Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Welcome to the autumn edition of Fat Dogs News. Summer is now drawing to a close, although you’d never know it. The first half of the year was the hottest on record and continued with temperatures in the shade reaching over 40 degrees Celsius (100+ degrees Fahrenheit) regularly. Yep, by anyone’s standards, it’s been blooming hot!
September is packing a punch too, and as I write, I’m pretty sure several new records are currently being broken.

While we gently roast in the heat, at least we can take a cold shower now and again. It’s a very different story for our forest and its inhabitants. The prolonged drought has meant the trees are parched and chemins have turned to dust.
September newsletter dusty chemin
Not for the first time we’ve thanked our lucky stars for the brooks, and natural springs on our land. Daytime sightings of wildlife are rare at the moment, although we did come across this unruly mob. If you click on the image below, it'll take you to a Youtube link. You’ll be able to watch our three-legged boy, Tripod, with his kids and grandkids having a fun wallow!
Deer, being far more refined creatures, shelter quietly in shady spots, but they’re there, and come out to feed and play in the evenings. Watching beautiful little poppets like this from observation hides at the moment is all the more special for that.
September NL deer
Our neighbour farmers may be cussing the extra spend on irrigation, but their sun-loving crops are bursting with vigour. Sunflowers, maize, apples, plums, tomatoes and grapes, are positively voluptuous this season. These eaters are a prime example.
September newsletter grapes-2
Destined for the European and UK markets, the recipients are in for a treat.

Ooh, and I have another piece of happy news to share with you. In the last issue, I told you about our Australian Shepherd, Aby, and her horrific leg injury. Following reconstructive knee surgery, we embarked on two months of rehabilitation.
Aby post surgery
As my Facebook friends will know, we did what we were told, Aby was a model patient, and it has paid off. Against all the odds, our brave lass has regained her fitness. Aby’s bounce is back! Jack and I can’t thank our vet enough for achieving the impossible.
September newsletter Aby running
I’ve often said there’s never a dull moment living here, you know, in the middle of nowhere. And here’s another example. My feed rounds in the bird pens are longer at the moment as I need to make sure the chooks and pheasants have fresh water twice a day. I also have to stop and play with Nap, our fun-loving rescue pig. Okay, so that’s never a chore, Nap adores his cuddles!
As I went to fill his wallowing hole the other day, I spotted a young robin in the water. A branch had fallen and pinned his legs down. The poor chap was in a sorry state.
September newsletter robin 1-2
I took him out, dried and checked him over. Although he was withdrawn, he seemed physically fine, so I made a nest for him in the sun. Knowing how fragile these birds are, I didn’t hold out much hope.
September newsletter robin 2-2
Nature is amazing. To my surprise, within a few minutes, his eyes were open, and he was beginning to shuffle around the upturned bin lid.
september newsletter robin 3-2
When I returned from the feeds, I was thrilled to find that my little chum had gone. A mini miracle. It was a tiny rescue, but every one counts.

It hasn’t all been about animals this summer. I have been exploring!
Antonin lantern alley-2
My blog this month recounts our recent trip to a truly remarkable place. I dragged Jack along with me on this one. Actually, you might want to read his rant (section 4. below) first. It was the unfortunate precursor to our journey.

Fat Dogs Memes

I knew it would be dangerous letting Brutus anywhere near my Facebook page!
Sept brutus use

Working on Fat Dogs Part 5

Editing on Fat Dogs Part 5 is coming along nicely, and our plans to publish before Christmas are now a reality. To tide you over, here’s another snippet from the book.
While I was familiar with the haphazard flying capacities of the insects at Le Palizac, my friend, Ana, wasn’t.
September NL stealth-2
Because I spent so much time with the animals or in the garden, household chores were mounting up horribly. I was musing over how lucky I was to have our Brazilian friend, Ana’s, help when Jack walked in.

“Ana seems more hysterical than usual this morning. Is there anything especially wrong with her?”
“I don’t think so, although she has just discovered the joys of living with our stealth bugs.”
“Ah, that would explain the deranged hair-do. I wondered whether it was a Brazilian special.”
“Oh dear, I’d better make sure she’s alright.”
“I would. She was slapping herself quite hard when I left.”

Ana was distractedly pulling at her hair. I’d been there. I knew how it felt to have an infestation of stink bugs mooching around my roots.

“Don’t worry, Ana.”
“They’re all over me,” she cried, manically smacking herself with a plastic fly swat.
“Here, let me look. I’m sure they aren’t.”

I gently removed the swat to prevent Ana from doing herself any serious damage and had a look.

Jack's Latest Tantrum

Jack’s a black belt at ranting, but beneath that grumpy exterior lies a heart of gold. We know not to take his outbursts seriously, and he fizzles out as quickly as he ignites. Until the next explosion...
September NL satnav-2

The background:

We were on a mission to a place we had never visited before. Jack, precise as usual, handed me the directions on a Post-it note as he started the car.

The Rant:

“Plug these in could you, please?”
“Yep, no problem.”
No! Not like that.”
“What’s wrong?”
“I’ve given you the co-ordinates, poking and hoping, trying to key in town names isn’t it at all.”
"Jack, I’m just going through the menu and…”
“For God’s sake, I’ll do it…”
“No, I’m fine. Get your mitt out of the way so I can see which button to prod.”
“Co-ordinates. I’ve told you a million times!”
“Shouting isn’t going to get you anywhere. It must be around here…ah yes, got it.”
“Thank God for that, we’re halfway there already.”
“Do stop exaggerating we’ve only been driving for five minutes. Okay, here goes… Great, all done. SatNav lady will direct us from the autoroute entry point.”
“W…what have you done?”
“What d’you mean?”
“We’re heading in completely the wrong direction. At this rate, we’ll end up in the Bay of bloody Biscay.”
“Oh, right. Um, let me do it again, it won’t take a second.”
Gah! I’ll do it.”
“You can’t drive and input numbers at the same time. I’ll have it sorted in a second.”
“And just to make my day, we’ve now got some idiot behind having an attack of road rage!”
“Another grumpy driver? Huh, what’s happening?”
“A bloke is flashing his lights and signalling at us. What is his bloody problem? I’ve a good mind to…hang on a minute, what’s that beeping sound?”
“All I can hear is you ranting.”
“I do not believe it. It’s the hazard lights. You’ve switched the blasted hazard lights on. How did you manage that?”
“Oh, sorreee, I must have leant on the switch by accident when I was sorting out the directions.”
“You’re supposed to be keying numbers not causing mass panic to other road users!”
“If you stopped swerving all over the road, trying to put them in yourself, I wouldn’t have had to steady my hand. Anyway, no harm done. So, which direction do I plug in first? West?”
“Only kidding, Jack. All done and we haven’t even taken a wrong turn.”

Fun with French Property News

It has been a challenging few months for the team at French Property News magazine. They’ve had colleagues on furlough. They’ve worried about their locked-down readers. They’ve had to say a sad adieu to their sister title Living France magazine, which has closed after three decades of production. And has it dented their enthusiasm? Never!

With Covid-19 causing cabin fever and Brexit transition nearing its end, the team has been busier than ever helping people to buy their dream homes in France.

Living France will continue on social media and in a brand new section in French Property News, starting from the November edition, out soon. While you wait, enjoy this nugget of escapism from the team and enjoy these gorgeous properties in France.
September FPN Sep 20 profile pic
Social but distanced: beautiful French properties for sale on the edge of villages and towns Coronavirus has done little to dent the desire of our readers to find a dream home in France, but many are now more discerning about finding the perfect property. More than ever, they are looking for a home with land, space and privacy where they could happily sit out a future lockdown, yet still within walking distance of shops, bars and restaurants.
Is that your dream too? If so, click on the link below to check out these seven pandemic-proof French properties.
september Village house with gite potential for sale in Charente with CIC Ruffec

Recipe from France

Depending on where you live in the world, by now, you’ll either be embracing the cosy shades of autumn or imbued with the youthfulness of spring. French Onion Soup is a timeless classic that works well with both seasons. Here is a delicious version from the BBC Good Food site.
September NL The-Ultimate-French-Onion-Soup-3
  • 50g (half a stick of butter)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg (2 pounds) onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 1.3 litres (5-6 cups of beef stock) hot strongly-flavoured beef stock
  • 4-8 slices baguette (depending on size)
  • 140g (4.9 oz) gruyere cheese, finely grated
(Thanks very much to my American pal, Laurie Betz, for her invaluable help with the conversions.)
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onions and fry with the lid on for 10 mins until soft.
Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for 20 mins more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn.
Add the garlic cloves for the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time, then sprinkle in the plain flour and stir well.
Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the beef stock. Cover and simmer for 15-20 mins.
To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls.
Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the gruyère. Grill until melted. Alternatively, you can cook the toasts under the grill, then add them to the soup to serve.

Perfect as a snack lunch, light supper or starter for dinner, I adore French onion soup.

Bookish Corner

With this issue’s recommendations I’m taking you away from France, and for a good reason. Complete contrasts, I loved these two memoirs and gave each a well-earned five-star rating.
Alyson Sheldrake’s: Living the Dream in the Algarve, Portugal
Ever wondered what it’s like to up sticks and move to a country you’ve fallen in love with? That precisely what Alyson and her husband did.

Determined to immerse themselves in the local culture, they settled in the Algarve. After buying a house on the outskirts of a village, they adopted a gorgeous rescue dog and began a new life. This fun travel memoir has bags of appeal. (Click on the book image to access the Amazon link.)
september Living-the-Dream-Front-Cover-web
Jackie Singley’s: High Heels and Beetle Crushers
With an intriguing title like this, I knew I had to read the book. The gripping first chapter immediately hooked me, paving the way for a super memoir.

Set in post-war Britain, Jackie tells the story of her upbringing and career in the WRACs. The book gives a fascinating insight into the social history of the time. Her honesty about liaisons, loves and losses, are beautifully written as are her accounts of how life was for women in the army during the period. (Click on the book image to access the Amazon link.)
newsletter september Jackie

Fat Dogs and French Estates Box Set

I’m delighted to confirm that the first three books in the Fat Dogs and French Estates series will shortly be available in a Kindle box set. My heartfelt thanks to Victoria Twead, my pal and editor for making this happen. As usual, Maggie Raynor has stepped up to create a stunning cover, and here it is. I hope you like it!
September NL box set_n
If you would like pre-order a copy, please click on the book image or this Amazon link:

Chez Fat Dogs - the links

Fat Dogs 1 Amazon link:
Fat Dogs 2 Amazon link:
Fat Dogs 3 Amazon link:
Fat Dogs 4 Amazon link:
Whilst it may have been hot here, nothing compares with the extreme weather so many folks have been enduring in other parts of the world. Jack and I are very aware of the horrific suffering experienced by so many communities and animals in recent months, and our hearts go out to all those involved.

At times like this, we are reminded of how incredibly lucky we are to live in such a sleepy backwater where you never know what delight is around the next corner. Just the other day, a friend told us about the plight of their new cockerel. The youngster was driving the neighbours mad; understandable if you prefer not to be woken at 4.30 am. Destined for the pot unless someone came forward to help, we stepped in.
September NL cockerel-2
And here he is, our latest rescue. Any ideas about what we should call him?
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