This week a collection of book and film titles to introduce an intellectual and arty tone to the blog to build on last month’s cheese quote from Emile Zola. To coincide with the visit this week of Tommo the three legged dog, belonging to my son and his fiancée, we discover a book entitled “Nothing wrong with a three legged dog”. The book funnily enough is about a three legged dog

Our visitor, Tommo is a 6 years old Keeshond, a Dutch dog a bit like a Spitz and very hairy. Apparently they are quieter and more sensible than other Spitz breeds according to! Poor Tommo lost one of his back legs in an accident with a bicycle when he was a puppy, so now he is quite used to bumbling around on three legs. With Tommo I am not sure about the more sensible bit. He is a lovely and friendly dog but has some real undoglike behaviour. He is probably the only dog I have met that is not perpetually hungry. At mealtimes he will have a look at his bowl of dog crunchies and maybe eat one or two and then wander off. Most dogs will just scoff the lot. In fact our cats are more like dogs in this respect and will immediately eat anything that is put down for them.

Of course our cats will also steal any food they can get at and Mrs. Parish and I have very developed guarding protocols that mean that at all times food whether in preparation or on the table has to have at least one of us in attendance (preferably both). If one of leaves the room the other must take over food responsibility. We warn the guests in the gite to be on their guard at all times. The cats have been nervous and tend to disappear when Tommo comes to stay but they are gradually getting used to him. They have realised that if they run away he will chase them, if they stand their ground or hide under a chair or car then Tommo is completely lost and doesn’t know what to do.

Archie was the first to realise this and now takes little notice of Tommo. If Tommo comes up to him he stands his ground and growls at Tommo who retreats, wisely! Minou has also learned that he is no threat and usually just skirts around him and keeps under a chair. Moggie, who is a scaredy cat still runs away and gets chased from time to time. While the Keeshond is smarter than the average Spitz, cats are in a league of their own. Our cats realised that Tommo did not eat all his food and left crunchies in his bowl. At first they waited till Tommo went outside and then made a bee line for the bowl and chucked as many crunchies down their throats as they could manage before we could rescue the bowl. Our cats are scavengers for whom the stomach rules all other fears and so gradually they now creep up on the bowl when Tommo is sat right by his bowl and literally eat his food from under his nose! Tommo looks a bit bemused and turns around as if looking for help but does nothing!

Tommo and the cats

Tommo loves water but is not very good at judging depth. Because of his three legged situation he is not a great swimmer and tends to go round in circles! So when we go out for a walk we try to find streams that are not too deep so Tommo can either sit in the stream or swim around in a circle and be able to get out of the river. He is also not great with other dogs, particularly big ones. When he was here this time he met up with Pepito, our French neighbours Jack Russell little terrier and Tommo seemed to quite like playing with Pepito and they had a great time out in the lane running around and peeing over lots of things.

Tommo and Pepito

The cats are now pleased that Tommo has gone home so they can get back to being the centre of everyone’s attention.

Mention of peeing by dogs leads me on to my next book/film “Frenchman’s Leak” by Daphne Du Maurier. I think technically is it creek but artistic licence allows me to utilise the title to relate some information about the habits of French men who it seems love to pee outdoors. It is one of those things that French men will fight to defend their inalienable right to pee outdoors. I may have written before about our friend Emile and that when he was unwell with a chest infection in the cold of winter his wife Yvette locked him in the house to stop him going outside for a pee! He was most upset at this attack on his rights. We went round to their house a couple of weeks ago for an aperitif (before going for a Sunday lunch time village repas). We drove into their yard to see Emile with his back to us, close to the front door by a drain. He was having an outside pee. As this is normal behaviour for a Frenchman he did not bat and eyelid and having done up his fly, came to greet us.

A couple of days ago we were talking to our neighbours Giselle and Daniel in the lane and she asked what Mrs. Parish used to kill the weeds in our courtyard. Mrs. Parish attacks weeds with the same enthusiasm as she hunts moles. Neither stand much chance! So she said to Giselle that she used a weed killer called roundup. Come and look at my courtyard says Giselle and points to a patch of grass poking through the gravel that is all brown and dying. That is where Daniel pees, she told us and the conversation then declined into discussion of peeing with Daniel of course resorting to some of his French lavatory humour. Mrs. Parish on one or two occasions has had to beat a hasty retreat when going in to see Giselle and on passing round the hedge has seen Daniel in full flow.

There is nothing like the hung up attitude we have in Britain. It is a bit unnerving when using some public toilets where the urinal is next to the entrance and other men and women wanting to use the toilet have to walk right past you when trying to pee. If you are French no problem but for the English a bit of a nightmare!

“Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals is the title of a book by someone called Rupert Sheldrake and refers to powers of dogs and apparently parrots and horses who know by some sort of telepathic powers when their owners are coming home. I have to admit it is not a book I have read and will probably steer clear of. However it poses the idea that animals can detect by psychic powers when their owners are coming home. I decided to do some research on our animals here. The sheep certainly know when Patrique is coming and as soon as they here his white van at the top of the lane they start baaing. They rather let themselves down by also baaing when our friend Ian came down the lane in his motorhome. More impressive are the cows in the field next the gite they can distinguish Xavier’s tractor and starting mooing and moving up the field when he leaves his farm about 2 miles away and before we can hear him. Interestingly they tend to ignore other tractors. Perhaps cows have telepathic powers or maybe just very good hearing!

Our cats will arrive within seconds of our car entering the courtyard and it seems they have heard us coming. However this is not a sound scientific test as when we repeated the experiment with virtually any other car coming into the courtyard the cats always arrive. They associate any car with the potential for food! In addition when I go to fill up the bird feeders birds suddenly appear as if from nowhere. At the moment there can be no conclusion to my experiments.

Finally “The Angel’s Share” which is a film by Ken Loach and refers to the saying in whisky distilleries that the amount of whisky which evaporates during distilling is known as the angel’s share! I mention this because as well as appreciating French wine I also rather like a Scottish malt whisky from time to time. This week with the visit of my son and his fiancée with two friends meant it was an ideal opportunity to get out the whisky after a great meal. Mrs. Parish roasted our leg of lamb from Patrique’s sheep and we had another great lamb feast which went down a treat. So after dinner I got out some of my whisky which we then lined up along the table and sampled. At least I, my son Ian and friend Dave went along the line. I soon found that I had telepathic powers and could tell when their glass was empty and in need of a refill!!

Ian looking for the Angel's Share

Tomorrow I am off to Britain for 10 days to help in the General Election and to try to ensure we have a Labour Government in the UK. So I shall be in South Dorset working to get Simon Bowkett elected. So wish me luck and if you can vote in this election make sure we get rid of the evil Tories and get a Labour Government. There will be no blog next week but all being well I shall be back in France on 8th May in time for a blog on Sunday 10th May.

 A bientot