Showing posts with label Gamone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gamone. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Saving Sophia

Over the last week or so, my lovely 13-year-old dog Sophia has been affected by alarming health problems, and I'm trying desperately to save her.

For ages, she has has been afflicted with a "running nose": that's to say, a daily effusion of greenish mucus from her nostrils, which has never seemed to worry Sophia and which I simply wipe away with absorbent paper. The veterinarian has explained to me that this mucus is no doubt an external symptom of some kind of serious internal problem. Unfortunately, this superficial symptom doesn't indicate automatically any kind of effective medication. And it's a fact that none of the several products suggested by the veterinarian have succeeded in stopping the mucus effusion.

A week or so ago, things became more dramatic when Sophia started to lose her appetite. The veterinarian put her on cortisone tablets, and this seemed to produce a positive reaction. Since yesterday, though, Sophia has refused all food, no matter what appetizing products I've offered her. Worse still, she refuses to eat additional cortisone tablets. So, this evening, I'm terribly anguished...

It's all very well to say that she's an old dog, and that her time is up. Fair enough. But I'll be devastated if and when she goes. Sophia is Gamone, and Gamone is Sophia.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

First peonies of 2012

I'm thrilled to discover that all the 22 rose bushes and the 9 peonies that I planted back in 2009 have survived the harsh winter. There are no rose blossoms yet, of course. But yesterday, I was greeted by the first peonies of 2012 at Gamone.

My Adzuma Nishiki surely needs a lot more sunshine, and less rain and wind, to acquire a more rosy robust complexion.

24 HOURS LATER: Look at the difference, this morning, brought about by just a few hours of sunshine:

Donkeys are fond of plum trees

Grass is great for cows, but donkeys prefer by far the fresh leaves and delicate blossoms of plum trees.

A tempest has been blowing at Gamone over the last 24 hours. Personally, the wind always drives me crazy. I wasn't born to reside in the Rhône valley, where the Mistral can blow for days and nights on end. I guess I wasn't born to be a yachtsman, either, or a glider pilot. Windy cities are the worst of all, particularly when the presence of tall buildings focuses the wind blasts upon unwary pedestrians. But the donkeys can thank the tempest for breaking this branch and offering them this unexpected feast.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fragile as a cherry blossom

Chapter 8 of Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins starts with a charming personal anecdote:
I was driving through the English countryside with my daughter Juliet, then aged six, and she pointed out some flowers by the wayside. I asked her what she thought wildflowers were for. She gave a rather thoughtful answer. ‘Two things,’ she said. ‘To make the world pretty, and to help the bees make honey for us.’ I was touched by this and sorry I had to tell her that it wasn't true.
Today, here in my Gamone wonderland, if I were conversing with a Juliet, I would ask her why the cherry tree has flowers.

And why are the cherry blossoms so light and fragile? There today and gone tomorrow. I don't imagine (although I may be wrong) that the flowers remain intact for long enough to interest passing insects.

Yesterday, a strong breeze sprung up at Gamone, and the cherry blossoms disappeared within 20 minutes. Afterwards, their petals were strewn across the grassy slopes and the roadway like vegetal dandruff. Dawkins's daughter might have explained that the ephemeral cherry blossoms were put there by God's angels to remind people who are fond of cherries (such as me) that there'll soon be a great crop of fruit.

Incidentally, last year, I put a big bag of cherries in the deep freezer, to see how they might survive. Well, once they're thawed out, they're a little lifeless, naturally, and their red color has changed to brown. Their texture is altered, too, as if they might have been cooked. But their taste remains excellent. And it's nice to be able to savor last year's cherries at the end of winter.

I might receive a technical reaction to this blog post from my old friend Bruce Hudson in Young, Australia. Farmers of Young are apparently some of the world's leading producers of cherries. On the other hand, I've never heard whether these Young folk know the secrets of distilling cherries to produce the 48° alcohol called kirsch, which happens to be the specialty of the Guilhermet family in St-Hilaire-du-Rosier (Ratafia variety of cherries), 20 minutes down the road from Gamone.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Donkey neighbors

This is the first group photo I've ever succeeded in taking of all the five donkeys of Gamone.

From left to right: Fanette, Moshé and the three female donkeys acquired by my neighbor Jackie last year. The two donkey families are not in direct physical contact, because their respective paddocks are separated by a couple of electric strands. So, they observe one another at a short but respectable distance... which is fine for everybody. Donkeys are aware of their precise territory, and they prefer that things stay fixed at that level.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Imagining today as if it were tomorrow

I've just been reading a news article that mentions a street in Paris, the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, that has apparently become so crowded with tourists that it is periodically closed down to traffic. Well, that street is in fact the continuation of the rue Rambuteau, where I lived for ages. It was like my backyard: a quiet place where I would often wander home after an evening at the nearby Petit Gavroche, or go out on my bicycle of a Sunday morning. A place becomes so familiar, so banal, that we take it for granted. Then, one day, it becomes so sought after that the authorities have to close down the road traffic.

Sometimes I think that this might happen, one day, to Gamone. For the moment, I'm the only person in the world who has the extraordinary privilege of existing here—day in, day out, in the sole company of my dogs and donkeys—in this magnificent setting. But one day, Gamone will surely be discovered, and the authorities will have to close the road to keep out tourist buses.

Yesterday, when driving back from Romans, I literally ran into a rainbow. It followed me all the way back to Gamone, where I had a few precious minutes to take a photo before it dissolved into thin air.

As I say, the funny thing about that rainbow was that it followed me all the way back home here, as if it were taking care of me. As soon as it saw that I had arrived safely at Gamone, the rainbow disappeared.


In memory of a dog named Gamone


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mondo cane

Sophia's primary wish, as she grows older, is to lead a peaceful and lazy (non-strenuous) existence... like all of us, you might say.

Whenever I happen to wander up the road on my own, to fetch water for the donkeys, Sophia gets upset and starts to bark. She wants to keep me in sight all the time (except, of course, if I go out in the car, which doesn't seem to bother her).

In the turd domain, Queen Sophia has become a little like the French "Sun King" Louis XIV at Versailles, who apparently had the habit of sitting on the royal chamber pot every morning, and doing his business, in the company of selected members of his court. My dog Sophia expects Fitzroy and me to accompany her to a precise place on the slopes, 50 meters beyond the house, and to wait there until not the least fragment of a turd remains to be ejected from her anal tract. I'm always amused by the way in which Sophia, up until the latter question has received a definitive answer, continues to beat around the bush, coming and going, hesitating, and turning in circles. It's clearly a fundamental matter of making a good decision.

Fitzroy now accepts the principle of being chained up for certain periods during the day (in the middle of the morning or afternoon, for example, after having eaten), to remove the temptation of setting out on exploratory expeditions along the roads, no doubt in pursuit of magic female odors. He doesn't seem to be traumatized by this necessity, as he comes readily when I call him to be attached to the chain.

During the night, he's totally free to do as he pleases. And one of the activities that pleases Fitzroy immensely is the destruction of colored plastic objects.

It goes without saying that I'm not happy to see the nozzle of a hose subjected to this treatment. But how can I possibly explain to my dog that I need those plastic objects for several good reasons? Just imagine if a grass fire broke out, and I suddenly found my hose nozzle in that state. Fitzroy, of course, would never worry about such things as grass fires. On the other hand, he has always been infatuated by water hoses.

We humans see the Large Hadron Collider and its beams of particles, beneath the Franco-Swiss border, as an extraordinary tool capable of maybe providing answers to some of the basic mysteries of our existence. Fitzroy seems to see the jet of water emerging from a hose with a similar degree of awe. Even if it means getting soaked for the nth time, Fitzroy would like to break through this mystery, and get to the bottom (or maybe rather the top) of it all.

My dog performs astonishing jumps of well over a meter into the air. I tried to manipulate the hose and take photos of Fitzroy's spectacular jumps at the same time, but my images cannot possibly hope to convey the intellectual rage of my dear dog.

A jet of water emerging from a hose looks like a tangible thing... and yet it seems to evaporate into thin wet air as soon as you attempt to grasp it. Maybe it's a matter of adjusting one's angle of attack, even in mid-air.

Fitzroy's determination to solve this problem knows no bounds... apart from his own, which are truly superb.

I would never dare attempt to explain to my dog the curious physical nature of liquids, because he has clearly discovered these mysteries all on his own. I prefer to leave Fitzroy with his permanent determination to catch the Snark one of these days. Others might wait for Godot. Meanwhile, Fitzroy jumps.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Exceptional vision of the valley

Late this afternoon, when I caught sight of extraordinary hues in the valley, I grabbed my Nikon and took the following shot from the bathroom window:

My motivations behind this photo [click to enlarge] were actually a little more complicated, and confused. While opening the bathroom window to take a look at the dogs, I glimpsed the blurry mirror image of the Huillier houses in Châtelus, at the foot of the Cournouze. The two on the right, one superimposed on the other, gave the impression of the presence of a Byzantine chapel with a tower. I realized immediately that the extraordinary reddish light was playing tricks on me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sunny end-of-winter morning

Over the last few days, weather specialists on TV have been warning us that the apparent early arrival of spring is an illusion, and that we should remain prepared for further cold days. Be that as it may, primroses have made their annual appearance at Gamone.

These lovely little flowers have always been the first tangible sign that spring is not far away. Meanwhile, the landscape remains brownish. On the slopes, patches of bare soil, left naked between tufts of dead grass, have a dry lifeless look. After the harsh days and nights of ice and snow, the earth will need a little time to revive and nourish the dormant vegetation. We must be patient.

Already, the weather is sufficiently sunny to invite me outside for my morning cup of Ethiopian Arabica [see my blog post on this subject].

Fitzroy looks on, while Sophia lounges in the morning sun.

Funnily, whenever I step outside the front door at Gamone for a cup of coffee in the sun, while admiring the Choranche valley and the Cournouze mountain, I'm reminded inevitably—by an immediate and automatic mental flashback—of a spring morning in 1962, not long after my arrival in France, when a couple of Australian friends and I were driving through the French Riviera, on our way to the F1 Grand Prix in Monaco. We halted for coffee at a café on the edge of the Mediterranean. It was a simple enough event, and yet I realize retrospectively that it was probably the first time in my life that I had sat down for coffee at an outside table in such a magnificent natural site. Normally, as a youth back in Australia, I should have had similar opportunities at the seaside or in the mountains… but none of them have remained in my memory as vividly as that marvelous first morning on the French Riviera.

For the last two decades, I've been fortunate in being able to rediscover any number of marvelous mornings on my doorstep… at least when the weather's warm.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Donkey feed buckets

This afternoon, I installed new plastic feed buckets for Moshé and Fanette.

I purchased these buckets through the Internet, since they're much better than anything I could find in local stores. They're made out of heavy-duty plastic, they have handles so that I can fill them with oats back at the house and carry them down to the donkey paddock, and they have solid steel brackets enabling me to slip them onto a thick wooden plank that's bolted to a pair of upright posts. So, the system appeared to be foolproof.

Alas, donkeys are no fools. When they had finished gulping down their oats, Moshé (on the left) used his powerful jaws to lift up each bucket and remove it from the supporting plank. Then he kicked them down the slopes, meaning that I had to scramble down the hill for 50 meters to get hold of the empty buckets, and then carry them back up to the house. That's exactly what I would like to avoid, particularly when the slopes are slippery or covered in snow.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Biting off a bit of water

Over the last week, when the weather was bitterly cold, I allowed Fitzroy, exceptionally, to sleep in the kitchen with Sophia. Inside the house, however, Fitzroy becomes rapidly bored, because he's a hyperactive dog (that's the adjective used by French journalists to describe Nicolas Sarkozy) who needs to race around and jump in the air, scrambling up and down the slopes of Gamone, snapping at the donkeys' hind legs, racing after birds (who surely can't imagine how an earthbound animal such as a dog could ever hope to catch an aerial creature), or killing field mice. Yes, Fitzroy has a distinctly feline feature: he's a skilled mouse-killer. It's true that I train him in this art as often as possible. You see, inside the house, I use a couple of metallic cages as mousetraps.

When the door of the trap springs shut, the rodent is simply imprisoned, but otherwise unharmed. Then, with the generosity of a Nero, I give the captured mouse a fighting chance of survival in a confrontation with Fitzroy. The other evening, I organized such a combat in the dark, on the snow-covered roadway. I used an electric lamp to see where I was walking, and to open the cage enabling the mouse to dart out with the speed of an arrow (or almost), but Fitzroy relied solely upon his sense of smell to locate the escaping mouse in the dark, pounce upon it, scrape it up out of the snow and break its backbone. In the style of a cat, Fitzroy will then toss the mouse in the air a couple of times, to see how it reacts upon landing. I believe that this is not merely a cruel game, but rather a way of evaluating the physical state of the captured prey. In the case of a field mouse in the snow, in plain daylight, Fitzroy's skills are quite spectacular. He will pounce into a heap of snow—where there's no visible sign of life—and emerge instantly with a mouse clutched between his teeth.

Inside the warm kitchen, Fitzroy usually squats Sophia's big wicker basket. But Sophia is just as happy spread out on the tiled floor, which contains electric heating. The problem, alas, is that Fitzroy's boredom is often transformed into vandalism.

He dissects minutely everything he can find. Let us not forget that, over a year ago, Fitzroy was no more than a pup when he destroyed my thick hessian and rubber doormat by tearing it into smaller and smaller fragments. Fitzroy is fond of applying this fragmentation process to smaller objects such as supermarket cheese trays, yoghurt containers and Kleenexes (preferably used). Since I'm rarely on the spot at the moment when the damage is being done, I can't really adopt a negative attitude that might inform Fitzroy that his vandalism pisses me off. So, I merely chase him out of the house and clean up the mess. If there's one word that Fitzroy does understand perfectly, it's the command "Out!". For him, it's an invitation to return to his normal pleasant outdoors environment.

Incidentally, talking about the dogs' environment, I'm always happy to rediscover that both Sophia and Fitzroy are resolutely winter animals, indeed snow creatures. Whenever they've got something on their mind such as the investigation of an unidentified external presence or odor or noise, they immediately ignore the fact that a Siberian snow blizzard might be sweeping across the slopes of Gamone. Finally, it's only when they've got nothing better to think about that they get around to thinking that life might be more pleasant indoors.

Yesterday afternoon, I was relieved to find that the temperature had become quite mild and the sun was shining. I took a few gardening tools up the road, to break up the thick layer of ice (a driving hazard for my neighbor) that had formed just below my spring.

A steady stream of water continues to emerge from a hose attached to my spring. Since this running water is a few degrees warmer than the frozen surroundings, it can actually be used to melt the ice. Now, Fitzroy has a theory about water streaming from a hose. It's cool and tasty, and Fitzroy reckons that a smart dog should be able to bite off a bit, to grasp between his teeth, as if it were an agonizing field mouse.

He jumps ceaselessly at the nozzle of the hose, with constant determination, trying to get his teeth firmly around the stream of icy water. There again, as in the case of Fitzroy's vandalism, I can't find the right words to communicate effectively with my dear dog. To be perfectly truthful, I don't wish to exclude totally the possibility that Fitzroy might come running towards me proudly, one of these days, with a short fragment of still-running water clenched in his mouth. That would merely make him a quantum-theory dog... which wouldn't amaze me unduly. Anything's possible...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Covered in snow

Snow hit us massively during the night. Nobody can say we weren't warned. TV weather reports have become amazingly precise.

Yesterday, the visiting goldfinches were basking in the sun on the tiled roof of the bird house. Today, they would need to wear snowshoes.

In the middle of the morning, just after the passage of the municipal snow plow, I ran into my neighbor Jackie walking down the road on his way to Pont-en-Royans.

In fact, I had already discovered why Jackie was unlikely to do much driving, today, on the slopes of Choranche. Early this morning, I was taking my dogs out so that Sophia could "do her business". She only defecates at a fixed place, a hundred meters up above the house, and prefers to be accompanied for the occasion.

Continuing up the road a little, I was alarmed to find Jackie's little white vehicle in the middle of a snow-covered field.

I was relieved to find footprints leading from the stranded vehicle back up to Jackie's house. So I rushed up there to find out what had happened. Jackie told me that he had an appointment this morning with his GP up in Grenoble. Having heard that driving conditions might be difficult, he decided to set out early, at 6 am, in the dark. But, before he had done 50 meters, his journey ended abruptly. The vehicle started to slide on the very first slope, and refused to stay on the road. It continued to slide in a straight line, and that line lead into the field, where the vehicle only stopped sliding because of a conveniently-placed big bump in the grassy ground.

He was lucky in that the rough terrain prevented the vehicle from gathering speed, overturning and sliding into Gamone Creek.

As for me, I simply rule out any attempt whatsoever at using my old automobile whenever Gamone is covered in ice or snow.

New unidentified birds at Gamone

Yesterday, a new group of tiny colorful birds arrived at Gamone. The following poor-quality photo (with my telephoto lens, there's not enough depth of field) gives you an idea of the bird's appearance:

Instead of darting into the bird house and flying out with sunflower seeds in their beaks, like the mésanges [tits], these newcomers simply hang around as a group on the roof of the bird house, and dine calmly on the seeds I placed there.

Meanwhile, on the ground, where I've also spread several kinds of seeds, finches chase each other around, as if there weren't enough seeds to go around. The little creatures give the impression, viewed from my bedroom window, that they're competing aggressively in some kind of rough soccer match.

For the moment, I haven't been able to identify these new visitors.

BREAKING NEWS: Christine just phoned to inform me that these birds are European goldfinches [chardonnerets in French].

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Teapots in my life

Here's an assortment of teapots that I've had for ages:

My favorite is the glazed stoneware object on the right, created by the potter Maurice Crignon. The little metal teapot with red hearts came down to my daughter as a memento of her aunt Catherine Vincent, and Emmanuelle then gave it to me. It remains my daughter's favorite teapot whenever she visits Gamone, because she can make herself a single cup of tea for breakfast, knowing that I prefer coffee. Manufactured in what used to be known as Yugoslavia, this lovely little object is unfortunately so light and round-shaped that it has a tendency to roll over if you touch it abruptly… which is not reassuring behavior for a teapot. And the thin metal radiates heat rather than keeping it in the brew.

Here are my two high-tech cast-iron made-in-China teapots:

They incorporate the excellent idea of a built-in tea strainer, whereas my older teapots require the use of a small spherical tea-container that is not very user-friendly. The big green teapot on the left is a family-size device, whereas the lovely little beige teapot (which I've just purchased, through the Internet) is perfect for me on my own, and particularly esthetic.

If you happened to read yesterday's blog post entitled Internet shopping [display], you'll understand immediately how I've succeeded in obtaining top-quality leaves of Chinese jasmine tea.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Adieu, dear neighbor

For years, the first person I would see at Gamone, early in the morning, was André Repellin, whom we all called "Dédé". He had the regular habit of strolling slowly up the road that runs alongside my house. Up on the slopes above Gamone, he would gaze out upon the magnificent panorama of the valley of the Bourne, and the surrounding mountains. Then he would turn around and walk back down to his home, a few hundred meters below my place. If I happened to meet up with him on the road, Dédé would always greet me with the same exclamation: "Ah, William, you're particularly matinal today." Obviously, in Dédé's eyes, I didn't have the reputation of being an early riser.

Seven months ago, Dédé was totally stunned by the death of his unique daughter Françoise, after a lengthy bout with leukemia [see my blog post]. Except for rare moments of interest in the outside world (which I had the privilege of observing on several occasions), Dédé's enthusiasm for life appeared to have waned. And his spirits were dampened by the boring obligation of being driven to Romans and back, three times a week, for dialysis treatment.

Madeleine phoned me this morning to tell me, calmly, that her husband had passed away peacefully, in the middle of the night, at the hospital in Romans. She will be faced with the challenge of adjusting her existence to the absence of both Dédé and Françoise. Personally, I'm convinced that Madeleine has the required determination and moral stamina to deal successfully with this new situation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Leaf peeping

The American expression "leaf peeping"—which I learned from Google—designates the preoccupations of people who are enraptured by autumn panoramas of colorful foliage. Aficionados would be overjoyed by visions of the Vercors at this time of the year. Here's the view, from my house, of the wooded slopes on the other side of Gamone Creek:

[Click to enlarge slightly, then hit ESCAPE to return to blog.]

Throughout the warm season, these trees are uniformly green. So, it's only when autumn arrives that they start to display their specific visual characteristics. While not vouching for the veracity of my facts (since I'm not an expert on the identification of trees), I would imagine that most of the trees that remain resolutely green are oaks (chêne), whereas those that are starting to turn brown and yellow would be beech (hêtre), ash (frêne) or birch (bouleau). As for the two or three spectacular reddish specimens, they are almost certainly maple (érable) trees.

Down from my house, a huge golden-leaved tree dominates the hairpin bend where the road crosses over Gamone Creek.

The road, at that corner, is a carpet of autumn leaves.

I picked up a few specimens of dead leaves.

Unless I'm mistaken, this giant tree—composed of four or five pale-barked trunks emerging from the embankment—is a maple.

Some of my Gamone trees are less splendid in autumn. For example, the foliage of the walnut withers away rapidly and sadly.

And the fallen walnut leaves are uniformly brown and wrinkled.

Obviously, for my grand old lady dog Sophia, a golden maple carpet is more appropriate.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saints roses

Today's date has a quite binary look: 2011-11-01. For an All Saints' Day, the weather at Gamone is wonderfully mild, and even sunny at times. This afternoon, I picked up the last few apples from the ground (for my donkeys), and was thrilled to find a few splendid roses in my unkempt garden (where I didn't do any work whatsoever in summer, following my conflict with a fallen tree and my fractured knee).

[Click to enlarge slightly]

On the other hand, I've done a lot of work inside the house, mainly to get rid of old books, papers and obsolete media stuff. It felt funny throwing out all my audio cassettes. I'm also replacing many of my old cardboard boxes (for papers and photos) by transparent plastic containers, which are a great invention.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Defeating dust

It took me a long time to realize that certain tools and devices can be very good for one kind of task, but totally inappropriate for an apparently similar task. Here's an excellent example:

For somebody like myself who consumes a lot of walnuts (grown here at Gamone), that high-tech hammer is perfect for cracking them open. But the hammer's nylon head is incapable of driving in a nail.

In the domain of vacuum cleaners, I purchased this powerful professional model many years ago, and imagined that it would be ideal for the house at Gamone:

It doesn't use bags, and it's perfect for dog hairs, wood shavings, spider webs, etc. Apparently it can even suck up liquids, but I've never used it for that. When you stick the nozzle in a fireplace, it sucks up the ashes in an instant, and appears to be the perfect solution for this regular winter task. But that's where I made a huge blunder, which I didn't actually detect for years. Let me explain...

Air carrying solid stuff is sucked into the device through the nozzle and tube, then this air passes through a thick cloth filter (which can be washed) and exits from the metal cylinder through a large opening in the rear. This simple operating principle means that the device sucks with great force, and is easy to clean. However I was dismayed to see that furniture in my living room was constantly covered in a film of reddish dust. For a long time, I imagined that this was surely the result of convection currents emerging from my open fireplace. Alas, the true cause of this dust was in fact my vacuum cleaner. I made this discovery on a sunny spring morning when I was using the device to remove ashes from the fireplace. All of a sudden, the rays of sunshine streaming into my living room revealed that a cloud of dust was emerging from the open hole in the back of the vacuum cleaner. This dust was so fine that I wouldn't have normally noticed it on a typically overcast wintry morning. But, on this sunny morning, the cloud of dust was clearly visible, and I suddenly realized that I was using a vacuum cleaner with a peculiar property. Not only did it suck up large volumes of ashes and bits of charcoal, but it deposited in return a fine layer of dust over everything in its vicinity. This was not a fault in the design of the device. It's simply not a vacuum cleaner designed for dusty stuff. So, I promptly banned this device from my living room, and moved it to my workshop in a far wing of the house, where it's great for wood shavings and such things. Then I replaced it by a special-purpose device that's designed precisely for sucking up ashes from a fireplace.

This new device works wonderfully well. I've always had a top-quality Miele vacuum cleaner of the domestic kind for the bedrooms. Realizing that I'm inclined to hesitate before carting the Miele machine up or down the stairs, I decided, a few days ago, to purchase a new Electrolux vacuum cleaner that I'll keep upstairs, above all for my books, papers and electronic devices such as the computers.

Incidentally, the French company that manufactures the device for sucking up ashes proposes an ingenious system for blowing warm air into damp shoes. I've always been fascinated by their publicity pictures.

Installed in a corner of the kitchen or living room, this would be a wonderful conversation piece. It's the first thing a visitor, entering the house, would notice. For young children, you could make up marvelous fairy stories about the way in which, on the stroke of midnight, the system gets up on its legs and actually strolls around the house all night. At dawn, like a well-behaved Cinderella, it returns to its right place.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spaghetti dogs

My daughter Emmanuelle—who seems to imagine (rightly so) that her father is snowed down under tons of surplus stuff—is always delighted to hear that I've had the courage and determination to get rid of some of my junk. In particular, whenever she drops in at Gamone, she makes a point of examining the contents of my refrigerator, deep freezer and larder for products that have gone beyond their use-by date. This morning, I was surprised to discover that Manya had apparently failed to detect the presence, in one of my kitchen cupboards, of a dusty packet of spaghetti dating from so long ago that I'm almost ashamed to indicate the date.

Come on, William. Don't be ashamed. What's a dusty 4-year-old packet of spaghetti between you and your understanding readers?

The stuff was probably still quite good. In any case, I put it in boiling water for ten minutes, with salt and appropriate herbs, and served it up to my dogs… who've never been too concerned about human inventions such as use-by dates.

In fact, the dogs eat precooked canine pasta regularly, and they gulped down the spaghetti with enthusiasm. Sophia, of course, has always functioned with food in the style of a vacuum cleaner. She hoovers up her fodder as if it were stuff to be cleared away and cleaned up as rapidly and completely as possible. On the other hand, I was interested to observe Fitzroy trying to invent efficient ways and means of dealing with all those slippery white worms. Finally, like an imaginative and amused child, I think he mastered the suck approach.

Autumn dogs

The weather at Gamone has been mild, and the dogs have been lounging around lazily in the sun.

They get on wonderfully well together. This afternoon, a local hunter, Daniel Berger, strolled past the house, with one of his hounds on a leash. When I went out to say hello to him, my dogs accompanied me. Suddenly, Fitzroy decided that he didn't like the look of the poor docile hound, so he sprang on him. The surprise attack wasn't particularly vicious, and only lasted for half a second. I was amused in that it was the first time ever that I've seen Fitzroy lose his temper.