Monday, August 22, 2011

Dog days

Over the last few days, our region of south-east France has been beset by a heatwave. By the standards of my native Australia, it's probably not a particularly drastic heatwave. I just walked around to the back of the house, where there's a thermometer attached to a shaded wall, and it reads 36°. The Ancient Romans called this period of the year the "Dog Days", because the bright star Sirius (nicknamed the "Dog Star"), in the constellation of Canis Major, used to rise at the same time as the Sun. In French, a heatwave is referred to by the term canicule ("little dog"). And in English, we have Noel Coward.



My local doctor, Xavier Limouzin, advised me recently to consult a dermatologist in nearby Romans, and the lady told me, in a roundabout way, that I was behaving like an Englishman. Well, she didn't exactly say that. She informed me, most emphatically, that a fair-skinned individual such as me must never ever go out in the sun without a hat, otherwise I'm a likely candidate for skin cancer. So, I promptly bought myself two elegant Italian straw hats, and I've installed metal hat hooks on the kitchen wall alongside the door, so that I'm reminded to put on a hat whenever I step out of the house.

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In fact, these hats are part of a general "survival campaign" that I instigated spontaneously at the time of my recent clash with the trunk of a walnut tree on the slopes of Gamone. Besides hats, a fundamental element of this campaign is optimal footwear, to replace such unsuitable things as thongs, sandals, boat shoes and old boots with lots of holes but no laces.

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Those on the right are solid work boots, sold in the local rural hardware shops, for gardening and other outdoor operations. Those on the left (which I haven't even worn yet, since I bought them through the Internet and they only arrived here a couple of days ago) are specimens of the finest German-manufactured alpine boots that exist, and I plan to use them for hiking only.

By far the most annoying aspect of my new survival campaign is the iPhone, for the simple reason that nobody ever phones me through this device. So, I have to force myself to remember to carry it with me whenever I leave the house. I've hit upon the solution of these belt pouches, since I almost always wear a belt.

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Now, getting back to the heatwave, let me say that my dogs don't seem to be bothered by the high temperatures, since there's a lot of shade under the linden trees, and there's invariably a slight breeze at Gamone.

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Recently, I asked my neighbor René Uzel to use his mini-excavator to cut a wide path down from the house to the lower field of Gamone (in the direction of the Cournouze mountain).

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For the moment, it's simply a dirt ramp, which terminates at the base of an apple tree. Later on, I'll think about whether I should install stone steps.

Naturally, in this heatwave weather, the doors of the house are often open, to let the breeze in. And, silently like a breeze, Fitzroy also likes to step inside and take a look around, even if this means climbing up my old wooden staircase.

Well, yesterday afternoon, whenever Fitzroy dropped in alongside my desk, I was intrigued to discover that he was engulfed in a warm soapy aura of fruity fragrance, as if he had just stepped out of the shower. In a way, that was exactly what had taken place. Down on the lawn, I discovered the chewed remnants of a plastic bottle that had once contained almond milk shampoo. I had let it drop on the floor of my shower, and had forgotten to pick it up and stick it on a ledge.

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I don't know how exactly Fitzroy had dealt with the contents. Did he actually drink the shampoo? Or did he simply spill it on the grass and then roll in it? In any case, he sure smelt nice. His presence alongside my desk, on a hot afternoon, was refreshing.

POSTSCRIPT: On rereading this post, I'm amused to see that I purchased two hats, two pairs of boots, and two phone pouches. There's surely a reason why I've done things doubly...

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