It is New Year’s Eve and Mrs. Parish and I are stuck indoors with pouring rain and a howling gale blowing outside. It has been like this since Christmas and seems likely to continue into the New Year. According to the English weather it is the result of storm Dylan although the French have named it Carmen.

So, we have been caught up with the Dylan reference and have concluded that the answer is “Blowin in the Wind”, which is an “Idiot Wind” caused by a “Hurricane” leading to “A Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall”. There may be “Thunder on the Mountain” and possibly “The Levee’s gonna break” and we will have some “Rainy Day Women”, “Before the Flood”. You see how stir crazy we have become in all this bad weather. Being forced into finding Bob Dylan songs that relate to rainy weather. I may keep these songs for the next time I need to sing to the moles, who have been quite quiet of late. 
Christmas has just flown by even though we managed to have two Christmases. As we had my son and daughter-in-law here the week before Christmas we decided to designate Wednesday 20th December as our first Christmas day and so we had presents in the morning followed by a super dinner, after Kir Royales made with Champagne.

We started out with our Foie Gras made for us by Valerie, the farmer’s wife. To help this go down we had a nice Coteau de Layon which is a dessert wine from the Loire Valley but not too sweet. A main of roast lamb with a large leg of lamb that we bought from our farmer friend, Olivier. Cooked with Beaujolais it was excellent, served with gratin dauphinoise potatoes and lots of veg from the garden. With this course we drank a lovely Margaux red wine from the South West of France.

For dessert we had ordered a very nice Buche de Noel. Like a chocolate log but made by our boulanger/pattissiere which was superb. We had some Montbazillac dessert wine with this and the label describes it as “Onctueuses and voluptueuses”, which more than adequately describes it! Indeed, the whole of our Christmas meal could use this description. For our real Christmas Day, we had a capon, again supplied by Olivier. That went down a treat with a nice Pouilly Fume white wine and more Buche de Noel. This time in individual logs with lots of chocolate.

Buches de Noel from our local patissier
We ate and drank well and we are looking forward to a nice tornedos steak tonight and some roast beef tomorrow. Then it looks like diet time! One good thing is that there was plenty left over for the 2 dogs and also a share for Archie and Moggie, of course. The two dogs (Tomo, with three legs and street orphan Kiki) enjoyed their time here and stayed with us in the house. The cats were affronted by this intrusion. Archie who is a proper French farm cat was having none of it and came indoors for his contractual in time and just stood his ground against the dogs. If necessary hissing and showing his rather large claws. The dogs soon got the message and kept away from him. Kiki managed to take ownership of the sofa and spent a lot of time there!

Kiki adopts our sofa after a very long walk!

Tomo looking confused (default mode!)

Moggie is a bit of a wimp, and tends to run away from anything and especially dogs. When he did sneak indoors he hid away or went upstairs well out of the way. They were both at the door ready for supper when it was left over lamb though and this week they have also done really well with capon, sausages and even a bit of left over cottage pie.

Fortunately, the weather before Christmas was cold but not wet and so we could take Ian and Emma to visit the crazy Christmas lights in the villages just over the boundary into Normandy. The villages here compete to have the best display of lights and in places virtually every house is festooned with Christmas lights. There are even organised coach tours around the villages (as we are in France, usually with a meal and mulled wine!).

The Christmas Noah's Ark

Our favourite place is St. Mars d’Egrenne, near Domfront. The whole village is illuminated with animals from a very large Noah’s Ark. Not very Christmassy but does give scope for a whole range of animals including a very large brontosaurus! All around the village there are elephants, rhinoceros, camel, giraffes etc and on a small hill at the entrance to the village a large illuminated Ark. And of course, there is a stall selling hot cider and mulled wine. It is an experience not to be missed. There are even some live animals including a stable with a couple of donkeys.

There must be 20 to 30 villages that take part but as the evening got cold and misty we decided not to go too far and came back via Ceauce where there are automaton displays as well as lights and more mulled wine with crepes this time and lots of coaches. We came back home to warm up with sausage rolls and mince pies. One of the problems at Christmas is the need to take food from the freezer and to then defrost it. This of course, exposes the food to the risk of cat interference. Sometimes we put stuff in the oven to keep it safe from the cats. You have to remember that it is there and not turn on the oven!

Food that is on the work top is vulnerable. The cats have such an advanced sense of smell that they immediately know that there is food around. Archie has learned that it is best to lull us into a sense of false security. He does not make straight for the food but works his way towards it before trying to grab it. Plastic bags tend to slow him down, as he tries to get in he makes some noise. There was almost a mince pie incident as Archie managed to get hold of a plastic bag full of mince pies. In his attempt to break in he knocked them to the floor and so we heard what he was up to and managed a rescue, just in time!

With the weather being so bad we have kept an eye on the weather forecasts on French TV. Evelyne has got very excited with rain everywhere and lots of snow in the Alps. One thing we have noticed is the French adverts around Christmas, which are virtually all for some form of French perfume and usually involving some sexy woman or man doing weird things with a deep voice at the end with the name of the perfume.

Anyway, New Year’s Eve approaches and Mrs. Parish and I plan a traditional evening with a slap-up meal with a quiche to start, a steak and more buche de Noel and some lovely wine. Followed up by some lovely malt whisky and no doubt a few chocolates while we watch the craziness that is French TV with Le plus grand cabaret du monde, hosted by Patrick Sebastien. This is full of cabaret and circus acts with some very weird contributions. If you want a sneak preview there is even a website:

I will report back next week! In the mean time I must now brave the violent storm to go across to the cave to select the wine for this evening. An aperitif, a white for the starter and a lovely red to go with the steak. We already have the dessert wine in the fridge. It may be that with all the clothes I will need to put on as well as wellies for this expedition into the tempest, that I will need a stiff drink on my return!

Bonne annee, bonne sante