Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arrivées et départs

Munson @ Toulouse-Blagnac #1 Munson @ Toulouse-Blagnac #2

When I picked up Chris from Toulouse-Blagnac airport, I got there a little early to scope it out as it was my first visit. I left Munson in the car and went inside to find the arrival gate. I was quite surprised to find a few people wandering around the Arrivals hall with their leashed dogs, so I immediately returned to the car to retrieve Munson. He was one of three dogs waiting by that one gate as two flights were disgorged.

When I dropped Chris off yesterday at a very busy Departure hall – the school winter break is just beginning – I still saw several people checking in ( themselves or others, I don’t know) with furry companions.

Toulouse tableauChris was flying back as a standby passenger so I got him to the airport early for check-in and then went into Toulouse for a short while in case he got bumped from his flight and I had to bring him home again to try another day.

As I drove out of the airport carpark, I read the message on the drop-gate screen, rendered in three languages:

    • French: a bientôt
    • English: have soon
    • Spanish: adios

It was as if it had been done by someone using machine translation!

Chris messaged to confirm he was safely aboard his flight but we didn’t stay very long as a giboulée (icy thunderstorm) swept through. I noticed this tableau affixed to a wall near the city centre, possibly a scene rendered not far from that spot.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Megamute vs Giant Octopus

2011-02-25 Munson greets Chris in bed

Chris arrived from London yesterday as first guest at the villa. Munson has never had to deal with a guest room before, but put all of his experience of sticking his snout down rabbit holes to good use when he went a-visiting this morning….

It brings back memories of days in Seattle when we learnt that closing the guest room door at night simply meant that Bondi banged it a few times before gaining entrance and jumping on to the bed to stand squarely over its occupant(s).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mr. January


I’ve just received a lovely care package from Australia, well-assembled by my friend Nick in Sydney. He told me he’d seen a calendar for sale in Sydney Park with Munson’s picture in it, and offered to send it along with some other items I might care for.

2011-02-23First: the calendar Bad Boys (and Girls) of Sydney Park. Munson figures as the main dawg for January, and again in August having a tussle with one of his great playmates, Bob. I recognise these pictures as having been taken by Bob’s owner, Al. The remaining pages have pictures of some others of Munson’s playmates such as Milly, Batman, Moby, Puck, Uschi, Diesel, Pierre, Meg, Tilly, and of course, Scout.


I must add that two nights ago I had a dream that I was briefly holidaying in Sydney Park with Munson. I don’t think I went anywhere else in the dream; I just sat on a hill in the park and talked to our friends there.

Second: the accompanying items. It’s strange what comes to mind when asked for package filler, but I selected a few supermarket items that I can’t get here in the podes (qua antipodes).

  • Iced VoVo biscuits: raspberry jam and pink fondant sprinkled with coconut. An Australian staple for over a century.
  • Lemon Myrtle spice. This is an Australian native food (backhausia citridora) which has a much higher citron content than lemon or lemongrass. It can be deployed widely in foods and drinks. I also have essential oil infusions of it in soaps and air-freshener.
  • Dried Apricots. Really dried apricots, as distinct from the less dry and more colourful (probably because of sulfur dioxide treatment) Turkish variety that I can buy anywhere.

If I was going to nominate one other foodstuff from Australia it would probably be yoghurt, which is much creamier than the French domestic varieties (it may derive from more of a Balkan tradition), and often comes with mouth-watering fruits from berries to passionfruit. The closest thing I’ve encountered here is a Turkish brand Baktat which pops up occasionally in promos at one of the local Carrefour supermarkets. I sweeten it with honey, marmalade or fig jam. Its labelling suggests it’s intended for the German market and comes in litre pots rather than tiny 150g potlets. I don’t know why, but most of the large yoghurt pots have disappeared from the supermarket shelves in recent months, replaced by various blends of fromage frais, fromage blanc or “indeterminate white dairy stuff”. If someone can give me a primer on all of these, please step forward!

I should point out that regardless of my dairy preferences, Munson is always willing to clean out the container.

Five Iced VoVos and about a dozen pieces of dried apricot were consumed in the production of this blog post.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday sun

Can you believe it’s February?


P2202463 P2202467

P2202493 P2202540

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Day in the Life

2011-02-17 Munson in holes

Munson’s going hole-crazy everywhere. From the barn to the side of Lac Désolé whenever I turn around, he has his fluffy white arse in the air, and his snout buried in Wonderland. Just adjacent to the area of the lakeside I’ve been working on are at least five holes that are at least the size of a malamute head. Munson has been working his way around all of the them, making strange mewling noises as he snuffles around for whatever rodent or womble traces lie within. It’s like he’s trying to play a giant harmonica from the inside out.

Luckily for Munson the farm has more holes than Blackburn, Lancashire so endless fun to be had.

Waving the white flag

You there with the hay in your eyes

Munson in the hay bales

I’ve been very remiss in posting pictures of Munson’s activities of late. I’ve not been out and about much due to my cold, and my yardwork is generally too dirty to keep a camera around while my little buddy works out how to integrate himself into that dirt.

You have to understand that a malamute is essentially a 4WD pussy cat. It will lie around your house alternating an affectation of indolence as legs splay in the air, with a diligent preening of its fur and cleaning of paws as it regards you from its favourite sofa.

IMG_0637 IMG_0636

A malamute may not lie on your book while you’re reading or slump onto the keyboard as you type – but that’s only because it’s got bigger plans. So when you’re gardening, the best place to be is standing exactly on the patch you’re weeding, under the branch you’re pruning, or in the hole you’re digging.

P2162365  P2162366

While Munson was profitably distracted lolling around in the barn between bouts of tunnelling into the bales for mice, I decided to fill up the honeycomb of rabbit holes around the lake edge. The big house has had a pile of decorative clay rubble in front of the door for several months, which may have earned it a Tidy Town award for Bedrock in 50000BC, but I think everyone was quite over it – tripping over it usually. As I put pick and shovel to the rubble, Munson suddenly materialised exactly where he was least needed, quite unperturbed by the shifting ground around him. Then it was over to the lakeside where he could stand in the holes I was filling up. Rubble to hole, four loads, all the same, always looking up at me as if I was making his day. And that’s not a bad thing at all.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ebert reviews “My Dog Tulip”

Hot on the heels of my finishing J.R.Ackerley’s only novel “We Think the World of You”, comes news that the film version of his memoir “My Dog Tulip” is now in release. Roger Ebert reviews the film (****), and shows some footage here.

The novel was made into a 1988 film starring Alan Bates & Gary Oldman. It seems to have just earned a new DVD release, perhaps on Tulip’s heels. It will be available in April.

Novel and memoir work the same material from Ackerley’s life with his German Shepherd dog Queenie.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bonjour nuages, bonjour ciel

Hullo clouds, hullo sky, hullo contrails

Drawing the curtains from my bedroom each morning presents a new soothing version of the prospect over the vineyards. I don’t know how much longer those vines will last, or if that shed will last through another tempest, but the morning contrails of aircraft passing back and forth over the Pyrenees are sure to go on and on.

It’s been a quiet month here at Lake Désolé-sur-Gers, as I work around the house and in particular, try to recover the environment around the little lake from its woebegone state. Spring seems to have arrived early – I’ve been in tee-shirt, shorts and sandals for days. The bulbs planted in November are pushing through quite aggressively. My head-cold lingers ever on, so choir has been abandoned I can breathe properly or the universe thinks I can sing without scaring the notes off the page, whichever comes first.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Un gâteau en feu

Birthday cake

Many of my friends have been stuck at age 29 or 39 for some years. I’m parking myself at age 10 indefinitely. The kids produced a set of birthday cards for me. They seem somewhat enamoured of my work overalls (the Andy Pandy suit as the so-called grown-ups call it), and so that’s become my identifying wardrobe. Apparently my hair has gone beret-shaped.

Today also marks 5 years since I started French lessons in Paris with Bondi, and had my first extended lesson in la bureacucratie française as I attempted to stash my car for our two month stay.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

To sleep, perchance to write

I have a guest room, but it needs a proper bed to accommodate the guests who will start to trickle through in coming months. I’ve been angsting a bit over assembling the correct-sized lit given one has to get an appropriate sized matelas (the thin foam mattress) supported by one or more sommiers  (sprung slatted frames) that will be size compatible with my Aussie bed linen.

I’m slightly horrified at how much bedding furniture costs in France (even considering the IKEA options) but the project has been ennobled by the effort of going to a literie salon to make the purchase.

Literie Salons

Friday, February 04, 2011


Sunset: west

Out of the city, on a hilltop with nothing to block the sun, sunsets sweep across the farm in broad bands of colour.

Sunset: east

Sunset: south - over lake

A couple of weeks back, Brent took to some of the lakeside laurel trees with a chain-saw. With this thinning out of the vegetation the groundcover can get some sun, and I get a better view down to the Pyrenees.

There’s still a lot of yard work for me to do, but I’m still getting over my head cold of nearly three weeks vintage and haven’t been out of the house much. The best I managed for two weeks is what I call “slipper gardening” which involves me wandering around outside in my ugg boots with a pair of secateurs and attacking weeds and branches before all hell breaks loose in Spring.

In recent days I’ve returned to collecting firewood in the vineyards, which makes Munson very happy. As soon as I sit outside my front door to don boots and work gloves, he’s at my side, unable to contain himself. As much he loves being outside, he much prefers to be outside with me and has shown no inclination to wandering off again.

Long legged shadows Sunset: southwest