There are times when life here seems about to enter a stable and more normal phase and I can relax and worry about how to fill the blog. However the stable and normal moment never actually arrives and it appears that I am destined to be surrounded by crazy things. Maybe that is just how life is for everyone!

This week looked quite normal on Sunday after writing last week’s blog. I was expecting a quiet and peaceful week. However on Monday Mrs. Parish detected an odd smell and a negative waste disposal situation. She reckoned we had a problem with the Fosse Septique for the gite. As we are deep in rural France we are not on the mains drainage and therefore have a septic tank. Or two to be precise as we have one for the house and one for the gite.  I had not noticed we had a problem and Mrs. Parish reckoned that we would need to be up to our ankles in “waste” before I noticed!

The solution was to call in Monsieur Poopy. This is what our local septic tank emptier is affectionately called. He lives in the local village and is known by all the locals as M. Poopy. He is an ancient Frenchman and must be in his seventies. He is assisted by his wife, Madame Poopy who appears to be almost as old. Mrs. Parish was despatched to call on her to book a visit. This was an experience and Mrs. Parish reported back that a visit to their house was a trip back in time. Anyway on Monday afternoon the Poopies arrive. Madame in her car and Monsieur driving his ancient tractor pulling an equally ancient tanker. Monsieur Poopy speaks mostly a local patois (a kind of dialect) and is difficult to understand so Mrs Parish communicates via Madame. Monsieur is however like all the French, very polite and greets us with a handshake. Normally this is fine, but Monsieur does not use gloves to do his job! A handshake therefore is a high risk activity which I manage without the cringe I feel!

It is decided that the septic tank needs emptying and so M. Poopy decides to manoeuvre his tractor and tanker around our courtyard to line it up with the entry hatch. This is a disaster and despite his wife shouting at him he manages to get the tractor onto our grass area and across the paving slabs that make a path to the gite from the gravel covered yard. Of the eight slabs three are destroyed in the process and we have great ruts in the grass. At one point we almost have a tractor wedged into a small area next to the gite. Eventually the tractor is lined up and Monsieur and Madame connect up the hoses and get ready to empty the tank by sucking all the “waste” out and into the tanker. There are of course problems with the connection and they need to be adjusted. This involves taking the hose out from the tank and a certain amount of spillage onto the grass. All these adjustments are done in almost slow motion and with no gloves!! The ancient tanker driven by the ancient tractor makes an incredibly loud noise. I suspect that Monsieur and Health and safety are strangers! While this deafening noise is going on Monsieur Poopy tries to engage Mrs. Parish in conversation. He would be difficult to understand with no noise but now it is impossible and Mrs. Parish has to disappear into the games room with Madame for a translation. 

At long last, following an emptying of the house tank and Monsieur disappearing off to empty his tanker we are finally finished and we settle up the bill with Madame who makes a suitable allowance for the damaged slabs. It is only after they have gone that we notice a wet patch on the gravel in the middle of the courtyard. It turns out that this is a leakage of diesel from the ancient tractor.  Luckily we have some sand that we can put on it and soak up the diesel. We now have three large bags of gravel and sand ready to take to the local tip. We are exhausted by the whole experience and have to retire to the house for a large drink.

I mentioned last week that we were in search of a battery and a set of filters for our tractor mower. We had the wrong filters sent us but on Monday the correct ones finally arrived. Now all we needed was the battery. We had been promised that this would be at Gorron Auto Electric on Monday. Mrs. Parish went over to collect it and was told by the proprietor that it had not arrived but would definitely be there on Tuesday. So Tuesday we go over to Gorron and find that there is no battery and Monsieur Auto Electric gets on the phone with head in hands and berates his supplier. It will definitely be there tomorrow he promises. We decide to come back on Thursday to make sure and lo and behold it is there waiting for us. Of course now I just have to fit it into the tractor with a cable clip to keep it in place. I also fit the new air filter and it all works. The tractor starts with no problem and even sounds better. No more pushing the tractor out to get close to the car to jump start it. When I am feeling brave I will have a go at changing the oil and oil filter. Anyway, I get on the tractor and drive off into the sunset. A man and his tractor, a perfect match, man and machine in harmony.

Next in my quiet and normal week was the bay leaf incident. On Wednesday I was the “Chef du jour” and decided to make a spaghetti Bolognese. One in my increasing repertoire. I usually put in a bay leaf and if lucky remember to take it out before serving! This time I did remember and put to one side on the worktop to dispose of after we had eaten. The bay leaf had a bit of Bolognese sauce on it and this attracted Archie who, while we were distracted, jumped up onto the worktop and was sniffing the bay leaf. Mrs. Parish spotted him and went to push Archie off onto the floor. Archie took his chance and grabbed the bay leaf in his mouth by the time Mrs. Parish got there. He then decided that there was a risk of losing his prize so swallowed it down in one gulp. At least he had decent smelling breath for a while. It has been Archie’s turn to be a problem this week and on Friday night he went missing and failed to show up for supper, a very unusual occurrence. When he failed to show for breakfast we were starting to worry. We were just on the point of organising a search party when he turned up at the front door. He was very hungry but warm and dry so we guessed he must have got stuck in a neighbour’s garage and had just been let out. He did seem to have a sore throat obviously from a lot of crying to get out. It is his own fault as he is too nosey for his own good and associates cars with food after the workman’s sandwich incident! For the past couple of days he has stayed close to the house as he clearly wants to make sure he doesn’t miss any more meals.

This exciting week has been finished off in style with the arrival yesterday of two ewes and four little two week old lambs. Our French friends Patrick and Catherine brought them round and they have been set up in the paddock and with access to the newly refurbished sheep house. The lambs are very sweet but unfortunately the ewes are very ugly sheep. They are a French breed “Les Rouges de l’ Ouest” (western red). They have no fur on their faces and their eyes bulge. No very pretty. One of our builders, a Welshman called Paul, reckons he can’t even eat them they are so ugly! Not a problem for us as the last lot we had provided a lovely leg of lamb as our fee for using our grazing land. You can judge for yourselves in the picture below. It does however revive my shepherding tasks as I have to check them each morning and count to ensure they are all there!

All this talk of shepherding work is making me thirsty so I had better go and get a little something as I suspect Mrs. Parish will also join me as she has been out toiling in the fields all day. We will drink to the lambs and another quiet and normal week next week! 

Bonne semaine