Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wilfs Thursday morning PONder.

" Goals are dreams with deadlines ".


It's Wilfs 10th Birthday. So far today he has bumped in to Kelly, quite literally, on his morning walk and had croissant crumbs drizzled luxuriantly into his mouth at the cafe. Later he will be taken in the car for a paddle in the stream before returning home for a celebratory fish pie lunch. There will of course be coconut ice cream. His attitude towards turning ten ? " A diamond is a piece of coal that stuck to the job ".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The greatest comfort.

Open the shutters to see great billows of rain blowing in from the Bay of Biscay. Ocean rain. Grey and chill. It comes just in time to save the acanthus and most of the roses but not the lavender. From the chorus of croaks and quacks that greeted us it was difficult to say whether the frogs or the ducks were enjoying it more.

Trip to the fire hydrant completed, Wilf took the executive decision that this was a day to be spent in the kitchen. He communicated this to us by lying in the middle of the floor, by the ancient cooker, and ignoring all requests to move. A day for making La blanquette de lotte au safran de Juliette and crumble mangue, ananas et gingembre. He showed particular, lip smacking , interest in the quiche poireau-stilton. If the rolling tongue is anything to go by Stilton ranks way up there with coconut ice cream as Gods greatest gift to canine kind.

Three weeks on and he's still learning to cope with total blindness. Sometimes, after lunch, when he wakes from a deep, rabbit chasing, sleep and finds himself still in pitch darkness, he'll cry out. A trying to hide his fear ' where are you, come and get me' type of bawl - half bark, half howl. Sometimes his antics are amusing - a gentle game of dodgems with the furniture or a stubborn unwillingness to accept that a door isn't where he thinks it is. No wonder he's known as wilful Wilf. At other times it's sadder. A large white paw gently waving in mid-air, testing for obstacles in front of him. Coming for treats held in your hand - and missing. An uncharacteristic, startled, shying away from sudden, unfamiliar, noises. Through it all we maintain a constant banter of encouragement, praise, and reassurance. In the dark the greatest comfort is the friendly, familiar sound that says you're not alone. There's someone beside you . That's a simple, universal, wish shared by all sentient beings - human or otherwise.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Of course you did.

Loic, the bifocaled gardener, arrives at the front door waving a monkey wrench. The irrigation systems not working. Loic talks in a rapid, impenetrable, mixture of highly accented French and Occitan so it takes me a little time to work out why he's so animated. We try the pump, which Loic for good effect hits three times with the monkey wrench. Followed round the garden by Wilf we then check for leaks, faulty connections, or non-functioning timers. Everything in perfect order. Finally, we check the well. Quite, quite dry. Due to the lack of rain the local farmers have started to irrigate the fields drawing the water table down and leaving us without water for the garden. The new lavenders and roses desperately in need of a downpour. Loic taps his nose and imparts the secret knowledge that " we shall suffer a terrible heatwave this year ". That's cheerful.

The clocks went forward an hour last night. Wilf thought about sleeping in but after feigned indifference opted to follow me on an early morning saunter down to the stream . The ramsons are in full bloom, carpeting the lane white and filling the air with their thick garlic scent. I laugh at the sight of five young fox cubs, fresh from their earth, zestfully exploring the world outside for the first time. They're oblivious to our presence, tumbling over each other in mock fight . Their watchful mother peering from the shadow of the hawthorns , catches our scent, barks at us and they disappear back to safety. Delight in life. The joy of springtime. Wilf nestles into me as if to say " I knew they were there ". ' Of course you did ' , I reply, tickling him behind the ears. The sweet uplifting optimism of an old, blind dog.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Airing what needs to be aired.

The postal system continues to intrigue. A solitary copy of The New York Review of Books was delivered at some time around five o'clock yesterday afternoon. Our first delivery in a week. The strange thing is that it comes at a time of day when the local post office is well and truly shuttered and all the staff long gone. We're left wondering who delivered it and where all the rest of the post could have got to ?

Wilf spent much of his day sunbathing on the terrace. Perfect basking weather. Clear skies but just a hint of a breeze. A good day for getting on your back and airing those parts that need to be aired. The old fellow even manages a quick trip in the car down to the stream for a paddle and a drink. The journey back, all of a hundred metres, too long and confusing for him . ' The font ' despatched to bring the car down to the water side . While waiting for his chauffeur service he lies patiently in the cool grass, listening to the chatter of the water and the rustling of the willows. He's happy. ' Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience '

Friday, March 25, 2011

Slowing down.

Wilf started off gamely enough towards Kelly's house but after fifty yards decided he'd had enough. Time for a precarious, back scratching, roll on the grass by the drainage ditch and then a beeline for home and a doze. A definite slowing down these last three days.

To the garden centre for some lemon trees for the terrace and some box for the planters by the front door. While I chose and paid for the plants Wilf went off to investigate the olive and peach trees. Thankfully, no one seemed to notice him quickly sprinkling the roots with Eau de Wilf. His attitude to gardening : " If dandelions were hard to grow, they'd be most welcome on any lawn ".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cafe, croissant and car park = contentment.

We've had no postal delivery since last Friday. The trainee postman must either be down with the flu or on strike. No one at the Post Office seems to have an answer. Surprisingly, the villagers don't seem to be in the least bit bothered by the lack of mail. " It's a holiday from paying bills " trills Kelly's owner from the shade of her vegetable patch; Kelly, the hover dog bouncing tirelessly around her.

The decorator who was hired to paint the shutters has been fired. " But why Monsieur ? I was going to start on Monday ". The fact he was supposed to start, and finish, last September didn't seem to register with him. A huffy " You'll hear from my lawyer ". An equally huffy ' I look forward to it ! '. The new painter starts next month.

Time to stock up with wine ahead of the Easter holidays. Off with the family fellow to the hyper-market . Purchases loaded into the back of the car, Wilf joins me at the cafe for a bowl of water and the curly ends from my croissant. He exudes his best ' Do you know they're serving magret de canard for lunch ? ' look. Afterwards a slow, tyre christening, walk back across the car park. Pure boy dog contentment.

On the way home a quick detour down by the stream. These days he prefers to go to places he knows. The simple joy of warm grass and a satisfying paddle in the stream. Overnight, new growths on his head. Not pretty but probably not worth bothering about. His 10th birthday on the 30th almost within reach. Just another day in France Profonde with an old friend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A wise investment

Absolutely beautiful weather . Comfortable, basking on the doorstep, days for Wilf. The exotically named ' gut mud ' already working and the diabetes, which seemed to flare up for no apparent reason, coming back under control.

Yesterday , the family fellow joined me for a leisurely amble through the neighbouring famers apple orchards down to the stream. Walks with an old blind dog are gentle affairs. He'd stroll ten or so yards through the long grass then settle down, sniffing the air , happily listening to the sounds around him. After three or four minutes he'd set off again for another nose down, ten yard, saunter. For me a well invested mano a mano hour . For him a great , independent, canine adventure. " The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone ".

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Something strange

Another interrupted night. Into town as the sun was rising. We arrived at the bakers on the market square just as they were opening . It has to be said that there's one major benefit of being an early riser. You get to choose from a full selection of macaroons, cakes and other delights. We quickly loaded up with a fresh strawberry sponge and half a dozen breakfast croissants before heading off to the cafe for Wilfs bowl of water.

Madame Bay is supposed to come ' to do ' for us on a Tuesday morning. Of course she never does. Thursdays or Saturdays seem to be her favoured , unannounced, work days. So, it was with some surprise that we returned home to find all the windows open, the duvets airing and the house throbbing to the sound of that Abba classic ' Dancing Queen ' playing at full pelt on Radio Nostalgie.

Our saintly septaguenarian is now wearing her summer outfits. Out with practicality and in with acres of chiffon and what Edinburgh ladies would describe as ' cheery ' colours. Todays haute coiture creation is a green and white striped dress / housecoat with what appears to be a red dressing gown cord as a belt. The tout ensemble crowned with her lime green turban and matching chiffon scarf. The sight of this rainbow of delight dancing along the hall, pulling the hoover cable , while lustily singing ' Danzing Kween, Seventeen, Aberdeen ' is reassurance that all is well with the world.

Wilfs attitude to all this activity ? " If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day ".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cheerful wholesomeness.

Ever since we started blogging all the photos have been taken with a mobile phone camera. A useful discipline to keep things current. This morning we've switched over to using an iPhone. The hapless Sony Ericsson sent to that drawer in the kitchen where all unloved household gadgets finally end up. We're still getting to grips with using the new i-lens. Tomorow will, hopefully, be more in focus.

A bad night for Wilf. Lots of pit stops and heavy drinking. The insulin and diabetes simply not working together. With sleep impossible we're up early and in town at first light. Parking spaces to be had and the cafe quite empty. At the bar three, serious, pre-seven am imbibers. Wilf settles down under the table , nose protruding, while I collect a coffee and a bowl of water. From reading the local paper you'd believe that France alone is acting in Libya. No mention of the coalition until a solitary paragraph on page three.

The supermarket has had one of its startling nocturnal makeovers. Its turned into an Easter grotto. Aisles of Easter bunnies and tulips. Rows and rows of grinning chocolate rabbits exuding a cheerful wholesomeness. Spring is well and truly here.

A quick detour down to the stream for Wilfs quick pre-breakfast paddle and drink. When we get home the nice young vet is there talking to 'the font'. She's been worried about his blood loss and wanted to drop off a new product that coats lesions in the stomach and intestines. ' It's like gut mud ' she says unexpectedly, in English, as way of explanation . A reminder of just how kind and thoughtful people can be.

If things don't improve by mid-week Wilf may go in for a blood test . Then we'll know about his kidneys. Every dog knows that ' three things cannot be long hidden : the sun, the moon, and the truth ' .

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A jaunty spring in his step.

Out into the garden last night to see the ' special moon ' . Supposedly, 14% larger than normal and the closest its been to earth in 20 years. Perhaps it was too much, or too little, champagne but to me it looked exactly the same as it always does.

Wilf trotted out behind us with a chew in his mouth wondering , as dogs do, what in heavens name we were up to . Between the moonlight and the unseasonal glow from the old farmers Christmas star the garden looked surprisingly festive.

' The font ' drove into town to find out about yesterdays blood loss. Thankfully, it was one of the two marvellous doctors on duty and not the prim Parisienne. The vet patiently explained that its either the stomach or the kidneys. Neither development unexpected after five months. If it continues , or if we think he's in any pain, we should bring him in. Meantime a new course of Cortisone tablets.

Wilf remains completely oblivious to our concerns. His appetites robust, the thought of Kelly puts a jaunty spring in his step and he's become pretty adept at playing touch rugby by using just scent and hearing. Whatever happens dogs have an attitude that seems to say " You may live longer than I do, but I will live more ".

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Every day is a good day.

That most French of all institutions. The barbers. Three stern faced old farmers sitting on fraying wicker chairs by the far wall. All of them in blue cotton smocks and wearing berets. A local version of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Another old farmer slumped in a sun faded, once red, leather armchair by the cash till . Two others with their walking sticks, in the dark corner, between the sickly rubber plant and the store room door.

Wilf follows me in. I'm shown straight to the barbers chair. That rarity. A paying customer. While I explain that I don't want my hair cut ' too short ' the family fellow carefully sniffs boots and sabots. Odour of working farmyard. Satisfied that these are 'dog' people he settles down by the table covered in old copies of Paris Match and a battered car magazine promising highlights of the 2009 Geneva motorshow. He gets tickled behind his ears. Uninterrupted by our arrival, the patriarchal conversation ebbs and flows around him. The price of wheat, the new mechanic at the Renault garage, the President, the two 'mad' old women who own the restaurant that doesn't open for lunch or dinner. From time to time Wilfs brow furrows as he listens to what's being said. This is a dog that enjoys company.

On our way home a walk by the stream. He passed a lot of half dried blood earlier this morning . 'The font' alarmed the tumours spread to the stomach. A paddle in the stream some insulation against the uncertainties of life. The everyday annoyances of age and sickness fail to dent his happiness. Who knew innocence could be so engaging ? Every day for him is a good day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

That secret canine attitude.

Stopped at airport security on both the outward and return legs of the journey.
Wearing a suit and having blue eyes clearly the perfect terrorist profile. I ask the young man at Heathrow why I've been chosen for ' enhanced screening '. He looks at me suspiciously before answering ' just random mate '.

The Welsh under-20's rugby team stream onto the flight to Toulouse. Within ten seconds of the seat belt sign being turned off two likely lads are at the front galley talking to the stewardesses. " Hello love. Any lagers around ? We're parched back here ". They are firmly told to wait and despatched, crestfallen and thirsty, back to their seats. The irrepresible optimism of the young male of the species is a wonder to behold.

The British Airways flight lands just as two 737's from Algeria are disembarking . The resulting queue at immigration , interminable. By the time I make it into the arrivals hall Wilf and 'the font' have moved off to the airport bistro for a fruit smoothie and a bowl of water. Wilf is torn between delight at seeing me and the lip smacking smell emanating from the bowl of bouillabaisse at the next table. He deals with this quandry by flipping onto his back. This way he can have his chin tickled while continuing to savour the enticing odours. That secret canine attitude " There are many things in life that will catch your eye but only a few will catch your heart ". He is finally torn away for a leisurely, tyre christening , walk across the car park. A content boy.