Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reappearance of a different sort.

The artisinal baker has set up a stall under the arches in front of the cafe. In Scotland bread buying was a mundane experience. Here it's a journey into a wonderland of different shapes, sizes, textures and grains. The baker chats with Wilf and cuts off a tiny sliver of rye bread from the end of an enormous loaf that looks as if it could feed twenty. Wilf devours it there and then with lip smacking, unselfconcious, enjoyment. On the other side of the cafe a stall selling the freshest of new potatoes. Picked that morning. Home to find that the portly electrician had returned and was working away in the attic as if nothing had happened. Maybe displays of ' emotion ' are a particularly French thing. Neither the blue coated workmen or the chain smoking plumber seemed to be either surprised nor alarmed by his reappearance.

Reappearance of a different sort just before lunch . ' The font ' and yours truly were happily sequestered in the downstairs kitchen watching the wedding on the tiny television. I had just got a bottle of champagne out of the fridge in readiness to toast the young couple, when the bell rang. It was the mayor and two of the over sexed ladies from the Friday morning arts class in the Salle de Fetes. " Are you watching the wedding on television ?" . After eighteen months in our little village even Angus knows that this is French shorthand for ' can we come in and have a glass of champagne ? '. So it was that the royal couple were wished all the best by a group of French fifty something ladies ( another five of them had laid down their brushes and mysteriously appeared in the kitchen ) , the mayor of our little commune and his wife with the whistling hearing aid, two workmen in blue coats, a portly electrician and a plumber who , for once , was not smoking. Oh, not to forget the buxom young lady from DHL who amidst all this festivating delivered a parcel from Libertys. She stayed just long enough to wish everyone a ' bon mariage ', enjoy a slice of hastily warmed up quiche lorraine and do justice to a glass of Gosset Celebris Extra Brut . Wilf, who thrives on attention and dropped quiche, is hoping that this will become a daily occurence.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I was glad.

A humdinger of a row between the blue coated workmen and the overweight electrician. The blue coated workmen asked the electrician to redo some wiring in the attic . He said it was just fine the way it was . They said it wasn't. He asked them what they knew about wiring. They said enough to know when it's was botched . And so it escalated from there. After five minutes of ever louder shouting and ever more agitated arm waving the portly electrician left. Being French he didn't just go. He slammed the door of his red van, raced the engine, shouted something really rather impolite and then hurtled down the drive narrowly missing the gate piers and sending gravel scattering in every direction . ' The font ' looked at me and said " I suppose that means we'll have to find someone else to wire up the lights ".

A motor home has been parked on the village green for the last two nights. The owners get up around ten, set out a table and two chairs and sit down under a flowering tamarisk to enjoy breakfast. They then go through the same routine at lunch and dinner time. Last night they brought out a primus stove and fried liver in a large pan. An action which immediately attracted Wilfs attention and required a detour on our evening walk . They're still there this morning. How bizarre. The village might be pretty but would you really want to sit on a folding chair and look at it for three days ?.

In the absence of an electrician we shan't be watching the wedding on the wide screen television upstairs. Instead we shall be forced into following events on the small screen in the kitchen below. As the trumpets march up the stave and the choir readies itself to sing the words of the opening hymn , ' I was glad when they said unto me ', the champagne will be brought out of the fridge in readiness for a toast . Wilf will get half a croissant.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The mayor calls.

Wilf spends much of Wednesday in the upper hallway munching on Ryvitas. From here he can monitor the comings and goings of the blue coated builders, the overweight electrician, the chain smoking plumber and the mad French curtain woman. A combination of characters that would test anyones sanity to the limit. The mayor chooses this particularly inapposite moment to pop in , unannounced, for a chat about the church clock. As we climb the stairs to the drawing room ( only the best for monsieur le maire ) Wilf barks, the plumber swears, the electrician breaks a pane of glass and the mad French curtain woman decides to sing atonaly. Bedlam. Pure bedlam. It goes without saying that ' the font ' has gone off in the car leaving yours truly to deal with this cast of miscreants.

The good news is that the mayor has had an acceptable quote for repairing the church clock. The bad news is that he and the Floral Village committee want it replaced by a modern, electric, silent , definitely non-chiming system. The Beautiful Byeways committee are equally adamant that the old mechanical , chime thirteen times on the hour, every hour, twice, mechanism must be replaced. " Perhaps M'Ongoose you could come to the next town council meeting to give your advice ? ". I said that I would be delighted to do so if I wasn't travelling at the time . The reality is I'd prefer to stick my head in a gas oven than get involved in a dispute between these two mutually loathing groups of villagers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Logic if you can find it.

The workmen arrived at seven. Wilf just had time to bark at them in a suitably proprietorial manner before being loaded into the back of the car and driven into town. With the Easter vacationers gone the cheerful beer and absinthe crowd were back at their tables under the arches . A chorus of ' Bonjour Wilfees ' from them and the usual polite refusal of pre-breakfast beer offers by me. While Wilf nestled under the table with a bowl of water, yours truly went a bought strawberries and bread from the stalls in the marketplace. Off then to the vets to pick up another box of syringes for the old fellows insulin injections. A wonderful dog, half Alsatian, half Briard in the waiting room. The hastily snatched photo doesn't do justice to the beauty and happiness of her face. Back home to find Madame Bay leaving. " Far too dirty for me to clean. I'll come back when they've gone " snapped our saintly cleaning lady from under a layer of lime green chiffon. There must be some logic in that statement somewhere.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Simple pleasures.

Sunday night Wilf was up for a pit stop at one, three thirty and then five. Last night he slept through uninterruptedly until six. Same routine, same food, same everything. The secret of controlling diabetes in dogs remains elusive. This morning he's just happy to roll on his back on the grass by the war memorial. Simple pleasures.

Real south west weather. A young Belgian couple set up a picnic on the village green. Stunningly beautiful young mother, trendy father, a new born, and a three year old. No sooner is everything laid out than a thunderstorm breaks overhead. From clear skies to torrential downpour in under five minutes. Screaming children, distraught parents. Welcome to Tarn et Garonne. ' The font ' runs across the lane and invites them to come over and enjoy their picnic under the shelter of the terrace. He a lawyer in Brussels. She a doctor on maternity leave. They're on pilgrimage to Compostella to ' remind themselves that there's more to life than work '. No pretentiousness. No proselytizing. Nice folk. Exceptions to the rule that people who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them . After Digbys experience I'll always have a soft spot for pilgrims who wander past even if I don't understand them.

Formatting on blogger becoming more and more difficult. Gaps between photos and paragraphs set, then reset. Still they come out all over the place. It's been going on for two weeks now. This gremlin proving mighty difficult to shift.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday.

Easter Monday. A national holiday here in France. The only activity a dozen or so blackbirds grubbing under the oak trees and an old blind dog ambling slowly across the village green. Even the quarrelsome frogs have entered into the spirit of things and fallen silent. And what silence it is. In Britain or Italy you'd always catch the sound of a petrol engine buzzing away somewhere in the far distance , but here, nothing at all to disturb the measured calm.

It won't last. Yesterday two large tour busses arrived mid-morning to disgorge a hundred or so pilgrims from Munich. They get off here, walk the eight miles to the abbey church at Auvillar, have lunch in a Michelin star restaurant and are then whisked off in air-conditioned comfort towards another unsuspecting little village . By Tuesday night they'll have made it across the Pyrenees, along the northern coast of Spain and be within an hours walk of the great pilgrimage church at Compostella. It seems that another two bus loads of red cagouled wanderers are going to arrive here this morning. Pilgrimage the modern way.

Wilf continues with his own unhurried journey. He sleeps a lot, enjoys his three times daily ventures along the lane and positively relishes meal times. Thankfully, the anti-inflamatory injection coupled to the Atropine have reduced the swelling in the eye. No need , at this stage, for surgery. Sometimes he gets frustrated with his blindness, an inability to understand why doors aren't where they're supposed to be or why his water bowl has moved. Overall though he's happy. No pain, a lot of trust. Taking each day as it comes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

The croissants were still oven warm when we made it to the bakers. That wonderful, peculiarly French, smell of fresh bread filling the air and wafting out onto the street . Wilf sat patiently at the shop door , nose high, contentedly savouring the scents, while I went inside. This morning the bakers shelves were groaning with all sorts of festive goodies . The choice between the strawberry gateau and the iced apricot sponge proving to be a particularly difficult one to make. While yours truly pondered, the woman at the cash till went to the front door to feed half a warm croissant au beurre to Wilf . First the corner, then two slivers , then the crispy, curved piece from the top. A canine ' Easter doesn't get much better than this ' look on his face. The other customers , all little old ladies with mesh shopping bags, looked on and smiled. The cafe was busy with noisy out of towners, not the best environment for an old blind dog, so we moved quickly onto the newsagents for the morning paper before heading towards the greengrocers for some navel oranges. With Wilf trotting along beside there was just time to pop into the chocolatier for an Easter Egg before heading home. Easter Sunday in France. Still somehow special.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

' Where do you think you've been ? '.

Ever noticed that when the plane you're on is late, the one you're connecting with is on time ? So it is that we have the chance for a leisurely lunch in an unseasonably hot Paris. One of the great secrets of visiting France ; the best hotels do set lunches at outstandingly reasonable prices. In the cool of the American church we spot a prayer cushion in memory of the artist James McNeill Whistler. A copy of his picture of his mother delicately embroidered on the top. Then time enough for a wander past the shops on rue st.honore before a restorative glass of champagne in the Ritz. After the death of Diana it's probably become the most famous hotel facade in the world.

While I'm saying farewell to 'the gannets' Wilf frets. No less than four pit stops last night. One very tired ' font' dealing with those rampant blood sugar levels. When I get back from the airport he looks at me sternly. " Where do you think you've been ? ". Strange . While we worry about him, he worries about us. Guess that's what makes a family dog.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A good, Good Friday.

A normal working day in Europe. The builders arrive at seven with another load of roofing beams for the old attic. A cue for Wilf and yours truly to head off into town for a coffee and the morning croissants. Although it's early, parking proves to be difficult. Dutch, German, Belgian and British number plates filling the bays. Even the bar is busy. The absinthe drinkers forced inside while a gaggle of northern europeans preen themselves at the tables in the sun.

On the way back we have to slow right down to a snails pace to manouevre round Oliver , the old widows labrador. Today, he's moved from his usual position on the front door step and is dozing , unconcernedly, in the road. Ever since the old farmer died thirteen months ago he's sat outside , day in , day out, patiently waiting for his masters return. A dogs devotion . Untarnished, undoubting. As we pass the old fellow looks up hopefully to see if the car is going to stop. Seeing faith like that I can't help but smile and wish Oliver a ' good, Good Friday '.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New love interest.

Out with Wilf for our morning constitutional through the village and along the lane. Another sunny but windy day in this little corner of paradise. As we pass the gates of the chateau we're greeted by three high pitched barks and the sudden appearance of a furry, ginger and highly proprietorial dog. From the long line of large black Mercedes parked along the drive and spilling out onto the road I'm guessing that the German billionaires have arrived for the Easter holidays bringing their dog with them.

Old blind Wilf ploughs stolidly on quite unaware of the furry, ginger beast following him . He takes time to mark the chateau wall and push the wrought iron gates with his nose. This leisurely audacity drives the chateau dog insane. She darts backwards and forwards challenging Wilf to look her in the eyes. What he stops to christen, she stops to christen immediately afterwards. I manage to grab two quick snapshots of her. She's a sweet thing that looks like a cross between a wheaten terrier and a PON but is probably a very rare and very expensive breed. The thought of German-Polish reconciliation and taupe coloured puppies springs inadvertently into my mind. Within thirty seconds the encounter is over and Brunhilde ( as I've decided to call her ) has rushed back up the driveway to the safety of the barbican. She might be an uptown girl but this morning our downtown boy was quite oblivious to her charms. Having said that he returned home with a look on his face that said ' I'm a charmer '.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The laws of dog ownership.

For the last two days a strong , fresh, wind from the high mountain passes has been blowing without a pause. Ideal weather for catching a summer cold. Hot in the sun one minute and chilled in the wind the next. Fur coated Wilf, oblivious to the elements, pops outside for a pit stop at three thirty. Trees duly christened, he then wanders off in the dark, away from the house, towards an increasingly flattened peony border. The confusion of advancing age. As yours truly chases after him in dressing gown and slippers that old rule of dog ownership springs to mind. The amount of time it takes for a dogs pit stop is directly proportional to the outside temperature and the suitability of the owners outerwear.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wilf's Tuesday Morning PONder.

" People who snore always fall asleep first ".

Life in a bakery.

Off into town with Wilf for the early morning shopping. Our regulation coffee and bowl of water at the cafe under the arcades. Upmarket and pricey Easter eggs have appeared in the newsagents. The family fellow waits patiently outside the bakers while I pick up a raspberry tart for lunch. The first fresh raspberries of the season. The smell of newly baked croissant and dessert has an enervating effect on the old fellow. On the way back to the car he trots alongside as if he hadn't a care in the world. On the journey home Wilf has an expectant look on his face that says " It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission ". After breakfast, excitement over, he falls asleep on his back in the courtyard. From the happy, gentle, snoring emanating from his direction we can safely assume he's dreaming of life in a bakery.