We said farewell to Emile on Saturday at the Catholic church in Gorron. It was full and we estimated that there were over 300 people in attendance, a fitting tribute to the love and respect that so many had for Emile.

The funerals in France are arranged very quickly and in typical French style done in accordance with tradition. This makes things tough for the surviving spouse. Emile died on Tuesday and so for the rest of the week his body was laid out in the funeral home for friends and family to go and pay their respects. This meant that poor Yvette had to be there all day and evening to receive the mourners. On Friday there is then a formal ceremony of fixing down the lid of the coffin.

On Saturday Yvette had to be at the funeral home to collect the coffin and escort it to the church for a 10am funeral service which lasted an hour. After the service all those at the church were invited for brioche and coffee or wine. This was at the village hall of Brece, close to Gorron.

As close friends of Emile, Mrs. Parish and I with another English couple and two French couples had the job of organising this part of the day. We had been asked to do this to take the pressure off the family. So, we had to wait until the end of the service and then pay our respects to the coffin before rushing to our car to get to Brece and get everything prepared in time for the mourners to arrive. We just about got everything done before the first arrived. Thankfully all 300 did not come back as the hall was quite tiny!

Then the family all had to go off to Mayenne for the cremation at 1pm. This being France everything revolves around eating so the family were coming back for a meal in the same hall. This meant that we had to prise away the other mourners from their wine and brioche to get them to go so we could completely reorganise things and get 60 tables and chairs out so we could lay up for the family meal, open bottles of wine and cider and get ready to serve the meal. Fortunately, the restaurant in Brece was supplying the food.

It was a bit of a rush but we managed to do it effectively and we were also invited to eat with the family. This was a special privilege as we all looked upon Emile as part of our family. After the meal the family then all had to go back to the crematorium to collect the ashes and then back to the church in Gorron to lay the ashes to rest. Each stage involving some form of ceremony.

We cleared up and got home physically and emotionally drained at about 5pm. Poor Yvette must have been totally exhausted. Mrs. Parish and I are hoping to call in and see her on Tuesday.

We are getting back to normal after a quieter week here at La Godefrere and a chance to catch up on a few jobs around the house and gardens. The weather has turned a bit cooler but still we have sunny days and very little rain until the weekend when it rained and now it won’t stop! 

No repas this week, although we were very excited to receive our invitation to the Commune meal for “Les cheveux blancs”. This is the meal provided by the Commune Council for all over 65s in the area. It is on 25th November and we are looking forward to it. In the past two years the meal has been superb and the wine flows liberally. We make sure we walk to the village hall rather than take a car!

Our little owl has returned! In the Spring the little owls were using a hole in the roof of the gite as a nest. Indeed, for the previous two years they had successfully raised a family. This year something went wrong and the owls abandoned the nest site. They also went missing from their perching posts, either on the gite TV aerial or on the chimney of an outbuilding next door.

We did not see much of the owls over the summer, although we still heard them calling at night. Worse was to come as a couple of pigeons began squatting in the hole. They made a lot of noise and a lot of mess and once they had raised a couple of babies, we chased them off. Mrs. Parish went up into the bedrooms and banged on the ceiling. In a twin assault I raced around the courtyard shouting and waving my arms about. Those mad English people!

Anyway, our tactics were effective and the pigeons left and we have not seen them for a month or so. We noticed the little owl was back on the chimney on a regular basis and we have spotted the owl using the nest hole in the gite for roosting. Hopefully, the owl will now stay around and try to nest next spring. I just wish they could be a little less noisy at night. They can be a bit screechy and occasionally they sit on our roof and make a noise, still it is good news that they are back and interested in the nest.

The grass in our garden and orchard is beginning to improve and to return to a lush green colour. The grass had gone quite brown over the hot summer with its lack of rain. In recent weeks we have had a bit of rain and a heavy dew first thing in the morning. As a result, the grass has improved no end. Of course, the downside is that it still needs cutting. Although it is getting a bit colder so may be not too many more times.

The grass in our paddocks and in the field next to the gite has also started to grow. Our friend, Patrique had taken away the sheep to let it recover. Last weekend he was here with three ewes to stay with us for a while.

In the field Xavier had taken most of the cattle away at the beginning of September. Just leaving four cows as the grass was so poor. It has grown and now he has brought into the equation a great big bull. We suddenly noticed a fifth cow in the field and wondered where it had come from. We looked bit closer and realised it was a very large bull. He came over to introduce himself and made clear he was not to be messed with. He came up very close to our wire fence and out stared me as it was me who took a step backwards!

Our new neighbour

The hens continue to be manic and charge all over the garden. They have been helping Mrs. Parish dig over the vegetable garden and keep very close to her fork as they want to get the best worms and to grab them before one of the other hens gets there first. This is a dangerous game as on more than one occasion Mrs. Parish’s fork came close to skewering a chicken. Not content with garden fork dodging the hens then spotted that I was up a ladder cutting back a dead tree in the orchard. The hens arrived full tilt and proceeded to peck the ground all around my ladder. Now they were in danger of heavy branches falling on them or me tripping over them as I came down the ladder.

The hens also have an annoying habit of surrounding you and then pecking at your shoes or wellington boots. Risking tripping me up or me falling over as I adjust to avoid standing on a hen. Anyway, we must be doing something right as they continue to lay eggs and on average, we get at least three eggs per day. Much better than Daniel and Giselle’s whose hens came in the same batch but have not laid anything like as well. Giselle reckons that Daniel does not give them enough food and she has to chuck out some more hen food when Daniel is not looking.

As the evenings are getting darker and colder, the cats have invoked the Winter clause in their contract. This allows them an extra hour or so indoors before their supper at 9pm. Archie as the senior cat and shop steward ensures that the cats get their due and he is always the first at the window ready to come in. Petit is a bit more chaotic as he is not really used to the La Godefrere regime. In the evenings he is often too busy to arrive for food at the right time. In the week he was too busy climbing the owl perching tree to bother with his tea. He then of course demands his tea when he is ready.

The trail camera is now fully working and we are keeping an eye on what is about. We regularly see deer coming to the glade to look for food. In addition, there are often two hares that we see several times during the night. We see a fox and occasionally a badger. So far, we have had no sign of the wild boar either on film or any signs of boar damage. Hopefully, the boars will stay away.

Brock the badger

Bonne semaine