Bonne annee, bonne santé. Happy New Year and Good health. So we have arrived successfully into 2016 and I find that I am starting to write the first week of the fourth volume of my blog about life in France. It seems strange to think that we have now been here for over 3 years and have now had our fourth Christmas in France.

I don’t want to confuse readers as of course we are only through 2 of our 4 Christmases of this year. In fact over the past week we have had no Christmases at all. Our son and daughter in law arrive next Monday for Christmas no.3 and then Amy and Charlotte arrive a week later for no.4.

Mrs. Parish and I managed to survive a week with no Christmas by virtue of the fact that we had New Year as a substitute and so we could celebrate that instead. We decided to visit our local Charcuterie to see what they had to offer for a New Year meal. They had quite a range of options and we chose pintade (guinea fowl) with mushroom stuffing. What we got were two complete birds which had been taken off the bone (apart from one wing bone to hold it all together. The bird was then stuffed with mushrooms. It came with some potato cooked in herbs. So in the evening we only had to heat through the guinea fowl and potatoes and add some of our own vegetables for a great meal, with no cooking and very little in the way of washing up. Of course this was washed down with some sparkling Vouvray and a very nice Macon, white wine.

Guinea Fowl, waiting for Christmas!!

Excellent preparation for our New Year’s Eve treat of watching French TV and the greatest cabaret in the world. This has produced much “great” entertainment in the past with some unbelievable acts. This year, was a bit sensible until midnight when we got a whole load of Chinese men juggling with what appeared to be large Ming vases. They threw them about and then caught them on their heads. It was all a bit bizarre. This was followed up by a man wrestling with a tent, which the French audience seemed to find hilarious! I woke up from a short doze to see my favourite act which involves a magician making people appear and disappear in a large box. As it is French all the people seemed to be very attractive women with very little in the way of clothing!

Chinese Ming vase jugglers!!

We did get out for a much needed walk on New Year’s Day but the weather has been pretty miserable and today it has been pouring down with rain all day. The cats have disappeared into their palace and have tucked themselves up in bed. I don’t think we will see them until tea time. Anyway since the weather has been bad I have spent some time reading my new book. Mrs. Parish knows what to buy me to keep me quiet and so she bought me a history book about the 100 years war between England and France which lasted from 1337 to 1453. Actually 116 years but that doesn’t sound as good.

One thing that strikes me about French history around this time is that the kings and major nobles often had a description after their name. This is apparently known as a cognomen. I have before reported on Charles VI who was known as Charles the Mad as he thought he was made of glass. This practice was common in France (the descriptor, not being made of glass). 

The English had William the Conqueror and then a bit later Richard the lion heart but not much more. We seem to prefer the boring old numbers. The French are much more dramatic. This also aids our view of some of the players in the 100 years wars. For example at the beginning of the conflict the French king was Jean II but known as Jean the Good and conveniently his major French opponent was Charles of Navarre known as Charles the bad. So everyone knew where they stood.  

Charles the Bad was very bad and kept changing sides and was known for being dishonest and slippery and often allied with the English. As is only proper, he came to a bad end. He suffered some skin disease, which was treated by wrapping him in cloth soaked in brandy. This was fine until someone dropped a candle on him!! It is not quite clear why Jean the king was good but he was fighting the English so that probably explains it! He was followed on the throne by Charles V who was known as Charles the wise who during the 100 years war managed to win back a lot of territory from the English. Having had a good king and a wise king it is only fair that the next king was Charles the mad who lost the battle of Agincourt.

I am not sure who decides on these descriptions. Presumably no one tells the King to his face. “Oh by the way sire you are now known as “the mad”  “the fat” or “the lazy”. My favourite is still Charles VIII known as Charles the Affable!

Talking of affable, Mrs. Parish and I went out for a New Years Day walk around the lanes near our house. As it was during the hunting season it is wise to wear bright clothes. There are several incidents each year of huntsmen shooting themselves or colleagues and occasionally random members of the public out walking. So it is sensible to be visible. So Mrs. Parish and I were wearing our brightest fleeces. While walking past on field down by a small river I happened to spot a lone huntsman with his dog. He was stood still with his rifle looking at some reeds. Without thinking I called out “bonjour” in an affable sort of way (probably just like Charles VIII. Of course French etiquette and politeness meant that the hunter had to say “bonjour” back to me. The huntsman did not look too pleased at all this noise.

After we had gone past him he started to walk back to his car. Mrs. Parish reckoned he had been stalking some wildfowl and had probably been stood waiting for ages, gun ready, for the duck to come out from the reeds until I broke the silence and scared it away. Well I’m sure it is the stalking and waiting that is the fun and the kill doesn’t really matter!!

We did over the Christmas period get out and have a bonfire much to Mrs. Parish’s satisfaction. She does like a good bonfire (Mrs. Parish the firestarter). It was one of the few dry days and so we cleared a whole lot of brambles and branches from a storage pile we had created. As it was a nice day and he had been cooped up for several days we had Moggie accompany us. He likes nothing more that to some out and help when we are working in the grounds. So he came all the way down to the bonfire site and of course managed to get in the way. 

After a while he got fed up and climbed onto my coat in the wheelbarrow for a sleep. Once we had cleared the piles onto the fire there was a lot of smoke. All of a sudden Moggie disappeared into a cloud of smoke and returned a couple of minutes later with a mouse he caught. It had clearly been nesting under the pile. Of course when he caught it was obviously well smoked a bit like a kipper. Still he still ate it.

Some friends of ours, John and Sandra were unwell over the Christmas period with flu like symptoms. So when we went shopping we offered to get them some supplies in. They only needed some milk and bread which we duly bought. Unfortunately Archie spotted the sliced loaf in its polythene wrapper and sunk his teeth into it while our backs were turned. Now when Archie sinks his teeth into something, they stay sunk in. In the end Mrs. Parish had to threaten him with a rather large stick before he let go. The teeth marks were clearly visible but had only damaged a couple of slices!

It is still raining and there is still no sign of the cats and it is half an hour till feeding time. Normally they would be at the window agitating to get let in.
Well we have another week of no Christmases or even New Years until my son arrives. I am not sure how we will cope. Mind you it has been very confusing with almost every day appearing to be Sunday. It will be good to get back to normal, although here at La Godefrere, nothing is normal!!

Happy New Year from me (Graham the laidback) and the cats

Bonne annee