Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

idogs II


The guys at www.podapic.com wee not entirely happy with the original silhouettes because the black dogs didn't come out too well, so they sent me an additional version. I think I prefer this one, even if it isn't a "standard" iPod ad...

idogs


All you iPod nuts out there check out www.podapic.com. They will take any photo you send them and turn it into one of those cool iPod ads with either a standard iPod or iPod Shuffle. Check out Harry and Benson... now everyone in the family sports an iPod!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Harry at 4 months


Finally becoming a real part of the family - a joy to be with (MOST of the time!)

Friday, May 20, 2005

14kg and still growing...


Isn't he a serious-looking little chap? He's very big on this sitting down and analysing stuff carefully business - right before he attacks whatever it is he has been analysing. Seeing him next to Benson now I realise (a) how much he has grown in the last week - looking like a real dog now, and (b) how much he is going to look like Benson. Note the spiffy little bone-shaped ID tags which were a small gift from a very thoughtful client (who always makes a huge fuss of Benson whenever he comes over) on learning that we had acquired a puppy. Thanks Paul.

It has been a big couple of weeks for Harry - sorry I haven't been keeping you updated on a daily basis. He went for his second set of vaccinations, of course, and once we passed the two week mark we started to take him on proper walks with Benson. Totally unimpressed with that - clealry the whole walk thing was just a huge chore to be got out of the way in order to get back home and continue to wreak havoc. The idea was that a big walk every day would tire him out - I have yet to see any evidence of that! We also thought he would be off after Benson making his life a misery throughout the walk, but he tends to stick by us for most of it, and is getting very good at coming when he is called and walking to heel on the leash (he is off the leash for the majority of the walk, since only a small part of it is along a road). All in all, great progress.

Another huge leap for Harry was his first market and restaurant trip. We are determined that Harry is going to be a Proper French Dog, inasmuch as he will accompany us regularly to restaurants and any other activites where he can socialise with other dogs and people. For those of you not up on the French way of things, dogs are welcomed in all but the poshest restaurants in France - as are children, since French children are infinitely better behaved than their British counterparts, who are looked on with disgust and disdain by the rest of Europe as they hurtle noisly around restaurants with their parents blissfully unaware that they are ruining the meal for everyone else in the place. Of course, the French are not yet that big on the Non-Smoking section in restaurants, but you can't have everything....

So, last week we took him to Sommieres market, a very busy little market with lots of interesting food stalls, and a nice square where you can purchase fresh oysters from one stall, cheese from another, and then take your makeshift picnic to a bar where you can sit at their table and eat whilst you partake of their excellent wine. So civilised! Any other week there would be a gaggle of our friends there for Harry to fuss over, but not one in sight this week. Shame. So we move on to the restaurant, where we spend a very nervous hour or two watching him like a hawk in case he lets us down by peeing or, worse, pooing, inside. We needn't have worried - he behaves impeccably, as befits his status as a Proper French Dog.
He is tired on the trip back, and spends the entire journey asleep on the parcel shelf of the car! Won't be long before he is too big for that, methinks.

His other big event was meeting Max, the huge Beauceron owned by our great friends Jan & Alex. We were a little worried that Max, at 40kg (although only just a year old) would squash Harry (a mere 14kg), but we needn't have worried. They played together non-stop for about 5 hours, running round and round the garden and wrestling - often with Harry coming out on top (Max was being uncharecteristically gentle - he is normally the biggest klutz around!). More than once we turned to see Max flat on his back with Harry straddling him, his jaws round Max's throat!. He is going to be a right little bruiser, that one, I can see.

At least he slept all the way home, and all night afterwards, too - really must get him and Max together more often. And I cannot sign off without mention of the fantastic meal prepared by Jan (as usual!). Poached salmon and fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce, followed by souris of marinated lamb and vegetables, and a spiffy zabaglione with Drambuie. Myam myam!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Harry at 14 weeks on his walk


Here he is - 14 weeks old and still growing. Enjoying his walks now

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A week in the life of Harry


Always ready to answer back this one. Whilst he IS getting better, he does still have his moments. This picture captures perfectly the moment right before one of Those Moments - we are about to be treated by a hissy fit of barking and lunging, rapidly to be followed by a rolling of the eyes and one of those "Who, Me?" looks as he dashes under the table and rolls on his back.

Not too much to report in the last week - mainly working, so I didn't think you would be too interested in reading about that. Highlight of last week was Harry's visit to the vet for his final round of vaccinations. He took it well, and it is certainly easier to lift a 9Kg dog on the table and restrain him than it is a 35Kg dog like Benson. The vet's opinion was that he is progressing well, good shape and weight for his age (he is already up to 10Kg, however, at the time of writing), very healthy, and very charming. Though she did make a point of asking if it was Harry who had caused all the cuts and scratches on my hands and arms. Errr.... yes, actually...

The nice thing about this second round of jabs is that we can finally take him for a walk with Benson every day. The thinking is that this will tire him out and calm him down. The theory is wrong. Actually, Harry is, for the moment, totally unimpressed with the entire walk thing. Rather than it being the highlight of his day, as it is with Benson, he clearly views this as a temporary piece of unnecessary physical activity and torture before he can get down to the serious business of playing and making everyone's life hell once we get home.

Training is proceeding slowly - it is much more difficult, we are finding, with two dogs, since Harry generally prefers to play with Benson than us. So play time and training sessions alike are often interrupted. We are going to have to shut Benson away completely if we want to get any serious training done. At this same age, Benson was getting 100% of our attention, and there were no other dogs around to distract him. I can see we are going to have to try harder with this one. Still, hopefully as he calms down, some of Benson's good habits will rub off on him, making the finer points of training that much easier - we are hoping it all balances out in the long run.

Low point of the week was when I thought I had lost Harry. Lynne was out and I had locked Benson in the salon and left Harry with free run of the kitchen, hallway and terrace. I went down to let him out to pee to find that he had destroyed the barriers I had placed on the terrace gates and escaped into the rest of the garden. Luckily, I had closed the main gates to the road, but that still left plenty of places he could have wandered off to, including over the mountain at the back of us if he felt so inclined (the mountain is part of the back garden, and there are no fences).

So I wander around and around calling him. Every so often I think I can hear him whining, but I cannot figure out where the noise is coming from. In desparation, I wander back into the house, to see that the barrier I had placed at the bottom of the stairs has also been destroyed, and Harry is at the top of the stairs, wagging away, clearly delighted to see me. He smells wonderful...very strange. Until I enter Lynne's bathroom to find her toilet bag upended on the floor, makeup, shampoo, hand cream, face cream, and various other smelly items strewn everywhere, and every one with tiny, puppy-tooth-shaped holes in them. Harry, far from being abashed or ashamed of his behaviour, remains delighted to see me, jumping up and down, sending fountains of hand cream into the air every time he lands on a punctured tube.

I carry him downstairs, reflecting on how different he is from Benson at this age. Benson was always a great respecter of barriers. They were always symbolic, and never had to be physically sound. If we placed a small pair of ladders across a staircase and told him "No", that was it for him - he would never try to get past. We lived right on a road, with no gate to the garden at that time. So I rigged up a simple bit of chicken wire across the gap, and made it clear that was the limit to his territory. To this day, Benson can sit in front of an open gate and not venture out, even if another dog passes on the other side of the road. That is his boundary - and he respects that.

For Harry, however, any barrier placed in his path is a challenge, to be studied - not for too long mind you - and defeated. To Harry, a barrier or gate means that there is undoubtedly something beyond it which is Labrador heaven. He has to have it...whatever it is. Problem is, he is usually right - as in the case of the make-up bag full of nice-smelling puppy chew toys....

As of today, all of the main terrace gates are now secured with a double layer of chicken wire (even Harry's teetch are not up to that task just yet) and the main house stairs have a child gate fitted. Wonder how long it will take him to learn how to pick the lock....

Monday, April 18, 2005

Strange, I don't remember being absent minded....

Now that I'm 'older' (but refuse to grow up), here's what I've discovered:

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.  
             
My wild oats have turned into prunes and All Bran.                     

I finally got my head together; now my body is falling apart.          

Funny, I don't remember being absent minded...                         

Funny, I don't remember being absent minded...                         

All reports are in; life is now officially unfair.                     

If all is not lost, where is it?                                       

It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.                     

Funny, I don't remember being absent minded...                         

Some days you're the dog; some days you're the hydrant.               

I wish the buck stopped here; I sure could use a few...               

Kids in the back seat cause accidents.                                

Accidents in the back seat cause kids.                                

Strange , I don't remember being absent minded...                        

It's hard to make a come back when you haven't been anywhere. 
        
The only time the world beats a path to your door is when you're in  the bathroom.                                                             

If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

When I'm finally holding all the cards, why does everyone decide to play chess?                                                               

Wierd , I don't remember being absent minded...                        

It's not hard to meet expenses... they're everywhere.                 

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.           

These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter... I go  somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after.           

Funny, I don't remember being . . . . . absent minded...              

Now, I think you're supposed to send this to 5 or 6, maybe 8, maybe 10,  oh, heck, just send it to a bunch of your friends if you can remember who they are. Then something is supposed to happen... I think. Maybe you get  your memory back or something! I think...                     

Sunday, April 17, 2005

What was the best thing BEFORE sliced bread?

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?

The main reason Santa is so jolly is that he knows where all the bad girls live.

I went to a book store and asked the saleswoman, "where's the self-help section? " She said if she told me it would defeat the purpose.

If a mute swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If a man is standing in the middle of the forest speaking and there is no woman around to hear him. . . is he still wrong?

If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

Is there another word for synonym?

Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do practice?

Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?

What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?

Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

Why do they lock gas station restrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?

Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

If police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

How do they get deer to cross at the yellow road sign?

Is it true that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.

How is it possible to have a civil war?

If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?

If you ate pasta and antipasta, would you still be hungry?

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have a "S" in it?

Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?

Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of the song?

Where are we going? And what's with this hand basket?

If the "black box" flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole airplane made out of this stuff?

Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

If the invisible man married the invisible woman, would their kids be much to look at?  

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Slob

For some reason, despite all the late nights, I still cannot sleep past 7am. I guess it is my subconscious alarm clock screaming at me to "get out of bed before the puppy pisses all over the kitchen and eats your shoes". So I do.

The rest of the morning is spent playing with the poochies and watching junk TV. The dogs both seem quite happy for me just to be around, even if I am not paying them attention directly, and so I am quite happy to lie on the settee watching all the crap we have "taped" over the last week or two. I say "taped", but it is actually the hard disk recorder that provides me with the freedom to record just about everything going, and then filter out the crap afterwards - a bit like the video equivalent of the digital camera, really. Gone are the days when we restricted ourselves to a couple of 36 exposure reels of film per holiday. Now we load up with 1GB memory cards, and I even take my iPod with me with the Belkin Media Reader so I can dump the camera contents to hard disk at regular intervals so I can, in effect, take over 20GB of pics at a time if I like!

The hard disk recorder gives me that same freedom, and so I roll through episodes of Scrubs, Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queeens while drinking several cups of Italian Roast coffee (remind me to tell you about the wonderful espresso machine I had installed when we renovated the kitchen some time) pendant que je fait des gratouilles aux chiens de temps en temps.

This carries on for most of the day until it is time to pop into nimes to pick up Lynne on her return from England. All in all, not a bad day.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A long day

Greg, my French contact from the test equipment manufacturer we use, is fast becoming a regular visitor, despite the fact it is an arduous 3+ hour drive form Toulouse to Sumene. I think he is looking forward to next year when his girlfriend begins her studies in Montpellier and he moves just an hour down the road.

Anyhoo, he arrives around 10am which at least gives me chance to prepare myself mentally ahead of his arrivel - mental preparation is essential after getting up at the crack of dawn to sort out the dogs - just as well I was in bed relatively early last night. I won't bore you yet again with the list of Things To Do to get the dogs (well, Harry really, since he is the biggest troublemaker) sorted. Suffice it to say Greg's tardy arrival (he wanted to be here for 9am) is welcome.

Greg and I get stuck into some serious work, and much is accomplished before we break for a couple of excellent Pizzas from Alain's. M Diet, the painter, turns up just as I am about to collect them to sort out some problems with peeling paint on one of the salon walls. He painted the whole house at the beginning of last year, but the paint is peeling again already. He reckons it is because the old pointing let in water, and we had the house repointed there is nowhere else for the water to go but inwards. And since we used an oil-based paint, there is nothing else for it to do but blow the paint off the walls as it does.

Now me, I reckon it was just poor preparation in the particular corner of the salon, which was, admittedly, one of the worst spots for peeling paint and damp when we started the renovation. We shall see if the problem persisits. As it stands, the house now reeks of paint and I have to open all the doors and window to stop the dogs from passing out. Speaking of dogs, I find loads of bits of wire in Harry's bed, and then notice that he has extracted a wire "grate" from the main drain on the terrace and has been systematically destroying it throughout the day. I sincerely hope he has not actually eaten any of it. This dog is going to take some watching - I think we were spoiled with Benson.

Last time Greg was here he ended up sleeping in Montpellier because he was so late heading back and couldnt face the three hour drive at 10pm. So today I figure he will want to be out of here by about 4pm, maybe 5pm latest. No such luck. He finally leaves at around 11pm as we both start to nod off at the keyboard. Still, we have accomplihed a huge amount today, and I guess the payoff for him is that he won't have to come back here any time soon.

It is too late to start cooking, so I settle for a bowl of cereal whilst watching some junk TV. I figure I had better sit with the dogs for a while to give them some human company today, otherwise I will probably pay for it - at least from Harry - through the night. So I end up watching that live plastic surgery program with Vanessa Phelps, which is complete garbage.

People sending in videos and movies of their body parts from their mobile phones? What's that about? Jeez!

TGIF

Well, I did manage to do some work yesterday afternoon after all. I guess all the acitivity in the morning must have tuckered out the little guy, and he slept right through. Luckily, the FedEx man appeared just as I was finishing lunch, so it gave me a clear run through to tea time.

Spent the evening with the dogs and tried to watch Godzilla again on DVD, but too tired. Ended up in bed at 10pm - unheard of normally when Lynne is away. Just as well though, since bugger-lugs decided to have a barking fit at 6am this morning. Not really worth trying to go back to bed after that, so I have to deal with my work visitor today with bags and dark circles under my eyes.

Hope I can stay awake.

And that the dogs behave.

Fat chance, huh?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Even less work done

Last night I had to start work once I put the dogs to bed and work through to 3am just to get anything done. And I still have to get up at 7am to sort out the chiot.

My morning goes something like this:

Let Harry out for a pee and a poo
Walk both dogs round the field to try and persuade Benson to pee and poo. Benson is having none of it because he is feeling better today and thinks he should have a proper walk. I know better - he still needs 2-3 days rest and recuperation. Benson is unimpressed
Feed Harry
Feed Benson
Try to keep Harry away from Benson's food after he wolfs down his own
Play with Harry
Console Benson who is feeling left out
Try and tire out the puppy enough to settle him down
Finally get some breakfast
Take Harry out for a pee and a poo
Try and settle the dogs down so I can work

It is now 9am...

Sit down at PC and answer last night's e-mails
Now I can start work
The bell goes - it is the postman wanting a signature.
Settle Harry down after the disturbance
Sit down at the PC - try to get back into the work mindset
The bell goes - it is the boiler man come to fix the oil leak
Try and settle the dogs
Boiler man wants discussion about the fault he has found - a broken sight glass (which is 30 years old and in poor condition and difficult to replace). He promises to try and find another quickly, since the leak is now worse, necessitating me opening and closing a valve and powering the boiler on and off manually whenever I want it to work - not exactly "automatic"
Try and settle the dogs
Sit down at the PC - try to get back into the work mindset
The bell goes - it is the boiler man - he thinks he has found a replacement sight glass
Try to settle the dogs - Benson is getting very insistent about his walk
Give up on work and spend 40 minutes exercising Benson in the pool - swimming is better for him that walking right now, and he loves retrieving his ball. Harry loves running round and round the pool barking at him.
Further discussions with boiler man
Realise we are expecting storms tonight so decide to try and mow the lawn
Lawn mower packs in
Spend 20 minutes fixing lawn mower.
Benson decides to crap on the lawn (VERY bad - he knows better)
Spend 3 trips with pooper scooper removing les crottes de Benson - he has been putting off going to the loo in the expectation of going for a walk. A 35kg dog can actually produce way more than just 4 times the amount of poo from an 8kg dog in one sitting - I can vouch for that from personal experience. Lucky he doesn't have the trots!
Lawn mower is fixed - start mowing lawn.
Harry is scared of the mower - at least that means I can do this in peace
Further discussion with boiler man - the replacement glass is no better than the original
Clean up Harry's pee and poo from the terrace
Take Harry out for additional pee and poo if required
Finish mowing lawn
Bell goes - boiler man has found another replacement glass
Try and settle dogs down
Sit down at PC and try to get into work mindset
Phone goes - it is Lynne calling from the UK. All I do is moan at her (sorry dear!) until her phone batery packs in (at least I THINK that is what happened - perhaps she just hung up!)
Boiler man has fixed the leak temporarily, but says we still need a new sight glass, but we should be OK until Monday
Take Harry for a pee and poo
Try and settle dogs down
Fix the puppy-proofing that Harry has managed to tear down from the gate
Feed Harry his midday meal
Try and settle dogs down
Sit down at PC and try to get into work mindset
Have minor nervous breakdown
Write this
It is now 1pm and I should probably think about getting some lunch
And I am still waiting for the FedEx man to turn up

Wonder if I will get anything done this afternoon?

Not much work being done

Benson seems to have recovered slightly today. He is walking more easily and is not crying all the time. I still try to keep the two of them apart as much as possible, but between that, and dealing with FedEx, DHL, feeding, toilet breaks (Harry, that is, not me), phoning the boiler man (yet another problem), phoning the water-softener man (the fix he tried yesterday does not seem to have worked), and popping out to the vet for puppy food and worming tablets (never a rapid experience - they are never in a hurry to serve you), I don't seem to get much work done.

This was supposed to be a week without clients to give me time to set up some new tests in the lab, but time is slipping away from me and I don't seem to have accomplished much at all so far this week. This puppy has a lot to answer for.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Thrrrrrrppppbbbbttttt!


So you can judge for yourselves just how fast they DO grow up - this is a shot of bugger-lugs barely two weeks ago....

This is pretty much the response we get whenever we ask him to do something!

And in the blue corner....weighing in at 8 kilos...


Yup. I thought Harry was feeling a tad heavy. But he is also looking very skinny, which is the real reason I weighed him today. But at 8kg - that is 2kg up on last week - he is pretty much on track for his age and breed.

And so, at just short of 10 weeks of age, we are moving him from four meals a day to three, and upping his rations a bit from 200+ grams to around 300 grams spread over the three meals. Hopefully that should kick him on towards his target weight of around 12-13kg at 12 weeks

And as you can see, he is already starting to look like a real miniature Labrador rather than a fat, round, snub-faced puppy.

Ahhhh.... they grow up so fast...

Hard to work

Benson seems to have recovered slightly today. He is walking more easily and is not crying all the time. I still try to keep the two of them apart as much as possible, but between that, and dealing with FedEx, DHL, feeding, toilet breaks (Harry, that is, not me), phoning the boiler man (yet another problem), phoning the water-softener man (the fix he tried yesterday does not seem to have worked), and popping out to the vet for puppy food and worming tablets (never a rapid experience - they are never in a hurry to serve you), I don't seem to get much work done.

This was supposed to be a week without clients to give me time to set up some new tests in the lab, but time is slipping away form me and I don't seem to have accomplished much as all so far this week. This puppy has a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mmmmmm tasty!


Before Benson was injured he showed a lot of interest in Harry. In fact, for the first two days he tried to shag him senseless. Now he just monitors his food intake and sniffs him a lot.

Medical emergency

The peace and tranquility that is instilled in me by that drive home is soon shattered as I am greeted by one very excited puppy and one very miserable poochie pensioner.

Poor old Benson has hip dysplasia and arthritis, and frequently puts his back out, suffering trapped nerves in the process. Those of you who have ever suffered sciatica will know how the poor dog feels, and when it is particularly bad, he actually gets it in both back legs. This means he quite literally does not know where to put himself - he cannot lie comfortably on either side. So he wanders round the house like a lost soul, tail between his legs (the ONLY time it ever goes there - the rest of the time it is wagging, even when he has been bad) crying in agony.

Clearly Harry has been tormenting his life out since we left them 2 hours ago, and at some point as Benson has tried to take sudden evasive action to stop his bollocks from being bitten, he has injured himself. I can only imagine how he has suffered since then as he has hobbled round trying to avoid the puppy, wimpering at every painful movement. I can only hope it happened just before I arrived home. It is hard not to be mad at Harry, but, of course, he doesn't understand what he has done. He actually dotes on Benson, and obviously he just wanted to play.

Not for the first time do I wonder at the wisdom of acquiring a puppy at this point in Benson's life. I want his remaining years to be good ones, not miserable as he constantly tries to avoid the attentions of a boisterous pup. But we have had a couple of scares with Benson in the last year or so and he has had two tumours removed to date (both benign) and now appears to have two more. He is such a lovely dog that we wanted some of that to rub off on any new dog we have. And so we took the plunge.

It wasn't planned, you understand. Black Labradors are not that common in France, and so to find a litter right in our village from excellent parentage and a bitch who looks almost exactly like Benson seemed like fate. And who am I to buck fate? But clearly it was a selfish decision on our part and Benson is paying the price. I can only hope he weathers the storm, since I would hate to part with Harry. But that is what is going to happen if Benson continues to suffer like this.

All I can do for now is dose Benson up with a strong anti-inflammatory (Metacam) which the vet gave us for occasions like this, and keep him quiet. This means locking him in the salon and Harry in the kitchen - well you can imagine how that one is going down, can't you? You can probably hear the screaming and howling from there. And that is just the puppy. Ironically, Benson is not that happy at being confined on his own either, but they clearly cannot mix until the Metacam kicks in.

I have my breakfast (finally) in the kitchen with Harry, and as I write this, he is finally asleep. As is Benson. Great start to the week!

Coming home

I drop Lynne off at Nimes station at half past oh-my-god this morning, barely awake for entire 1 hour journey. Which is pretty scary...at least for Lynne, since I was driving. I didn't mind so much - I was asleep. She is off to the UK for a few days to sort out the sale of our UK house and see her mum, which leaves me alone with the mutts.

For the drive back, I am more awake, and once again I can marvel at the views as I pass through Quissac and Soave and head on towards the Cevennes. Quite often, the mountains are hazy and indistinct, looking like various shades of grey cardboard cutouts - mere outlines rising from the flat plain in the distance. But not today.

Today is one of those days where the atmosphere is crystal clear, and you can see every detail of the mountains - all the greens, blues, pinks, browns - all the rocks and cliff faces. Makes me wish I could paint. You need to paint things like that - you need to put something of yourself in there. Something of the wonder you feel as you gaze at the view. The amazement at the thought of the titanic forces of nature that raised those mountains in the first place, and then unleashed the glaciers which sculpted them. A photograph simply doesn't cut it.

It is the view we first had of our new home when we arrived in France, and even then it was a view that made me feel I was "coming home". Born and bred a Brit - nay, more than that: a Yorkshireman - and living there for over forty years, I can only regard England as somewhere I stayed for a while until I found my real home.

This is my real home - and always has been, I think. And this view - and the feelings I have as I stare at it - epitomises it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Just another Monday

On my own again today as Lynne heads off to Nimes for her twice-weekly French classes. She is into this big time, and between her classes in Nimes and her Open University course she is fast leaving me behind in the language stakes.

When we arrived in France three years ago (part-time originally - we only moved out here for good at the start of this year) I had three years of schoolboy French from 25 years ago on which to rely, whilst Lynne had very little. I managed to pick up a lot in the first year with the extensive interaction with local artisans as we renovated the house.

But now I am back to speaking only English on a daily basis (all of my clients are English-speaking) and I get to interact rarely with French people. And I can tell that my French is suffering big time, whilst Lynne's is coming on in leaps and bounds. Whereas I used to be able to hold a passable conversation, I now find myself stumbling over the simplest words and phrases again.

I really don't want to be one of those sad bastard English ex-pats who think they can just come over here for the cheap booze and nice weather and not bother learning the local language and customs. There are too many of those already in France, and the fact the Britain is also full of people like that from other countries was one of the reasons we decided to move here in the first place. That and the fact that as a British taxpayer I was expected to support those people, since precious few of them seemed interested in finding work or paying for their own food and accomodation.

Nope... I'm gonna integrate if it kills me....

Sunday, April 10, 2005

What's that puppy up to back there?


Not sure Benson is entirely comfortable with such a sharp set of teeth in such close proximity to his nether regions!

Sleepy Harry


In a few weeks time I am sure we will look back on moments like these with longing... he has not yet really made his presence felt!

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

I am in a good place today, despite that fact that I have resigned myself to giving up my weekend lie-in for the foreseeable future - at least until certain mini-Labradors are able to hold their bladders.

So more Labrador games - more TV - and I have a go at this blogging thing. I have tried it before, and managed to keep it up for a couple of years - the results of which can still be found at www.bobwalder.com/diary. However, work pressures meant I had to pack it in, and that was right about the time we moved to France. Which is a shame, since the chronicles of our early years here - including mammoth renovations on the house - would have been fascinating. If not to you, dear reader, then at least to me in years to come. Alors, c'est comme ca.... I didn't have the time. And I still don't, really, so I trust you are not expecting regular updates to this blog.

I will do my best to mark the momentous occasions (like Harry's first real walk, or me managing to get through a day without getting yelled at), and at the very least, will hopefully provide weekly synopses of my life here.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Quiet Saturday

After an extremely busy week work-wise, I decide that the puppy should have my undivided attention today. Once I manage to drag myself out of bed, that is..... And the late start means that we not only have two puddles of pee to clear up, but also our very first crotte d'intérieur (inside poop). Well, it is 9.30 - I think he has done pretty well to hold it, especially since he drops another load as soon as I take him out.

For the rest of the day, we play games, sleep and watch TV - I work my way through the first few Lethal Weapon movies on DVD - Harry seems to like the Rottweiler puppy in the third movie.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Meeting the friends

Harry is coming on in leaps and bounds. Except for the fact that he doesn't know his name. And he has that look about him that even if he admitted to knowing his name, he would still feign deafness whenever he was called. And he seems to want to chew everything in sight (a problem we never really had with Benson, amazingly). And he hoovers down each meal comme un petit aspirateur before dashing across to stick his face in Benson's. And he is running us ragged.

At the moment he is sleeping through a lot of the day, but I have the distinct feeling that this is just the calm before the storm. That pretty soon he is going to be grown-up enough to be awake and active (and engrossed in mischief) for the entire day whilst still being young enoough to get away with pretending that he doesn't know his name or that his hearing is not yet fully developed.

And so while he is at his cutest, our good friends Jan & Alex pop over to make his acquaintance. And I have to say that he behaves himself impeccably. Benson has stopped trying to shag him now, which makes him a lot lesss nervous, and he shows a passing interest in our visitors before settling down to chew the many pieces of kindling he has extracted form the wood basket. No matter how many chew toys we give him, kindling seems to be his favourite (as long as one of Lynne's slippers is not available)

Because of the hassle of the puppy, Lynne advertised this as a "scratch supper...perhaps a bit of pasta". It NEVER happens like that.... she just can't resist it. So we end up with fresh asparagus on a bed of pancetta topped with melted butter and a poached egg. Followed by gnocci in a marvelous blue cheese sauce. And topped off with a sort of chocolate souffle with a melted chocoloate interior, dusted with icing sugar and with fresh raspberries on the side. Yes.... very scratch! I try to do it justice with a few bottles of Grand Chemin Sauvignon Blanc to start, followed by Domaine Henry St Georges d'Orques 2001, which goes down pretty darn well.

As usual, the company is great, and we finally bid farewell around midnight, a tad early since Jan & Alex have to be up early to drive to Barcelona. Harry is fast asleep. So is Alex....good job Jan is driving...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Arri or Harry?

So, how come he appears to have two names? Is that what you are asking?

Well, in France they have this weird thing going that all pedigree puppies born each year must have a name starting with a pre-defined letter. This year is the year of the "A", and we were informed that the name chosen by his breeder was Ascot, and that if we wanted a different name we had to choose before he was tattooed, chipped, and registered at the vet. In 24 hours...

So there we were in the vet, buying all his food and stuff, and we spotted a list of doggie names beginning with "A", most of which were horrendous. But there amongst them, was the name Arri. Now since we had already decided between us that his name was going to be Harry Winston - or Harry for short - it suddenly struck us that the French would normally pronounce that as 'arry.

Et voila - Arri suddenly made sense. So Arri is his official French posh name, whilst at home he is Harry. Although, since I am from Yorkshire originally, he usually gets 'arry at 'ome too.

Friday, April 01, 2005

On my own

Early starts all round as Lynne heads off to Nimes for her French classes, and I have to sort out an excited puppy, get him fed and watered and settled down, and then take Benson out for a decent walk whilst - hopefully - Harry sleeps off his breakfast. I finally manage to brush my teeth and get a wash at around 10am, just in time to head back down and play with Harry who resurfaced with a vengeance once I arrived back home with Benson.

The rest of the day - supposedly a work day - is spent nannying the little one and making as much of a fuss of the big one as possible so that he doesn't feel left out.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Harry & Benson - the first night


I'm not sure how many of you reading this have owned puppies, and how many of those can remember the first night. When I think back to previous dogs of mine, all I can remember is the relentless howling and scrabbling around at the back of the kithcen door, begging to be let out and reunited with mum.

The key appears to be - get yourself an older dog to keep the puppy company. Whilst Benson does not seem too chuffed with the new living arrangements right now, Harry is perfectly happy to snuggle up to what he obviously regards as a direct replacement for his mum.

And so we not only get a good night's sleep, but so does Harry, since we wake up to just a single small puddle of pee and no crottes de chiot at all.

Sweeeeeeet!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Arri Arrives

Well, we've been and gawn and done it now...

Lynne found a For Sale notice in the local boulangerie and she foolishly tore off one of the little tabs with the phone number on it. Pure-bred Labrador puppies... oh my.... and there is a link to a Web site on there too. We just know it is a stupid thing to do, but we look anyway, lured by the fact that the bitch - a 4 year old black Lab named Reglise - looks so much like Benson, our 10 year old black Lab.

And so here we are, just 24 hours later, the proud owners of two black Labs, the larger of which is trying desperately to shag the other to within an inch of its life, whilst the smaller one seems intent on finding milk from whatever is dangling under the big dog's undercarriage. Not pleasant to be the recipient of needle-sharp puppy teeth in your goolies I bet. Benson doesn't seem impressed, anyway....

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

About this blog

Hi.

Well I say hi.... but that is a bit premature. Because right now, at the time of writing, I guess there are no readers. And so I am basically saying "hi" to myself. Which is stupid. But then, not as stupid as some of the things I have done in my life.

So what's this all about, you might be thinking.

My name is Bob. I am a 40-something Brit who works in the computer industry. I work from home, but I work long hours, most days of the week, which leaves me little time to do things most normal people take for granted - like have a weekend. Or a life.

But before you switch off - this is not a blog of self-pity. The work thing I accept, and just get on with. In order to improve my lot, however, we moved lock stock and barrel - myself, my wife Lynne, and my 10 year old black Labrador retriever Benson - to the south of France. We now live in a large mas in the village of Sumene - 50km north of Montpellier in the foothills of the Cevennes. And very nice it is too.

The thinking was that, whilst I might still work ridiculous hours, at least the climate down here would permit me to relax round the pool of an evening with a nice glass of chilled rose wine, or plan for barbecues and slobby weekends without having the shitty British weather ruining my days off.

And from that point of view the move has been pretty successful. And despite the woeful lack of language skills, we actually have more friends and a more active social life here in the wilds of southern France where none of the locals speak a word of English (we were VERY careful to move somewhere where we wouldn't come into contact with a lot of "foreigners (i.e. other English people)) than we did in the previous 3 years in our home near Cambridge.

So vive la France, say I.