Firstly, I must report back on the chocolate courgette cake which I was approaching with some trepidation last week. I sort of expected a green and brown striped affair and the after taste of courgettes. However I was pleasantly surprised and it looked and tasted just like chocolate cake, but a bit moister which is no bad thing.

This week Mrs. Parish and I celebrated 42 years of marriage. You would think that after 42 years of my stomach being filled by Mrs. Parish’s excellent cooking that I would have had more faith in the chocolate courgette cake. On the other hand the last42 years has been filled with cakes that seemed to make sense. You know where you are with jam sponge cake, chocolate chip cake (as long as you realise it’s made with chocolate chips and not chocolate and chips which would be weird), fruit cake etc, angel cake (as long as it is not real angels). Anyway you get the picture. 42 years of excellent and sensible cakes and of course much else in the way of food. There have been a lot of great meals and too many roast dinners to count.

I would not like you to think that all we have to show for 42 years is displayed in my rather too rounded figure. We had three children along the way and they are quite nice and have turned out to be reasonably responsible adults (if a little crazy). A bit crazy is OK and shows that at least they inherited something from their parents!

We also somehow ended up living in France and that seems like a very sensible move and one which we are enjoying very much. One of the great things about France is that it builds upon our strengths (see above) and has some really nice food and really nice restaurants. To celebrate our anniversary I suggested the 1 star Michelin restaurant in Mayenne, which is superb. Of course it is August and they are closed until the beginning of September for holidays. So we give a Gallic shrug in true French fashion and look for a second choice. We decided to try a different restaurant called the Beau Rivage which is on the banks of the Mayenne River just outside the town of Mayenne. It has the advantage of having some outside seating with lovely river views. However, it rained all day so we had to sit inside. We did have a very nice meal and the food was excellent but not quite as good as our favourite – La Marjolaine, which has a certain “je ne sais quoi”. Its ambiance is so nice. Anyway our son Ian and his fiancée Emma are coming over for a week in October so we can visit La Marjolaine again. Ian and Emma have now decided that they are going to get married next year in Las Vegas. I did say my children were a little crazy and so is Emma so they are well suited.

So Mrs. Parish and I have settled down to the next 42 years and hoped for a bit of a quite week to recover from our wild celebrations. Yesterday saw the first day of the French hunting season and the hunt came to La Godefrere. We had heard from Giselle that the hunt had been asked by the nearby farm to come and try to get rid of the foxes which were causing problems. In France hunting is very different from England. For a start the Commune hunt is called out to deal with foxes or other animals that are causing problems. The aim of the hunt is to kill the fox and they have no interest whatsoever in chasing a fox halfway across the countryside.

So instead of fat blokes (who own most of the countryside) in poncy red jackets sat on horseback you have a group of working farmers, farm workers and local villagers who arrive in white vans and have bright orange jackets and hats. The bright orange is supposed to stop them shooting each other but hunting in France has a very high accident ratio and several hunters are killed each year. The hunt has a pack of dogs whose job is supposed to be to flush out the fox and to allow it to be shot. The dogs do not chase the fox as there is no way the hunt want to go off and chase. This is France and they need to be finished in time for lunch!

So, on Saturday morning we were alerted by the sound of lots of shouting and horn blowing from the maize field just the other side of our winter stream at the bottom of the big field. We went to investigate and saw a lot of French hunters with large shot guns and bright orange jackets and hats surrounding the maize field at about 200 yards from each other. We heard dogs barking and it was obvious the tactics of the hunt were to drive the dogs through the maize field and to flush out the fox. The horns are supposed to send messages to the dogs as I presume is the shouting. We watched for about half an hour in which apart from a few shot gun blasts from the other side of the field nothing much happened. Just at the corner of the maize field at the bottom of our sheep paddock a white van arrived and a man got out and blew his horn a lot. Then two other white vans arrived and out of the maize appeared a whole load of dogs but no fox.

The Hunt at lunch!!

The hunt obviously decided that there was no fox and attempted to round up the dogs and get them into the vans. The dogs had other ideas and were all over the place barking and wagging tails. Eventually after more shouting, horn blowing and running around most of the dogs were in the van and about 12 huntsmen stood around chatting and no doubt discussing tactics and what had gone wrong. Just about this time and about 50 yards away from them appeared from the maize a fox who then bolted across an open field into another maize field about half a mile away. The hunters completely missed this but no doubt wondered why Mrs. Parish and I were almost crying with laughter. Two of the white vans then went off and eventually after a further 15 minutes of shouting and horn blowing the final dog turned up.

The horn blower.

All this time the sheep in our paddocks were making a fuss and baaing rather a lot. We realised they were very confused at all the white vans. When Patrick arrives to feed them he always comes in his white van and so the sheep thought all the white vans were bringing food. They were very cross by the end. Our neighbours dog Pepito also objected to all these barking dogs and kept up a complaining set of barking and whining throughout, adding to the surreal experience. We have been here two years now and so far have never seen a fox killed or even heard of one being shot. I’m not sure the hunt is very effective but I’m sure they have a good time and enjoy the shouting and horn blowing! I am also sure they enjoyed a very good lunch.

Today I went out on my bike for a ride. Sunday is a day when often hunters go out on their own or in twos to hunt. This is usually for the pot so they are after rabbits or game birds. Quite often I came across the inevitable white van parked randomly at the side of the road. There would be hunters not far away. I made sure that I was wearing a very bright T shirt as I didn’t want to get shot. There are several shooting incidents each year involving passersby!!

So an eventful weekend. Mrs. Parish is at the oven cooking yet another excellent roast dinner. This time chicken (I hasten to add that it was bought from the local supermarket and not hunted) and all the veg including some properly cooked courgettes, in their right place and a long way from chocolate cakes. 

All this hunting and preparing to eat requires some liquid refreshment. Time for a little aperitif I think. The hunt has rather taken over the blog this week. Look out next week for a discussion of the bread/cheese equilibrium conundrum!

Oh dear, we have just had a call from people booked into our gite. The call was along the lines, "help we are lost, we are on the auto route to Paris, having got off the ferry at Caen". Another sat nav disaster and they are now over 3 hours away from us instead of just arriving here!! What is wrong with using a map?

Bon semaine