It has been quite a strange but interesting week. I took Jo and Nicky back to Rennes airport after a lovely weekend, for them to fly back to Southampton. The plane left at 4pm and arrived at Southampton at 3-45 pm. 15 minutes before they took off! This is due not to some supersonic jet that Flybe own but to an hour’s difference between France and the UK. This left us with Ian and Emma with Sarah and Dave staying in the gite.

To entertain them we arranged a visit to our friends Alex and John who have an alpaca farm just the other side of the village. As well as alpacas they have a range of animals including goats which they milk for cheese (and to bottle feed the baby lambs which will eventually come to our paddock in a month or two’s time). They also have donkeys, ponies, chickens, guinea pigs, cats and dogs. We also caught up with Mutt and Jeff who were in our paddocks last year. Alex is still waiting to arrange for them to go to the abattoir and so we should get our leg of lamb quite soon. Mutt and Jeff were looking well and their legs in particular looked very healthy. The two lambs we are going to have soon have been named Nelson and Winston. One is a black lamb and has been named after Nelson Mandela for some reason only known to John. The other is named after Winston Churchill. They are still only young and are still being bottle fed. They are also very cute and quite the opposite of the ugly sheep we have at present.

Nelson and Winston new lambs to come to our paddock

Of course our young people had a go at bottle feeding the lambs and then had the full alpaca experience going into the field with the alpacas with buckets of feed. Alpacas are very friendly and very woolly. They will eventually be sheared for their wool. Alex has around 20 alpacas and they are quite big and tend to look you in the eye as a means of sizing you up to see if you are friendly or not. I think if you are carrying a bucket of food they quite like you! The young people were very excited and thoroughly enjoyed their visit. We also went to see Emile and Yvette for coffee and so we could exchange 12 empty cider bottles for 12 full ones. I had to go with Emile to his barn to get the crate. Always a fascinating experience with an interesting mixture of old tools and equipment and his stash of bottles of cider and barrels of calvados. We got the cider home and had to have a taste. It is wonderful cider.

Alex and her alpacas

With young people we also had Tommo the three legged dog. Tommo is a very strange dog and has very clear views about where he will or won’t go. We have 5 and a half acres of land and a walk made to go around our big field with lots of places to explore. Ideal you would think for a dog. We looked after Tommo on a few days when the young people went out visiting. On one occasion Tommo did walk round the field. But after that he insisted on walking up the lane. When Tommo doesn’t want to walk he just sits down and resists all attempts to get him going again. Half way up the lane he decided he was going to sit down and not move in any direction. Eventually he decided to go back towards our house but then got very worried by the sheep and refused to walk past them. He may have thought them too ugly and seemed quite unsure of them. The sheep could not work out whether Tommo who is very furry was a dog or another sheep. On coming back to the house Tommo encountered the cats. If the cats run away Tommo, like all dogs feels obliged to chase them. Our cats seem to have sussed this out and now gain a vantage point to stare down at Tommo. He can’t quite cope with this so has had quite a confused week.

Not as confused as our manic blackbirds who have continued to fight their reflections in the windows of the games room. There is a nesting pair who have young in the ivy that surrounds a ruined building that borders our courtyard. The ivy has berries that several blackbirds compete for but the nesting blackbirds are not willing to share so go quite ballistic and dive bomb the invading blackbirds and then proceed to fight them with lots of noise and flapping wings etc. It is quite dramatic. This week I heard the first Hoopoe of the summer. They have a distinctive hoo poo poo call which carries quite far. We had them visit the orchard last year but so far have only heard them in the distance. It has been cold and rainy this last week that may have deterred them for a while.

On Friday Dave and Sarah had to leave to go back to Britain for a wedding. So we invited Ian and Emma over for dinner on Saturday and I agreed to make a fish pie (one of my specialist range of meals). Making fish pie involves a lot of pans and processes and we have to make sure that at all times there is someone on guard to ensure the cats don’t have a fish supper. I had just got the fish out of the fridge and had left it in a basin which had a cling film cover on it. I went to the sink to start peeling some potatoes and within second Archie appeared from upstairs and was up on the worktop and had pierced the cling film. Fortunately I heard the cling film popping and managed to get to Archie before he got to the fish. I didn’t hear him come down our wooden stairs nor jump up and land on the worktop. For a big cat he moves with such silence when there is the prospect of food. So the fish pie was saved and we had a great meal, with a gorgeous “tarte aux framboises”. A raspberry tart which I can’t claim to have made. We bought it from the boulangerie in Ambrieres. 

After dinner we all sat down to watch yet another of the “Le plus grand cabaret du monde”.I have reported previously on this example of French culture. This time smarmy grey hair introduced such wonders as the “moustache brothers from Brazil” which featured two men with large and very false moustaches who did a whole series of acrobatic, comedy routine with a table. A bit bizarre and not really funny but not as bizarre as “les beaux frères” who did an act in which they were both naked but with naughty parts hidden by two large white towels. We also had the unusual magic acts in which a large box of varying description appears on stage and then people, usually scantily clad women, appear and disappear. It is all amazingly camp and great fun if all a little weird. All the way through smarmy grey hair maintains a boyish enthusiasm as if this is really cutting edge art! At the end he gets to sing, usually a Eurovision type song. This time called “il fait chaud” which was pretty terrible but the sort of catchy tune you end up singing in your head for the next few days!!!

The cats are now all in and it being a rainy day have not been very active so far. So now while waiting for supper they are marauding around the house, chasing things including each other and now jumping on furniture and threatening ornaments. With having all these young people about we seem to have demolished quite a lot of wine and whisky this week. Tomorrow our friends Sandy and Kathy arrive. Sandy is a rather large Scotsman and I blame him for interesting me in malt whisky and generally being a very bad influence on me. So a rather boozy week and several trips to the recycling I suspect. There now strange sounds from the kitchen and Archie is now licking out the saucepan in which I reheated the coffee. Who knew that cats like coffee, but these are French cats I suppose! I think I need whisky with my coffee; thank goodness they are not Scottish cats!!!!!!!!

A la prochaine