bottle of Meursault. For some uncharacteristic reason Wilf and Digby again decided to act like little angels. They trotted in to meet our guests, looked at them to see if they were carrying anything interesting like sausages, and then satisfied that this was a dull human night trotted out again.

Although the pine trees have been cut down we are still careful about where the boyz run and we keep a close look out for signs of caterpillars. We don't know what distance these long processions cover in their search for food. Do they march for yards or miles? The other question we can't get an answer to is what exactly is it that these things eat?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sheep + Dog = Sheepdog.

Another bright start to the day. Wilf and Digby were up at the crack of dawn waiting expectantly for the kitchen fitters and their jaffa cakes . The warm weather makes the pre-breakfast walk with the two boyz an absolute delight . This morning in addition to the usual flurry of robins and blue tits we found that we had woodpeckers, herons and some solitary darting peregrines as companions. The two cows in the field across the lane even had a pair of egrets picking away in their field - I wonder if they had just come from Africa or were on their way back? . Somehow Wilf managed to find one of the fat balls that we hang in the trees for the birds - it must have blown down overnight - by the time I found out what he was eating he had digested most of it. I dread to think what that will do for his strict low protein diet . We shall find out as the day passes on. For the time being he is oblivious to everything, his attention focused on a toy sheep and the possibility of a lengthy nap. His demeanour seems to say ' sheep, simple pleasures - can't beat them!'

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Overnight winter has morphed into summer and Wilf and Digby are on canine cloud nine. They can now relax outside in the sunshine all day. The weather , while pleasantly warm, isn't yet hot enough to be uncomfortable for those blessed with three inch thick fur coats. Little do they know it but a few more days of this and the Wahl clippers are coming out. The sun brings with it other problems, 'the font' is out checking the grounds to make sure that there aren't any residual processionary caterpillars left - the heat brings them out on forays for food.

Another delivery driver, another day. Although the gates are at least ten feet wide the driver couldn't manage to get his Peugeot through without becoming firmly stuck. His rear end was wedged up against a flower pot while the front was paint grazingly close to the gate piers. Wilf and Digby looked on with ill disguised disdain - you could almost see Digby thinking ' amateur'.

Madame Bay was here yesterday. She is delighted that the matresses for the new beds have arrived . She is less happy with the workmen who have caused layers of dust to settle everywhere. The kitchen joiners were told in no uncertain terms that the dust sheets on the doors were half hearted and sloppy - it wasn't their job to make extra work for her. Like lambs they stopped everything and tacked up new plastic sheeting over the kitchen doorways. The ground floor now looks rather like a movie set of an isolation ward .

The google gremlin is playing up again today. For some reason the blog is suffering from elephantitis. Hopefully, it will revert to normal tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


When we left Scotland on our journey south family and friends were convinced that we'd find no one to talk to and would quickly become hermits. Fine chance ! Yesterday was typical of how we now spend our happy retirement days and a lack of someone to talk to is not an issue. At the crack of dawn the long delayed range was finally delivered. It arrived , unannounced, on the back of the biggest truck in the universe . The driver, despite seven separate attempts, was unable to manoeuvre it into the driveway. He then parked the leviathan outside the gate, flashers blinking madly away, handily blocking the lane to passing traffic. Why is it shipping companies send out heavy loads with only one person to deliver them? Despite the vehicles enormous size it did not have a hydraulic lift and the thought of the driver and yours truly manhandling a dead weight to the ground without serious injury was risible. A spate of hasty phone calls and the kitchen fitters, joiner and builder all showed up to help unload the hefty device. It took eight people to shoulder it down from the back of the lorry and carry it into the kitchen where it now sits forlornly drapped in dust sheets.

In the afternoon the matresses for the new beds arrived. Madame Bay after the chaos of Christmas has for some time been worried that we might not use matresses in Scotland. Her relief when she sees them later today will be palpable. Even more surprisingly at six, just as I was considering opening a bottle of sanity restoring Pomerol, a truck with four Anduze pots turned up from the pottery. All the while the house is echoing to the sound of hammering, sawing and drilling. Some people say that you should live in a house for a year before touching it but experience has taught us if you don't do it in the first year you never will. Wilf and Digby spent the day in the garden contentedly observing all this activity. The range delivery man warranted a few barks but the others were greeted with uninterested silence . The kitchen fitters with their jaffa cakes are the only people the boyz are currently interested in.

Monday, February 15, 2010


The carnival was due to start at three o'clock on the dot so we arrived at three thirty secure in the knowledge that southern France , like Italy, runs on a clock that is at least half an hour slow . There was time for a leisurely glass of wine at the cafe in the square and then at four or thereabouts the gendarme blew his whistle and the procession ambled into life - what's an hour here or there ?. This is a France far removed from the sophistication of Paris or Bordeaux. Everyone was involved. Loic the gardener drove his grandfathers reconditioned tractor, the local nursery school four year olds dressed up as majorettes, the town 'lads' squirted each other with shaving foam, the Rugby team turned out as hirsute shepherdesses, the old folk from the retirement home sat waving on a slowly moving trailer , while various dogs and toddlers ambled unconcernedly about . Opinion was divided over whether the highlight of the day was the firemans impromptu break dance routine or the breakdown of the ancient tractor pulling the apple growers float. We haven't enjoyed ourselves so much and so simply in years - at one stage both of us had tears streaming down our faces as the 'Simpsons' float became intimately entangled with a magnolia tree after unsuccesfully trying to overtake the stalled 'Playboy' float on the corner by the church. Pure unadulterated , glorious , Gallic chaos ensued with much shrugging of shoulders and waving of hands, all undoubtedly helped along by copious amounts of local armagnac.

Wilf has now recovered fully from last weeks run in with the processionary caterpillars. The vet has given him a thorough check and there is no sign of tissue damage to the tongue. His only remaining issue is an embarassing redness and itchiness where he sat down on the poisonous little critters.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nobility - Max.

Some dogs manage to strike a chord in the human heart that turns them from mere companions into fully fledged family members. Vigilant, faithful, devoted, loyal and true. One of these dogs is a rather noble fellow in South Africa. He's noble not only in stature but noble in character and noble in sprit. Sadly, this very loved family fellow is far from well . So today by the power of the internet you will find that a number of blogs around the world are imagining what it would be like to have him come and visit their homes and families. The two boyz contribution to this first of a kind cyber tour is to make space for Max alongside them in the back of the car en route to the boulangerie to pick up the mornings croissants and baguette - no greater honour can be granted to a dog visiting France. A gift of love on a day of love and a reminder that in loving animals like Max we really show how a moral life should be lived.


Last weeks steroid injections have turned Wilf from being a food loving dog into an eating machine. I put a bowl of porridge down for him this morning and 'hey presto!' three seconds later it had gone, the bowl licked dish washer clean. It's as if the food is consumed by a process of osmosis. I couldn't consume a bowl of porridge in three seconds but for Wilf in his current pharamecutically enhanced state all things are possible. Digby by contrast gently grazes away at his food , savouring each mouthful , while carefully shielding his bowl from the hopeful gaze of his big brother.

Last night Wilf got a grooming - the first since the 'incident'. With his hair combed out and free of mud and burrs he seems to have increased in size and now looks ever more like a small polar bear than a dog. Post grooming he retired with a friend and fell into a deep, deep healing sleep.

Today marks the start of carnival season so tomorrow there will be photos of Loic, the gardener, driving his antique tractor at the head of the village parade. I have no idea what to expect.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Basking in the sun.

The sudden burst of cold weather is aggravating Digby's arthritis. While Wilf races off each morning in search of fresh adventures, Digby saunters slowly along , his rear legs no longer full of the energy and exuberance of youth. He can still chase squirrels but the effort quickly tires him out and he then has to retire to his bed for a lengthy period of recuperation. As a consequence the morning and afternoon walks with Digby have become slow, gentle, family affairs . It now takes twenty minutes to complete his favourite circuit , a trip across the village green to bark at the church, a quick detour to sniff the bandstand, and then home via the war memorial. The main thing is he's happy, gets spoken to a lot, and copes with the hip dyplasia in a stoic manner.

When the sun does come out the two boyz position themselves on the front door step , basking in its warming rays , semi-alert for any passing cats or visitors. We've noticed that there are longer and longer periods of afternoon silence - the uninterruptable post-lunch snooze of the ageing dog. There is something intensely comforting about the natural cycles of life.

Friday, February 12, 2010


No sooner had I pressed the 'post' button yesterday morning than the tree surgeons arrived. Despite frequent flurries of snow they were soon at work , shimying up trees, their power saws buzzing away like so many angry hornets. For the village the arrival of a fleet of large orange trucks and 'out of towners' was the most exciting thing to happen in many a year . A constant stream of neighbours, passers by, builders lads, gendarmes, pompiers and the generally curious walked into the garden to find out what was going on and offer unsolicited and unheeded advice. The mayor was there from early on, resplendent in a rather fetching blue felt pork pie hat, directing traffic and interposing himself as the chief 'coordinateur'. The poor man managed to hurt his right hand when setting up the Christmas creche and now , unable to shake hands, thrusts an elbow towards you in greeting. I found myself briefly touching the profered elbow much as a medieval leper might touch the robe of a passing monarch. Oh, the social pitfalls that await the unsuspecting foreigner.

The snow squalls got more frequent as the afternoon wore on. Undaunted by the low cloud and 'white outs' the men working at the top of the trees would engage in a lively chorus of 'Jingle Bells' whenever they lost sight of the ground. Hard working and humorous. As dusk fell the last of the wood had been loaded onto the back of the trucks and the offending pines, together with their loathsome cargo of processionary caterpillars, driven off to the incinerator. The mayor led the way into the house for a reviving aperitif. Wilf was told , in French, that he was indeed a very lucky boy.