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Posts from the ‘The Bean’ Category

Antici…..pation

The Bean is a well travelled dog.  Her mileage by road and air (and a little by rail) is boggling for such a small canine.  To facilitate her cross-border maraudings she has to abide by rules and she holds a European Pet Passport which logs her necessary vaccinations and rabies shots and, if she wants to visit the country of her birth, it registers the worming tablet demanded by the British to be administered not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 before travel by a certified veterinarian.  To partake of this delight, we toddle chez le veterinaire in our nearest town and the vet jokes with her that it is just a little French sweetie (she is bored with the joke, has been since the first time when she discovered the depth of the lie) and with me that it is ironic that he, a Frenchman, takes money (35€) from me, an Englishwoman to allow my British dog to travel to our own country.  I smile my beatific smile and nod and wonder why it is necessary at all and count my blessings that I don’t have to be wormed as well.

Yesterday, we pottered into the ‘Cabinet Veterinaire’ a little after 9 and were greeted warmly and asked to take a seat.  The newly upgraded surgery is  bright and cheerful with a row of  radiant yellow alternating with dazzling orange plastic chairs and a vast and jubilant tub of plastic plants in the centre.  I sat remembering the last time The Bean and I were in that spot in August.  A frail old man, driven by his strapping hard muscled from hard work 30-something grandson  struggled to carry his best friend, a sheepdog once bursting with energy now simply desiccated with age, into the surgery.  They were expected and were ushered silently straight into the treatment rooms.  I waited a while and then took The Beligerent Bean in for her vile pill which she spat out a few times to keep the vet on his toes, as is her custom, whilst he made his joke about the irony of it all and I attempted to be beatific but achieved instead a handsome grimace.  Afterwards I stepped back into the reception to pay my bill and there was the old man his grandson standing sentinel next to him as he pulled his chequebook out to pay for the demise of his best friend.  Cheque written, the lovely lady who presides cheerfully and appropriately over her domain began to explain what would happen to the dog and the old fellow shook his head and signalled his young protector to take the details.  He simply couldn’t and wouldn’t take in any more.  I caught his eye and said ‘I am sorry for your loss’.  He crouched on his creaking haunches and caressed The Bean, told her she was beautiful and such a goooood girl in cracked gutteral Auvergnat French which takes years to tune into accurately even if you are a Parisien.  He looked up, the depth of sorrow in his eyes so cavernous that I could not hope to reach the bottom and he thanked me.  Thanked ME.  The grace of ordinary humans never ceases to astound me.  Never.

Just ahead of us yesterday was an old lady.  Immaculately turned out in her best coat and shoes, shoes that have seen service for as many decades as I have taken breath, I would vouch, mended, remended, polished and serviceable, a scarf draped at the neck she was as pale as moonlight  in midwinter.  She had arrived in a taxi driven by a young woman of similar age to the grandson in summer.  In the interests of lightening this sombre piece I will tell you that our local taxi firm is magnificently named ‘Taxi Willy’ which obviously makes a girl born in England quiver like an ill-set jelly as I stifle my inevitable sniggers.  The driver was deferential and warm as she looked after her passenger who was as stiff as a board not in hostility but in the way of someone holding herself together because she must.  I surmise that this young woman drives the lady often.  Taxis (Willy’s taxis) are the only means of transport for a woman widowed who doesn’t drive and lives probably some miles from town.  It’s the nature of rural life when bus services cease to operate because we all have at least one car.  All of us that matter.  It’s the nature of being left behind in the place that you have always lived as it sheds it’s young to the cities and quietly erodes around you.  She was nestling her cat when they went in to see the vet.  When they came out some 10 minutes later there was no cat.  The vet, a lady explained to the woman the different options for cremation (the French word is ‘Incineration’ which to English speaking ears is jarring and rather unfeeling) …. she listened, she acknowledged, she fumbled in her handbag for her purse and the driver gently helped her find the money to pay.  She walked to the taxi and she climbed stiffly into the backseat and as they drove away I was struck by the enormity of her holding herself together.  I imagined the young woman seeing her into her silent home.  Making sure she was comfortable, offering to drop in and see her later.  And I imagined her, coatless and tiny walking to her chair as the taxi drove away, allowing herself to shed the tears that no man nor woman outside of her house must ever see.  And I thought of us all preparing for the holidays, the hubub of excitement, the coiled spring of anticipation of the gluttonous festivities, the plethora of brilliant sparkling lights lifting our spirits high, the overspending and the overeating and the overdrinking and the overmerrying.  And I thought how dreadfully sad it is to be on your own with your companion about to be incinerated and your life spent.  And I thought of the dignity of the old man, the ramrod buttoned up stoicism of the old woman and the kindness paid back by the muscular vital grandson and the paid taxi driver.  Nothing will make up for losing those best friends, I can hope that new best friends arrive to comfort them but life trickles away and it is so easy in this time of overindulgence to forget.  So I care to remember.

And my picture, offered in response to the Photo Challenge titled ‘Anticipation’ is The Greedy Bean anticipating cheese when we were picnicing on a hike last winter.  Pulling tongues, she assumes is cute and she always stands on her hind legs when anticipating these delectable morsels prompting me to almost title this piece ‘Stand Up, stand Up for Cheeses’ as a nod to the Sally Army and their wonderful work at this time of the year.  Her anticipation, by the way,  is always gratified just as the shadow of a sheepdog and the cherished cat were.   She, like they,  is a good best friend.  You can indulge in all the other dandy entries to the gallery here.

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PS:  Two Brains remarked after yesterday’s poignant encounter that it is so easy to be a little scornful and supercillious of people’s relationship to their animals but that the sad vignette finely illustrates the enormous importance that our domestic pets have in the lives of others and of us.  Later, wading through an enormous 5-course lunch including wine and coffee for the princely sum of 13€ each, the door of the Auberge burst open with the force of a hurricane but accompanied by no bitter wind and the light seemed to briefly dim as a leviathan with shaven head, sporting khaki t-shirt to expose his magnificent tatoo-adorned muscular arms and hunting trousers with a pair of positively combatitive laced boots and hefty leather and chrome belt to stash his beefing blades strode in and over to his fragrant, coiffed and chicly attired wife waiting decorously for him.  In the arms of this middle-aged goliath snuggled the tiniest Yorkshire Terrier, born with such tenderness and passed to his spouse with a care normally reserved for a scrunched up new-born and the identical kiss to the teeny canine forehead bestowed before he let his precious bundle go.  Comic and touching all in one we found it hard not to stare like a pair of uncouth Pinnochios.

And because it’s Christmas and the title has no relevance whatsoever, being, as it is, stolen from Frank N Furter in Richard O’Brien’s now legendary ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ as he makes his raucous entrance to the unfettered alarm of the stranded Brad and Janet, here is Tim Curry to play us out as I wish you the Happiest Holidays, le plus bon fête de Noël or the Merriest Christmas depending on where in the world you are.   ‘I see you shiver with antici…..pation!’

The minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight

As previously noted I am fresh and frisky from celebrating my first Thanksgiving.  To mark this momentous, and possibly newsworthy occasion I set about making a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner.  I like the idea of Thanksgiving and would be very happy if more nations adopted the notion.  Pondering, however fleetingly to reflect on what one has to be thankful for can never be a bad thing, surely?   After one of the most epic Googlings of all time I concluded that this year I would be cooking two turkeys in the space of a month and a day because it is unforgiveable to not serve turkey for Thanksgiving and equally de trop to forsake the fowl for Christmas in  England where we will be celebrating this year.  Having settled on what I thought would be a good enough array of trimmings to sink a dry-docked battleship and simultaneously feed the navy on the leftovers I set about the bird.  The fact is that I have never ever been knowingly under-catered and being in this land of the copious plateful  it surely would be hugely rude to break my habit.

Turkey then.  The first challenge was to find one small enough for HB2 and I to eat on our own and not have the poor fellow (and The Bean who is NOT poor) gobbling nothing BUT Gobbler for the rest of November, the entire month of December and ad nauseum (potentially literally) beyond.  But find one I did and once I had apologised to it profusely and several times that it had not been pardoned by The President and instead had found itself in my poshed up paws, I brined it and roasted it exactly as I always do at Christmas. We don’t possess a roasting pan so we bought two disposable ones and cleverly fastened them together to form a sort of dutch oven with the aid of bulldog clips pinched from top secret paperwork Two Brains is working on.   The turkey was duly ready on time, The Bean had welded herself to the the oven door by the snout, intoxicated with the heady cooking aromas of a bird that weighed 1.5 times a Bean.  We lifted it onto its plate and one leg fell off. Fortunately my deft husband managed to snatch it in mid-air before it reached the shark-like jaws of the waiting Bean.  We managed to wedge the leg vaguely in it’s original position and if you didn’t look too closely it looked only slightly inebriated and wholly enticing.  I should own up that our own impending inebria helped this vision enormously.

Some while later and utterly turkey-comatose  we drowsily talked of Christmas.  For what sort of a Christmas would it be without a fine turkey bird bronzed and gleaming like a drumsticked Olympian God?  Well actually last year we were only three for the feast so we had guinea fowl and two years prior to that, our first married Christmas, and alone together in France, we  had a collective rush of blood to the head and opted for a fish.  A turbot in fact which we bore enthusiastically from the fish store on Christmas Eve, like Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria preparing to set about the unfortunate Tom Kitten with suet and string. On Christmas Day  it occurred to us that we had not asked the chirpy girl on the fish counter to faire vider le poisson (to wit, gut the beauty) which would not be a problem for either of us except neither had the teeniest clue where a flat fish stashes it’s innards.  Hallelujah and pass the tambourine for Google …. a swift search revealed that they are, indeed not remotely where one would expect them to be.   Standing majestic and mighty  over the fish like Christopher Lee in role as a High Priest preparing to slaughter a virgin Two Brains plunged our sharpest knife from on high with lethal accuracy and our sharpest knife rebounded like a comedy rubber blade off it’s innocuous lily white skin as though it were a trampolene.  After a short pause I rather tentatively suggested scissors.  I’m not too humble to share that this was, frankly, a moment of genius.  The fish didn’t stand a chance against my snippers and I rather smugly and, may I say, with positively surgical dexterity, cut it open and  emptied it’s vital workings.  That complete, we stuffed the neat little cavity with herbs and citrus and stood reverently surveying it’s  buttered and lemoned and parsleyed allure … it had the air of a slightly macabre still-life …. strangely attractive (something I was once called by a drunk in  a friend’s living room and which I embraced as a compliment – one must cherish such delights from wherever they stem, I have always felt).  So there’s one personal myth burst … I have merrily told everyone over the years that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a turkey bird but clearly my tongue is forked …the truth is that two out of three of our most recent Christmas meals have been devoid of the indispensible gigantic fowl.

You might ask what has prompted this little sojourn into my various kitchens and indeed what value you have gained (except to know who to call if you ever need to gut a turbot or stick a stray leg back on a turkey) …. the answer lies in this week’s weekly photo challenge titled ‘It’s Not This Time of Year Without ….’ of which a cornucopia of sparkling entries here.

What can I not do without as I join the merry carnage that constitutes the season of goodwill and until this year was all about Christmas but now includes Thanksgiving too in my half-baked paradise?

Snow.  I absolutely must have snow.  Or at least I must hope it will snow.  And that is really what it is all about for me.  The notion and hope of decency and delight.  The idea that people can be kind to one another.  The concept that sharing is the right thing to do.  I have always included waifs and strays at my table.  And I always will.  Maybe in the run up to Christmas I will include a few of their stories.  Not because I have a trumpet to toot but because humble stories can speak to good hearts.  And because a humble story is where it all started ….

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PS:  The essential PS.  The title is from ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ by the masterly Dr Seuss.  My third daughter can still recite it word perfectly having done it as her School Christmas Play at the age of 9 and her younger sister can recite it word perfectly because she sat in on all the rehearsals waiting for this inevitably late mummy to pant up the school drive to pick them both up.  The very end goes like this:

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
And what happened then? Well...in Whoville they say,
That the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

This perfectly Christmassy image of snow covered holly was taken in Cantal.  In February.  Holly is called ‘houx’ in French (pronounced oo) which I always take every opportunity to say because it amuses me.


							

A beautiful and terrible thing

You may recall in a post from a couple of months ago entitled Two Lymes and a Lemon I told our collective tale of woe.  To recap The Brains and The Bean were both being treated for Lyme disease and I had taken a fall on little more than a gentle stroll up Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh.  The Lymes are doing well, though those familiar with the disease will know that it is the hidden damage that is hard to quantify … there may be none, there may be much but life, in our collective opinion (Two Brains and I have pulled rank on The Bean and made the decision for her) life is too short to worry about mightbees.

But.  Big but. It seems little old attention seeking me has been less fortunate.  My leg continued to give me grief and it became apparent that I have something called Foot Drop (which sounds like the Dropsy so loved of Shakespeare but is in fact a condition that means I can’t lift my foot.  So my left side wafts with my usual elegance and grace (no, really) and my right side has a high step and flop-foot  like a bizarre half human-half duck creature).  Eventually, having travelled to France for a couple of weeks and back to Britain for a couple more weeks with the Agèd P and returned to Massachusetts, I was able to present myself back with the Doctor who was clearly concerned that I was still having problems and indeed those problems had increased.  So I had an MRI.  Actually I had two, because I’m greedy …. one for the ankle and one for the calf.  That thing when your Doctor rings and opens the conversation with ‘you sure did a number on that leg’, that thing is the unwanted herald that you know  the news isn’t going to be an invitation to pop the cork on a good bubbly.  And it wasn’t – a fractured tibia at the ankle, a severe tear to a tendon and muscle down thereabouts and a fully snapped ligament. And moving up to the calf a further fracture to the fibular and somewhere in the whole mess a squished perineal nerve which is the thing that sends the messages to your foot to move up and down.  Hence the one-sided duck-walk.  I’d prefer a cake-walk.  For now I have to settle for a comedy walk since it appears the ligament (its the one that joins the tibia to the fibular) may be responsible for the fact that my foot is increasingly insistent that it needs to, really and honestly needs to, veer outwards giving me a gate that amusingly resembles the waddle of a penguin.  An odd bird indeed, that 6′ penguin-duck-bird.  One specialist has given me a prognosis of running again next summer, tomorrow I see a second.  What will be will be but the whole damn sorry scene does bring to mind Dumbledore in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone ‘The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution’.  I really, really wanted the truth but it turns out not THIS actual truth.  Heyho.  So many worse off.  Too many.  Far too many.  And I dedicate this piece to all of you.  You know who you are Terry and Clare and Kerry and AJ and Kat and I’m sorry I can’t do links because my Mac has decided I’m moaning too much and has malfunctioned to take the attention away from my whingeathon.  Next stop Apple Hospital.

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I picked this image for no particular reason except that the tree that has fallen into the water is absolutely perfect and it’s reflection entirely unblemished, the water itself seemingly unpeturbed.   Which is probably how I appear.  Deceptive these appearances can be, don’t you find?

PS:  Since the author of Harry Potter (J K Rowling like you didn’t know) is a resident of Edinburgh and the taxi driver who took me to the A&E there sang her praises loudly as the most remarkable woman who gives so much quietly, it felt appropriate to use a quote from one of her characters in my title.

Mirror was the Weekly Photo Challenge a couple of weeks ago …. this is my belated entry

I’ll be your dog!

On a beautiful day nearly two years ago, The Brains, The Bean and I set off for a walk that starts in the wonderfully named St Poncy (if you are English this will make you smile – my American is not good enough to know if Ponce means the same in your vernacular). Along the way three became four and this is the piece I wrote at the time – I hope you will enjoy it.

Half Baked In Paradise

We walk.  The Bean and me and HB2, when he is here makes three.  There are 340 marked PR (petit randonnees) across le Cantal and I have set myself the ideal of walking all of them.  In keeping with the rest of France these are marked walks, mostly circular and varying in length and difficulty.  The simple colour coding system tells you if it is easy (blue), longer and more difficult (yellow) or very long and varying in difficulty (green).  One weekend recently we decided to drive to the far north east of the departement (a drive of about 1.5 hours) and do a nice long green walk.  The duration was estimated as 4.75 hours for the 14.5 km.  We packed a picnic of cheese and bread and tomatos and set off.  The day was glorious – sunny, hot and with a fair scattering of the fluffiest white clouds dancing…

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I’ve got nobody to hug – I’m such an ugly bug

I’m not an ugly bug. I am a really really ridiculously GOOD-looking dog.  A dog with a serious message to share.   I am The Bean.

I may look like a handbag dweller (I am Metrically less than 4 kilos which makes me Imperially 8 and a half pounds) but I am feisty and fit.

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In order to keep my sleek appearance  I take a lot of exercise.  I walk many miles a week with my humans – mostly my mummy (because he is busy doing something called ‘bringing home the bacon’ although in truth I have not seen any evidence of this bacon, to which I am very partial) but bestly with both of them.  We walk and hike on trails here in the USA just like we do in Europe.

The winter here in New England has been unusually mild.  I am grateful for this fact.  I like snow but I am told that sometimes it falls in metres rather than inches and being quite economic in the leg I would soon be unable to walk at all.  We had some of the deep stuff but mostly it was the sort of snow I am used to and I had plenty of fun diggering and snuffling on my walks.

But now it is really quite Springy here and this is the point of me hijacking my mummy’s blog.  I got a tick.  I didn’t feel it.  It just sat on my back which is black.  Then it started to grow – at first my mother thought I had some sort of blemish.  She can be exceptionally stupid.    Obviously a dog as beauteous as I has NO blemishes.  These little blighters sit on leaves and blades of grass and wait for a likely victim (they call it a host but surely a host invites people to the party and I did not invite any ticks to mine).  They can crawl but they cannot leap or fly.

By the time my retarded people realised what it was, several days had passed and it was Sunday with no vets except emergency ones  open.  So they did what all humans do and they Googled.  I don’t really know what Googling is but it seems to be regarded as a fast track to wisdom.  Personally,  I prefer to use my nose.  I’m a dog – it’s what we do.   My daddy was satisfied to discover that his method is the right one.   You take tweezers and make sure you pull it hard and straight without pinching the skin.  But mummy was insistently maverick.  She had found an article written by someone who suggested something unbelievable.  My daddy was mistrustful.  But he agreed to try it.  Probably in the interests of shutting her up.   When he was deciding on a career many aeons ago, he considered being a surgeon.  He did a very passable impersonation of having trained thus as he got ready for the operation.  Sterilised tweezers were laid on the table for the inevitable moment when she was proved wrong and he was proven right and he had to operate with pincers as he had first suggested.  He donned blue surgical gloves and I was taken upon mummy’s knee (which I like very much) and stroked tenderly whilst she held my head in a vice like grip lest my teeth got the better of me and decided to nip.  Which I have to own up, they occasionally do.  Under stress, you understand.  Like the time when someone tried to sit on me when I was a puppy – I was under a cushion and they forgot to check – I was extremely small and the posterior bearing down on me was extremely large.  I had no choice.  Anyway, he  started to rotate the critter quite rapidly with his pointy finger.  His face had incredulity virtually tatooed on it and he was clearly just going through the motions to keep her quiet, so imagine his amazement when after about a minute the tick leapt off me.  Maybe it was dizzy with all the whirling although I don’t think ticks have ears so that can’t be right.  Or maybe it just didn’t like the sensation of being whirled but whatever it was, it jumped leaving no bits of itself in me although it had made a crater in my skin to sup my sanguine fluid out.  Which is extremely rude for an uninvited guest.

And to prove the point that we weren’t fantasizing, two days later I got another one (purely in the interests of research you will understand) and the people did the same trick again and after about a minute it simply flung itself off me.

Daddy put the  tick  into a pot full of something called Gin and covered it with clingfilm.  Mummy says Gin is  also called mothers ruin – well it ruined this mother.  After several days it was very definitely a dead tick.  I don’t know if it was helplessly drunk before it’s demise – I am not that well acquainted with tick habits and I don’t intend to enlighten myself further.

The day after the first tick was removed my daddy rang my mummy and said he was going to the hospital.  He had removed a tick from himself after a run and left it wrapped in paper in a freezer bag in the kitchen.  His work people told him not to take any chances.  He asked mummy to take a picture and send it to him so the hospital could identify it.  I don’t really understand how they do these things – I just know how to pose for pictures and I know it makes them smile so I have become something of an expert at it because it usually generates pats and treats.

Daddy’s tick was a Deer Tick.  My tick was a North American Dog Tick.  I think this is a bad name because clearly no North American dog actually wants to be associated with these vile beasties.  They steal our blood.   Deer ticks carry Lyme Disease.  This is a very bad disease and it can kill people.  It can also affect dogs.   My daddy is fine because the hospital gave him antibiotics but he did have the start of a bullseye blemish where it had started to bite him.  This is a sign that the tick is infectious.

 

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Deer Tick

My people now spray themselves with DEET and their clothes too.  They went to the hunting store to get some.  The hunting store is full of stuffed animals.  I did not go with them.  I do not want to be stuffed.  They also annointed me with anti-tick drops which last a month.  I despise these.  I have them inflicted on me in France where my Vet refuses to believe that they hurt me very badly.  Because I can’t talk human (though I bark very eloquently if you speak dog) I can’t explain what the problem is and they say that my skin doesn’t have any signs of anything bad.  But I really really NO like.  I try extremely hard to rub the stuff off.  Therefore, they used trickery by getting me in the car (which I love), taking me to the running trail (which I love) and with my guard down they squoze it on me and then took me for a long, reasonably fast, run.  Each time I tried to roll they distracted me and by the time I got back I was so tired I had forgotten it.  Until next month.  Sometimes being a dog is very very hard.  This is why I have to have a cupboard full of snacks.  Because my life is tough.  It’s a dogs life ….

PS:  The title is from one of my mummy’s favourite childhood songs – Burl Ives ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’.  Interestingly even the bugs seem not to have invited ticks to the party ….

 

I’ll be your dog!

We walk.  The Bean and me and HB2, when he is here makes three.  There are 340 marked PR (petit randonnees) across le Cantal and I have set myself the ideal of walking all of them.  In keeping with the rest of France these are marked walks, mostly circular and varying in length and difficulty.  The simple colour coding system tells you if it is easy (blue), longer and more difficult (yellow) or very long and varying in difficulty (green).  One weekend recently we decided to drive to the far north east of the departement (a drive of about 1.5 hours) and do a nice long green walk.  The duration was estimated as 4.75 hours for the 14.5 km.  We packed a picnic of cheese and bread and tomatos and set off.  The day was glorious – sunny, hot and with a fair scattering of the fluffiest white clouds dancing across the bluest of blue skies.

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The walk was glorious too … and along the way we three became four.  About 5 km into the walk having marvelled at a tiny Roman bridge, failed to find a museum founded by two young boys aged 11 and 16 in the 1990’s housed in a pain four they restored themselves, and nattering contentedly whilst watching The Bean foraging and ferreting as she does, we entered a petit hameau.

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 As we exited the village it could not escape our notice that a young and very boisterous German Shepherd dog, ears yet to stand upright so probably no more than 8 months old, was running along beside us.  We stopped and shooed him home.  We walked back up the road to encourage him but, oblivious, he continued out of the village.  After a kilometre we were concerned – he was haring in and out of fields, he was very very happy, joyous in fact, but he clearly was not clear about where he lived.  Let me put this in to context – this is a huge and rural area … houses are scattered and he did not appear to belong in the hamlet we had traversed.  The Bean was getting fed up with being carried to prevent canine fisticuffs so we decided to release her and let them bond or not.  DSCF8108At this point I named the dog Boomerang for not so subtle reasons.  We spoke to him in French – he was quite forgiving of our accents but he obviously had absolutely no notion whatsoever of discipline.

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An hour later, so three hours into the walk, we decided it was time for lunch.  The puppy sat nicely on the other side of the track on whose grassy verge we had plonked our behinds and watched intently as HB2 wielded the Opinel (as essential a French accessory as a mobile phone to an adolescent, this is a wooden handled foldable knife which comes in a huge variety of sizes … the blade on ours is about 3 inches) to cut cheese and bread.  What lovely manners I murmured – he clearly knows not to disturb his humans when they are eating.  DSCF8109The words barely vapourised in the air, he leapt up and floored me and I, like a beetle on my back, was helpless to fend off his face-licking.  ‘Non’ bellowed Two Brains at which the dog fell back looked around and seized up my spectacle case before bounding up the path and lying down with his trophy triumphantly pinned between his front paws.  We hastily finished our peturbed picnic and packed up.  The dog surrendered the glasses case and off we set again.DSCF8142

The day was hot and of course got hotter as hot days always will, so when we entered the sweet and tiny hamlet, no more than a farm, a couple of houses and the remains of a church now welded to a barn, we were gently fatigued.  DSCF8123Actually we failed to notice the welded church as we searched for the table d’orientation so that we could regally survey the landscape laid out below us.  We found, we surveyed and we assumed l’ancien eglise must have succumbed to the elements at some point because it was no-where to be seen.  Assume, as our youngest daughter regularly reminds me, makes an ass out of you and me.  And as we walked on now following yellow markers (we had been following green and then green and yellow together which is not unusual – the paths often link for a while) and occasionally consulting the book for reference points the terrible truth began to dawn.  We, The Bean and the adopted dog which showed absolutely no sign of fatigue were on a different walk.  And the walk was taking us in entirely the wrong direction.  In this terrain it is not a simple matter of backtracking so we took the decision to continue in a circle back to the village with the viewing point.  And from there try to find our own walk.  That this meant in total a deviation of 6 km with a stray dog seemed perfectly reasonable to our heat-shrunk minds.  And so it was that this raggle taggle foursome made its way back into the village and joy of joys there, beside the welded church which we had failed to notice before which was indeed (as the book told us it was) opposite a table d’orientation (not the one we had found earlier but one looking in the opposite direction – so we have now regally surveyed the entire 360 degrees of landscape laid out before us in this lovely spot), joy of joys in addition there was life – there were people.  Real people.  A woman coming out of her milking parlour, two little girls of around 6 years old and a smaller little boy and, as it turned out, the most joyous of all – Granny!  The imposter dog disgraced himself by hurling upon the children with us shouting – ‘he’s not ours – he’s following us’.  But as deranged as this must have sounded these lovely people helped us.  Granny really.  The younger woman did not understand a map which is entirely reasonable given that she knows perfectly well where she is and doubtless can find her way anywhere necessary with no problem at all.  They clearly thought us mad to be wanting to walk but Granny showed us the way, even tipping us off for a shortcut and with much waving, sighing relief and many thanks we continued on what would be the last 5 or 6 km of our epic journey.  The dog was still with us – Granny had advised us to find the mayor in the town and pass the problem to him.  We felt rather bonded to Boomerang by now and agreed that if we were by now in our own house with a garden (the search is on) we would keep him.DSCF8141

It was on this last part of the journey that I realised that he had clearly been a commando in a previous life.  He took to leaping up high banks and running ahead of us only to explode down on us again when we least expected it.  This was very funny except when we were walking high above a small river and he decided the best approach was to divebomb The Bean and see how funny she would look bouncing down the sides of what, in my tired, vaguely emotional and borderline delirious state seemed to be a very steep ravine.  We put him on her lead (perfectly adaquate for her, this slender piece of leather looked more than faintly ridiculous on the overgrown puppy).  It was clearly a new experience and took all of Two Brains strength to keep him vaguely steady.  At the end of the path, relieved that we were coming into the last village before our destination, we let him run again.  We were just congratulating ourselves at how clever we were to train him a teeny bit in the hours (and by now it had been 5 hours) he had been with us when he bowled us the googly of the day.   At the entrance to the village was a huge, very old and very deep water trough – the sort that entire small herds of cattle could take their fill at when moving from field to field or field to barn for milking.  The sort that appear in Constable paintings of rural idyll in the 18th Century.  DSCF8152Rambiggles the divebombing commando dog went over to look, braced himself and leaped in.  Being steep sided he could not get out.  That in itself was bad enough but I should tell you that the water was gloriously embellished with hugely swollen cowpats across its entires surface … how, why, I know not.  I prefer to keep it that way.  Sighing the sigh of the resolute and exasperated, Two Brains walked over, hooked the dogs collar and pulled.  I held my breath so hard I think I may have turned blue because Two Brains can’t swim.  Images swam infront of my tired eyes of me, anchored by The Bean, having to pull the pair of them out.  Or me diving in and shouldering them as The Bean hooked them out.  I was well and truly scared.  I am happy to report that none of this came to pass and the dog was liberated.  And liberally drenched us with stinking water as he shook himself dry.

Onwards to our destination and we sank onto the tailgate of our car, changed our boots, ate biscuits and wondered what on earth to do … Sunday night is not the night to find a mayor and we didn’t feel like ringing 112 and declaring an emergency.  Lights from the Auberge called us like moths and we walked in – it was quite a chic establishment and we looked and probably smelt like something you would cross the street to avoid,  but thankfully the lady in charge was sweet and accomodating and took control.  Dog was fed, shut in and the Mayor informed in the morning.  We have since heard that he has been returned to his rightful owners.  For how long is a dubious question – this dog is in dire need of a high fence, a strong lead and Barbara Woodhouse (or for those of you not old enough to remember her … Dog Borstal!)DSCF8132

PS:  The necessary PS.  So touched were we by the lovely attitude of the family high up on the rounded hill who helped us that the following week we returned with a box of sweets to thank them.  The look on the face of Granny and the children was enough to warm my heart for the rest of my life.  We chatted for a while – she said she was pleased to have helped us, that she could no longer walk where we had walked but she used to and is sad those days are behind her.  She told us she had been to our part of Cantal and that she liked Saignes (about 10 km from us) because of its beautiful Roman Chapel.  The children, dark limpid eyes fixed earnestly on the tin with its sweet delights to come, listened, smiled and waved us off as we drove away.  I am certain that they thought us dotty but they didn’t judge us, had never expected to see us again in their isolated spot where they have lived and will live out their lives, and will live in my memory for the rest of my life as an example of who I would like to be.

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