Showing posts with label Fitzroy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fitzroy. Show all posts

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dog contemplating the greenery

With all the recent rain, it's not surprising that Gamone is surrounded in greenery.

Often, Fitzroy remains motionless, pensive, apparently contemplating the surroundings, soaking in the greenery.

On the roadside up beyond the house, he turned his head around for the photo:

Otherwise, he's more interested in the greenery than in me.

I wonder if he recalls the scene, not so long ago, when all this was covered in snow.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fitzroy in love

The warm weather has set in, and the grass at Gamone is green. Almost overnight, throughout the region, white blossoms have appeared on the cherry trees. My humble old tree on the corner mound (alongside Sophia's tomb) is doing its best to imitate the splendid young cherry orchards down in the valley, on the rich soil of the banks of the Bourne and the Isère.

It doesn't take much romantic imagination to consider that the warm weather, the green grass and the white cherry blossoms announce that the season of love is starting. That's how Fitzroy feels things. Over the last few evenings, he has been leaving Gamone regularly for short excursions to an unknown place. Yesterday afternoon, when I let him off the chain for a moment, while I was doing odd jobs outside, Fitzroy took advantage of a minute of inattention to disappear... and he hadn't returned to Gamone this morning. I went out in the Kangoo to search for him, in vain.

Martine, the postwoman (who knows everything that's happening in the neighborhood), informed me that she had sighted Fitzroy over on the other side of the Bourne, in Châtelus. I immediately dashed across there in the car. Members of the Huillier family told me that Fitzroy had often been hanging around their houses over the last few days. A young lady said in a whisper, as if it were a secret item of uncertain information: "I have the impression that your dog is in love with my mother-in-law's dog." As for Fitzroy, he was nowhere in sight. My friends told me that my dog's usual habit was to collect his beloved female from the farmhouse and take her for a promenade on the wooded slopes below the Cournouze. I left my phone number and asked them to let me know as soon as Fitzroy returned.

Within an hour, I got a call saying that Fitzroy and his lover had been sighted in the tall green grass beneath a single cherry tree located in the middle of their walnut orchard. When I arrived on the scene, it was truly idyllic. From the road, all you could see were the black tips of the ears of the two dogs protruding from the tall grass, surrounded by a thick canopy of magnificent cherry blossoms. When I called, Fitzroy recognized me instantly, and started to move towards me. But he faltered from time to time, looking back over his right shoulder at his loved one, who remained under the cherry tree. After a little coaxing, the two dogs moved towards the Kangoo, and I was able to attach Fitzroy to a lead. He was still in a state of tender attachment to his female friend, and the two dogs were constantly rubbing up against each other. Fitzroy finally jumped into his wooden pen at the rear of the Kangoo. As soon as I drove off, however, he realized that I intended to take him away from his romantic haven, and he started to express his indignation vocally. Back at Gamone, I was of course obliged to enchain my lovestruck friend... and provide him with sustenance.

I wasn't proud of my intervention. It's not nice to tear apart a burgeoning relationship. Love in the grass under a canopy of cherry blossoms is fine... but what I don't like is the idea of Fitzroy returning by means of the Rouillard Bridge over the Bourne, and the main road up to Gamone. Meanwhile, Fitzroy is catching up on lost sleep. By the time he wakes up, I hope he will have forgotten my unkind act. What he won't forget so easily, of course, is the aroma of his loved one, which surely continues to waft across here in a direct line, like powerful bursts of a laser beam.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dog pen

It would be unthinkable for me to drive the Kangoo with Fitzroy scrambling around freely inside, because my dear highly-emotional dog has no idea whatsoever of when it's appropriate or rather inappropriate to scramble up onto me. To put it bluntly, he would be quite capable of deciding, on the spur of the moment, to take the wheel. The primary task on my Kangoo agenda consisted therefore of measuring the boot, purchasing timber and constructing a pen for Fitzroy.

The day before yesterday, Serge Bellier came along with his miter saw (in French, scie à coupe d'onglet), which looks like this:

Rapidly, Serge cut the timber into the calculated lengths. Then I used screws and wood glue to assemble the pieces into something that looked like a baby's playpen. Yesterday morning, I placed it in the boot of the Kangoo, and padded it out with mats and a cushion.

Fitzroy can scramble easily into the pen, and he can then see me while I'm at the wheel. We did a test excursion down to the banks of the Bourne at Pont-en-Royans. Fitzroy (who had almost no experience of car travel) caught on rapidly to what the system was all about, and everything worked wonderfully well.

Next, we drove up to Presles, where I was able to meet up with Sylvie and her Welsh husband William (from whom I acquired my dog in September 2010, as described here). I discovered that they have a four-months-old son, Lohan. As for Fitzroy, he met up with a couple of familiar members of his Border Collie family.

One of the dogs had a litter of six pups, and William told me that the mother would lose no time in making it clear to Fitzroy that she didn't want to see him nosing around her pups. Within a few minutes, the noisy action-packed way in which this simple message was transmitted to Fitzroy, and received by him clearly, was most spectacular. Even within a small family circle such as this, where the dogs know each other well, they communicate with one another in such a direct fashion that it looks to us, superficially, like a violent dogfight. The subsequent attitude of Fitzroy proved beyond any doubt that he had received the message, loud and clear. He had understood in an instant that the female didn't want to see him hanging around in the vicinity of her pups. Ah, if only I were able to use this kind of canine technique (I would need to learn how to snarl and bare my teeth) to transmit my wishes to Fitzroy in such a highly-efficient manner...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What is there in common...

... between me and the Sistine Chapel?

Did I hear somebody say that, what's in common is that both William and the Sistine Chapel are fine examples of Renaissance splendor? Well, if you insist... but that's not the right answer. I'll give you a hint. The answer to my question has something to do with our respective roofs (or rooves, if you prefer).

Here's the answer.

Like me, the people at the Sistine Chapel are installing a new chimney on their roof.

Here's my Gamone chimney, which I intend to install as soon as possible.

I don't know what brand of chimney the Sistine Chapel has decided upon, but I can assure them that the French-manufactured Poujoulat product is excellent.

As soon as my new chimney and wood stove are installed, I intend to test the system by burning some old papers. If all goes well (that's to say, if the chimney joints are all OK), then I should see white smoke emerging from my new chimney. (If not, it's my house that's likely to fill up with white smoke.) Now, to avoid potential misunderstandings, I want to make it perfectly clear, by means of the present blog post, that I have no intention whatsoever of electing an antipope at Gamone. On the other hand, I cannot deny that I've often thought that my dog Fitzroy has all the necessary qualities for that job. There's a technical problem, though. Fitzroy has not yet become a cardinal.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Recently, I received a short visit from my cousin Mitchell Smith and his wife Melissa, who are medical practitioners in Sydney.

On the eve of their departure, Mitchell noticed my daughter's small upright piano, and asked me if I happened to play at times. The instrument has been out of tune for ages, and I hardly ever touch it these days. I nevertheless sat down at the piano and started to strike the keys in my typical amateurish style. I was amazed to find that my dog Fitzroy started instantly to howl. The more I played, the more he howled. So, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to join up with Fitzroy for a rough recital of the famous doggy-in-the-window song. And Melissa had the presence of mind to record our performance for posterity.

POST SCRIPTUM: Tineke and Serge have just dropped in, and I showed them this amusing video. Then I sat down at the piano and played a bit, to see how my dog would react. As in the video, Fitzroy started to howl immediately. My friends speculated that the dog might in fact be howling in discomfort, as a consequence of painful vibrations in the piano sounds. I think we must admit the plausibility of this hypothesis, because a dog's auditory system is different to ours. In other words, it's a bit silly to jump to the anthropomorphic conclusion that Fitzroy is surely howling with joy because he "likes my music".

Another minor fact tends to disprove completely, however, the all-too-easy conclusion that Fitzroy's howling indicates suffering. These days, in my personal dog vocabulary, there's a trivial term—pronounced a little like a soft "hurrah" (derived from my own failed attempts, months ago, at producing sounds supposed to resemble a wolf's howl)—that is a sufficient cue for Fitzroy to start howling loudly. In other words, this term "turns on" his howling like a kitchen tap, and he stops howling as soon as I pronounce any other word. So, it's a kind of silly game. He also howls whenever he hears a donkey braying (even from afar), and he howls too (with genuine excitement, I believe) whenever he's observing a pack of hunting hounds pursuing a wild boar on the slopes opposite Gamone. So, Fitzroy's howling seems to emanate from some deep archaic corner of his brain, where it's a reaction to stimuli of several different and seemingly unrelated kinds. As for genuine pain, Fitzroy got an unexpected taste yesterday when I was giving a bit of hay to my neighbor's donkeys, and Fitzroy was jumping around my legs in such an excited way that he was likely to cause me to stumble onto the 10,000 volts of the electric fence (which Fitzroy himself darts under at a speed greater than that of electricity). When I gave my dog a slight kick that connected harmlessly with his backside, he didn't howl, nor did he even bark. He yelped... and scrambled back instantly to annoy the donkeys and me. 

BREAKING NEWS: I've just found a practical use for Fitzroy's howling talent. My neighbor Madeleine phones me from time to time to tell me that my dog is roaming around on the road in the vicinity of her house, and causing her own dog to bark. When I reply that Fitzroy is in fact dozing on the floor alongside my desk (meaning that
Madeleine has seen another stray black dog), I often have the impression that she thinks I'm telling her a lie. Five minutes ago, when Madeleine told me that she could actually see my dog sitting on the roadside near her house, I replied: "Madeleine, I'll put Fitzroy on the phone, so he can assure you personally that he's here beside me." Then I used the magic word to turn on Fitzroy's instant howling. The demonstration was fabulous. I've rarely heard my dog howling so loudly and so enthusiastically. I had the impression that he was determined to get things straight with Madeleine, and make matters perfectly clear. I didn't turn him off until I was sure that the message had got through to Madeleine... who, by that time, was in a fit of confused laughter.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Old family portrait

In my blog post of 22 October 2011 entitled What science is saying [display], I spoke of a fabulous book for young and old alike: The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins. And I borrowed a couple of Dave McKean's wonderful depictions of our prehistoric ancestors. Now, those illustrations were largely figments of the artist's imagination. Today, we are offered a considerably more authoritative portrait of an immensely archaic granddaddy:

Illustration by Carl Buell

This fellow is the outcome of a lengthy study of primeval mammalian genealogy some 66 million years ago. The creature in the portrait was about the size of a rat, and it weighed about a quarter of a kilogram. Like the dormice that I mentioned in my blog post of 31 December 2012 entitled Walnut war [display], it had a bushy tail. Its scientific name is Protungulatum donnae, but I'll refer to him here as Adam.

It's important to understand that the scientists at Stony Brook University (Long Island, New York) who've just presented a picture of Adam to his living descendants did not dig him up out of the ground, as if he were a run-of-the-mill monarch in search of a horse. Nobody has ever set eyes upon an actual fossil of this "first ungulate" (hoofed beast). Instead, Adam was created virtually on the basis of a whole set of fossil specimens and evolutionary facts.

Visual data in my blog post of the day before yesterday entitled Wolf territory [display] indicates the presence of a furry hoof attached to the extremity of the bone that Fitzroy was gnawing. I wondered for a moment or two whether my dog might have unearthed a specimen of a modern descendant of Adam, but I soon realized that Fitzroy's beast was much larger than a rat. So, I was obliged to rule out the likelihood that my dog had got involved in paleontology.

Adam is looked upon as humanity's most recent common ancestor with other mammals. The scientists say he ate insects. His long furry dormouse-like tail makes me wonder if he didn't appreciate walnuts, too. One thing about Adam's appetite for fruit is certain. As revealed in a celebrated book of archaic wisdom, he acquired a taste for apples. And that's where everything got totally screwed up for the rest of eternity.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wolf territory

Wild wolves are now proliferating successfully in France, and their current population is 250.

Wild wolf, 13 November 2012, in the Mercantour park, southern France.
Photo AFP/Archives, Valery Hache.

A new 5-year "wolf plan" concocted by government authorities will become operational in spring. Since the geographical zone inhabited by wolves has been expanding by 25 per cent a year, their slaughter of grazing animals has been increasing at a similar rate. In 2012, for example, wolves in France killed 5,848 animals, mainly sheep, compared with 4,920 in 2011. An intriguing aspect of the forthcoming plan consists of trying to train wild wolves (the verb in French is "educate") to attenuate their slaughter and consumption of grazing animals. This will be done by capturing wolves that attack flocks, and keeping them locked up and fed with prepared meals for a while, during which time the imprisoned wolves will hopefully become aware of their sins and promise to mend their ways. It's a lofty goal (I'm reminded of the way in which religious authorities attempt to re-educate pedophile priests), but I'm not sure it'll work.

I often wonder whether my dear dog Fitzroy ever had an opportunity of meeting up with wolves in his birthplace in Risoul 1850. Apparently these beasts are thriving up on the slopes of the Hautes-Alpes department, where Fitzroy's parents looked after sheep and cattle. This morning, after reading about the good intentions of the new wolf plan, I walked outside to admire the falling snow. And I found Fitzroy devouring eagerly an unexpected breakfast meal.

It was the leg of an adult sheep, with tufts of wool still intact, suggesting that it had been killed quite recently. When I used a shovel to shift the bones to another spot, where I could examine them more closely, Fitzroy growled with displeasure. So I let him carry on gnawing at the bones. Notice, in the following photo, how he uses a paw to stabilize one end of the bone, just above the sheep's ankle.

Since I'm an optimist (like the folk who intend to educate wild wolves), I'll persist in believing, for the moment, that the sheep was already dead when Fitzroy came upon its carcass. This is a reasonable assumption. If ever Fitzroy were to return home from a sheep-slaughtering excursion, I would normally notice his blood-stained appearance and greasy smell. I shall nevertheless phone up my neighbor Gérard Magnat, this evening, to talk with him about this incident.

Needless to say, there's at least one perfectly plausible explanation, which we should not fail to consider, of how this sheep might have died. I'm referring to the possibility of a nocturnal visit from a genuine wolf.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Smartest dogs in the world

I forget how I obtained this information about the top ten smart dogs [access]. Maybe Fitzroy found this interesting article when he was browsing the web with my iPad, then he sent me the link.

Intelligence is one thing, of course. Knowing what to do with your superior intelligence is a quite different affair.

Fitzroy considers that intelligence is best devoted to the constant challenge of donkey control, regardless of whether or not the donkey in question wishes or needs to be controlled.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy new year, Fitzroy

I find it perfectly normal to allow my dog Fitzroy to use my iPad whenever he wants to catch up with what's happening in the outside world. So, I wasn't surprised when I noticed that he had received a new year message from the 40-year-old leftist daily Libération.

I can't imagine what might have happened if I had discovered that my dog was a right-wing reactionary. On the other hand, I wouldn't be at all dismayed if ever I were to learn that Fitzroy was gay.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Walnut war

In an article of 2 July 2012 entitled Not the answer [display], I deplored my inability to prevent mysterious Gamone rodents from devouring the totality of my walnut harvest. The culprits are almost certainly dormice (plural of dormouse, loir in French), seen here in a photo that I found on the web.

Otherwise, they might be members of the marten family (martre and fouine in French). I've often discovered the aftermath of their operations, but I've only had fleeting images of the animals themselves, who operate during the night. Well, at the end of the above-mentioned blog post, I vowed that I was determined to acquire some kind of anti-rodent walnut container. I searched at length on the Internet, but could find nothing of a suitable nature. Finally, I had to use my imagination in designing and building the ideal container, which I've just completed.

It's a meter wide, 50 cm in depth and 50 cm in height. The container is based upon a sturdy welded frame of angular steel. Stainless steel wire netting, sufficiently fine to keep out mice, is held in place by bolted strips of wood. The base of thick plywood is posed upon sturdy metal roller wheels. Theoretically, once it's closed by means of its heavy plywood lid, the fauna of Gamone should not be capable of accessing walnuts placed inside this container.

Instead of simply piling my current stock of Gamone walnuts into the new wire-mesh container, I decided to distribute them into several independent white-plastic crates, which will enable air to circulate more freely around the fruit.

Late yesterday afternoon, I went out shopping for these crates... at a moment when most shoppers were buying foodstuffs for their New Year dinners. (To be truthful, I dashed into the supermarket for a box of two dozen excellent Brittany oysters. At this time of the year, I'm reminded inevitably of arriving in St-Brieuc, once upon a time, and helping Jacques Mafart in the ritual opening of dozens of oysters.) No sooner had I stepped into a first self-service hardware store than I found exactly the ideal model of blue plastic crates that I had imagined. Using my tape measure, I was thrilled to discover that four of these big sturdy crates would occupy exactly the space inside my wire-mesh container: 100 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm. Alas, when I reached the pay desk, dragging along my four plastic crates, the young female employee smiled at me and explained: "I'm sorry, sir, but those are new containers that we received this afternoon, to be used by customers to hold their purchases inside the store. But we don't sell such crates." I asked her politely if I might be able to steal these crates. "You're free to try, sir," she replied with a friendly smile, "as long as we don't catch you." I decided that it would be easier to look elsewhere.

In case you were wondering, let me confirm that the construction of this container has necessitated a lot of time and energy. My Gamone walnuts are precious. So, if the anti-rodent container fulfills its purpose, I won't consider that my work has been "overkill". Meanwhile, I might add that the walnut box was built in the midst of my ongoing work site aimed at constructing a carport. Here's a photo of the current state of this project, which is evolving slowly but surely:

Inside the house, I'm pursuing my erection of a chimney system for a cast-iron wood stove, as outlined in my recent blog post entitled Fitzroy's favorite positions [display]. In all my life, I don't think I've ever been more active at a practical do-it-yourself construction level. The underlying reason for my hyperactivity is my firm belief that I shall remain at Gamone for the rest of my life on the planet Earth. In a nutshell, it's unthinkable that I could come upon a better environment in which to meditate upon existence.

The determined gaze of Fitzroy, in his favorite position at the top of the staircase, provides me with a model for meditation about crucial questions, and thinking about the future.

In normal circumstances, I hardly need to insist to persuade my dog to cuddle up against me in one way or another. The ultimate situation is when he finds me seated in front of the fireplace, and scrambles up into my lap. But curiously, when Fitzroy happens to be seated in his favorite position at the top of the staircase, it's difficult to distract his attention in any way whatsoever. His eyes are fixed intently upon an imaginary horizon, as if he were awaiting instructions from the heavens. Only after a minute or so does he appear to break out of his top-of-the-staircase spell, and scramble down the stairs. It's as if he were emerging from a moment of meditation, of verity. As for me, I like to imagine myself at the top of the staircase, and I seek inspiration from Fitzroy. My dog is my god.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm wondering whether Fitzroy's fixed regard at the top of the staircase might be an archaic  genetically-acquired behavior associated with the obvious folly of a wolf turning its head when it happened to be seated on the brink of a precipice, observing what's happening down in the valley. Wolves who turned around to communicate with accompanying animals would have been likely to topple off into the abyss. Only the eyes-straight-ahead animals would have survived. I can think of no other explanation. Besides, I've noticed that Fitzroy is fond of squatting on the brink of embankments at Gamone, and gazing straight ahead of himself while waiting for something to happen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fitzroy's favorite positions

Fitzroy has developed the habit of sitting down at the top of the stairs, with his rump and hind legs on the landing, and his front paws on the first step.

Not only is it a comfortable position, but it allows my dog to meditate upon his next move, which will depend of course upon the next displacement of his master (me). Should Fitzroy scramble down to the ground floor? Or would he do better to remain on the upper floor, based upon the assumption that his master is merely visiting momentarily the second bedroom or the bathroom?

This photo reveals that everything in that vicinity is covered in a thick layer of white dust (which I've decided to ignore for the moment). The origins of that dust can be traced to the shiny metallic column seen behind Fitzroy in the following photo:

It's a tube of galvanized steel, 1.33 m long and 30 cm in diameter, incorporating an interior tube of stainless steel, 18 cm in diameter, which is the initial segment of a chimney for a future wood stove on the ground floor.

Here's a precise schema of the entire system that I'm building:

[Click to enlarge]

On the ground floor, I intend to install a French-manufactured Invicta Sedan 10 cast-iron wood stove (which I don't intend to purchase until the chimney system is completed):

The stove (poêle in French) will be placed on a step between the kitchen and the living room. For the passage of the stovepipe, 15 cm in diameter (shown in brown in my schema), I had to hack a hole in the massive slab of reinforced concrete (dalle in French), 20 cm thick, between the ground and the upper floor. Here's a poor-quality photo (looking up at the ground-floor ceiling) that shows the present state of the completed hole:

The verb "hack" is quite appropriate, as I was obliged to work blindly with an assortment of diamond disc grinders, drills, chisels and hammers. And that explains the presence in the house of all the white dust. When I say that I worked "blindly", what I mean is that I didn't know with certainty, in the beginning, how to avoid damaging any vital beams in the slab (such as the one on the right, with a red line traced on it). In other words, I was obliged to perform my hacking solely in the region occupied by hollow-core concrete planks (with the typical grainy texture that you can see in the above photo). The initial problem, of course, was that the layout of the beams and planks was concealed behind a layer of plaster, which I first had to chip away. Naturally, once the stove is correctly installed, I'll be able to tidy up the rough edges of my hacking... but it's too early to worry about such trivial aspects of my construction project.

In the schema, you can see that I've been obliged to introduce a twist in the chimney tubes at the level of the first floor, just before it ascends into the attic (grenier in French). That's because I encountered an unexpected obstacle when I pierced the suspended ceiling (faux plafond in French) above the first floor: a huge reinforced concrete beam, whose vital role consists of helping to hold in place the ancient stone walls of the house.

The tube seen in the above photos with Fitzroy is therefore the first of a series of 8 or 9 elements leading up to the final object in the system: an external roof chimney. I've already ordered this object from the same excellent French manufacturer who makes all the stovepipes and tubes: Poujoulat. Taking into account the inevitable delays due to tomorrow's Mayan end-of-the-world and the Christmas festivities, I would predict that my future wood stove should become operational at around the height of winter, some time in February. Up until then, I can rely, of course, on the good old open fireplace in the living room, whose major weakness is that it tends to warm only those parts of the body that are facing the flames, leaving you constantly with a chilly backside.

Talking of the fireplace, Fitzroy has developed another habit, which consists of waiting until I've lit up the fire and settled down in front of the flames with a good book, or to watch TV. Then, without asking for my opinion on the matter, Fitzroy scrambles up onto my knees and snuggles in for a warm snooze. If I try to push him back down onto the floor, my dog uses all the force of his powerful legs and claws to hang on tightly. So, I usually don't insist any further, preferring to take pleasure in Fitzroy's warm somnolent presence. He nevertheless becomes heavy after a while, and I have to guide carefully the mass of my sleeping dog back down onto the floor, where he sits upright, still half-asleep, with his head and paws supported by my knees and the tip of his backside poised on the floor. Finally, he wakes up completely, gets the message, and finds a new position outstretched on the floor. (Unfortunately, I can't supply readers with images of the delightful operations that I'm describing.)

Observers might say that I'm an excessively permissive master.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Construction work in progress

In my blog post of 23 September 2012 entitled Preparing winter wood [display], I said that I intended to stack up the newly-arrived pile of firewood in the usual place, under a corner of the roof in the north-west corner of the house. On second thoughts, I decided to leave most of this wood outside, so that I would have room to start erecting a concrete wall.

As of today, I've almost finished the part of the wall that incorporates reinforced concrete, and moved a small part of the firewood under the roof. I have to prevent surface water from attaining the area where the wood is to be kept, so I've installed an underground drainage system alongside the emerging wall, at the place in the following photo where you see freshly-dug earth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the firewood remains outside, protected from the rain and snow by a big green tarpaulin.

As I said in a recent blog post, I've started to erect a carport outside the north-west corner of the house (which is never reached by the winter sun). That explains the presence in the above photo of new roofing timber, which I brought here in my trailer.

A ramp was created in this area over two years ago.

After those earthworks, this corner of the house was totally bare, as you can see here:

In my blog post of 23 February 2010 entitled North-west corner of my house [display], I presented a project (created by means of Photoshop) for a carport at this place.

Today, the new earth in this area has been well compacted, and it's high time to go ahead with the construction. Here's a photo of the site that I took this morning:

[Click to enlarge]

As you can see, my project mock-up was wrongly-proportioned and rather off-target, since the carport roof in the mock-up was far too low. Here's another view of the site:

Except for the six vertical posts (Douglas-fir wood, treated in a vat in a sawmill at St-Marcellin), and the pale pine rafters at the top (seen lying on the green tarpaulin in an earlier photo), all the rest of the timber comes from an old green-painted wood shed that I built in this area soon after arriving at Gamone.

It was a fine structure, built of sturdy timber, which fitted ideally into the Gamone surroundings.

At that time, I had my first opportunity of getting accustomed to building on sloping ground. The shed was located just alongside the dirt track that used to lead up to a barn on the neighboring property (now replaced by a house). When major roadworks were carried out in order to create a smooth hairpin curve at this spot, I decided to demolish the old shed.

As you can see from the above photo, unless I removed the shed, it would have been impossible to envisage a car ramp leading up to the north-west corner of the house. So, sadly, I decided to knock down my charming construction.

These days, while I'm working on the carport, everything is being held in place by clamps.

Above the northern doorway into the house, a pair of steel brackets (almost a century old) has always intrigued me, and I still have no firm idea of their purpose.

I was able to use one of these mysterious brackets as a firm support to hold the posts in a rigid position up until such time as I insert all the necessary triangular ties to ensure the stability of the structure.

During my work, I'm being constantly observed by a conscientious ever-present foreman.

Exceptionally, the foreman's surveillance was interrupted briefly this morning when he took time off to consume a Kleenex that had dropped out of a pocket of my overalls.

But he's a friendly foreman, who rarely criticizes the quality of my work.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fitzroy in Sophia's basket

Up until recently, Fitzroy liked to tear apart everything in his vicinity, including cushions, baskets, mats, etc. Well, he seems to have become better behaved at that level. As of yesterday, when I dragged out Sophia's old wicker basket and put a cushion inside, Fitzroy suddenly realized that it might be a comfortable place to lie down, instead of a couple of nice objects to destroy. This afternoon, he even used the basket when I put it alongside his kennel.

I've been trying to prevent him, as far as possible, from venturing around in the paddock with the donkeys, because he comes back to the house covered in prickly burs, which I then have to remove with my fingers in a one-by-one manner. From time to time, in certain underlying regions where the layer of burs is thick, I resort to scissors. As for Fitzroy, he seems to enjoy all this attention, which he probably sees as grooming operations carried out kindly by the chief dog in the pack (that is, me).

THIS MORNING: Yesterday was quite cool. In the space of a week, we've gone from heat-wave conditions to chilly autumn weather. Last night, seeing Fitzroy dozing cozily, indeed angelically, in Sophia's basket on the warm kitchen floor, I didn't feel like putting him outside into his kennel. So, I closed the door between the kitchen and the living room (so that Fitzroy wouldn't decide to scramble upstairs and wake me up in the early hours of the morning), and left him to sleep there. Well, this morning, I discovered that it was no more than wishful thinking when I spoke about Fitzroy being better behaved in his relationship with easily-destructible objects. Back at the time of Sophia, Fitzroy had already started to destroy the basket and its cushions (which once belonged to an Ikea chair, which has had new cushions for a year now). This morning, inside and around the basket, there was a new crop of fragments of foam rubber. For this outside photo, I gathered up the fragments and placed them inside the aging basket.

My dear old Sophia is no longer there to deplore the damaged state of her cherished basket, which was impeccable before Fitzroy's arrival. So, it doesn't really matter if Fitzroy and the elements continue their inevitable process of destruction. And I'll continue to collect the bits and pieces of a morning.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hot dog

In our corner of France, this afternoon, it was exceptionally hot. Personally, the heat doesn't affect me greatly, but I nevertheless stay inside the house, where the temperature is cool. On the other hand, I noticed that Fitzroy was trying to escape from the heat, first by burrowing down into his favorite dust bowl alongside the house, and then by moving to a far corner of the cellar. So, I decided to set him up comfortably on a cushion beneath an electric fan.

He slept in that position for an hour or so (which suggests that he probably hadn't slept well during the previous hot night). Later on in the afternoon, I invited him to go out for a walk, but no sooner had I opened the door than we were hit by a gust of hot air. So we rushed back into the house again.

It's evening now, and everything has returned to normal. Fitzroy is dozing at my feet, beneath the computer.

There are journalists who claim that France might indeed be tasting, for the very first time, the effects of global warming... but no scientific statement has yet been made in this sense. On the other hand, there appears to be an intense nationwide effort by health services aimed at ensuring that seniors don't get knocked out by the heat. When I witness all this agitation here in France—for a few days with temperatures in the zone of 38 to 40 degrees—I often wonder retrospectively how this kind of problem was solved in my native Australia. Maybe it simply wasn't... Would anybody in our state government have bothered to look at the statistics of mortality in periods of extreme heat, to see whether the victims included an unusually large proportion of old people? Are statistics of this kind actually established today in Australia?