My DINO

Don't bother me; I'm sleeping

 

I’ve taken the political term DINO and have decided it serves me well, as my furry friends are really Dogs In Name Only.

This has been brought home to me as I have been searching for a kennel where I can leave them for several days when JM and I head off to visit his parents in Toulon. Not having Mom around does now make it possible for me to go away, but only if we have a good solution for the dogs. I know that French hotels are more accommodating than American ones when it comes to pets, but asking any hotel to take two dogs the size of ours is really not possible.

We have a decent place in Roquefixade where we have left them in the past, but the problem is that Roquefixade is really not near anything. We are taking the train from Carcassonne, and in order to leave the dogs there, we would have to leave them two days ahead of time on Saturday, because the kennel is closed on Sunday and we wouldn’t have time to both go there AND make our train on Monday.

So, we decided to search closer to Limoux or Carcassonne. I discovered that there were actually several possibilities, but I didn’t have any personal recommendations and wasn’t about to make a reservation without checking into the facilities myself.

We visited the first one on Tuesday. If Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme had a “love child,” then this guy would be it. I swear that I have never met anyone less verbal or more scary in my life. Both JM and I were quaking when we left. It’s silly, because I’m sure that he’s a perfectly decent person, but he clearly is lacking in people skills.

Besides that, we clearly had a philosophical difference about how dogs are fed, raised and treated. To him, it was obvious they are animals, to us, they are little people with furry suits. He feeds all the dogs there Royal Canin kibble, I feed mine either home prepared or a very high quality canned brand that is almost all meat, with some vegetables and no grains. He looked at me like there was something wrong with me mentally for doing that, and although he said he would feed them what I brought, I could tell he didn’t like it one bit.

That was clearly NOT going to work out.

I next called a place that just from its name struck me as being more in tune with my philosophy: Les Animaux en Vacance. Yep, clearly not someone who thinks of dogs as farm animals.

We went to check it out yesterday, and I have to say both JM and I felt comfortable right away. The place is basically a large house on several, fenced, hectares of land right in the middle of grape vines. The fence is high enough to keep Shmoo in and has an electric wire running around the base to keep the dogs away from it for digging purposes.

Except for a place we used in L.A. that was more expensive per day than the hotels we stayed in, I haven’t found another facility like this; certainly not since we’ve moved. The dogs are outside, free to run around and play all day, and have the entire basement of the house, filled with beds and cushions for sleeping at night. And, when the weather is cooler so the heat doesn’t get inside, the house is left open all day so the dogs can go inside and hang out there too if they want to.

There were about eight dogs there yesterday when we visited. All of them were happy and friendly. They all got along and there was no growling or fighting. On top of that, leaving both dogs will cost us less per day than just leaving Maggie at the place we used in L.A. And, not only was there no problem about our bringing their food, it is expected.

For the first time since we moved here, I feel that we have an excellent solution for the dogs even if we only want to go away for a day trip. It’s between Limoux and Cepie, so not a problem  to get to, and the young woman who runs it is clearly of the same mindset as us.

Let’s hear it for the DINO lovers!

Ciao for now.

Randy

Another Summer Gone

Weren't we the height of pool fashion?

 

I know that there are still three weeks to go until Fall is officially here, but honestly, doesn’t the first weekend in September ALWAYS feel like summer is over. Even in places like the Possum Kingdom, where it’s not Labor Day, it IS the beginning of school. That’s it for “fun,” Kids, time to get back to the grind.

One of the things about living in an area that has a lot of tourism, is that you know immediately that the season is over, because you just stop seeing strangers in the village. Sure, there are the occasional hangers on who don’t have children to worry about, but mostly, the tourists are gone. You can go into the grocery store and park with no trouble, the aisles are no longer chock full of confused looking foreigners, there are no whining kids (except on Wednesday) and there is just a feeling of life returning to normal.

I know that I’m odd, because I always look forward to Fall. And it’s not just now, as an adult. I liked it as a kid too, because I actually enjoyed going to school; it gave me a sense of purpose for my day I suppose. Now, I enjoy it because I like the cooler weather a lot. Come on, admit it; you really want to try on that new sweater you found on sale this summer, don’t you? Aren’t you looking forward to that first cool, fresh day when you can put it on and know that soon it will be Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas? And, for those of us who LOVE television, it’s the beginning of the Fall TV season, when we get to see what’s new with our favorite characters from years past and maybe find a new have series too.

So, let’s celebrate the Fall and not mourn the long lost days of  Summer.

Ciao for now,

Randy

Now that I’m back

There is a lot of catching up to do!

 

Did we miss anything?

 

For any of you who didn’t spend the summer in the area, it was a very strange year. In June, it was horribly hot. Everything started to bloom and get ripe all at the same time. We were under draught restrictions for water use from the river.  The day the restrictions were to go into effect, the weather changed drastically. July was cold, wet and felt more like October than July!

There were days in July where the river was as high as it can get in the spring when the mountain snow is melting. The water restrictions just disappeared. Everyone started to complain the the produce in their gardens was mildewing.  When we went to our local fruit and veg shop, Jean-Paul told us that all the produce was coming in at the wrong time. Apricots were available in July, when normally we don’t get them until almost August. Same thing for plums.

When August hit, the weather again made a 90 degree turn; or maybe I should say a 100 degree turn, as the weather became very hot without any real rain for several weeks. This past week was about as miserable as I can remember. We had days where it was 39 (about 100 degrees or so), which is very, very unusual for here. I know that we had plenty of days like that in L.A., but there, it was desert dry, so even if it seemed to suck the juice out of you when you went outside, you didn’t feel it in the same way as here, where the humidity was also high. Those of you in places that get weather like that all the time have my utmost sympathy. I was miserable.

Even our house, which normally remains cool when it’s hot, finally gave up and got hot too. It’s a bit like living in a stone oven after a week or more of temperatures that high. We definitely felt baked.

Now, the weather has suddenly broken, and it dropped from 22 degrees this morning to 17 degrees this afternoon (Celsius, not Fahrenheit) and it’s raining. I need to go to the bank in Limoux, but I think I’ll put it off for another day.

If you’re here in the area trying to enjoy your last few days of summer holidays, I’m sorry. I, on the other hand, am actually enjoying the weather. I know I’ll feel all soggy and miserable when I walk the dogs, but it’s sure a lot more comfortable than last week.

 

Ciao for now.

Randy

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!

Spring field

Along the Hers

 

JM sent me this important news story from CNN:

That fire, less than 70 miles west of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, burned into residential areas surrounding Possum Kingdom Lake Monday night, destroying and damaging homes in four or five neighborhoods, according to Marq Webb, a spokesman with the Texas Forest Service.

Aerial images shot Tuesday by CNN affiliate WFAA showed some homes on the edge of Possum Kingdom Lake burned down to the foundations, swaths of charred vegetation and heavy smoke hanging over parts of the area. Still, numerous homes appeared to have escaped the flames, some of them next to houses that had been destroyed.

I am glad to announce, however, that this Possum Kingdom is NOT our very own, but one in the State of Texas, which is having horrible fires. I felt reassured to know that all French Possums are currently safe.

That is, you are safe as long as you don’t suffer from hay fever and pollen allergies. If you do, you feel pretty rotten right now. The wind is blowing and the pollen is going and going. Of course, it does mean lovely things to look at, and later in the season, to eat. But for now, it means itchy eyes and throat and runny noses.

Everyone is getting read for Easter weekend, and there is tons of chocolate everywhere, so it also means that Possums need to keep their scales hidden in a closet for a few weeks if they don’t want to feel guilty and sinful.

In other local news, Veolia, the humongous entity who seems to have fingers in every sort of pie, including being our water company, is digging massive holes in the village roads. They are supposedly replacing the sewers, which are in a lamentable state. Overall, that is a good thing, however in order to accomplish this feat, the seem to need to turn our water off at inconvenient times and with no warning. I have, several times, discovered the lack of running water when I had hands full of soap and thus no way to wash it off. I was less than amused.

Still, this is the south of France. There is no need to get in a tizzy. It will pass in its own time and life will go on.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Not many April Showers

 

I rule!
Peaches presents a calming influence

Last week was far too nice to spend time inside writing on the computer! We had amazing, totally unseasonal weather, with temperatures at 30 C (86 F); something unheard of at this time of year. Apparently there was one of those weird currents from Africa that sometimes occur and we were the beneficiaries.

I’m not sure if that’s a totally good thing, though, as we can still have freezing temperatures between now and the end of May. Everything is in bloom, and if we get a frost, it will be bad for gardeners and farmers alike.

But it was hard not to enjoy it! Everyone was out and about. Unfortunately, the “everyone” included a snake that we ran into on one of our walks. I am assured that it was a harmless snake and not a viper, but I have to tell you that all snakes look alike as far as I’m concerned, and I’d rather not run across them at all if possible.

The dogs have been enjoying themselves massively. Peaches, in particular, has gotten to play like mad with her new friend Freya the adorable, who is a dead-ringer for our dear, departed Diva Maggie. Shmoo plays to the best of his ability, but is severely limited by the fact that I won’t let him off his leash. I know it drives him crazy, but it’s really his own fault, as he will simply take off into the field and start digging his way to China in his mad search to root out every last vole in the canton.

With the run-up to Easter, there are also lots of out-of-town visitors, which is always a pleasure. Nice for them to be able to enjoy this lovely weather, instead of having to confront drenching rain and cold temperatures.

Fingers crossed that it stays nice for a while longer yet.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Just a small reminder

Plum Blossums

The Rogets' plum tree in bloom

For those of you in places where winter still reigns, it is only a matter of time! Most of the fruit trees here are now in bloom, and we’re starting to see the signs of green all around us. Be patient; your turn will come!

This weekend has been amazing for the month of April. Our temperatures were in the mid-70s (mid 20s C) and you could easily have thought yourself in June! It seems that every dog in the village is out being walked, and the Lofficier family canines have had a blast playing with all their four-footed pals. Well, at least Peaches has; poor Shmoo Alexander is no longer allowed that freedom, since he abuses it and simply takes off into the fields to dig for voles.

We’ve been lucky, because our friend Diane is here for the weekend, so we’ve all enjoyed being out and about together in the sun.

Hope you all have a spectacular Sunday, wherever you are.

Ciao for now,

Randy

The Final results

The clouds were such a pretty color

Sorry I didn’t post this yesterday, but Mondays have a habit of getting away from you for some reason.

 

Sunday was a weird day for the election, because the EU canted to daylight savings time overnight and you all know how that messes everyone up. On top of that, unlike the beautiful weather we’d had for the first round of voting, the sky was grey and menacing the whole day. We were worried that people wouldn’t get out to vote.

But we needn’t have feared; even more people voted the second time around. I suppose that here in our canton, the citizens wanted to be sure their voices were heard.

Jean-Jacques Aulombard, the independent candidate, won 908 to to 801. That is an impressive win for an area that is very heavily Socialist.

Now it remains to be seen whether having a councilman who gets along with city hall will be able to make things happen for the good of everyone. I think our last councilman underestimated how frustrated the voters were by the bickering that kept any progress from occurring. Perhaps if he’d understood that, he would still be in office.

Ciao for now,

Randy

And the winner is…

No one yet! But that is to be expected in an election that has candidates from more than two parties. Although it does sometimes happen, in most races there is a second round.

As many of us predicted, the independent candidate, Jean-Jaques Aulombard had a globally higher number of votes than the incumbent, Roger Rosich, although the results in individual communes were mixed, with Rosich beating Aulombard in some of them and vice versatile in others.

Generally, in most of the elections, turnout was less than 50%, but in our canton, it was 69%. That kind of turnout tends to favor a challenger more than an incumbent, no matter where the race is held, as it’s usually an indication that people want a change.

The percentages were: Aulombard (independent) 43.12%, Rosich (socialist) 39.88%, Pierre Alberola (NPA, which is the Communist party) 8.22% and Gregory Seillier (Front Nationale, or super right wing) 8.79%.

Interestingly, there is no candidate from the UMP, which is the party of President Sarkozy. Our region tends to be very socialist, so the success of a non-affiliated candidate is truly a statement by the people.

Indeed, if the voting had depended ONLY on Chalabre, M. Aulombard would have actually won by a landslide. He is well thought of in the village, and his proposals are extremely popular.

I think his results elsewhere would have been even better as well, but there was an article in today’s paper pointing out that someone had gone around to other villages and stuck UMP labels on his posters, as if he was the candidate from the UMP, clearly an attempt to sway voters away from him. America isn’t the only place where politics is a dirty game.

We’ll be out bright and early to vote this coming Sunday, and I think I can guarantee that we won’t be the only ones!

Ciao for now,

Randy

Possums in the Springtime

First: we got to see the Super Moon last night on our final tinkle-break before bedtime. It was truly beautiful and BIG! We had a rather dramatic sky with partial clouds, that only served to highlight the moon further. Must have been many happy werewolves around the world.

Second: although we still have another day or so before it is officially spring, the weather has decided not to wait and is gloriously heralding the season. As usual, once the weather turns nice, the villagers use any excuse to turn out to enjoy the sunshine. And, that brings me to…

Third: today was the first round of elections for the Cantonal representative. I suppose it would most closely align with  County elections in the U.S. (not sure about the UK).

The Socialists have held the seat for a long, long time, but the director of our local retirement home is running as an independent candidate. That is making for a very exciting election, because the current county representative doesn’t get along with the mayor and town council. This makes for rather complicated local affairs, because communication is strained to say the least.

Having an independent who is well liked by almost everyone, stands to help move along any new projects. And, the candidate has a lot of excellent ideas for things that would be good for the village, the county and the community.

JM and I went to vote, and noticed on our voting cards that this was the eighth election in which we’ve participated since our arrival here. To be fair, since most offices are not decided on the first round of voting, but take a second vote, that really means four election cycles.

Elections in France are always held on Sunday, so people don’t have the excuse of working to not vote. In our case, we don’t remember going to an election here in bad weather, which must certainly help with the turnout. But this election surprised us by how many people were in our Mairie voting! We actually had to stand in line almost out the door, so that means a very, very good turnout I would imagine. I honestly don’t remember any municipal or county elections in L.A. that could boast as high a percentage of voting in all my years there.

Voting here is done by hand. That is: there is a piece of paper printed with each  candidate’s name. You take one of each of the ballots and an envelope, then you go into the voting booth and put the ballot of your choice in the envelope, tossing out the others. You seal your envelope, go up to the table where the officials are sitting, hand in your voting card or national ID card (even though they all know who you are!) and they look you up in the voting register. Once you are found, you are asked to put your envelope in a clear, locked box, and you sign the register and they stamp your voting card. You can see the envelopes in the box and no one can tamper with them. Then, they are counted by committee at the end of the day. It’s a totally non-technical system and works flawlessly.

But voting here is more than a civic duty. It’s also a great social outing. We ran into loads of people we know and everyone stands around chatting and enjoying the sun. You feel as if you have participated in a special occasion and come away feeling good about being part of the process and part of a the social fabric of a village.

I don’t think I ever saw anyone I knew at an election in L.A. Certainly we never spoke much to anyone. And, by the last years there, we just voted by mail, so it didn’t have any real feeling of anything about it.

We may know the results of the election tonight when we take the dogs out before bed. If there is no majority, then there is a run-off election next Sunday. JM thinks there will be one, but I’m not so sure. I think people want a change as much here as they do in the U.S. and UK, so I’m thinking the independent will get a decent majority.

JM tells me he is  always right; so I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Ciao for now.

Randy

I’m not dead!

Kathryn wrote this morning wondering if all was well, and it made me realize it has been a long time since I posted.

There isn’t really a GOOD reason, it’s just that life its ownself (as my dear friend Raven would say) has managed to get in the way. And it’s not even anything very exciting; just the day-to-day of daily existence.

I must admit that dealing with two sets (I suppose it’s really 1 1/2 sets, since I only have a mother) has been very draining of late. Mom doesn’t need a huge amount of care, but because she has absolutely no short term memory, even to the point of forgetting how to use her telephone half the time, it means that everything I do do for her takes longer, because I need to explain it over and over and over again.

JM’s parents are another story. His mother has had every test in the book, and none of them seem able to come up with a diagnosis of why she has dementia that is worse than my mother’s, even though she is ten years younger and has no other health conditions to account for it. My personal theory is that she has a very severe case of depression that is going untreated, and possibly is even bi-polar. But she puts on a good face when she goes to the doctor, so they don’t see it. My FIL is living on that long river in Egypt, denial, so HE says there is nothing wrong with her.

However, her behavior is so irrational much of the time that it has become almost impossible to have any kind of discussion with her. JM is depressed about it, and we both know that there is nothing we can do. You cannot help someone who is not willing to help themselves.

Those things, coupled with the normal stuff one has to do in a day, seem to take all my  energy, so that when I do sit down for a few quiet moments, I usually don’t feel like concentrating enough to write. And that’s bad, because writing this blog is actually something that I enjoy, as I enjoy my contact with all of you who take the time to read me.

There actually ARE things happening here in the Possum Kingdom. We were approached the other day by one of the town councilors and asked if we wanted to be part of an association that is forming to create a project dealing with sustainable agriculture, local growers and farmers, etc. It is all very exciting and we said we would help, although it is far, far out of our area of expertise! The idea is to buy the old retirement home in the village, renovate it into offices, classrooms, etc., and both provide meals for the school, the elderly and disabled who currently get meals through the nursing home and possibly others (to be determined), using all local products. There would be an organic vegetable patch and deals made with other local growers, and there would be seminars, students, etc., learning about the whole thing.

I’m sure I’ve explained it very badly, but this is based on a fifteen minute conversation in the gardens, so I don’t have a lot more info at the moment. I would assume there will be a meeting eventually, and then I will know more.

I love the idea of this, because it’s something I believe in strongly, as those of you who have read me for years know. It will be good for the environment, good for the village and good for those of us who will also be able to purchase some of these products. I’ll write about it as it progresses.

Ciao for now.

Randy