Monday, 29 July 2013


It's rained during the last two nights.  Not much. Not enough to fill the empty, bone-dry water butt by the house. But enough to brighten up the grass this morning and to give the day a feeling of freshness.

Suddenly the tasks that seemed impossible in all that heat are being tackled: turning an overly dry compost heap; pruning a rampaging wisteria; cutting the long grass by the pool; starting to sort out the muddle of gardening stuff on the veranda that needs moving down to the tin-roofed shed by the cottage, so that we can create a comfy seating area just outside the kitchen - a place to flop with a cup of tea, rather than trip over empty flower pots and cast aside no longer working strimmers.

Every evening for the last three weeks, we have watched great rolling thunder clouds, pink in the setting sun, build along the edge of our valley only to have them slip away to the south of the Garonne, or flickering with lightning, move north into the Dordogne.

The floating fat yellow duck thermometer tells us the swimming pool is way above thirty. We no longer cover the pool at night, in the hope that if we leave it open it may cool down slightly and refresh us when we dive in.

Even sleeping under just a sheet, all the windows and doors open to try and catch a draught, has felt too much.

Last night though, I half-woke at some point to the novel thought that getting back under the duvet might be a good idea, but then drifted off again, enjoying the touch of cooler air across my shoulders.

Friday, 26 July 2013


Vita has known him ever since she was a pup.

When she first met him, he was already a grand old man  who tolerated her constant need to play, only occasionally grumbling at her bouncing and play bowing.

That first summer, she was so young her crate where she slept was still in the bedroom.  The night of the thunderstorm, he crawled inside the cage trying to escape the noise, while she, bemused, came and checked on him and then wandered away unperturbed to sleep elsewhere.

Now deaf and blind, he is oblivious to the rumbling and flashes of our distant summer storms and it is she who has learnt to be anxious. But she still checks on him.  She, now a grown-up elegant lady, has learnt not to bounce and tease him. She follows him as he shuffles round the lawn on his arthriticky hips, bumping into apple tree trunks he can no longer see, stumpy bald tail wagging sixteen to the dozen as he finds some new exciting smell.

She disappears down to the cottage for hours, lying a respectful few paces away from him as he sleeps gently snoring and farting, on the cool of the kitchen tiles.  Then she's back, charging up the garden, just to let us know, he's awake and on the move - albeit slowly and several minutes behind her as he weaves his slightly erratic path up to the house from the cottage.

This morning she dashes down to the cottage ahead of me, to say "good morning".  But he's gone, off before dawn, tucked down in the back of the car for the long, hot journey home.

I think Vita that this summer is the last time.

Guccio and Vita in previous years


Summer romance

Stormy night

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

There is a science fiction film ...

... by David Lynch called "Dune", which I love.

I'm not sure why I love it, since it is virtually incomprehensible and it's one of those stories where people with unpronounceable names  have to keep telling each other the plot along the lines of: "as you know, your second cousin twice removed who lives planet X and who started a war in 3013 has recently died". Maybe the film means more to those who have read the Frank Herbert book.

Despite this, it's one of those films where whole scenes have lingered in my mind.  We've grown used to the magic of computer graphics in films, but back in 1984 there was a special thrill in seeing the huge tank containing the floating giant head and tiny body of the Emissary of the Spacing Guild (those who fold space, thus enabling space travel) come rolling in through the great doors of the Emperor's salon.

Some parts are gruesome, which is why these days the film tends to be repeated on the Horror Channel.  I usually fast-forward those bits, or go out and make tea.  Sadly, it's the gruesome bits I'm reminded of at the moment. Baron Harkonnen (the baddy) has a swollen red face covered in oozing boils and blisters. And that's what I see when I look down at my feet.

I always take such care to cover up when I am gardening through our hot, sunny July and August days, but this last week, in my rush to enjoy the delights of a suddenly-arrived summer, I forgot about my winter- white toes peeping out of my sturdy Merrell sandals.  They are now "Baron Harkonnen toes" and even after four days of soaking in aloe vera still very painful.

We have friends coming this evening, so Tod and I have been out early, shopping for treats for supper. While everyone else in the supermarket seemed to be in shorts and flip flops, I wore long black baggy trousers and hid my tender red-raw feet in white socks and bedroom slippers.  I hope that people thought I had just come hot-foot (literally) from my judo class, rather than that I'd just rolled out of bed.

The image of Baron Harkonnen is just too ghastly to inflict on the sensibilities of my readers, so here's one of the film poster, with a very young Kyle MacLachlan (the hero) and a sinister Sting (also a baddy) at his shoulder.


Dune - the film