An interesting start to the day. I am home alone at the moment, so I listen out in the morning for the radio to come on at 7am. I then get up to feed the cats and start the day’s chores. This morning the radio came on so I got up and dressed, deciding to shower later. I was about to go down stairs to let the cats in for their breakfast when I went to turn off the radio. At this point I realised that the radio had been tripped into action by a power cut in the midst of a very strong windy storm. I looked at my watch and realised it was 3am!! Not the best stat to the day.

Those who know me well will not be surprised that I am not a follower of fashion. As well as being a bit too laid back to bother about fashion, I never seemed to be quite the right size or shape for clothes to fit well. The French, who have a way of describing most things in one word, would probably refer to me as “decontracte” which means laid back and casual. (I think it is a very accurate description!) Mrs. Parish would probably use the term “neglige” which means scruffy.

So this week we have been given the subject of “la mode” for our French homework. We have been looking at the vocabulary for fashion and its impact on the French economy. At the moment I have to read a newspaper article about Christian Dior and produce a short summary for next week’s lesson. This has been quite hard as I am entering a world about which I know nothing and even in English I am struggling with some things. Who knew that you could have so many types of skirt, for example? I was given a set of drawings of skirts and a list of names. Matching the two was a matter of random chance! To the French this comes as second nature of course.

Another question posed that if I was going to an “elegant cocktail party”, what should be worn and there were two lists one for men and one for women. Once I had translated the words I was still struggling. I mean who knows. I have never been invited to any sort of cocktail party let alone an elegant one. I decided I could probably exclude Bermuda shorts but who can tell. I would likely be the last one to find out that things are in or out of fashion.

Anyway it turns out that Christian Dior lived in Granville in Normandy and there is now a museum where he used to live. Apparently he trained as an architect and applied those principles to dress design. So not only am I learning French but I am learning to be a Frenchman with an appropriate knowledge of fashion. “Je suis dans la vent”, which doesn’t mean I have the wind but that I am trendy and in the forefront of fashion.

French fashion is worth around 34 billion Euros to the French economy and some 7 billion in exports. The industry employs some 130,000 people. What is good is that fashion generates more business than both aerospace and the automobile industry.

Of course the other factor is that French women in particular look so smart and wear such fashionable clothes. Whereas I dress “comme l’as de pique”. Or “like the ace of spades” which means I don’t know how to look well dressed! A useful exercise and at least now I can engage in a robust discussion with my French friends about fashion!

Mind you, doing my French homework with the attention of three cats is not easy. I told some friends last week that I could not do my homework because the cats sat on it. They did not believe me. They thought it a pretty poor excuse. A bit unfair I thought but fortunately I have the pictures to prove it.

Minou refusing me access to the French dictionary

Moggie attacking my pen

I had to go last week to have an eye test. Surprisingly this is no easy feat in France. For almost all medical procedures there is no waiting list and access to a GP or specialist is very speedy. I can usually get to see our GP by appointment the next day. Specialists in a matter of weeks. For some reason not “ophtalmologues” or ophthalmologists. I think it may be due to the weird spelling (in French pronounced Oftalmalog) but they are in very short supply so we had to wait 1 year for a routine eye test.

So off we went last week to a private clinic in Mayenne for the eye test. It was a very interesting experience. From the receptionist who bristled with efficiency as she operated with two live computer screens to book us in. We then had the usual eye tests but with very high tec equipment. Although we still had to say whether the view was as good, less good or the same. As we were in France we were given the option of executing a Gallic shrug if you were not sure if the image was better or worse. Once the routine tests were done by the technicians we were told to go along the corridor to another waiting area to see the Ophtalmologue to get her professional assessment. Having gone through the tests we were expecting the waiting area to have no more than one or two people. Once we got there we found a little alcove that was full of people. It was interesting once sat down to watch the faces of people as they came round the corner expecting as we did only a few people and seeing the disappointment suddenly appear on their faces!

So we now have prescriptions and must go to one of the local opticians to get fitted out for new glasses. It is just as well that Mrs. Parish speaks good French and mine is improving (I can demand some very fashionable glasses). We know of some English folks who have to go back to Britain to have an eye test as their knowledge of French is so poor.

Mrs.Parish is currently back in England on missionary work taking a supply of French wine back for the family. She set off on Thursday night with around 70 bottles of wine in wine boxes. She told me she had been stopped at the port and had to explain why she had the whole of the back of the car filled with boxes. Once she advised them that it was French wine for the family at Xmas, they were fine.

Preparing the car also meant giving it a wash. It seems the only time our car gets cleaned is when we return to the UK. We can’t have a dirty car on the ferry and back in Britain. Of course cleaning the car is no easy process when you have three cats who associate the inside of a car with food. I had the carpets out to vacuum clean them and then cleaned off all the seats. Moggie wandered by and saw the open door and immediately jumped in. This would not have been quite so bad but for two things. Firstly as usual his feet were very muddy as he had just come from the garden and secondly he had to visit all parts of the car in rapid succession so leaving a trail of footprints all over the nice clean car.

Archie on the other hand decided he should sit on the clean car and get the outside dirty once again. This is not so much of a problem as the roads around us are covered in mud where tractors have been and so as soon as you leave our courtyard the car gets dirty again. No doubt by the time Mrs. Parish got to the ferry port the car would be filthy once again.

While all this has been going on I had time to once or twice keep an eye on what is happening in the garden. Last week I heard a commotion and turned to look out into the garden where I saw a male sparrowhawk chasing a small bird which was flying around a bush trying to escape. The sparrowhawk a flash of blue was travelling at some speed and managed to turn sharply to follow the path of the small bird. Together they played chase around the bush before flying off towards the fence. I am not sure whether the sparrowhawk caught its prey or whether the small bird escaped. The whole incident only took a matter of seconds but it seemed to last for some time. We regularly see sparrowhawks chasing across our garden. We put out food for the birds and so it is a bit like a fast food diner for birds of prey.

All part of the harsh reality of nature but nonetheless a privilege to watch. And a bit of a change as usually nature is ganging up on me and making my life difficult. Thankfully all the apples have come down from the trees and been got rid of. At the moment there are no signs of the moles returning after my Leonard Cohen requiem. The chickens are behaving and seem to have stopped trying to escape. It is only the cats that are a problem.

Archie and Sylvia, like ships that pass in the night!

I have just returned home after an afternoon repas at nearby Brece. I had a very nice meal followed by a rather large glass of calva. Plus I had to go back to Emile and Yvette’s for coffee topped up with calva. The fire is roaring, the chickens are shut away and the cats fed so I think I may just have a touch more calvados and settle down for a quiet night in front of the fire and watch (or sleep through) so TV.

Bon journee