As you all know our two Jack Russells are very much a part of our family life, so much so that they actually insist on writing their own stories from time to time. Bentley, the elder of the two, is nudging 70 in human years; he’s getting a little grey around the muzzle and he’s not quite as fast as he was, but his mind is still as sharp as any young whipper-snapper and he’s proven himself to be quite an aspiring and somewhat amusing author. So how could I say “No” when he pleaded with me to write another short tale? Read more
We did and we didn’t – eat dog biscuits that is – more on this in a minute as it has in fact been rather a contradictory week. I love the spring and summer but profess to dislike autumn and winter. However, I then actually like winter when it snows because I love the snow, but we don’t get much snow here. As a result I inevitably tell everyone I dislike winter and the autumn. But isn’t it a woman’s prerogative to change her mind? Read more
It’s Spring Break and two weeks of holidays for the children, but we’re not packing our bags and heading off on vacation. We couldn’t even if we wanted to, as life in the spring revolves around tennis tournaments. However, we’re more than happy to stay right where we are because nature at this time of year is putting on a spectacular show, rivalling the glitz and glamour of any theme-park.
I’m afraid to say that I feel utterly compelled to put paw to paper once again; I heard someone saying I was old the other day. Old? Me? It wasn’t Roddy or Susan or any of the children, but a neighbour, and it really ruffled my neck hairs (which are admittedly very long and looking rather shaggy at the moment). I’m not old, I’m in my prime!
I thought I’d give you a little update on Evie versus the chickens! We think we’ve worked out an almost perfect solution, and it’s really thanks to all of you; for I did indeed listen, and I read all your comments, I took everything in and we built a fence. Something simple, yet splendidly fulfilling in its execution, for a variety of reasons. Read more
Oh Gosh, I’m in the dog-house again! I just can’t help chasing chickens. I know I’m not meant to, and I know I get shouted at, and I know it’s wrong, but the problem is, it’s just SO much fun. I had been good recently, too, but then life changed in the chicken world and I was tempted into sin once more.
You see, Falafel – the young rooster – decided perhaps he wasn’t so happy to share all the girls with Fritz after all, and so they fought. I know, I even heard Mum saying they never fight, but I laughed to myself; what did she really know about animals and chickens, of course I knew all along they would fight. I even mentioned it to Bentley the other night and he agreed too, silly humans.
Anyway, the point is now Fritz is all alone; he wanders sadly around the garden and he’s nowhere near as lively as he used to be. I thought I’d pop over and say hello, cheer the old chap up a bit; a little play-date with me would surely put a spring back in his step….alas, the grown ups saw me, and gosh, did they yell. I stopped of course, I’m quite good like that, but when they weren’t looking I ran over and started playing again. So now I have a double game; chasing Fritz and making sure the humans don’t see me; it’s a little bit like hide and seek.
The weather has been gorgeous and everyone’s been busy in the garden so I get to be outside a lot at the moment which gives Rory, my best friend, a bit of a break. I’ve learnt that cats tend to do things the other way round from us; they love to sleep upstairs, curled up on the bed all day long and they don’t care much for playing. But then, just as darkness falls, and just as I’m thinking it’s time for me to curl up in front of the fire when BANG, they come alive and want to play; they’re such confusing creatures, and then, to put me in even more of a quandary, Bentley likes to sleep all day AND all night. I mean where’s the fun in that? and just as I am coming to terms with all of this and thinking I’ll forego my little snooze and play, Rory falls asleep beside me! Talking about cats, the other one, Clara, who I hardly ever see, is also slightly odd. She doesn’t like coming in the house at all, but she does love playing chase, so I guess she must be okay. The only problem is she won’t play chase with me; I chase her till she climbs a tree, but she never chases me back. She’ll chase other things in the garden quite happily, especially those small grey things with very long tails and when she does that everyone says how brilliant she is. No one ever tells me I’m brilliant when I play chase, I just get shouted at. Life is just so unfair.
So I wondered if maybe I should ask Bentley if he wants to play with me, he’s always full of lots of advice and everyone makes such a fuss of him, but maybe he’s a little bored; to be honest I am not really sure I quite understand him at all. Take the other morning for example; Mum and Dad opened the kitchen door and ushered us out into the garden; this is always great for a quick sniff here, a quick sniff there, a quick dart about the bushes elsewhere and then back inside for breakfast. Bentley just sat there, by the door waiting to go back inside; doesn’t he care about the big outdoors? I know he’s the same make as me, we’ve compared notes, we’re even the same colour for goodness sake, though I do admit he’s a little fat whilst I’m a perfectly petite little French girl. He does play for a short while sometimes but then he gets bored and goes off and sunbathes again. Just bizarre behaviour.
Then there’s the question of the car and Bentley, for as soon as anyone opens a car door, I’m in, quick as a flash. Cars are good – sometimes it means we are going somewhere great, and there’s a whole new fabulous adventure to enjoy. Okay, so sometimes it’s a touch boring, and I just stay in the car until I’m home again, but even then I love watching the world go past outside the window; I’ve seen all sorts of sights – cats, dogs, sheep (well I think they are sheep, I asked Bentley about them when I got home and he said my description sounded like sheep, so that’s what I am going to call them) and all sorts of other things. However, I can’t show them to Bentley because he simply hates the car – it’s another weird thing about him; I mean, why would anyone hate the car? He has to be physically manhandled in, and then he just stands there behind the seat on the floor and shakes with fear – I like him a lot and he really has helped me but I do think he is rather odd.
The other place I love to go in the car is to school. This is only a rainy-day event, because often the girls walk home; but when it’s raining Mum or Dad pick them up in the car and I go too. I stand with my paws on the dashboard and look out of the front and lots and lots of little girls come running up to say hello. They all make such a fuss of me, rubbing my tummy and tickling my ears – it’s like I have a little fan club at the school gate, and I really am getting quite used to it.
Another thing I’m learning is all about the ‘lead’. I’m even beginning to understand that I have to walk beside Mum or Dad and not pull a few feet in front of them, with my little paws skidding on the ground. Bentley is brilliant on the lead, no surprises there, and they spend so much time saying what a good chap he is; why can’t they say I’m really good! Why is he so good at everything? Can’t they see he’s weird?
Then yesterday we saw a huge creature with enormous legs; I wanted to chase it. However, Hetty and Gigi wanted to stop and give it an apple; an apple? A whole APPLE? I just couldn’t fathom out why a really nice big red apple was being given to a stranger; anyway, that’s when I asked Bentley what it was and he told me it was a horse. I liked the look of it but it did look as though it needed some fun and I am sure I could beat it in a game of chase, it doesn’t move very much. It wasn’t so much bigger than me well just a bit maybe. I pulled and pulled on the lead but no one would let me go, Bentley even had the audacity to smirk, I asked him about that later, they have big feet he said, hard feet and they kick.
“NEVER chase a horse! And never chase a COW” he muttered. “What’s a cow?” I asked?
My favourite place to walk is when we cross the road behind the house and head out into the country, I know we’ll both be let off the lead, I can run and run, and I try and come back whenever I’m called; this is another thing I’m getting quite good at. I’ve learnt that as soon as they call “Evie!” I must come running and then they’re happy; they make such a fuss, anyone would think I’d just done something really good. Sometimes they even give me treats, yummy edible little nibbles, just because I came when they said my name – I will never ever understand these humans. Then I go off again, I must cover at least five times as much ground as Bentley, but he is quite fun, he does run a bit with me, he even stops and sniffs with me.
Anyway, let me finish by telling you about a new hobby I have. I’ve learnt to dig holes! It’s fantastic! If I work up enough speed earth flies everywhere! I dig and dig, deeper and deeper, and usually I can go unnoticed, for I have to admit I get shouted at for this as well. Though if I choose a quiet spot no one sees me and here Bentley has been quite helpful. He’s explained to me that the big humans won’t tell me off if they don’t actually catch me doing something wrong; so, as long as I have dug the hole and had my fun, by the time they find the mess it’s too late; they’ll continue to sound cross, and they’ll huff and they’ll puff and sigh and they’ll even say “what are we going to do with her” – but I don’t get shouted at.
Then yesterday, I caught something! I actually caught something from all my digging; it’s called a mole, apparently, and it makes an even bigger mess in the garden than I do. It’s the strangest of creatures, and I found out about them quite by chance one day while snoozing in the grass and I woke up to find the earth starting to sprout up into a volcano in front of my very eyes! Ever since then whenever I find one of the mounds of earth they make, I dig down as fast as I can to where they seem to live in an underground tunnel, and we all get very dirty. Golly, they dig almost as fast as I can. Anyway, I actually caught one the other day, and better still, the humans were happy! They didn’t tell me off, they didn’t shout, they didn’t mutter about what on earth they were going to do with me next, they actually said “well done”. Of course, I immediately went off and dug ten new holes and then I got shouted at again. I was so confused.
I lay next to Bentley by the fire that night and told him all about it, and he just rolled over and told me not to worry and went back to sleep, so I thought I’d do the same, maybe I’ll dream about chasing rabbits.
Sometimes, when it’s bucketing down with rain or just horribly cold and damp, it would be much nicer to stay inside; it would be so easy to batten down the hatches and work in the warmth of the kitchen, never straying too far from the wood-burning stove. But that is not an option when you have dogs. I only have to touch a lead hanging from the door and Bentley and Evie are at my feet, looking at me with that expectancy that says they just know they are going for a walk; by the time we’re in the boot room and I’m reaching for my wellies, there’s a keen sound of excitement at floor level; they don’t care if it’s wet or cold, or howling a gale; they just want to get out there! Our 200 year-old flagstones sigh at the scratching of paws and the wind-banging slam of the door as we go out and brave the elements.
I have walked with a certain spring in my step the past couple of days as the dogs and I leapfrogged puddles and dodged showers. I am extremely grateful for the response to my questions about blogging in my last post and I was naturally happy to hear that you like things as they are. Thank you all so much. As a result I have maybe stopped a little more frequently with my camera, spurred on to share all around me, and I’ve been re-arranging words to better describe what I see and hear. This deep in the country we don’t have any opportunity to have an ‘extravagant’ lifestyle, instead we take extreme pleasure in the most simple things; whether that’s our family life, the animals, the scenery, the fresh produce or just being grateful that we do not sit in traffic for a fifth or more of our waking day. Yes, we’re lucky, and we know it, and we appreciate it; and yes, we know how fortunate we are to live in the online age, where small luxuries can be bought with the click of a mouse too. It’s a magical mixture.
I never tire of the views on our routine dog-walk straight from the house. It takes me just one hundred paces to move from the 21st century and a computer-screen to this old landscape, where an ancient fortress surveys a working landscape it once proudly guarded from the ravages of Barbary pirates and the plundering attacks of British yeomen; where centuries of tears, smiles, births and deaths lie buried deep in the cloying inevitable embrace of the marsh that is the Marais de Brouage.
Looking across at little hamlets, that have stood for centuries, I stand on a path that pilgrims have trod for 14 centuries, and still do today, as they go southwards to the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
We go past dormant vines, not really enough to be called a vineyard, in fact there are just a hundred or so plants for someone’s private use – some of these ‘house’ wines are very unsubtle, some are little treasures.
Bentley is always content to wait and take a breather while I take photos, he being of a slightly senior age, but Evie at only seven months old cannot sit still; she’s off, on the scent of a rabbit or some purely imaginary smell. Nose to the ground, she follows a translucent path of scent, weaving right and left, her nose twitching like the billion-pixel imagery tool it truly is. Bentley watches with knowing amusement as she scampers around wasting so much energy. However, our dog-training efforts are finally starting to pay off and she now comes back when called (most of the time!). She races back to the track ahead from where she’s been lost in some adventure, far out in the field or deep in a hedgerow, and darts around in all directions before shooting off ahead again, covering ten times as much ground as the rest of us.
The weather has thrown everything possible at us this week, we have had freezing temperatures, gale force winds, torrential rain and beautiful sunshine. One morning we woke up to a rare frost and a thin sheet of ice on the puddles and the pool. Gigi and Hetty had a fine five minutes before school playing in our temporarily frozen landscape.
A couple of days ago I arranged to meet someone I wanted to talk to about three houses she has renovated; this is for a future blogpost next month. The weather could scarcely have been worse. I set off straight after the school-run, the thermometer only just above freezing and the rain battering against the windscreen, wipers on full speed. Heading north-east and away from my usual stomping ground I started to go inland through little villages I didn’t know. On the way home I kept making deviations and stopping to take photos; my return journey taking a good hour longer than it should have done. I passed several small chateaux, the type that look ‘lived in’ by families rather than just being museums open to the public, and I made a mental note of many places I had to return to when I had more time and the school pick-up was not approaching rather too quickly.
I stopped briefly in St Savinien, a small Gallo-Roman town, on the banks of the Charente; the rain had eased finally, which is just as well as the umbrella I had grabbed in my haste to leave the house on time was in fact broken, a fact I discovered with sigh of resignation as I arrived at the house I was visiting – alas the girls had used it once too often for some Alice in Wonderland adventure in the garden.
I stood staring at near deserted streets I had once seen in a very different season, for we had been here before last summer; then, flowers adorned every window box, boats with tourists silently glided down the river and locals and tourists alike strolled along the ancient streets. Now it was almost unrecognizable but just as photogenic, with the streets and houses slick with watery reflections.
A little closer to home and after another quick detour I came across this wonderful farmhouse, with a large Vendu sign, clearly marking that it has recently been sold. I thought what a wonderful home it would make, tucked away off the beaten track but not totally isolated, located in a tiny village with a small church and a clutch of similar houses.
and I also realised that I don’t need perfect sunny days all the time to take photos, as sometimes the light can be magical on grey days, when rain magnifies colours even if it’s cold and bleak.
So whatever the weather where you are today, I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.