Saturday, December 31, 2011

What fish fingers are made of .

The rickety old farmhouse alive to the sound of kilts and sporrans being readied for the Hogmanay festivities . Angus's sporran proves particularly difficult to find . Put away last year in one of those places where ' you'll be sure to find it '. This , after much searching , turns out to be the same inaccessible place where the ' lost ' 2010 Christmas lights were hidden .

The restaurant at the Toulouse Rugby Club offers a pre-match menu that is unmistakeably French . Across the channel you'd be lucky to get a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich at a rugby ground . The Fish of the Day - Lieu Jaune. This, ' the font of all knowledge ' informs us is Pollock. It seems that most fishfingers are made of Pollock these days .

The brasserie full of locals, long suffering wives , boisterous children and dogs . The sensible French attitude to family dogs - ' Where we go , they go '. Wilf nestles under the table happy to be at the centre of his flock and hopeful that some Lieu Jaune will come his way . It does. Some plain boiled rice as well.

And so to the end of 2011 and into the excitement of the New Year. To all of you who've followed Wilf on his journey I wish the same thing I wish for family and friends : May this be a year without fear . Or to put it another way - '' May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions " .

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kelly , the hover dog .

Another good night for Wilf followed by an early start to the day. '' The font " and family head off at the crack of dawn to see granny font. Getting them out of the house in time to catch the first flight of the morning a process not dissimilar to herding cats .

Our walk to the fire hydrant a little later than usual . Wilf has just turned for home when the old widow, blue house coat unbuttoned , runs out of her front door . '' M'Ongoose ! Come Quickly ! ". Kelly was restless and off form last night and this morning she can't be roused . The elderly neighbour buries her head in my chest. If you had ever doubted the bond between human and dog then look no further than these unselfconcious tears. I guide her back in from the lane hoping that she's wrong and that Kelly is merely asleep.

Back before lunch with a spade. The old widow wants Kelly's final resting place to be outside the kitchen window - ' where I can see her '. We settle on a spot in the gentle shade of a walnut tree. There , buttoned up Calvinist and tearful ninety year old say farewell. The sun bursts through the clouds. There's a natural justice in that. Natures tribute to the little things. Afterwards we have a glass of wine . A vin d'honneur. Another faithful dog asleep on the ridge overlooking the valley. Another day in a village in France Profonde.

Wilf gets an extra hair tousle before bed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The pork pie hat .

Lunchtime . The mayor shows up at the front door . It's chilly today so he's wearing his pork pie hat . It seems our Member of Parliament is coming to the village tomorrow to talk about restoring the frescoes in the church . Would it be possible to hold the meeting in the dining room of the rickety old farmhouse ? '' Perhaps a glass of champagne ? " thrown in sotto voce at the end .

Safety instructions on the side of a Royal Horticultural Society scented candle. Don't put a naked flame near curtains , keep away fom children and animals , be careful if you're reading a book . The other safety instructions leave Angus completely bamboozled . Health and safety run rampant .

Wilf continues to be in a good place . He sleeps a lot but his appetite is robust . The colder weather brings on his arthritis but nothing will stop him from joining us on a family walk . Sometimes at night he wanders away from his bed at the front door and finds himself lost in the dark. The household woken up by a ' I'm here. Where are you ? ' panic bark . Strong hands and soothing words soon have him back to sleep again . Touch , so, so important to a blind dog . Wilf , proof that ' life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth ' .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The old proverb .

Wilf spends most of his day sunbathing on the front doorstep . He rouses himself for a quick break of day trip into town for croissants and a hair tousle by the waitress . Later there's a mid-morning saunter to the fire hydrant and a late afternoon stroll along the old roman road . In between times he sleeps . He does however appear , unbidden and cheerful , at lunch and dinner . He also rouses himself to bark when the womens cooperative drop off a dining chair they forgot to return yesterday .

In the evening ' the font ' boils up the turkey carcass to make bouillon for New Years Eve Tortellini in brodo . Wilf sits in the kitchen staring, enraptured, at the stove and the simmering pot . A study in hope . He gets to taste some of the broth . PON's are great exponents of the old proverb - "The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth ".

Such are the happy routines of life with an old friend .

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The implausible statement .

The village gently eases back into its post-Christmas routine . Eleven in the morning . Amid a crashing of gears the old farmer returns from visiting his daughter in Bordeaux. He's driven there in the ancient motor home with non-matching chintz curtains . " Nothing beats it for comfort " he says . Angus decides not to comment on the implausibility of this statement.

Four in the afternoon .The old widow appears at the gate in flood of tears. Kelly the hover dog has gone missing . ' The font ' makes a cup of tea while search parties head off in search of Kelly . An hour and a quarter later she's found waiting patiently at her mistresses front door . A quizical ' where have you been ? ' look on her face. The old widow celebrates by having another mince pie .

Just as the champagne is about to be opened the white van from the womens cooperative turns into the drive . The last of the re-upholstered cushion covers for the dining chairs are delivered. They were supposed to be here for Christmas but ' at least you'll have them for the New Year ' says Aude's shaven headed friend cheerfully. Gascon timing.

Wilf follows all of this activity with great interest . PON as family guardian . Old sheepdogs know that ' patience and time do more than strength or passion '.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas sunshine .

Out for a long walk in the warm Christmas sunshine . The weather forecast says the maximum temperature will be a chilly seven degrees but come late morning we've discarded our jumpers and are strolling along in shirt sleeves . Wilf sauntering , nose down , through the grass verges by our side. Nothing will hurry him . The old fellow unaware of the timetable imposed by ' the fonts' organizational chart . Finally amid much laughter he's lifted , muddy pawed , into the back of the car and driven home .

Present opening time . At the pop of the champagne cork Wilf bounds up the stairs . Family sheepdog front and centre . Each parcel carefully examined by a large black nose. Wilf lives in hope that one of these packages will contain a string of freshly cooked sausages . This old boy knows how to be happy . Party animal Wilf. For one family in France their very own , small, white , canine Christmas miracle . Unexpected gifts are the best .

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Keeping watch .

Christmas morning . Turkey in the oven. Coffee brewing noisily on the stove . Croissants on the table . The first sounds of family stirring . Down by the front door an old sheepdog snores gently away . The special contentment of knowing that while the world slept , he kept watch .

A very merry Christmas to one and all from deepest France Profonde. .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wilfs seasonal PONder .

Off into town for a special order of breakfast croissants . On the way back a quick side trip to the bar . A chorus of Bonjour Wilfees . One thing old PON's know for sure . '' There are no strangers on Christmas Eve '' .

Friday, December 23, 2011

White feather glamour.

Christmas. Great time for the French airport security screeners to go on strike. They want more money because they have to deal with 'difficult and irate passengers '. Angus can't help but think that the passengers are likely to be even more difficult and irate when they discover their holiday flights have just been cancelled. Thankfully, the British Airways inbound flights into Toulouse from London are merely delayed.

Wilf is in fine fettle. A long lunchtime walk to the end of the village and then all the way back again . Canine tour guide in chief for his reunited flock. In the evening he plays touch rugby . The first time in nearly a year . A sedate affair of throwing the ball gently so it lands between his paws. Memories of racing down the hallway and rug surfing manfully across the floor tiles . After ten minutes he falls deeply and happily asleep. Miniature rugby ball propped firmly under his chin. Puppyhood revisited. His tail carries on wagging .

This morning out for an early walk along the lane . One of the friendly cows wanders over to see the family fellow . Wilf remains gloriously indifferent to her presence . In the bar under the arcades a chic Christmas touch . White feathers sellotaped onto the black lampshades above the bar . How stylish is that ? Big city dwellers eat your hearts out .

While the beer and absinthe crowd are busy with their Lotto scratch cards Wilf gets his illicit half croissant . He beams at the waitress . A very happy almost Christmas time in deepest France Profonde .

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Austerity chic .

Grey, wet , and drizzly . Real Scottish weather - but warmer . Wilf , the master artisan , sensibly spends much of his morning in the kitchen . The Christmas Gravlax given a lip smacking score of 11 / 10 by our canine gourmet. The lunchtime Magret de canard caramelise also given a score of 11/10.

In fact Wilf seems to have an 11/10 level of enthusiasm for everything that's being prepared . A small sliver of short crust pastry from a mince pie scores 12/10 and elicits a 'Christmas must have come early ' sigh of contentment. He yawns and opts for a doze . By the time he wakes up the sun has broken through the clouds .

Outside the mayors secretary decorates the box hedge around the war memorial with Christmas baubles. Austerity chic . After the street lights and the bus stop there clearly wasn't much money left in the village budget .

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A special night.

Early evening . Off in the car to the little market town . While ' the font ' and Wilf go in search of the fishmonger Angus heads off to the relative warmth of the church. It's a special night . Carols for the old folks from the maison de retraite . The music provided by a 'semi-professional ' ensemble from Barcelona.

The first number a rap version of ' Il est ne le divin enfant ' performed by four young gentlemen with shaved heads . A young lady in a cocktail dress then sings Ave Maria . She is accompanied, on the xylophone , by two of the shaven headed youths. They have changed into purple dinner jackets . Angus , unconsciously, finds himself holding on tightly to the side of his chair as the soloist slides haltingly towards the high notes .

After that there was what might well have been the Carol of the Birds. The two purple jacketed young xylophonists joined by a woman with a concertina and a gentleman with a mouth organ. They grin at the audience throughout in a '' you will enjoy yourselves '' type way. The old folks look on bemusedly. As well they might .

Time for Angus to head off to the cafe for an early evening pick me up . '' The font " asks what the singing was like . ' Enthusiastic ' I reply .
What the old folks thought of it all is a mystery but Wilf would have thoroughly enjoyed himself. He might even have joined in .

Wilf spends much of his day in a downstairs corridor leading to two guest bedrooms. Does he know something is about to happen ?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Batallions .

Another shutter rattling storm raging in the Bay of Biscay . Winters howling batallions barreling towards us from the Nantucket Shoals . One gale immediately followed by another . Boston to Bordeaux in 72 hours picking up rain all the way .

Wilf is curled up in his bed at the front door whistling gently as he sleeps. The poster boy for old dog contentment. I think he's going to stay in bed but by the time I've picked up the car keys he's standing waiting to go out . That canine enthusiasm for getting the day started . I think of the cold wind outside. He thinks of fresh scents , new adventures and lamp posts that need christening. He may also be thinking of his illicit, now routine, half croissant .

The supermarket has set up a new display in the atrium . A mechanical Santa and a trio of grinning mechanical bears happily twisting and turning to the sound of Celine Dions Christmas hits . Quite manic.

On our way back home , Oliver, the old widows dog looks up hopefully from his spot by the front doorstep. No doubting what he's hoping for this Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

3 cribs. 1300 posts.

A village ritual .The mayor, his wife, and three ladies from the Beautiful Byeways committee spend Sunday morning setting up the nativity scene in the village church . They then lock the doors and go. The church will now remain silent, unvisited and firmly closed until January 6th . Then the crib will be dismantled and put away for the coming year. Angus thinks this is decidedly spooky . Stepford Wives meets France Profonde. '' The font " thinks setting up a crib in an empty church is no odder than having a cleaning lady who regularly sees aliens in her orchard.

We set up our own crib on the half landing . This crib , long term readers may remember, profers an unusual take on the Christmas story . All the usual characters are there . Shepherds, wise men, baby Jesus , scary angels etc. However Joseph is absent . He's been written out of our version to be replaced by a stern looking older lady with folded arms .

The supermarket also has a crib. In fact it has two. One in the car park and another inside the atrium. The car park crib is graced by a slightly tippled Father Christmas who spends much of his morning trying to entice single, female shoppers into his horse drawn sleigh. Occasionally, some innocent succumbs and off they go clip clopping across the parking lot, sleigh bells jingling, the horses artificial antlers waving in the wind . '' Has Father Christmas got a present for you ! " followed by shrieks of laughter.

Vaclav Havel the former Czech President dies. We met him in Prague in the '80's. The same time we bought the crib . A brave determined man who lived by the motto " Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes ".

Our 1300th dog post this morning . Who would have believed it ? Maybe it is a season for miracles .