Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Avenue of languages


There’s a long stretch of trees between Saint Jean Poutge and Pléhaut that I enjoy on many of my eastbound journeys to Auch and Toulouse. It can be a bit of a squeeze when trucks are tearing through, so I usually pull over to the side and enjoy the scenery for a few moments longer.

This afternoon I’d made a trip to a government office to have some paperwork from Australia signed. Although I’d waited two weeks for the appointment it turned out to be in vain as French government officials are forbidden from signing anything in another language, even if they can read/write that language and it’s intended for another nation.

It was brought to my attention that even Munson’s EU Pet Passport, which was issued in the UK is only in English and despite being an official EU document falls under this decree as well. Given that Munson and Bondi’s pet passports have been presented in dozens of countries and had additions made in at least five of them without objection, I don’t know how this would work if every country made the same objection about such documents, especially since the EU already has 23 official/working languages.  While some nations require passport translation for entry, the format for the Pet Passport is the same across the EU, so if you wanted to know what the text at the top of page 7 says, then you can just open your local pet passport for a translation. The rest is mostly dates and the scientific/Latin names of various diseases or parasites.

It does seem to me sometimes that the oft-used expression “French is the language of diplomacy” might be read somewhat differently as meaning “No French (from you), no diplomacy (from us)”. Historically, French was an upper-class tongue used throughout Europe but it took centuries longer to be accepted widely within France’s own borders. It wasn’t till the process of “self-colonisation” post –Bonaparte that the other languages and dialects of France were more or less purged, and even then it didn’t become the official language until 1992! Given that France often argues that losing the diversity and culture behind other tongues is the reason that it shouldn’t give way to English, it’s ironic that it hasn’t ratified the European Charter for Regional Languages which would protect the 75 languages used in French territories (8 in Metropolitan France alone) that would qualify. The language and culture wars continue to make linguicide as much as feature of the 21st century as the decline in natural diversity.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Action de grâces

Gustav and the Queen of Hearts I had the stuffed lamb
My pumpkin cheesecakeThanksgiving dinner was held over until today after a small celebration of Zelie’s second birthday on Thursday.

The American-Australian-British-Kazakh-Swedish contingent was well filled up with Jean’s turkey and root vegetables plus various contributions of visitors – including my pumpkin cheesecake, and Gustav’s patience in playing cards with the kids for hours.
Zelie is two

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Family reunion

Family meeting

Even chickens have Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Burning off the fog


Watching the sun burn off the fog along the edge of the farm is one of the special pleasures of watching the world from my terrace. As autumn progresses we see more contrails scratched in the sky above the Pyrenees, and the loss of foliage over our pond re-reveals the fields beyond.

I’ve just finished reading Mark Rowlands’ ethics text Animals Like Us (2002), which precedes his best-selling memoir The Philosopher and the Wolf. The timing of my reading this (it’s been sitting on my shelves since before I got to France) is that I see he has a new text Can Animals Be Moral?

Animals Like Us is a wonderfully accessible book, its rigor sacrificing nothing in terms of clarity of expression. The concluding page is especially potent and poetic:

“Animals can suffer for us, not only for those things that have been thrust upon us, but also for those things that we have brought upon ourselves. They suffer for our smoke-induced lung cancer, for our obesity-induced heart-disease, for the sloppy and irresponsible way we have used antibiotics. We, their self-styled masters, are lazy and stupid and, above all, ungrateful. But that’s OK. If anything, these are just other sins, and someone or something, else can be made to take our sins upon them, and suffer so that we might not have to. Jesus is, apparently, live and well, but somewhat unwilling this time around. He’s living as a Draize rabbit, and LD-50 mouse, a heroin monkey, and a smoking dog.”

There’s still some fog to be burnt away.

dawn dew on dill

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A bone again, naturally

The price of a bone is nocturnal vigilance

The bone saga - while not as lengthy or exciting as the Bone saga – continues with Munson watching over it at night. The thing is, that even if one of the cats (Greycute, Milkshake or Candyshop) turn up to chew on it, Munson is such a softie with them that he’d just stand over them looking helpless. This is exactly what happens when they sneak into the kitchen to raid his kibble.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Give a cat a bone

Grey's bone (1)

Last night we could hear a bone being chewed or dragged over the terrace, but Munson was inside. While Tosca the retriever may come scavenging if we leave the gate open, it can otherwise only be a cat or wild scavenger such as a rat or coypu bold enough to risk Munson’s attention.

It was Milkshake the cat last night, who didn’t stay long enough to be photographed or taken into custody. Today Gustav captured these photos of Greycute taking a chance at picking over a bone which matched him in size. Given enough time, one or several of them would have dragged the bone away to the lawn.

Grey's bone (2)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sausage and bone

Munson & Peter

After Munson’s weigh-in we stopped by for a midday sherry & snack with our friend Peter. It’s hard to believe it’s already two months since our time in Spain with him. Today was our last chance to catch up with him for a few months while he spends time with family and friends further abroad. Peter got his required dose of Munson and Munson was spoiled with slivers of sausage.

Munson & Peter - paw shake

watching for Tosca 

Later that afternoon we unearthed an especially large bone for him from the freezer. If he appears less than directly interested with it in the first photo, it’s because he’s looking over my shoulder to see if Tosca the farm’s golden retriever is visible so that she can be appropriately jealous.

os du jour (2)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fur gras

54.8kg =120.8lb

I had to drop some paperwork off with the vet this morning and took the chance to weigh Munson. He’s come in at just under 55kg (120lb), which is 10kg more than when he arrived in over France two years ago. At 4½ he’s just hitting his maturity in both frame size and learned conversation.

2 months 8.8kg
3 months 14.5kg
4.5months 26.5kg
6 months 32.7kg
8 months 37.3kg
11 months 43.5kg
40 months 49kg
55 months (now) 54.8kg
For comparison, I’ve checked through the blog for earlier recordings of his weight to put this into perspective. In the last 4 years since he was 7 months his weight has only increased by about 50%. It’s that first year that’s crazy for growth, and without knowing a lot about the genetics of his ancestors, difficult to predict where he’ll top out height or weight wise.

Because of the pattern of coat growth and shedding, it’s not easy to judge the size at a distance. You can easily feel around his ribs to confirm he’s in good health - and long may that continue.

I was rather surprised to note that Bondi was very close to the same weight at this age, despite having a larger frame. It took him much longer to fill out over the succeeding years.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

28 Moomin mugs sitting on the wall

28 Moomin Mugs

Gustav’s parents have returned to Sweden but I’ve been left with a couple of early Xmas presents: two more Moomin mugs. The grand total is now 28, not counting a very injured winter special lying in pieces in a drawer. So now we can have two coffees a day for a fortnight without washing up.

At the rear you can see a stack of similarly-themed bowls, but I stopped getting those quite early on as it was more important that I can afford to feed the museum’s furator. Said individual is a bit mystified that I’m getting out so much dinnerware without a hint of scrap of food to lick from them.

UPDATE:  I reminded myself that 28 = 1+2+3+4+5+6+7 and is thus a triangular number, and so there is really only one way to present the 28 mugs:
Moomin mug pyramid (1) Moomin mug pyramid (2)
Once my brain started running in that direction, it ticked off a few more simple facts: 28 also happens to be a perfect number, because it is the sum of its positive divisors 1+2+4+7+14, and a hexagonal number 1+5+9+13, and – wait for it – the sum of the first five primes 2+3+5+7+11. Your mug should now be overflowing with arithmetic nourishment, but if you need more, then look here for more unique properties of #28, a happy and perfect number.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

There’s Munson!

Zelie & Munson

Zelie is nearly 2 years old. This afternoon I heard her say “there’s Munson” from the kitchen door at GrassPunk Manor. She has no idea what my name is, other than “get out of the way so I can see Munson”. Despite her rapidly growing vocabulary, she normally addresses me by pointing at the corner of her mouth so that I will make cheek popping noises. When I do that she dissolves into hand-waving gurgling giggles, and I forgive her for having the fashion sense of a mad old cat lady.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Snood Dog

Snood dog (4)  Snood dog (1)

caught in the actI crept away for a bit of me time today. Our guest roster increased by one last night when my friend Terry arrived from Sydney by way of his current trek through Thailand, Pakistan, Morocco and Spain. When he’s not making or teaching art back home, he’s on the road visiting places where even malamutes do not dare. His first question after I picked him up at the Auch railway station last night, was do you have real coffee? So now that I’m pulling five espresso coffees every time I’m directed to stand in front of the Vibiemme, we’re going through beans like crazy.

With everyone placated with a cup of java, I escaped from the sound of frothing milk to my study to quickly finish off a circular scarf or snood that has been lying around for a few months.

I thought Munson should be the first model for this  one. I’m not sure if he entirely appreciated having a second ruff but he was a patient clothes-horse for this photo shoot.
Snood dog (2)  Snood dog (3)

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Swedish invasion #2

ZZ Top with fans

Gustav’s parents arrived from Sweden last night for a four day visit. I generally prefer having guests at the end of the week as there are better options for visiting markets around the Gers. On a Friday if we’re pressed for time then we can go to the closer Vic-Fezensac market, otherwise we can circle through Condom towards Lectoure to sample the rolling countryside and enjoy the views of and from Lectoure itself. Today was one of the latter cases.

Last night’s pick-up from Toulouse airport was a long dark and wet journey, meaning no sight-seeing and rather too much road stress with too many drivers rashly overtaking  with little margin for error in front of oncoming traffic on the wet and poorly-marked road. If anything acts as a harsh counter-balance to the serene life in the south west, it’s the mad driving.

Thankfully today we had a quiet sunny trip to Lectoure, with its white hilltop profile  and belfry tower visible five kilometres in advance. For much of journey, the Pyrenées were visible along the southern horizon despite being fifteen Swedish miles (150km) away.

The street market was quite busy giving Gustav’s parents a chance to select from a variety of grapes, cheeses and other local foods. I followed them into the 12th-century cathedral but paused only a short time to admire the organ over the entrance. By chance, this week is the 100th anniversary of its designation as an official historic monument.
Munson awaits without Lectoure organ
Munson waited patiently for me on the other side of the entrance, and then we went to talk to a hat vendor parked close by. It turns out he has backpacked extensively in Australia and is keen to return. He was very impressed by Munson’s journey from being born in Queensland, thence to Sydney and then having spent half his life here.
sunset with Pyrenees
The weather stayed clear for the rest of the day, allowing us to keep our view of the Pyrenées from our less elevated position on the farm.

In the meantime it seems I’ve turned my guests into my coffee slaves. They’re not used to having a well-brewed espresso available for them, let alone on call. Actually I think it might be me that is the coffee slave.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lick or treat

They're altogether ookieThis is my 11th Old World October and this is the first time I’ve had Halloween callers. In Seattle I’ve had the bowl of goodies ready for trick-or-treaters but no one ever showed up. This time all the horrors of hell came crawling out of the haunted mansion across the way and presented themselves at my kitchen door. At 8pm sharp, by prearrangement.

You heard me. I'm going to turn you into a frog  A present for Munson

I'm a zombie with clean fingernails
Being a  good host I allowed them to cross the threshold to hear what evil deals they had to offer. I figured they couldn’t be worse than French telemarketers, although at least those could be shocked into silence with a single English sentence “Hello, who is this?” This lot would be harder to exorcise.

Munson was a bit wary of the highly decorated and dressed-up Munsoneers – until their treat baskets started to fill. I began by offering them a clove each from the one and only garlic bulb harvested from my garden this year. That didn’t impress, but two out of three did accept a prune (the treat with a delayed trick bwahahahaa). After Lucy threatened to turn me into various forms of amphibian or rodent, I finally relented and made suitable offerings of candy.

Witch Lucy exorcises Munson's head tremor  Yes I'm 7, does this behaviour surprise you?Ghostly emanation or waving-sword?  Another candy or I take his head off. Please.