Dangerous Dogs

Last August I faced a situation which was quite terrifying, probably made more frightening due to us living in an isolated spot in the woods with no one in shouting distance. I was at home alone, my hubby, Bob, had gone to the village in the car, it was a warm day and the front door was wide open as usual, and I was in the kitchen. I heard a noise and looked out of the window but couldn’t see anything, then I stepped into the kitchen doorway. Suddenly, out of the living room to my right, came two dogs. I shouted in surprise, one dog continued on out of the front door but the larger one turned on me. I found out later (from the owner) that the dogs were American Staffordshire terriers. I’ve never encountered an animal showing such naked aggression. It looked like a complete pscho. The eyes were blank and it was barking and snarling with unbelievable menace. The closest weapon I had to hand was the kitchen broom which I grabbed and thrust at it while yelling ‘ALLEZ!’ It immediately attacked the broom which still bears its teeth marks. It was at this point that I wondered if I was going to come out of this alive, probably the most frightening moment of my life. As it was the dog suddenly let go and ran after its comrade. I slammed the door shut, only to hear thumps and scraping noises as the the dogs leaped at the door! They definitely wanted a piece of me.

At this point I decided I wanted some evidence of what was happening and grabbed my camera. I took some shots from the kitchen window which was easy because as soon as I opened the window they came flying down the path, desperate to get to me. I was shaking at this point and almost unable to think properly. Wobbly photos!



One worry was the thought of Bob arriving back. I needed to stop him getting out of the car. This was easy because we have a balcony which I could wave to him from as he came up the drive. I went onto the balcony. The dogs heard me and tore around leaping and barking underneath. When Bob arrived I signalled for him to wind the window down and shouted for him to stay in the car. The dogs immediately transferred their attention to the car, biting at the tyres and jumping at the passenger door.




What on earth were we to do? I decided the only option was to phone the pompiers (the fire department in France deals with just about everything from accidents, to heart attacks, to the removal of hornet’s nests!). I phoned the emergency number and stumbled through the situation with my very poor French. It worked because within about eight minutes a car arrived with blue lights and two pompiers. We conversed through their window while the dogs attempted to shred their tyres! The guys made some phone calls and pretty soon more pompiers arrived followed by two men from the Marie. Now we had four vehicles in the drive, nine pompiers in total (one we were told was a vet), and the men from the Marie all locked in their cars! I supervised from the balcony.

A plan was made (lots of shouting between car windows) to lure the dogs into the garage where they could be contained. This required me to go downstairs into the garage which is accessible from the office, open the garage door, and then leg it back to the office. As soon as I’d done this the dogs went into the garage and someone nipped out of a car and shut them in. Three pompiers (one who was the vet) then went in covered in protective gear, carrying poles with loops, while the others, in what looked like riot gear, set up a net in front of the door in case the dogs escaped. At this point I was thinking about my hubby’s new, shiny, red, Ducati motorcycle which was in the garage. He’d had it for about three weeks. Visions of it being knocked over and scraped by dog claws! Fortunately all went surprisingly calmly and after a few minutes the dogs were brought out on the poles and put into two separate cages. I wasn’t allowed to take pics of the pompiers.

So what was the outcome? We were told that when taken to the local vet and given time to calm down the dogs were deemed not aggressive enough to destroy. The owner was found and they were returned to him. We found this quite unbelievable, especially as on the very same day, earlier in the morning, the same dogs had bitten a man working in his garden and terrorised another couple who had to shut themselves inside their house. Both incidents were reported to the Marie. The man who was bitten had to go to the doctor, and the owner had to pay for his treatment.

We were most unhappy with the outcome. I was nervous every time I went into the garden, and in actual fact still am to some degree. For a long time if I went and sat outside I made sure I had the garden rake within reach. What if they came back? We decided to go to the Gendarmerie and make a report, if nothing else we wanted it on record. The man we saw was pleased that we’d come in. He told us about the two other incidents and informed us that he was going to see the owner of the dogs that afternoon. He would be inspecting the dog pen, demanding a padlock on the pen gate, informing the owner that he had to come and see us and apologize, and pay for the claw-mark damage to our car door. He also had to have papers for this breed of dog. Our statement would go on file.

The owner did come to see us. He wasn’t focused on apologies, but spent most of the time throwing his hands in the air in apparent disbelief at his dogs’ behavior. At home they were models of love and affection. He couldn’t understand it. His children adored them. But he hadn’t seen nine pompiers reluctant to get out of their cars! He hadn’t seen his dog on the other end of my broom!

We had interesting comments from friends in other countries after this story went on Facebook. One of my best friends was a dog-catcher in Canada for many years, then there was a relative in Australia, plus friends in the UK – all said if the situation had happened in their country the dogs would have been destroyed. For sure if they’d attacked an elderly person or a child the outcome could have been far worse, and it does still worry me that they’re just a few miles down the road. I just hope the owner keeps the gate padlocked.

I’ve Given up a German for an Italian!

I can’t believe it but I’ve recently put Gandalf (my lovely 2007 BMW F800ST) up for sale and taken over my hubby’s much older Ducati – now dubbed ‘Dezmo’ because he has a Desmodromic valve control systemI’m not very mechanical but I did find this little video interesting. Last autumn the BMW had a battery problem which took a while to sort out, in the meantime, not wanting to be bikeless, I started riding my hubby’s 1998 Ducati ST2. He had bought his much newer Ducati 848 last summer, loves it to bits and rides it all the time. I took the ST2 out a few times and started to fall in love with it. It’s very hard to describe the difference between it and the BMW because transferring the sensations and feelings into technical words, for me, is nigh-on impossible. The basics are that I feel more at one with Dezmo and he seems to take corners with very little assistance from me – if that’s possible!

He has a more forward, sporty, riding position which feels natural and comfortable, and lastly there’s the sound. The sound is something else. Better than Beethoven. A symphony for the soul. An infectious, throaty, deep-down sexy rumble that permeates every pore – well he is Italian. Is it all too much for a woman of sixty-plus I ask myself? I think not, I think he’ll keep me young!

We have a very small garage – or maybe too many bikes? So I suggested to my hubby that we sell up and buy that place in the distance. I just love the pointy hats on the turrets, and I’m sure there’s got to be an enormous garage! 


château de Marzac, near Tursac, Dordogne

There’s a Chubby Guy in our Garden

I love my Bhudda. He’s in a little round bed close to the cherry tree in a secluded part of the garden. He protects the grave of Barney the swallow, who I found injured on the road some years ago, and who, sadly, we couldn’t save. A couple of weeks ago, walking back from the village I spotted a tiny clump of white violets growing right at the edge of the road. They were splashed with dirt from traffic. I have a special place in my heart for white violets, a memory of the farm when I was about five years old and the day my older sister showed me them, partially hidden, growing under the hedge. It was unusual and quite magical to find white as opposed to purple ones.

I went back with a trowel a few days later and rescued the violets from the roadside, and planted them in front of the chubby guy. They grew like mad, obviously loving the sudden disappearance of traffic noise and the daily splashings of grunge and grit. If you’d listened really hard you’d have heard them singing.

I should have taken a photo when they were blooming but somehow forgot, but they a do have a lovely little flourish of healthy, new green leaves. A picture of flowers next year!


Creations Cuir de Poisson in Fanlac

I recently put this post up on my hubby’s and my shared blog A Biker’s Guide to the Dordogne which we’ve started for visiting bikers. Not everyone is a biker so I thought I’d reblog the post here for others.

The village of Fanlac is a hidden gem, beautifully picturesque, and will only be found if you go and look for it. It has quite a sad story from the war involving a Fanlac family, the Resistance and the German army. You can read about this at the tiny tourist information office. But this post is not about history it’s about leather – fish leather!

If you take a walk around the narrow little paths in the village you’re bound to come to Creations Cuir de Poisson, owned by Kristof Mascher.



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We were taking a walk in Fanlac in February and came upon the shop which I hadn’t known was there. Kristof welcomed us into his little workshop and showed us what he did. He explained the age old tradition of making fish leather.

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This is a little history taken from his website:

In south-east Siberia, an indigenous people called the Nanais lived by hunting and fishing, in close relationship with nature. The particular cultural trait of these people was the development of a specialized tanning technique for fish skin which allowed them to make waterproof clothing.

Today there are 10,000 Nanais surviving in these regions, only half of which (the oldest ones) still speak their own language. Their culture has mostly been annihilated and forgotten.

One descendent of this tribe, Anatol Donkan, a former art student who is now a renowned artist, has found his vocation in revitalising the art of his people and giving it as place in the modern world. Following extensive research and experimentation, he has finally managed to recover their technique of tanning fish skin. In collaboration with a Swiss specialist, he has worked to improve and modernise the ancient method and has succeeded in producing a tear-proof fish skin leather using only plant extracts.

We talked to Kristof about his work and the leather making process, and wandered around the shop quite enthralled by the gorgeous bags, belts, key-rings and other items. I had never realised that fish skin could be used for leather. Since it was nearly my birthday I talked my hubby into buying me a key-ring (I needed one for my Ducati) which Kristof told me was made from a spotted wolffish.

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If you’re thinking of a visit to the shop it might be an idea to phone first as Kristof is sometimes away at faires and shows. He speaks excellent English, German and French. For more information him have a look at his website: http://www.fischleder-kreationen.com/ (it sometimes takes quite a few seconds to load.

Be warned gentlemen! If you take your wife or girlfriend in here she’ll definitely need a new bag!

When you can’t buy it … Make it!

The French have obviously never taken to peanut butter. It’s scarce in supermarkets and if it is available it’s imported, which always puts the price up. I was introduced to peanut butter in 1970 when I emigrated to Canada and took a job as a ‘mother’s help’. The mother of the little boy I looked after bought peanut butter swirled in a jar with raspberry jam and I quickly became very fond of it. You could say it really stuck!
For the last eleven years I’ve managed to buy my supplies on trips back to the UK, but recently I’ve run out. A peanut butter crisis! Peanut butter withdrawal symptoms every morning at breakfast. Last week I scoured the shops and eventually discovered some in two places, the local Bio Co-op and another place that sells a few imported items. Sadly in both cases it was the smooth variety and I’m hooked on crunchy. Smooth just doesn’t cut it for a crunchy addict.
It’s odd, I’d given up on my search and resigned myself to being a person of no peanut butter, and then, like a miracle, up popped a recipe on Google. I was actually reading a recipe for Lithuanian Kugelis (which looks delicious) at the time. I immediately checked out the PB recipe and some other ones on YouTube. They looked so simple. I leapt into the car and shot off to buy the peanuts and with the help of my hubby, who is an excellent peanut-sheller, this is what happened.


We used peanuts that were still in their shells, but which were actually roasted. About 500 gms  of shelled nuts required. Also about two tablespoons of peanut oil and a teaspoon of salt.


Shelling was fun




Blending was a hard grind because my old blender is obviously not powerful enough to cope easily with the job. The nuts plugged up at the base of the blender and nothing was moving. It took a good deal of stopping and starting and persistent poking, prodding and shaking to eventually get the right consistency.


But the end result was magnificent! Fantastic roasted flavour, and super-crunchy. Tomorrow I’ll try it on toast with a spoonful of home-made Seville orange marmalade on top. Home-made peanut butter it will be from now on. And maybe a new blender!