Beth Haslam - logo amsterdam
Welcome to the latest edition of Fat Dogs News. As you’ll soon find out, expect the unexpected is an apt phrase for us.

Here is the list of regular features for you to browse through.
  • Chez Fat Dogs
  • Fat Dogs Meme
  • Jack’s Latest Tantrum
  • Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates
  • Fun with French Property News
  • Recipe
  • Bookish Corner
  • Et voilà!

Chez Fat Dogs

It was in late December when we received a call from a friend.

“Beth, urgent! You and Jack must come and save a dog now. It was abandoned on the road next to your land. Voila!” [Our French pals tend to tell rather than ask. It’s a French foible.]
“Hello, Genevieve. Poor animal. Yes, of course, we’ll help if we can.”
Bon. Everyone is frightened of the dog. Someone from the Mayor’s office tried to trap it but refused when it tried to bite him.”
“Oh dear.”
Oui. I had a go, but it went for me too. It’s dangerous. You have experience with animals like this. You’ll have to capture it.”
“Um, well, I’m not sure whether we do, but we can’t leave it there.”
“Any idea what breed is it?”
“Big. Bon courage!

And that was that.

Jack and I rushed to the appointed spot. There she was, a gorgeous young Brittany spaniel curled up in a ball on the side of the road. Skinny, scared witless.
As we parked, the spaniel jumped up, staring with excited anticipation, only to have her hopes dashed. We were not her owners. As I approached the cowed lass, she growled, but it was with fear, not malice.

Catching the dog took a while, but in the end, the solution was simple. She was desperately dehydrated. I slipped a lead over her head as she drank from a bowl of water. After devouring several doggy snacks, good as gold, she popped into the car. We took her home and began the search for her owners.
Pic 1 Nikki-2-40
Following days of enquiries, the sad story about her owner was revealed. There was no possibility of a return to her family. We were on the cusp of keeping Nikki when a couple came forward to offer her a loving home.

Arrangements were made, and we said goodbye to the beautiful lass. With some reluctance, I might add. We’re confident that her new life will be a good one. Still, she would have been a gorgeous addition to our furry family.

Festive preparations continued as usual until that moment when everything changed. Jack was working in the forest on bridge repairs and slipped down a muddy embankment. He was in a sorry state when he got home. Like it or not, he had to get checked out. I’ll tell you more in his rant below.

Ironically, a couple of weeks later, Nathan had an accident in the same spot. Resolved not to end up in the stream below, he sawed up some tree lumps and got to work. We now have a fine set of steps leading to the wonky bridge.
Forest steps-2-40
Only Nathan’s pride took a bashing but Jack ended up in hospital. Had it not been for the (non-covid) chest infection he picked up while he was there, it would have been for a handful of days. It ended up being much longer.

My poor Jack spent Christmas and New Year grumping from his hospital bed. In January, he came home with a ‘ridiculously unworkable’ rehab plan and strict orders to take things easy for a while. You can imagine how that went!
Understandably, festivities were low key for us, but there was one tradition I could share with Jack. Every year, someone from our village Mairie pops in for a coffee, and presents us with a Galette des Rois. The King Cake, which celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem, is traditionally shared at Epiphany on 6 January.
The Galette des Rois is made in various ways, and ours is a brioche, covered in sugary chunks. As you can guess, it was scrumptious. Here’s a link to read more about this delightful tradition and a recipe to tempt your culinary skills. Oh, and did we find the la fève hidden inside? No, thank goodness. Breaking a tooth on a tiny figurine would have just about finished Jack off.
February saw Jack regaining his strength. There were no more medical emergencies (phew!), but there was one mini rescue. On returning from a dog walk, I found this chaffinchy-type chap on the kitchen doorstep.

The sun reflects off the French windows during the afternoon, so it’s likely that he flew into a glass pane and stunned himself. With Cleo (keen bird watcher) about, I couldn’t possibly leave him there.
Cleo birdbath-40
With no confidence that he would recover, I gathered the fragile, feathery bundle and popped him into one of our bird boxes to recover.
use bird in box-40
To my surprise, within ten minutes, the dazed mite had recuperated. Out he popped and flew into the trees, no doubt planning his next snack at the feeder. Helping him out was a good idea after all. I am constantly astonished by the recuperative powers of animals.

Another curious animal encounter turned into a learning experience. It was Max who spotted it first. I followed his gaze to see a slinky chap nimbly climbing over the gates into the garden. Max shot over to make friends. The creature froze at the sight of the bounding mutt.
With Aby and Max sitting at attention, I had a good look at the newcomer. It didn’t seem injured, although I assumed it must be. Mustelids, I thought, were nocturnal, so being out during the day would be unusual.

As for identification, the interloper was too large to be a weasel or stoat. It wasn’t especially frightened of me, so I wondered whether it might be a pet ferret off on a wander. Weirder things do happen here. Then something even odder happened.
The little rascal calmly ambled into the courtyard, climbed up the inside netting of an old dog kennel, and crept into a cavity above my potting shed. Nice and snug. I was amazed. Now I was dying to find out more about our new tenant. I contacted the Société française pour l'étude et la protection des mammifères (French Society for the Study and Protection of Mammals) for advice.
The expert told me the animal was a Martes foina, a stone marten (also known as a beech marten). From the photos, she said it might be weak, and suggested I try to trap and take it to a wildlife conservation centre. She added that wearing thick gloves was advisable. I’d seen those teeth and claws. Good advice.

As is it happens, there was no need for a rescue. The next day, I tentatively peered in with a torch to find that our visitor had gone. Shame. I’d liked to have had a closer encounter – with gloves.

Click on the link below to learn more about our stone marten. From what I’ve learned, my potting shed roof cavity might be its second home.
Having had a rotten start to the year, Jack cheered up no end when his new toy arrived. I was too until the transporter driver flattened a hedge (reversing was a challenge for him) and then churned-up half the drive with his lowered tailgate.
It was a replacement forest vehicle. Our previous model developed a terminal clunk, and Jack rigged up an alternative gear system, which worked a treat. And then its crankshaft expired. This, apparently, was curtains.
jobber arriving use-2-40
Despite being dinky, the original truck was handy in transporting us, dogs and equipment around the forest. Keen to have a replacement model, Jack decided to go eco and buy an electric version. And here it is. A ridiculously girlie white, and she’s already doing a fine job.

Happily, the wild boar and deer hunting season is drawing to a close. Orchards are interdit (prohibited) to hunters, but click on the blog link below to find out what happened during our recent dog walk among the apple trees.
Pic 7 (2)

Fat Dogs Memes

New dog walks bring new experiences, and this was a cracker. My French doggy pals and I were trekking across meadows when we made a discovery. A house snuggled on the edge of a copse, bursting at the seams with healthy Goldies. Bounding, barking, bustling and ebullient, the gorgeous retrievers were dying to join us. If dogs only could talk…
meme better-2-40

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...

The background.
After his fall, Jack was mucky and mud-splattered. That could be rectified, but the limp couldn’t. He was injured and needed checking out. Much against his will, I drove him to the hospital, where he was x-rayed. It was the surgeon who gave him the news.
Monsieur ’aslam, you have a fracture of ze ’ip.”
“Damn! It is rather painful. So, what now? I rest for a few days?”
“Ah, no, it is an important fracture. You must stay in ’opital.”
What? No, that’s absolutely out of the question. I have far too much to do.”
Non,” said the doctor with an ill-advised finger wag. “I am insistent. At ze moment, we do not know whether we must ’ave ze surgery or not.”
“Surgery? Are you looking at the correct x-ray?”
Oui, merci. It has your name on it.”
“This is ridiculous. Look, I drove home on my quad bike, and I’ve just walked in here. How can you possibly conclude that I might need surgery?”
“Yes. You were lucky. It is ze confession.”
“Yes. Ze fracture, she is vertical. All your basin is broken on one side. Too much confession, and zere is ze risk grave of her to be splitting.”
“Good Lord, I thought we were about to start praying. That would’ve been novel.”
“Comment? I do not understand.”
“You mean compression.”
“Yes, this is it. We need more tests. It is possible you need ze surgery for ze securing of your basin.”
“That does not mean I have to stay in hospital.”
“But yes, it does, Monsieur ’aslam. Your body needs ze rest ’orizontal in controlled conditions until we find out how serious you are.”
“This is absurd. I’m perfectly capable of lying flat in my own bed. How many days am I expected to learn how to lie flat here?”
“Only a few days until we decide what to do next.”
“A few days? Is it impossible to hope for more tests to be done today?”
“Yes, of course. It is Friday. You will have no tests until ze Monday if you are lucky. Until then, you are staying ’ere.”
The surgeon looked at his watch, gave Jack a curt nod, and disappeared.

Jack, stunned, looked at the wall clock.
“I do not believe it. Lunch. And now he’s abandoning me to go for a two-hour bloody lunch!
“Never mind, Jack. You’re in the right place. I’ll go a get your things. Just try to be nice to everyone.”

Jack didn’t need surgery, which was a relief. Unfortunately, the precarious nature of the fracture meant that he ended up staying in hospital for several days. And then he caught a bug. Poor nurses! Poor Jack.

Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates

sea fogbank-2-40
As you’ll guess, my editing time for Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates has been limited recently. I’m back on the job now, which somehow feels wonderfully normal.

Here’s an extract from an event that took place as dawn was breaking on the English Channel. We were sailing a small yacht skippered by my father, and a vast fog bank was dead ahead.

Pa took no chances. First, we readied the life raft pod, ‘just as a precaution’. Gavin and I grabbed binoculars and took our positions on either side of the boat. Our orders were simple. Look out for approaching vessels and periodically sound the foghorn.

“And don’t fall overboard!”

I checked the sails. They were smothered in wraith-like misty fingers, threatening to restrain our progress in the dead calm waters. Minutes dragged by as we strained our eyes, searching for danger, a marker buoy, a promontory or another vessel.
The English Channel is a busy route for container ships. Conditions like these can play tricks on one’s mind.

“Beth, have a look at this. What d’you think it is?”
I scrambled over to Gavin’s side of the boat and followed his pointing hand.
“I can’t see anything there. Pa? Anything on the radar?”
Pa shook his head.
“Okay, sorry, it’s just me, then. I keep thinking I’m seeing things when I’m not.”

I could easily relate to the difficulties Gavin was having. I was convinced I had seen the head of an ethereal sea monster breaking water a little earlier. Then again, I had recently been reading about the Kraken. Scandinavian folklore can play havoc with a teenager’s imagination.

Mr Turner was up and making breakfast. The smell of bacon sandwiches broke the tension. Rations were handed out. As we were about to swap positions, I had the fright of my life.

“Pa, Pa! There’s something dead ahead. A flashing light. It’s huge.”

A word from French Property News

FPN banner-40
Ready to be spoiled? We have a double whammy from the French Property News team in this issue. The first is a sneak preview of their Complete France April edition. And it’s packed with info.

We’re taken house hunting in the Basque country and follow the twists and turns of Michelin Guide history. The team answers ten questions that buyers of French property always ask. And just why are more French houses selling close to their advertised price this year? Click on this link for the answers and much, much more.
We can all dream, right? How about this online article to get your removal vans revving? It’s been FPN’s our most popular of the year so far. I’m not surprised. Click on the link below to view twelve houses for sale in France that are cheaper than a family car. I’ll admit, I’m keen.

Recipe from France

Here it is, another fabulous recipe from Lindy Viandier’s sumptuous culinary repertoire. Ooh, I can practically smell the glorious aromas with this one. I can’t wait to try it!

Pain d’epices

Easter is just around the corner, so all thoughts turn to something sweet and delicious.
Naturally chocolate springs to mind, but in Dijon in north-eastern France, another delicacy decorates the shop window displays – pain d’epices.
Unlike traditional biscuity gingerbread, pain d’epices is a moist, gooey loaf made with honey and a mix of ginger and other spices.
The aroma as the loaf is cooking is mouth-wateringly enticing.
This is one of the simplest cakes you’ll ever make and is a great way to get children involved in baking, as it is practically foolproof.
Happy baking.
Pain d'epices-2-40


  • 200g plain flour
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 10g sachet of dried yeast
  • 1 dessertspoon of vanilla sugar
  • 1 dessertspoon of spice mix*
  • 100ml milk
  • 100 unsalted butter
  • 150g runny honey
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • A pinch of salt.


  • Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla sugar and spices in a mixing boil.
  • Put the milk, butter and honey in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter and honey have melted.
  • Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture a little at a time mixing well.
  • Add the beaten egg a little at a time mixing well.
  • Pour the mixture into a 2lb loaf tin and bake at 200 degrees/gas mark 5
    for 35-40 minutes.
    *I mix together equal measures of powdered ginger, ground nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice and keep in an airtight container to use several times. You can adjust the spice mix to suit your taste.
Bon appétit!

Bookish Corner

For this issue’s memoir recommendations, we’re staying in Europe. My first suggestion takes place in Spain. I had the privilege of beta reading this book and could barely put it down. Here is an extract from my five-star review.
Diane Elliott: Butting Heads in Spain: Lady Goatherder
This memoir recounts the experiences of a British couple’s move to rural Andalusia. Filled with heady dreams of setting up a pony trekking business, things quickly go horribly wrong. Do they pack up and go home? No, but life isn’t easy.

With the help of an unlikely mentor, Diane and her husband are cajoled into keeping goats. More and more goats, and not just goats. And this is where the story unfolds.
Animal injuries, flash floods and cliff edge accidents are commonplace for the author as she learns to become a goat herder. Yet despite this incredibly tough life, she loves her wayward family.

The book is so well written I didn’t want it to end. Happily, I believe there will be a sequel, and I can’t wait.
TYT Diane Elliott Butting Heads-40
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)
My second recommendation takes you to Greece. I’m halfway through the first box set and already laughing my socks off.
V.D. Bucket: Bucket to Greece Collection Volume 1-3
Written by an author who decides to use a pseudonym, he comes up with the name Bucket. And why not? After all, he was abandoned in one as a baby. I was instantly hooked.

Victor and his wife, Marigold, set out to buy a property in Greece. They come across Spiros, a genial undertaker, who shows them a rural village house. Belonging to his dead uncle, Spiros fails to tell the couple about his uncle’s unusual death. He also omits mentioning the bizarre neighbour and their eccentric garden occupant. In fact, there is much that Spiros doesn’t say.

The author delights with stories about larger-than-life characters and integration into their village community. His self-effacing humour is wonderfully amusing, especially concerning his compulsion for hygiene.

If you love travel memoirs filled with fun, wit, and incidents, then these are the books for you. And if you love a series, then you’re in luck. Victor has published thirteen episodes so far, and he’s still writing!
(Click on the book image or the link below to take you to the Amazon page.)

Et voilà!

I don’t know how you’ve fared, but our weather has had its glum moments. January and February featured endless fog-laden days. Dog walks and fence-mending duties with opaque veils hanging in the air was decidedly surreal. And when they eventually lifted, we were left with unimaginative slate grey-skies.
However inclement this period was, it couldn’t suppress the unbridled joy I felt when tramping over crisp meadows on frosty wintry days. Unbelievably beautiful. Then it all changed.
That famous old English idiom: March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb has been fitting for us this year. The wind arrived.

The French love to give their prevailing winds a name. This one is called le Vent d’Autan. Sounds ordinary? It isn’t. It is a south-easterly wind that blows over the Lauragais, the Toulouse region and the southwest part of the Massif-Central.
The Vent d’Autun chills the sunniest days and plays mischievous tricks. In an instant, gentle wafts switch to 100 kph (62 mph) gusts and more. Don’t stand near moveable objects or underneath trees during those icy blasts.

To our cost, we know the damage the wind can do in the forest. You can see debris from this clip I took two weeks ago. One large tree brought down four others. Unnecessary damage like this is such a sad sight.
This force of nature plays havoc in other ways, too. There’s electricity in the air that allegedly drives animals and humans crazy. Is this really because of le Vent d’Autun? I’m not sure, though I’m delighted we live in a sheltered area that is relatively unaffected. Click on this fun blog to find out more about its impact.
Fortunately, le Vent d’Autun seems to have exhausted itself, to leave us with gorgeous blue skies and sunny days. That mimosa is a show-stopper! Plants are bursting with vitality, and the garden looks lovely.
And living in a fruit growing area means that orchard walks are sensational at this time of year. The sights, the scents with just us to enjoy them are exceptional.
blossom 15-2-40
Our river walks are heaven too. Sounds of squawks, quacks and the cries of young gulls bounce off the water. The vegetation is burgeoning, and battalions of young poplars are sprouting like mad things.
And talking about mad things... Where there’s water, you’ll find Aby and Max. As you know, they love wet walks with pals! Could we be luckier? I don’t think so.
With so much uncertainty in the world, I sincerely hope that your home is calm and peaceful. I’ll be back with more local chat in June. With Jack back to full strength, I’m sure there will be several horrifically embarrassing rants to share! Until then, stay safe and enjoy your season as it unfolds.

Hugs from us all,
Beth - logo - cropped for newsletters
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