Another week has gone by and as ever here at La Godefrere we have no time to be bored. Life in rural France is delightfully quiet and slow which suits us and the life style we have been adopting. Some English friends ask whether we get fed up and have nothing to do. Well first of all, Mrs. Parish subscribes to the “idle hands make the devil’s work” philosophy so she is always busy and has that woman’s knack of doing several things at once. I am more of “the slow and steady wins the race” frame of mind and tend to tackle jobs with a considered approach (if I can get away with it!). Secondly “life” does not seem to go by and ignore us. It seems to arrive and hit us head on, so that something different is happening every week. Just as well really or this blog would be terribly boring

This week the weather has been wet and windy and on occasions quite cold but we have had indoor jobs to get on with. We have been getting the gite all ready as we have paying guests coming in next week on Thursday, our first of the season. Prior to that on Tuesday we have a group of 19 French students from the local college coming for a visit. As part of their studies they are looking at tourism and want to talk to some English people who have a holiday gite. So that should be interesting and a test of my ability to speak French.

This brings me on to the subject of why learning to speak French is important. There are lots of English people who live around here who speak no French at all. There is one couple we have heard of who have lived in France for 20 years and still speak no French. It means that they have no means of making French friends and dealing with the problems that inevitably arise when living in a foreign country. This week for example we were asked to update our Orange France TV satellite box. Now I have discovered that almost every time I am asked to update some form of technology it either goes wrong or it moves everything around so I can no longer find anything. I recently updated my mobile phone contract with Orange, It would be cheaper and I could have more texts. What they didn’t tell me is that it would bar my emails. I have stopped downloading updates to ITunes as they keep changing the format and I lose all my music.

So I approached the Orange TV update with some trepidation. Quite justified as it turns out as half way through the update the TV box froze and would not do anything. This meant we could not access French TV but then it seemed to affect or phone and internet links which are also with Orange. So this meant contacting Orange France and here the ability to speak French becomes essential. Fortunately Mrs. Parish is good at speaking French and went onto a chat room with a French Orange assistant who guided her through the problem and then decided we needed a new satellite box which we were able to pick up the next day. So now all is well and working effectively.

A little knowledge of French can be a dangerous thing though. Good friends of ours Ian and Sarah told us of Ian’s unfortunate experience. Sarah has a Swiss mother and so is bilingual but Ian speaks virtually no French at all. However he is keen to learn and is picking up new words all the time. This of course has its down side. I mentioned before his confusion of the French word “mechant” meaning naughty with “nichons” which is the French word for tits. Not a problem unless you use the wrong word out loud at a dinner party with French friends! Ian and Sarah have a French farming family that they have become good friends with. They help out on the farm and in return Olivier, the farmer helps them. Recently Olivier had agreed to take Ian in his tractor to pick up some machinery. The two of them were driving along and Ian was keen to try to talk to his friend. They passed a house where Ian had met Sarah a couple of years ago. So in halting French Ian told Olivier this. He then went on to try to say that they were no longer friends as the man had financially taken advantage of Sarah.

What he managed to say was that the man had used Sarah and paid for the privilege. He realised by the look of horror on Olivier’s face that he had gone wrong! He managed to lighten the moment by laughing and saying that it wasn’t a problem as Sarah was “tres chere”, very expensive. So now Ian is more than ever keen to take French lessons and to learn the language, properly.

Mrs. Parish’s language skills were also called into use again as we have been having problems with Emily and Pam. It started out on Monday when we went to the dentist for a check up. Our French dentist is a bit like meeting a whirlwind. He has two treatment rooms and so he can deal with two patients at a time moving from one room to the other and so maximising patient contact and throughput. He is very well organised and of course has new gloves and tools for each room. He is also very quick (and fortunately very gentle). So he checked me over and replaced a broken filling in less than 10 minutes. The same with Mrs. Parish. When we went to pay Mrs. Parish’s carte vitale would not work. The carte is an electronic link to our health cover through the part funded Health system. We were advised to check up and find what was wrong.

This first of all meant contacting Emily. In fact this is my name for the “Amelie” which is the health service website where you have your own personal space with all your details. The first problem is that I couldn’t remember my password as I hadn’t used it in a while and managed to get locked out. This meant emailing for a new password. Once we had accessed our site we could see that we were covered until the end of the year and so Mrs. Parish decided she needed to see Pam. This is in fact the CPAM office which is the local office of the health service in Mayenne. So off goes Mrs. Parish to sort out another problem. It seems that as Mrs. Parish is so super fit that she has not used the health service in over 12 months her card has lapsed. This means more paperwork and forms to fill in to get a new one.

Now on to the animal front. I may have mentioned last week that the moles had booby trapped a mole hill and as a result I had almost broken my finger (which still hurts by the way). As a reprisal I have sent Emile on a behind the lines mission into the big field. Emile had said he would bring his tractor round to rake our big field to help the grass grow. This seemed an ideal way to get back at the moles. A bit like sending in the heavy artillery. So Emile went in with his tractor and made a lot of noise and of course the rake also demolished all the mole hills. I am maintaining my patrols within the exclusion zone as well as my singing and this has caused a mole retreat, for the moment.

Some excitement from the cow field. Last week Xavier who keeps the herd of cattle in the two fields behind the gite had been our spreading fertiliser on one of the fields and at the same time moving the fence to keep the cattle in the other field. Half way through the week we noticed that one of the cows had somehow found her way round the fence and was on her own in the fertilised field. The problem was that her calf and all the other cattle were the other side of the fence. A clear act of rebellion and one we would normally have applauded but the cow was doing a lot of mooing so we contacted Xavier who came round to move the cow back!

Our sheep and lambs have settled in well and seem to like their new home even though the weather has been quite cold. The ants are still working hard at repairing the ant nest. There is a mass of activity and lots of bits of stick being carried around as they fill in holes and make good the nest.

The cats have not liked the weather this week and have tried every trick to gain more inside time. We have insisted on sticking to the strict terms of the contract and have allowed the cats no mercy as you can see from the picture below! We have renamed Moggie as “Smoggie” after he managed somehow to cover his face in dirt from underneath our car. It is now raining again but the good news is that the fire is lit and we are sat in the warm. Mrs. Parish is cooking today and we are having noisette of lamb in a blackberry sauce. I need to choose the wine. The only problem in having a wine cave is that it is on the other side of the courtyard necessitating a run through the rain to get the wine in. You see how tough life is here. Mrs. Parish is indicating it is cup of tea time and the cats are queuing for their tea.

"Outside cats, we think you must be mistaken!"


Bon courage