The origins of Lucy, the new dog, were discovered. She’s a boar sniffer whose owner, some five miles away, lost interest in her when he decided his new lady friend made for a more absorbing pastime than the chasse. She has to be watched. Leave the gate ajar and she’s off at a gallop but seems to go no further than a couple of hundred yards before she sits down and wonders what on earth she should do next. She’s easily recovered.
I’ve just fired off an article about William Jaffray, who died at a ripe age in 1829 in a village near Stirling where he lived his entire life. He was a radical, a weaver, who was hounded by the authorities. Aside from politics, his interest was promoting inoculation and later vaccination against smallpox. He did it himself for no charge in the days when a doctor would ask half a guinea. He would tramp the lanes about his home with his kit looking for subjects. Over 25 years he dosed some 16,000 children and is reckoned to have saved 4,000 lives.


We have visitors. They’ve had thunderstorm and cloudburst and now the temp run for them is forecast to be 23, 26, 28, and 34. Then they return to England. Is weather shock a known complaint?
With the dry weather, melon picking tractors and trailers have created beaten highways across the fields. But yesterday’s inundation was enough to turn their roads to mud and mud here is very muddy indeed. This morning a coach load of pickers was swarming across a small field on the edge of the paved village perepherique, but it won’t have kept them busy for long.
The ex-maire has had a marble sepulchre erected for his family in the cemetery. It’s had to be shoehorned in, but it’s a magnificent thing adorned with a golden wheat sheaf. I hope it’s a while before it receives its first occupant. And I see there’s now a photo of the sorciere on her family’s tomb, looking 40 and formidable. But that never really works. Faded 1920s peasants morphing through 40s uniforms to teddy boys is no worthy memorial. If I’m not offered a statue in Trafalgar Square, I’m for a wee pile of ash under the roses.


The dogs ate something disagreeable and the night was spent playing catch up on piles of crap and vomit. Cato was the only one to keep everything in and the others were fine after eventually voiding their interiors. Perhaps three dogs are too many. Perhaps one dog is too many. We now have an official document signed and stamped by the maire that says that Lucy is our property and anyone who turns up to claim her can piss off. She is the only dog I’ve lived with that can recognise dogs and other animals on television and usually barks at them.
The fete went very smoothly. No arguments amongst the local team, nobody became too drunk and the temp was a comfortable 25. One starts with drinks and nibbles. An astonishing number of the natives make serious inroads into whisky beforehand – three fingers and a dash of coke in plastic cups. 80+ were present for lunch and a bloke with a trumpet and a microphone crooned us at. It’s not something I’m used to, but he was good at it. I sat beside the ubiquitous photographer who attends all functions in all villages in the canton and feeds in to the local newspaper. He told me about his vast archive. ‘Are you familiar with the entertainer?’ ‘I’ve been listening to him for forty years.’


We have the village fete this weekend. There’s a gathering of old cars, most of them sourced from the maire’s garage. Lots of petanque, a fancy lunch, a vide grenier and a disco that will thump away just beyond our bedroom window. I suspect that our various dogs will do a lot of barking at these unusual goings-on, but Cato, who can erupt in fury if a mouse farts beyond the garden, seems to be going deaf. It may be no more than wax in his ears but I’m not rushing him to the vet as it gives us a more peaceful life. He still can’t jump onto sofas but otherwise his life seems back to normal. Lucy is settling in. Her most lively time of day is early morning, which is a bit of a pain. This morning she dragged her bed into the garden and began to eat it. This was discouraged so she had a go at a carpet. This was discouraged even more and she seemed to take this on board. The solution is an early walk but she can’t be trusted off a lead. I hope this changes. She’ll soon be chipped and sterilised, at a substantial discount as she’s a rescue dog, in a week or so.
The swifts left about a week ago. I can’t think why they’re always in such a hurry to go as the summer has a lot of baking still to do. One looks forward to it and enjoys sitting out early on, but the heat soon palls and one scours the weather forecast for cooler days ahead. Tomorrow is supposed to be no more than 23, nicely down from today’s 32.


In full view of the village, the darker of the two refugee dogs sank its teeth into Poonkie’s arse. Mayhem ensued. The maire and three of his councillors took charge and banished them to a compound behind the grandson. They were there for half an hour before they broke out and resumed their nomadic lifestyle. They were then trapped and placed in the protection of the maire’s uncle who lives at the bottom of the hill. The lighter one escaped and settled down outside our gate. She has been permitted in and now appears to be a permanent resident. The other will likely be going to a very ancient grande dame in a neighbouring village, but we wait for a response from the maires of the region who have asked if any of their flocks have lost a brace of dogs. The vet checked them both this morning. Dumped by people going on holiday was his verdict and neither is chipped. This beast appears to be called Lucy and is very timid, but settling down.


These two, probably mother and daughter, have been mooching round the village for several days looking miserable. They look a bit like chasse dogs, so they were checked by our chasse boss for chips but they have none. Enquiries round about have yielded nothing and the local refuge tells us that the village is outside their area. It is likely they have been dumped by their owner, who could have driven some way to stop them finding their own way home. Aargh! We have taken them in for the time being and I fear they may become permanent residents. The native animals are not sure about them. Cato flashes his dick and is dominant, but Poonkie has been snarled at. They are very timid and keep to their quarters in the utility room. I will know that we’re likely lumbered once they are given a bath and I fear this may be on the cards this afternoon.


The results of the flowery village competition have been announced. The village received a congratulations, one up from last year’s encouragement. The maire was one of only three in the department to receive a prize for dynamism and commitment, and we were unique in being awarded a prize for citizen engagement, and that was given to the ‘Collectif d’Anglais’. I couldn’t really complain as I do very little. Otherwise I’ve have got stroppy at the Anglais when I would have hoped for Britannique.
150 turned up for the Chasse lunch in the salle de fetes yesterday. It began at 11.30 and most of the attendees had left by 6. There are always delays between the half dozen courses because the roasting of the boar cannot be rushed and needs an expert to decide when it is done to perfection. And it was very good, even though it was nearly 4pm before its moment came. It’s a rare occasion when the French become collectively pissed. There were a couple of attractive British women there without their menfolk and a succession obese, sweaty and elderly chasseurs took to chance to give them bisous or shoulder massages as they went by. One, not far off 80, declared that his wife was now too old and he was ready for a replacement. Neither would volunteer but they remained gracious throughout. I managed to avoid, most of the time, a loud Dutchman who had been coming to this part of the country for 40 years and declared that he hated France and the French. They’re all corrupt, he said. But they have better manners than he had.


My greatest achievement since arriving in France is to have learned to do nothing with contentment. On days when the temp rises to 35, one can only sit inside in the shuttered gloom and clean the screen on the computer. Even the dogs are afraid to go outdoors.
Bar the rumble of passing thunderstorms, the village is spookily quiet largely because all the children are at summer camp. The grandson has not picked up a power tool or revved his motorbike for a week. In this corner of France, one often can feel that one’s been left behind after the Rapture and today even the road between this house and the chateau has been deserted for the last couple of hours. Heavy rain was forecast for a quarter of an hour by Meteo France. It arrived less than a minute after it was scheduled.


A van pulled up by the gate to report a dead dog on the road, a Yorkshire terrier sort of thing. There are three in the village; two are staying here and both were present. The third lives up the road and the house was empty. I thought I’d better investigate and found a dead badger. Sad, but difficult to confuse with a dog.

One of our new streetlights fell off the top of its pole and was left dangling by the wires. The maire and two assistants with two ladders went up to sort it out. It should have been soldered to its base but wasn’t. Now they are all regarded with suspicion.
I’m told we have some 70 people working on the surrounding melon fields at the moment. They’re out there all day and, poor sods, have to line the hedgerows when they need the loo. The investment before you can sell your harvest must be immense – as must be the profits – since gangs have been picking over the fields for weeks, plastic goes on and off and local rivers, are down to the merest trickle as there can’t be a crop that’s much thirstier.


Most of the natives have gone on holiday and we are currently looking after three extra dogs, a cat and a hamster – and the village. The dogs aren’t too much trouble, so far, except that they are all determined to eat the hamster. It has to be kept in an isolated room and they batter at the door to get at it. The village is a bit trickier since I’m riding shotgun on a florid ongoing domestic crisis in a local household that involves the gendarmes. As the maire’s wife said ‘this place is like Dallas’ I wish it wasn’t.
Cato is still improving far better than I thought was likely. He’s climbed the stairs all by himself, is going on walks again and even took off after a squirrel, although he seemed uncertain that his back end was behind him. When in doubt, do nowt seems an axiom worth following for veterinary as well as human medicine.
30 is as high as the thermometer can climb before it’s necessary to batten down the hatches and cower indoors. It hit 35 yesterday and this house maintained 25. It’s taken me seven years to work out how to achieve this.