Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ratty & Badger at the Tour de France


July 13th - the Tour de France sweeps through the Minervois

A beautiful day, not too hot and perfect for watching the Tour passing 8 km. from our house.  The evening before, I cycled up to the corner where we intended to watch the Tour; Tim drove the new camper van.  We hoped to be the first camper at the top of the road from Aigne, between La Caunette and Aigues-Vives, for those of you who've been here and know the area.  As it happened, ours was the fourth, with two more arriving later that evening.

We now have a converted Citroën Jumper, called a Pössl Roadcamp.  Not sure how vehicle names are chosen here; the smaller Citroën van is called a Jumpy; Renault makes a Trafic and Peugeot makes a Boxer and a Partner.  And so on.  English words and names are very cool - to the French, at least...

Setting up the evening before the TdF was to come by: 


The TdF organizers place directional signs along the route.  This one was tacked onto the permanent sign warning motorists that they are approaching the local garbage dump.  This TdF sign was picked up as a souvenir well before any of the TdF-related vehicles had appeared.

At the entry to Aigues-Vives, coming from Aigne.  Note 3 bikes on pole, the topmost one painted white and red (polka dot jersey for the best climber), the lowest one painted green (green jersey for the most points, by winning sprints) and, of course, the yellow bike for the rider with the best time:

The following 8 photos of the caravane, the peloton and spectators are by K.C. and are not to be copied or used in any way.

Our camper is second from the left.  The next two larger campers to our left were from Picardy and had been following the Tour since its beginning at Mont St. Michel.  The minute the last of the Tour vehicles had passed, the other motorhomes departed to find a good spot to watch the next stage.




Part of the fun of watching the Caravane pass is trying to catch the souvenirs and samples (hats, food, scarves, toys, etc.) tossed out by people on the float.  


Climbing the hill east of La Caunette: 


The peloton as seen from the hill above the road (by those of us who were energetic enough to climb up for the bird's eye view - that didn't include me...)


Just to the east of us, between Mailhac and Bize-Minervois, raged a huge fire that any of you who watched the stage that day would have seen.  It burned 350 hectares (865 acres) of pine trees and garrigue.


My photo, taken just before I was dragged away from the road by a friend who preferred not to see me mowed down by the peloton (or the peloton mowed down by me?).
One of the meanings of the word peloton, by the way, is "small ball of wool", so the peloton is the tightly-grouped bunch of riders often preceded by a "breakaway" of one or more riders.

The next 3 photos are also by K.C. and not to be copied or used in any way.

This Tour de France was a lot more interesting before they put us back in the camper - there was so much to bark at...

You think I like having to wear a collar and a harness and be buckled into the camper??

Sporting my so-called prize from the Caravane.  At least it was yellow...

This is more like it - we're heading home and I'll make sure he takes the shortest route...

Not sure if anyone outside France can access this site but, if you'd like to try, here's a link to full live coverage of the July 13th stage.  If you know the area and, especially if you've cycled the roads between Carcassonne and Montpellier, you'll enjoy it.  Our camper was parked with the group immediately after the sign to Aigne and Olonzac, at minute 54:

Turns out that a lot of people weren't able to subscribe to the blog or to make comments.  My friend Mindy suggested a way of doing it, so I hope it works; once you type in your email address, you're directed to a security check pop-up.  The list is private but, even so, if you'd rather just be on my list to be notified whenever I do a new posting, please let me know.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Learning to live with terriers

Ratty and Badger, in our old camper

Ratty is the little dog on the left; we adopted him from a shelter in Carcassonne in January 2014.  

When I saw this notice on the Carcassonne SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux) website on January 25th, I knew we'd take him - we went that same day - but no way were we going to call him Piglet.  He was so small that he had been boarded with the cats.  When asked there what we would call him, all I could think of was Ratty (in French, he's a ratier, a rat-hunter).

He had been abandoned and, from the way he reacted to us the first few weeks and to others for several months, it was obvious that he had been mistreated.  Eventually, he learned to trust us completely and then not to fear visitors.  Now, he snuggles up to trusted friends and barks in outrage when they leave.

We were told in Spain that he was a "Ratonero Bodiguero Andaluz", translated roughly as an Andalusian wine-cellar rat-hunter.  As far as we know, he hasn't yet met any rats, but he does chase anything that moves...

A few weeks later, friends with a springer spaniel came for dinner.  Ratty was ecstatic and they ran and played together until both dropped, exhausted.  When Tim suggested that Ratty needed a companion, we went to see a couple who had bred their female Jack Russell with a friend's Jack Russell and now had 5 male puppies.  Badger was the runt of the litter but, at the age of 3 weeks, was already eating solid food.  We were asked to take him two weeks later, when the first-time mother refused to nurse her pups any longer.

Badger at 3 weeks (the lower two hands aren't mine - they belong to a rugby player!)

Holding Badger on my lap for the first time:

At 5 weeks, wearing one of my socks.  He still shivers with cold, lies in the hot southern French sun in summer and as close as he can to the wood stove in winter.

We wanted a French name for him.  The custom here is to name dogs according to the year of their birth; born in 2014, his should have begun with the letter J, but I couldn't find a name I liked, so we called him Copain (Pal in English), as he was meant to be Ratty's buddy.  After a week, we knew it didn't fit him and, seeing how feisty he was, we called him Badger, with only the slightest tip of the hat to The Wind in the Willows.

Getting acquainted:

At first, Ratty only tolerated Badger who, having been removed too early from his mother and four brothers - and seeking warmth - snuggled up to his new companion:

Badger at 5 months, with muddy nose (he is a terrier and there are lots of moles in our garden):

At 5 months, he could still fit next to Tim in the armchair, sort of...

Badger didn't stay a runt for long; he's now 9 kilos of solid muscle, while Ratty is a wiry 6 kg.  Don't be deceived by their innocent looks in the photo at the top...

Photo by Wilf Noordermeer

but there are still lots of sweet, peaceful moments:

Walking on the Serre, just above Oupia, April 2015.  They're much calmer at the end of a walk...

Photo by Wilf Noordermeer

More to come - and it won't all be about Ratty and Badger.  I'll catch you up on what we've been doing as well, in irregular postings; if you'd like to receive notifications of new postings or make comments, please see below.