This has been an eventful week as my son Ian got married to the lovely Emma in Las Vegas. We join them for an English celebration in November. So Mrs. Parish (that is my Mrs. Parish and not the new Mrs. Parish, this is going to get confusing!) and I have spent the week toasting the happy couple!

The new Mrs. Parish with Ian

Today is St. Crispin’s Day, Sunday 25th October and just happens to be the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt. The battle won by Henry V of England against a numerically superior French army at the end of the hundred year’s war. And of course made famous by William Shakespeare and the speech of Henry V. 

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry! England and Saint George!' 

Probably the last time we beat the French before Waterloo. Anyway a good chance for the Brits to crow at French expense. I prefer the following quote from the same play “Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety”. Seems much more sensible

 In some ways it was not a fair fight as the French King Charles VI as we have discovered before was quite mad and known as Charles the Mad, In fact he was so mad he thought he was made of glass. He believed that if people came too near him he would break. Thus he insisted that iron rods should be inserted into his clothing to prevent him from breaking. For some months in 1405 Charles refused to change his linen, to bathe or to be shaved, and as a consequence he was afflicted by skin trouble and lice. His physicians hoped to cure Charles with shock treatment. They arranged for some men to blacken their faces and hide in his room. When the King entered they all jumped out, presumably shouting: "boo". As a result Charles agreed to be washed, shaved and dressed and for a few weeks his behaviour was more reasonable. 

It may be that the firepower of English archers and the slaughter of his French knights may have been quite a shock to him.  The French solved the problem of mad Kings by having a revolution almost 400 years later and cutting off their heads.

We celebrated Agincourt by attending our first Repas for some time. This was a meal organised by the friends of the local Fire Brigade in Gorron. This is a meal organised to raise funds for the Brigade benevolent fund and is supported by large numbers of local people. We went with Emile and Yvette and 14 other friends both English and French. The meal was held at the Gorron public hall and was packed with people. We went through the normal repas arrangement starting with an aperitif, then a starter. This was followed by either a grilled pork chop or tripe. Then dessert of first cheese and then an apple tart. Of course then we had coffee and all for 12 Euros. I don’t know how they manage but of course it is a very French meal and we have to have the full number of courses. As well there are always copious amounts of really good French wine at very reasonable prices.

The Sapeur Pompier lunch at Gorron

The Sapeurs also raise funds by selling calendars and soon they will be calling on all houses in the district to offer their 2016 calendars for sale. The calendars show a photograph of all the local firefighters. We always buy one as do most people we know. The collection is made by a couple of firefighters and they are always keen to ensure that you have a receipt with your name and address on it.  It is clear that they want to ensure they know who pays and who doesn’t! We can envisage the fire brigade control centre reviewing emergency calls to check if people have purchased the calendar. If not maybe they should delay sending the fire engine!

After the meal we all went back to Emile’s for coffee and calvados. It was quite an affair with four French friends and five English people. There was quite a conversation going on, especially after a couple of glasses of Emile’s calva. At one point we were discussing the illness of one of our English friends and the fact he has had to have some hospital treatment. The French view was that he should have more sex with his wife to improve his fitness. This needed some translation for some of the English who don’t speak French and in the end we were all sat round the table in fits of laughter. It was quite surreal as the French couples were farming people in their sixties and talk of sex is not quite what one would expect!

Apart from remembering old French defeats, we are also experiencing the annual harvest of the maize. This features what we call the dance of the maize. In many of the fields around where we live they are full of maize. It is grown as animal feed for the herds of cattle that are raised in this area. It is quite amazing as the fields of maize grow up in the spring and obscure much of the countryside. In fact some farmhouses disappear behind the field of maize. In October the maize has grown to its full height and the process of harvesting begins. 

This is something of a spectacle as huge harvesters are brought is with massive cutting blades. They march through the fields accompanied by tractors pulling huge trailers. The harvester cuts the maize and breaks it up and then shoots out the maize into the trailers although some of it is spilled if the aim is not precise. There are several tractors working in tandem and when one is full the next one comes alongside and starts to be filled. The full tractor goes off to the farmyard and the maize is stored under massive plastic sheets held down by old tractor tyres.

Dance of the maize vehicles

Once the maize is cut then the countryside is once more opened up and the once lost farmhouses become visible once again. It is such a well coordinated affair that it is just like a dance. There is of course a down side to all this and this is that the state of the roads around us is quite terrible and covered with mud. This seems magnet like to attract itself to our car which is now brown. It is not helped by three cats who like to sit on the car. The problem is that they have usually walked through the earth in the garden and so leave a trail of cat paw prints across the bonnet and roof as well as slide marks down the side when they get off.

As were going out to the sapeur lunch I actually cleaned the car yesterday. Half way through I had to spray Moggie who had jumped up just after I had finished cleaning the roof. Today Archie was sat on what had been a nice clean car and had left his mark on the roof. At least the car was black instead of brown!

The cats have mostly had their minds on other things this week as we have a family staying in the gite with three children. Two teenage girls and a boy of 10. So Archie has been camped out at the top of the steps to the gite waiting for them to come out to play and make a fuss of them. The other two cats have joined Archie in helping them play in the games room. Although helping seems to involve a lot of sleeping. A pity they don’t keep away from the car.

A sleep in front of the TV is called for tonight after the excitement of Agincourt, mad King Charles and several glasses of red wine, followed by calvados. I managed to stay awake long enough to watch the rugby and to write the blog. Now time for a little snooze!

Bon nuit