Sadly my announcement of a successful rain dance last month came to nothing more than a passing shower. As we pass mid September here in Aquitaine we have still had no more than a few mills of rain since May and the place really is a dessert now. With 23 sheep in the field, they have now reverted to eating the thistles such is their hunger. This morning we pulled them into the yard to hopefully select few lambs for the abattoir but still they remain as skinny as a cheesy-thin, and still with zero chance of rain on the 10 day radar. At this rate they will be heading for Christmas dinner rather than summer BBQ. On the subject of sheep I can gladly report that Daisy Death-Wish is still with us, if only in a tripod fashion. Yes, the seeming indefatigable creature is now wobbling about the field and being fed on biscuits while the others live on very warm fresh air. Who would have thought it?
At last we have some piece here at the French house after 6 weeks solid with guests. It was lovely to see everyone, particularly individually this year, but the sigh of relief we let out when the last ones left could have swept up the leaves! One thing I do miss though; when we have guests they act as a human shield for the mozzies, who love the sight and smell of pale English flesh. Since folks left the buggeratic little beasts only have us to chew on now and, even if we don’t taste very nice, everyone has to eat. Of course we have now run out of repellent, all used up by the twenty or so folks sleeping in our spare rooms, so are sitting ducks to their preying fangs. Meanwhile I have now got my own teeth back into some proper work, with an inexhaustible ToDo list that both tires me at the thought and keeps me awake at night. I think it was Gerry Adams who said 'I love deadlines, I quite like the whooshing sound as they going flying past!' Na, can't have been Gerry Adams, can it? That would read 'I love the sound of bullets flying past?' Somebody Adams anyway.
As this column is entitled 'rantings' I do feel the need to vent some venomous words to the company, Microsoft. Having used their email software for a few decades I now get a message saying 'we no longer support your application..' I didn’t ask them for support, it works fine, thank you. Or it did do, until they have cut off my connection in an effort to force me to buy new stuff. I don’t want your new stuff, I shouldn’t need your new stuff. If I drive around in an old Mercedes with 4 million miles on the clock, that is my choice. The Germans won't come round and slash my tyres and force me to buy an electric go-kart? So how dare Bill Gates tell me how to run my life in cyberworld? Well Mr Gates, I no longer support your football team, so there. Bring back pigeon post, I say!
A few weekends ago, Sam and I took the camper down to the coast for a boys weekend, which was great fun, if not a little hot. Thankfully not as hot as it had been a few weeks earlier when much of the Lande forest went up in smoke. The devastation around Cazaux, our favoured spot, was heart-wrenching with thousands of acres of tress charred to death. I had wondered why we got no answer when trying to book my favourite beach restaurant, only to arrive and find it raised to the ground, its scorched innards exposed to all and sundry. Oh well, life goes on and at least there will be a plentiful supply of charcoal for Barbie this autumn. If only we dared light it!
On a more joyous trip we joined some friends and took half a dozen canoes down the river Dordogne last week, accompanied by 6 dogs including wee Haggis, who was none too keen staying onboard to start with. While I sat in the front nursing her and my poorly shoulder Mrs F sat in the back seat and rowed. Only she, by her own admission, hadn’t a faintest clue what she was doing and hence we went sideways or backwards down most of the rapids in a screaming frenzy. Eventually we swapped places and all was well in the water, particularly as we stopped at 4 different bars en-route for rehydration and pain killers! At present I think Haggis is coming into heat so we spent much of the time trying fend off a randy Fox Terrier from Liverpool called Jinxy, who was hell bent on jumping into our boat for some extracurricular sport. At least the oars came in handy! At 5 hours for a 12kms downstream trip, I'm sure the boat owners thought we had all perished, especially after they had seen us set off sideways. Fortunately, the water was only a few feet deep for most of the way, such is the drought in these parts, so we eventually arrived with nothing worse than a few scratched bottoms!
Finally I should mention the loss of our dear Queen Elisabeth. What a magnificent servant she has been to the country and I have seen her on numerous occasions when she visited and supported the agricultural shows over the years. It is a huge loss to our nation and I for one doff my cap to you, Ma'am. Having met Prince Charles a couple of times, I was never convinced he was up to the job of monarch but who am I to judge. I am sure he will make a good fist of it.
Long live the King!