Mrs. Parish has returned and so all is calm and ordered again at La Godefrere. Thankfully I had managed to complete my list of tasks and the house was clean and tidy and all the ironing completed. The cats had not left home and the garden was in a reasonable state although Mrs. Parish seemed to find an inordinate amount of things that still needed doing and has been pottering ever since she returned. While all appears calm there is always something happening, usually to me. 

Our daughter Amy came back with Mrs. Parish to stay for the week and so we have been mixing doing essential tasks here with days out, including a trip to see the Alpacas at our friends, John and Alex.  This is often an interesting experience as a state of chaos exists, although the alpacas are very cute. Our visit passed of quite normally. However on Thursday Mrs. Parish was busy in the garden and so I took Amy to visit an art gallery at a village called Pontmain. This at the best of times is an interesting experience as Pontmain is the site of religious significance. In 1871 a group of small children said they had seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary appear in the sky. This was in the Franco Prussian war and apparently when the Prussians heard of the vision they decided it was time for peace and went home. The Catholic Church meanwhile decided to make this an official Catholic miracle and promptly set about first building a church and then went even further and built a socking great basilica in the early 1900s. Pontmain only has a population of about 900 but it now became a site for Catholics to visit. There are now seminaries and a rather tacky gift shop selling religious souvenirs.

The virgin Mary as she appeared at Pontmain

Pontmain by way of a complete contrast has a Centre of Contemporary Art in the village and this of course attracts a rather different audience. For contemporary read weird. The exhibition on when we visited was a series of videos made by an artist called Valerie Mrejen. This is the description from the gallery:

 “The work of Valerie Mréjen feeds on memories, facts of daily menus, family ties, language ... all done with a studied sobriety, videos depict stories that look like us, speak for men, women, children who are revealed through minimal stories. She juggles between the fictional and the intimate, the scenario and spontaneity, the actors (who do not play) and non-actors ... On a burlesque, cruel, tongue-in-cheek manner, Valerie Mréjen stages simple situations that reveal our touching and comical sides.”

The opening scene of one of the videos - summer memories

So you get some idea of Contemporary art. But it is somehow typically French to have such contrasts. The ultra conservative Catholic Church next door to a modern art exhibition and all in a village of less than 1000 people.

Anyway this just gives a bit of background to the strange events that happened to Amy and I while we were there. We had just parked the car and were walking down the road when we saw an elderly lady struggling up the road pulling a suitcase. She called to me in French to help her and she was clearly struggling to walk. So we went over and Amy took her bag while I attempted to help her walk. She wanted to go round the corner to the Church offices. It turns out that she is in fact English and on some sort of pilgrimage to find a group of Irish Nuns who apparently had set up a community in the village. She had tried to find the house but was now lost. At this point her legs gave out and she slid on to the road and helped by me on to the kerbside. The lady is clearly not well both mentally and physically and is getting more and more confused and she tells me she arrived that morning in St. Malo and got a train to Laval and then a taxi to Pontmain. It was about 2-30 so she had had some journey. She kept babbling on about the need to find the Irish Nuns. 

Then a couple of French women come round the corner and ask what has happened so in my best French I explain the events and they decide we should call for assistance. In France the fire brigade (sapper pompiers) are called as the first responders and are trained as paramedics. So the women drag out a nearby hotel owner with his phone to call emergency services and soon two vehicles arrive both with three pompiers so there are six men in total all crowding round this poor woman and asking me questions as I was the only one who saw what happened. So I explained in French that she didn’t fall and did not bang her head and that I am not her husband and have never seen her before. All the time the woman is still rambling on about Irish nuns and the price of the ferry to St. Malo.

Amy asks me “at what point would it be appropriate for us to go?”. The pompiers are looking very confused and a little bemused and amused. It is clear that she has suffered no injury but is clearly exhausted. They establish she has not eaten since first thing at St. Malo and decide to take her to hospital. At this point I ask the pompiers if we can go and quickly we make a retreat to the arts centre.

If the afternoon has not been bizarre enough already the art exhibition is somewhat weird with lots of videos of people talking displayed around the centre. One involves a man deciding whether to go out of his house and in the process puts on one tee shirt after another each with a question printed on it. When we eventually get home I decide I need a very large drink.

The morning after Mrs. Parish arrived back I suggested we go and examine the mole situation and survey the battlefield. It is grim and the orchard seems a mass of molehills. It seems like the Somme full of the debris of war. It is clear that despite revving the tractor and singing the moles have become immune. Mrs. Parish goes off to the armoury to bring forth the weapons of mass destruction to visit upon the moles. As I need to cut the grass I go round to knock down all the molehills. I count as I go and discover to my amazement that there are exactly 42 molehills. Those of you familiar with the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams, will know that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. Is this a sign of intelligent life among the moles? Do they know what the question is that brings forth the answer 42? Mrs. Parish is much more forthright and says whatever the philosophical issues the moles are going to be pushed back out of the orchard and sets about putting in death traps.

The orchard is a bit of a disaster area at the moment what with all the 42 molehills and all the apple trees are full of apples. Of course this means that as well as knocking down molehills I have to pick up fallen apples which involves a lot of bending down and then shifting the apples. The only saving grace is that we can turn the apples into alcohol either as Pommeau (a cider aperitif or into cider). Of course when picking up apples it is difficult to focus on the end game and my thoughts turn time and again to chopping the trees down.

One of our apple trees

So eventually after over an hour knocking down and picking up I finally get to start up the tractor and get on with some mowing. Perfectly at peace with myself and with nature now I feel and after finishing the orchard I set off around the nature trail cutting the grass on the path. I am thinking how lovely it all is when there is a dreadful clunk which comes from the cutting deck. I fear some damage and look back to see what I have hit and there seems to be some sort of bone in the path. When I get off the tractor to investigate I discover to my horror that I have mown over a grass snake. It is a bit messy. It is a real shame as I have grown quite fond of the grass snakes having got to know them better. They do no harm and in fact get rid of a lot of pests. I inform Mrs. Parish that I am cut up about it, before realising the irony of that statement!!

Hey ho, all this strangeness requires a drink. In fact I need to have plenty of drink available as tomorrow our prospective daughter in law arrives with 10 friends for a hen party in our gite. Next week could also be strange........

Bon courage