Sunday, September 30, 2012

Defiled !

The sun is setting as the last of the locals make their way into the church for the emergency village meeting. The mayor, resplendent in green and yellow pork pie hat and his new beige cardigan, clears a path to the altar and calls for silence. He does this three times before the hubbub dies down.

'' It's an outrage ! " says the old farmer . ' We have been defiled , violated ! ' says the little lady in the purple hat and coat somewhat overexcitedly. '' This is not acceptable, not acceptable , simply not acceptable " says the deputy mayoress as if repeating a mantra. The noise swells. The furniture is pushed aside so that everyone can get a better look at the offending alteration. The mayor pulls up a chair, stands on it and  points towards the brown square. He is  not very steady on his feet and the chair is not very sturdy so Madame Mayor quickly orders him down before he does himself any damage. After thirty minutes it is agreed that a letter must be written to the authorities about this 'mutilation'. A meeting will be held next week to draft the letter.

While the villagers work themselves up into a revolutionary frenzy Angus explores the church . It would seem that the restoration of Joan of Arc is now finished. The good news is that her skin has lost its alarming green kryptonite glow. The bad news is that she has also lost her shapely curves and now looks more like Grizzly John than Saintly Joan. Angus notes that the inscription '' She was called by God to Rouen to rid France of the dreaded English " has not been painted over.Political correctness clearly does not extend to ' les rosbifs '.

The great dame of the English stage arrives for her annual visit. We head off for dinner at a restaurant fifteen miles away. The great dame only drinks champagne. '' Good champagne " she says pointedly as Angus studies the wine list. The local French at the adjoining tables look on in surprise as our dinner guest then  launches into a loud and unerringly accurate impression of Shirley Maclaine in Steel Magnolias.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Divided by a common language.

An academic in Pennsylvania writes an entertaining blog about Britsh terms creeping into the American language. According to this post Americans don't use the term ' jumble sale '. What term do they use ? Do Canadians or Australians know what a jumble sale is ?

A typical Friday in France profonde.

The three young ladies return to continue the restoration of the frescoes in the church. They spend much of their morning clearing the pews from the nave and assembling their scaffolding in front of the altar. No one has told them there is a lunchtime funeral. In fact the first they hear of it is when the mourners arrive. The mourners are shortly followed by the undertakers and a coffin. The situation is further complicated by the late appearance of the very old farmer who has decided to attend the funeral in red checked pyjamas and bedroom slippers. He is eased into the vacant hearse and driven the hundred yards back to his front door.

During the funeral the deputy mayoress notices that the politically incorrect inscription about the '' hated Boche ' has been painted over. ( In the top photograph you can see a perfect, almost matching,  square has appeared on the right hand column ) The three young ladies sensibly deny having done it. The question of who else might be responsible is left moot.

The mayor calls an emergency village meeting for this evening.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The little nut parade.

A sunny start to the day. All the farmhouse windows wide open and the sound of 'Moon River' wafting across the village green . Madame Bay is enthusiastically singing along to Radio Nostalgies Andy Williams special . Four hours of ' back to back ' music. ' Moon River, Where do I begin ? , Can't help falling in love '. Madame Bay apparently knows , or at least can trill along to , them all . Every ten minutes Radio Nostalgie plays a track from one of the old crooners Christmas shows. When you have four hours to fill you have to use all the material you can muster. Here in deepest France profonde there is apparently nothing incongruous about playing 'The Little Drummer Boy' or ' Hark the Herald Angels Sing ' in September.

The weekend of the annual nut festival is almost upon us. Madame Bay is very excited. Her granddaughters and great granddaughters are taking part in the little nuts parade. This information is passed onto me without even a hint of a smile. Presumably it gains something in translation.The highlight of the weekend will be the crowning of King and Queen Nut 2012 at noon on Sunday.

This morning the baker has made a wonderful chocolate sponge.  It joins the croissants and a baguette in the back of the car.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A long lost cousin.

A thirty something woman in fish net stockings, vertigo inducing heels and black mini skirt bustles into the airport departure lounge. She sits down then quickly stands up again before moving off in search of somewhere quieter. This process repeated at least half a dozen times before a suitable spot is found. Satisfied, she looks distractedly around, adjusts the two large red pompoms in her hair and then begins to unpack the contents of a maroon wheelie bag. Each item is carefully unfolded and laid out in a line on the bench beside her. Bag finally empty she tucks her feet under her and begins to hum ; quietly at first, then with increasing confidence. 

It is at this point she notices Angus. First she smiles, then she waves, then she starts to chat contentedly away across the terminal as if we're long lost cousins. " Do you think this suits me ? " she asks in Spanish , holding up each item of clothing ( some more personal than others )  in turn, in front of her. The other passengers look away. Angus wishes he could be swallowed up by the ground . He hasn't been so intimidated since he was forced to hide in the Gents washroom at Orly airport by an outgoing Frenchwoman who insisted he share her ham and cheese baguette.

After the stress of the journey a restorative afternoon tea in Fortnums. On the way out a quick detour to the counter that sells marzipan fruit. '' They're made of marzipan " says the woman behind the counter. A somewhat nonplussed Angus wonders if anyone buys them thinking they're real. 

This will be amazing :

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autumn rain.

Off to the cheese shop for some laguiole for lunch. En route a very large lolloping hound wanders up to say hello. An amalgam of Alsatian, Labrador, Golden and Rhodesian Ridgeback. Affability on legs. One of those ever hopeful dogs that believes every stranger he meets might be carrying a sausage roll. Further on, by the abbey, an unsuspecting  French tourist and his two canine companions . They are about to make the acquaintance of a small, black, feisty town dog who considers this to be his territory .

It's raining. The power supply still proving to be temperamental. Half a dozen Electricite de France repair crews driving back and forwards through the village in search of the problem . 

Came across this blog which describes just how wet it is here today :

Monday, September 24, 2012

New age cake.

Autumn arrives. Overnight , the Atlantic coast hit by a huge storm. Here, a hundred miles inland, the power lines sway in the wind but remain standing. One of those mornings when the electricity is on , then off, then on , then ...

A trip to the Sunday market. The ' new age ' family make wonderful old style bread. Loaves as heavy as bricks , sweet with molasses. There's always a gaggle of angelic looking children hanging around testing their chocolate cake. Mothers crouching down asking enthusiastic two year olds '' Was that good ? " ' Yes ! ' '' Shall we buy one ? " ' Yes ! '.

A group of people start to sing . They're led by an enthusiastic lady in white dress and white hat .Angus thinks they might be Jehovahs Witnesses. ' The font ' thinks it more likely they're bored stallholders. Neither of us can answer the question whether Jehovahs Witnesses sing. Neither of us can recognize the song. Profane or divine ?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The croissant feud.

The official start of the hunting season . Farmers and their dogs converge from miles around . By late morning the village green covered with battered vans and equally battered tractors. I count 53 before giving up. Amid much back slapping and laughter the farmers head into the salle des fetes for a convivial glass of armagnac ... or two. Outside, in the shade of the plane trees, the dogs wait patiently. The high point in the canine calendar . Freedom after six months of being cooped up at home . At noon the farmers reappear and vans, tractors and well looked after dogs process, slowly, along the lane. By this stage the excited dogs are in full voice.

In the little market town the battle of the bakers continues. Someone telephoned the ' incomer ' to ask if he would make an extra sixty croissants for a wedding. He did. No one came to collect them and the number he had been given turned out to be disconnected. Foul play is suspected. Relations between the two establishments have deteriorated yet further.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A friendly football match Iranian style.

One lucky man :

Judgement day, suede pitbulls and a cartoon.

Before we leave Toulouse a quick chance to see the tomb of St.Thomas Aquinas. The church around it  a wonder of tracery and soaring  columns. Today, thanks to the ministrations of the town planners, saint and church stand isolated and windswept in the middle of what appears to be a school playground. Come Judgement Day town planners , past and present, will have a lot to answer for.

Walking back to the car we pass a shop selling sewing machines . When was the last time you saw a shop selling, let alone repairing, sewing machines ?  Very 1960's. Next door to it one of those art galleries with an exhibition of smiling suede pitbulls. Who would buy them ? Not us.

By the time the haughty bellman in the top hat retrieves the old VW from the hotel car park the town is beginning to fill up with riot police. Tall, unsmiling young men with shaved heads. Their blue overalls accessorised with batons, chemical sprays, handcuffs, and pistols. It seems someone has printed an offensive cartoon and the town is being locked down before Friday prayers. Time to head off into the countryside. Twenty first century life in France profonde.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Humorous gargoyles.

Toulouse has some of the best museums in France. One museum has a collection of gargoyles. An esoteric subject  for a museum but one which, close up, proves to be remarkably interesting. Gargoyles are supposed to be frighteningly demonic but these twelfth century ones look like a large pack of happy howling dogs.

After a long morning in the museum , lunch at Brasserie Flo. A creme brulee to finish. ' The font ' captures the flames but not the look of perfect contentment on this bloggers face.

Home to find Madame Bay has thrown all the windows in the rickety old farmhouse wide open.  '' Bonjour ! I'm spring cleaning " she says by way of greeting . Since we last saw her Madame Bay has been to see Sandrine , her hairdresser daughter. Where once there was a granny perm there is now a gravity defying explosion of hair that rises vertically upwards . It's as if our saintly septaguenarian has wandered into a strong force field. Over dinner ' the font ' suggests that perhaps Madame Bay and her daughter have had an argument and this ' creation ' is Sandrines revenge. Either that or the towns old folk are about to experience an unexpected makeover.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swedish humour.

Off to Toulouse for the night. We leave the large, town unfriendly, 4x4 at home and set off in the battered old Volkswagen. The doorman at the hotel, resplendent in top hat and tails,  looks at us snootily with a mixture of contempt and amazement. He peers briefly inside the car and then beats a hasty retreat. His body language suggests that he'd like us to disappear. Maybe he's alarmed by the rear carpet with its immovable dog hairs or the equally immovable stains on the back seat where Digby used to snore and drool contentedly away.  No denying that our trusty old health hazard on wheels is a somewhat incongruous sight amongst the Porsches and Mercedes lined up outside. 

'' The font '' shouts after the rapidly disappearing figure . '' Young man ! Could you please park this for me ?
Oh and do be careful with it ". This all said with the warmest of smiles. Swedish  humour . The top hatted young man mutters something inaudible under his breath and the old VW disappears from the front of the hotel into the anonymity of the carpark amazingly quickly.

Toulouse a lovely , and largely unknown, city. Like Barcelona but without the crowds. Outside the higgledy piggledy cathedral the most wonderful cake shop.  In the cloisters of the convent they're growing all sorts of squash. A real medieval garden.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Wednesday Whimsy.

In yesterdays paper.

The pigeon that swam.

Saw this unusual sight down by the old canal. Hundreds of pigeons pecking away at the bricks on either side of the lock gate. Most of the birds flew away as I approached, settling noisily on the roof of an adjacent church. However, twenty or so hardy souls continued to peck away at the grouting, their beaks firmly below the waterline. Occasionally a pigeon would lose its hold and fall with a splosh into the canal. Amid much screeching it would right itself and rise , wet and dishevelled , skywards. Plumed inelegance. Who knew pigeons could swim ? What could they have been eating that made them so reckless ? The remarkable in the unremarkable.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The brightest and best.

Hot and humid. Summers last fling of the dice . At lunchtime we head off in the car to the local market town. It's the start of the annual fair. A three day event that is supposed to showcase all that is brightest and best in our little corner of paradise.

All that is brightest and best turns out to be a large hangar full of stands selling discounted white goods, security systems, loft insulation materials and plastic window frames . A lot of very bored salesmen peer at us with hope in their eyes.  We stop briefly to look at an improbably named  ' Hawaiian ' gazebo, a newly carved stone dog , a replacement oven for the ageing ' vesuvius ' in the upstairs kitchen and a collection of fork lift trucks.Time from arrival to departure twenty two minutes.

'The font' notices that the next event at the exhibition centre is the '' Great Prune Show ". We both agree that sounds more interesting. 

On the way home Angus tries a slice of pudding cake from the local patisserie. Sophsiticated it isn't. The consistency and  taste of Christmas pudding surmounted by crunchy butterscotch icing. Even Angus finds it a little rich. We have a light dinner.