A big week here at La Godefrere and we have a new roof. Mark and his gang of symbolist roofers completed the job and put the final slates with artistic skill into position on Wednesday. It looks very nice now we should not suffer the problem of slates becoming dislodged. Now the scaffolding is all down we can get back to some sort of normality. Although we will miss our roofers’ artistic debates and Archie will miss his sandwich van.

The new look La Godefrere

The second big factor is that Mrs. Parish has gone back to England for a long weekend. She has a school reunion to attend and it gives a chance to see her mother and members of the family. She left on Thursday and returns at mid-night on Tuesday along with mother-in-law! She is staying for a week!!

Mother-in-law is OK, really, it is just that she talks a lot and in fact when she is awake she seldom stops talking. There is a local expression here “parle comme une pintade”. To talk like a guinea fowl who are kept in large flocks for eating and spend all their time gabbling away. My neighbour Daniel asks if my wine cave is full and that I should be constantly topping up mother-in-law’s glass. I reply that it is full and I will keep topping up my glass!

While Mrs. Parish is away I am in charge. At least I thought so but Archie maintains that he has lived here longest and therefore has seniority and therefore he is in charge. In fact, all the animals make a case and it seems that I rank below the salamander in the pecking order. That is probably why I get all the jobs to do.

My official designation here is under-gardener second class as I am only allowed near plants under strict supervision or instruction. While Mrs. Parish is away I get to cut back the brambles and remove branches from the trees around our nature walk. It is important to keep the paths clear. This is good work as it requires little skill and a lot of sawing, clipping and general hacking. It is very satisfying work.

The only downside is that going around the edge of the hay field brings me up to the cows’ field and of course, they all come over to see what I am doing. They don’t just come over and look and wander off. No, these cows disapprove and let me know. They watch me pruning the little oak trees and it is like they are saying “Oh, I wouldn’t have done it like that” and “it is clear why he is the under-gardener”. There also seems to be a lot of tutting and ironic chuckling. The difficulty is that you can’t make them go away, they just come up really close and criticise.

The cows come to evaluate my work

This week I have been delegated with real jobs to do including picking stuff to go into the freezer as well as watering the plants in the potager and the flowers in the courtyard. Watering is pretty boring but picking peas is absolute madness. The peas grow on plants that only get a foot or so off the ground. This means that to pick anything you have to bend over all the way along the row. Who thought that was a good idea. Whoever invented peas should have made them grow to waist height to make picking easier.

I hate picking peas

It is not just the height; the pea pods are cunningly hidden by the plant leaves and twigs to make it as difficult as possible to find them. Once found you have to get the pods away from the plant without ripping the plant to shreds. And after all the effort of picking the pods you are no closer to the eating bit as the peas are inside the pod. What poor design unlike the nice tomatoes or fruits where you can pick and eat. Not with peas though, they require podding.

This is a fiendish form of torture, that first requires you to find a way into the pod. There is no simple lid or zip. It demands finding a weak spot and them trying to prise the pod open. This has to be done in such a way that all the peas inside don’t get popped out in an explosion all over the floor. Instead the peas have to be gouged out and then put into a bowl. During this process you have to look out for pea moth maggots and extract affected peas. “As easy as shelling peas”. I don’t think so! It’s a con, shelling peas is a nightmare.

Once podded the peas still have to be dealt with as they can’t all be eaten immediately after shelling. To put them in the freezer they have to be blanched for some unknown reason. This involves plunging them into boiling water and then into cold water before packaging and putting in the freezer.

After all that work I have to sit down and rest. Picking peas has to be the worst thing ever in the garden. Why can’t we just buy peas from the shop. If ever you need proof of the non-existence of a god then peas are your answer. No form of intelligent design would create peas in their current form!! I hate picking peas.
And so to the football as we are into the second full week of the world cup. I am watching Uruguay v Russia at the moment. For the second French game against Peru we went again to the bar in Oisseau. This time for a late afternoon game and so we were served a plate of cold meats to eat with our beers. The owner Anne-Sophie made us very welcome and supplied the face paints to give us the tricolour of France on our cheeks. France managed to win 1-0 and so the afternoon went well and of course we maintained tradition by finishing the afternoon with a large cognac.

Barmy army?

Tomorrow, we go to the bar for France’s final group game against Denmark. They are already through to the next round but by winning would top the group. The kick off this time is a tricky 4pm but Anne-Sophie has promised crepes for this game. We have our seats booked and have been learning La Marseillaise so we can sing along.

And finally, back to the animals and Petit in particular. He has got used to the routines and feeding times here at La Godefrere. For a time whenever he was indoors he had to play and this mainly involved leaping onto Moggie for a play fight. From time to time he would get a bit confused and would try to leap onto Archie. He soon realised that this was the wrong cat as Archie snarled at him and biffed him with a large paw. Sometimes you see him in mid leap with the sudden expression of oh no, wrong cat!

Petit has now learned that he needs to maximise his in time by finding nice soft beds and sofas to sleep on. Play fighting can go on outside with the added attraction of having a garden to run and fight in with lots of ambushing opportunities and escape routes up the trees.

However, a question remains. Why does Petit’s tail resemble a question mark?

Petit's question mark?

So, it is now half time in the football with Uruguay winning 2-0 and Russia down to 10 men. I have just about finished the blog and I think deserve a drink and a few nibbles to settle down for the second half. Then a bit of dinner which I am cooking tonight before the next round of games.

You may rest assured that I have not starved while Mrs. Parish has been away. My good friends Ian and Sarah have taken me in for two meals of Sarah’s excellent cooking (lovely fish and chips and then yesterday a super roast pork dinner). Tomorrow we are eating out at the restaurant in Oisseau to get in the mood for the football.

Time for that drink!

A la prochaine