Saturday, July 31, 2010

THE great weekend arrives.

Yesterday, Wilf lay listlessly on the floor amid the paint pots listening to Aude holding forth on life. His once every ten days post-pancreatitis stomach upset had laid him low. I wish we could find out what we could do to stop the pain. Thankfully, after six hours of discomfort he returns to normal and this morning is once again in tip top form. On our morning walk an intermingled gaggle of pheasant and quail chicks with their parents meandered across the road in front of us. Anything small and fluttery would have brought out the demon in Digby but Wilf just stood, looked, and then got on with his sniffing. He is a happy dog.
A late night walk with Wilf and 'the font' was interrupted by the deputy mayoress emerging , wraith like , from under the chestnut tree on the village green and holding out two glasses of punch. A celebratory moment to honour the firing up of the kiln. Fifty yards further down the lane all the villagers were to be found clustered around the brick monster which was belching out flames and smoke to a quite alarming degree. The heat from the chimney had blown the tiles off the roof and a plume of cinders and ash was gushing heavenwards. Wilf looked at the dantesque sight and nestled in a little closer to my knee. 'It's up to eighteen hundred degrees !' the deputy mayoress gushed as if this was something to be proud of. Not that 'the font' and I cared. The hastily gulped down combination of vodka, armagnac, rose wine and orange juice had led to a sudden and inexplicable loss of feeling in our lower jaws. As we walked home we agreed that the best that could be said about the punch was that the taste was memorable and that orange juice and wine were added to the vodka and armagnac in infinitesimally small quantities.
The village is looking very spruce in readiness for the celebrations. The mayor has wound up the church clock which is back to chiming eleven, on the hour, every hour, twice. The tarmac in front of the mairie is spotless, and freshly laid and raked gravel leads down towards the kiln. The second night of the art show passed without incident although our American house guests have been harangued into being photographed by the local paper ( you could not make it up) as a sign of the international communities interest in the pottery kiln. Closer to home the immovable object (Cost centre 3) and the irresistible force ( the font ) are still disagreeing over whether being a greeter at A&F is suitable summer employment. It was not wise to have said 'I'll only be showing my abs' - the effect at the breakfast table was vaguely akin to the arrival of a new ice age. 'And what else might you be showing ? ' the frosty response.  Roll on the start of the new semester then we might all get some peace. Wilfs view is that this one is beyond my diplomatic skills and our time would be much better spent buying sausages.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's going on here then ?

Out of the front gate with Wilf in the early morning to be met by the sight of four large orange trucks parked by the village green. It would seem that the mayor has called in a few favours and the village is having a quick spruce up ahead of the firing up of the reconstructed pottery kiln and the arrival of the expected crowds. As Wilf carefully christened each truck tyre we could see that the holes in the tarmac on the square are being filled in and the track to the kiln covered with fresh gravel. There hasn't been such excitement , or activity, here since the liberation.

Last nights pre-kindling of the kiln events were as dramatic as might have been expected. While 'the font' and yours truly went to a catatonia inducing lecture on the development of pottery in the village ( thankfully enlivened by copious glasses of a cheeky local red) the mongeese were off in the church hall dealing with the physique attentive ladies of the arts club. Over dinner 'the font' , the American houseguests and I were introduced to the colloquial use of the word 'cougar'. What one learns as one gets older.

After breakfast twenty minutes spent looking into the hole where the pool house used to be. The termites have done a good job of munching their way through the roof beams . Satisfied that pump and filters were working properly, Wilf joined me for a quick trip into town to buy chemicals for the pool. A stop off at the local bar for a bowl of water and a cup of coffee. By the time we got there the outside tables had been taken by holidaying Germans so inside it had to be. Wilf wasn't bothered - the absinthe and beer drinkers still tousled his hair and said ' bonjour Vilfee.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The excitement mounts.

The quiet folk from Walla Walla were rather taken aback to be joined mid-breakfast by an ample figure in black bicycle shorts, a lilac fluffy angora jumper and a lime green coloured fabric turban. Yes, Madame Bay has returned, safe and well, from her trip to Croatia with Monsieur Bay and the retired septaguenarian gendarmes. For once there was little time for small talk. 'Could she borrow some baking trays ?' Saturday is the day for the firing up of the long delayed pottery kiln, large crowds are anticipated (why?), and Madame Bay is responsible for making pizzas. God spare us all from honey, anchovy, goats cheese and ground beef delights on a crunchy whole meal base.

Tonight, as part of the pre-firing up celebrations for the kiln, there is to be an exhibition by the art class in their atelier. Their atelier is otherwise known as the village hall. Long time readers of the blog will remember that the art class is populated by a number of French ladies with an eye for the male form. An invitation addressed to me had a hand written comment on the bottom saying ' You'll be most welcome'. Frightening stuff. The junior members of the family can deal with that one - good practice for those whose greatest aspiration in life is being a 'greeter' at A&F.

The perfect excuse for not joining these gallic harridans lies ten metres away on the other side of the village green. Oustric, convener of the beautiful highways committee and the villager responsible for the kiln, has invited us to a reception for a master potter from Perpignan. This gentleman is seemingly an expert on sixteenth century kiln technique and will be test firing the marvellous contraption on Friday ahead of its formal unveiling on Saturday. Riveting stuff. How the master potter will deal with the design flaw posed by the juxtaposition of the smoke from the chimney and the tiled roof covering remains to be seen.

Closer to home , Aude, our chain smoking, decaratrice with the bi-polar conversational habit is getting on swimmingly with Wilf. After a slow, somewhat suspicious start , Wilf has now come round to the view that she is talking to him. He settles down in his corner of the hallway and listens intently while she discusses the topics of the day - all day. He will not move apart from following her outside when she pops out for a quick roll your own . Most of the hallway now has an undercoat apart from a Wilf shaped area by the office door.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wilfs insights into family life.

Back from a night away in a very hot and humid London to be greeted by an extremely enthusiastic 'welcome home' lick from Wilf. As we went on our late evening meander across the village green a swarm of thirty or of forty darting bats, flitting which and every way,swept around us. Wilf was entirely oblivious to their presence even though they were within inches of his face. I really must have his eyesight tested. To see bats in family groups of three or four is quite usual but in numbers like this? 'The font' thinks that rather than be called a swarm or a flock they should be called a belfry of bats.

London is a place of statues. When you live there they are street furniture, omnipresent, taken for granted and quite invisible . However, walking along the Mall late on Monday afternoon I stopped in front of a rather anodyne statue of the Queen Mother - quite unspecatacular in it's faux flummery . Behind it , hidden by the steps leading up to Carlton Gardens is a bronze frieze showing the highlights of her life. The scene of her with two Corgis outside her home in Scotland and the stoic panel showing a blitz damaged London capture a much more intimate and personal side. Vivacity in bronze.

My route to dinner took me past the headquarters of the troubled oil giant BP. There were masses of press camped outside with their satellite dishes waiting to report back on the impending management changes. Something slightly illicit and thrilling about taking a photo of the unsuspecting paparazzi . A touch of their own medicine?

Sat outside with Wilf late into the night finishing off a rather attractive bottle of rose. The great imponderables of life. Why after spending a fortune on pre-med education would anyone view a job as a door opener at Abercrombie and Fitch as a 'thumping' summer vacation job? Wilf sighed and gave me a sage look that said everything you need to know about twenty year old male psychology - 'Chicks !'. He may well be right.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wilf's occasional 'Pon'derings.

'Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck' .

Hope over experience.

It's now tourist season. The shopkeepers mark the arrival of the free spending Dutch and Belgian cohorts by spilling out of their front doors and setting up their displays on the street outside. The alfresco stalls give the local market town a festive air but getting down the road in the car , let alone parking on it, becomes an obstacle course of tables, fruit stalls and art work.

Wilf remains the embodiment of hope. He was disappointed in the pristine eating habits of the Texans who left yesterday (not great crumb droppers) but is optimistic that the replacement folks from Walla Walla and Fort Collins will be more absent minded and slovenly. He just knows that out there are folks who keep a ready supply of warm sausages in their pockets, are up for ball throwing 24/7 and who share his appreciation of the delicate scent of cow pats. His strategic position under the breakfast table, ready to pounce on anything that tumbles his way, is a reminder that hope springs eternal.

PS : Well done to those of you who noted that yesterdays picture of the breakfast table was in a cafe. After a late night there was a mad dash for the airport and breakfast had to be squeezed in en route. Despite having to eat out Wilf still got the lip smackingly good ends of the croissants.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's next ?

Wilf is enjoying life. Having a house full of family and guests is pure, unallayed heaven for a Polish Lowland Sheepdog. So many people to herd , activities to oversee, and places to explore.

From breakfast through to dinner he thrives on the constant hope that something tasty and illicit will fall from the table and onto the floor in front of him - with the college dorm eating habits of the younger family members he knows that some croissant crumbs will eventually come his way. At night he goes rug surfing along the corridor. With plenty of willing playmates Wilfs attitude is ' Take what you can get - you can never, ever rug surf too much'. Happy, sweet, exhausted sheepdog sleep usually occurs around about midnight.

In the morning, batteries recharged, it's up bright and early for a morning walk past the church with me and then back under the breakfast table in readiness for the first croissant eaters. His transparent, joyful , guileless antics make me laugh all day, every day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Priscilla Queen of the Dessert.

Organizing a festival ? Run out of ideas ? Why not have a theme day? So far this week we've seen the garlic peeling contest, the competition for the best garlic soup recipe and the prize for the most beautifully decorated garlic strand . Yesterday was theme day - 'Portugal and its garlic recipes'. You couldn't make it up if you tried.

To kick the festivities off the organizers had imported a band, a group of folkloric Portugese dancers replete with castanets, and four brightly coloured ladies on stilts. By the time we arrived the stilted ladies were to be found perched on a shady step opposite the chocolate shop where they were eyeing up the eclairs. Not so much Priscilla Queen of the Desert more Priscilla Queen of the Dessert . Finally, half an hour after the published time, the band started up, the stilted ladies tottered to their feet and the dancers stormed through the garlic stalls swirling and castaneting away.

Wilf wisely stayed at home to keep Aude the decorator company. PON's , stilt dancers, castanets and bands are not a happy combination.

Friday, July 23, 2010

One happy dog.

While the household slept Wilf and yours truly went out in the cool morning air for a walk through the sunflower fields. You can tell immediately when Wilf is happy. He walks confidently ahead with a jaunty spring in his step savouring the scents from each stalk and stem. This morning he was clearly very happy.

Back in time for the frenzied chaos that is a family breakfast. As he settled on the floor the look on his face said ' this is the way it's meant to be'. Canine contentment.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The garlic fair continues.

Five and a half decades old. You go to bed one night aged twenty five and you wake up the next morning to discover that thirty years have rushed past in your sleep. Where does all the time go ? The font helpfully points out that an active old age beckons as it will take at least another fifty five years to get the rickety old farmhouse habitable. That's a cheery birthday thought . From the comments at the breakfast table it's clear that the younger members of the family consider fifty five to be the non-biblical equivalent of reaching the age of Methuselah.

While Wilf and I discussed the meaning of life and the elasticity of time over a coffee and a bowl of water, the house echoed to the sound of the roofer (replacing the slates) , the plasterer ( patching up the boot sized hole in the ceiling) , and the decorator ( an unexpected arrival ). The decorator is a chain smoking lady, barely five feet tall, who dresses in a white t-shirt and black cycling shorts. Her name is Aude. This causes great hilarity among the aforementioned younger members of the family who pronounce the name as 'odd'. 'Hi Odd'. 'How's it going Odd'. The names is perhaps not altogether misplaced as she holds lengthy conversations with herself while working away. Yesterday was a day for discussing who would be the next President ( apparently she does not like Monsieur Sarkozy), the relative merits of Farrow and Ball as opposed to supermarket own brand paint, and the various idiots that had lacquered the roof beams. This is a not a case of talking out loud but an altogether more worrying bi-polar ability to take both sides of an argument.

The garlic fair continues. After yesterdays attempt to break the world record for garlic peeling ( they didn't) today sees the award for the best decorated garlic strand. Can anyone out there in dogblogland can beat that for excitement ?

Just a quick mention of a heartwarming blog that manages to sum up that special link between dog and human, The last couple of posts show the highs and lows of that relationship. Yesterdays entry brought a happy smile to my face.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garlic, garlic and more garlic.

Off to the Cafe du Sport with Wilf and jet lagged Texan house guests for a morning coffee with the beer and absinthe set. Horror of horrors, despite it being only eight in the morning the place was simply inundated with people. It is the annual garlic festival and buyers from all over France have descended on our little patch of paradise to bid on the 2010 crop.

Opposite the cafe a stall selling tantalising garlic cured hams and sausages caught Wilfs attention. On our way back to the car he determinedly plonked himself down on the pavement directly in front of it. With his nose pointed straight at a large ham he was clearly hoping that we might take the hint and buy a kilo of something tangy. Sadly for him we didn't.

This afternoon sees an attempt to break the world record for the number of garlic cloves peeled . Who could resist going to see that ? As one of our American friends said ' Straight from Waco to wacky'. The look on Wilfs face seemed to say ' Wacky? You ain't seen nothing yet'.