This week, Mrs. Parish returned on Wednesday from her visit to the UK arriving on the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham. So all is getting back to normal at La Godefrere. Although this is France and normality can be somewhat different! While out walking this morning we saw in the lane leading to a farm two dogs. On closer examination it was a goat and a dog that seemed to be the best of friends and were playing together!

Dog and Goat friend!

Today we are a wee bit tired after getting home at around 2am from the latest village repas at St. Simeon. This is an annual meal we attend and we were as usual required to be at Emile and Yvette’s for an aperitif at 7-15pm. As usual we have some of Emile’s homemade Pommeau and arrived at St. Simeon for the start time of 8pm. We should know better as this is the repas where everyone arrives fashionably late and spend an inordinate amount of time welcoming each other with kisses and handshakes. So it was gone 9pm when we got our drink of Kir and nearly 9-30 before they started serving the food.

This was a choucroute affair which is a kind of sauerkraut meal with a huge knuckle of pork and various sausages. For those who couldn’t face this mountain of food the alternative was a steak. Bear in mind that there were over 200 attending this meal in the village hall and that at least a third were having steak. The amazing thing is that they come round and cook the steaks to order so you can have it bloody, medium rare or even well cooked. The steaks were very good.

Of course the meal ends with cheese and an apple tart followed by coffee and a generous glass of homemade and very strong calvados. So by around midnight the meal finally comes to an end and then the disco starts up and dancing has to take place. So there we were disco dancing until around 1-30 when we decided we needed to go home. Not so simple as Emile insists we go back to his house for a grog. Hot water with calvados and an optional cube of sugar which I decline as it makes the drink too sweet. By this time Mrs. Parish and I are out on our feet. I don’t know how Emile and Yvette keep going as they are both in their 80’s. 

The repas are a remarkable bit of rural French life and yesterday there were local people from all walks of life and of all ages coming together as a local community. One of the volunteers who served the food was the local Doctor. Out of the 200 in attendance our table consisted of 22 English people plus Emile and Yvette

Of course when we get home at around 2pm, the cats arrive as if from nowhere and demand further supper. We had given them some supper before we left at 7pm but they had clearly forgotten that and put on their most determined look and as soon as we opened the door they came in with us and wouldn’t leave until second supper had been delivered. So it has been a quiet day to today and Mrs. Parish has disappeared to her craft workshop to continue making stuff for Christmas.

Yesterday was also quite a remarkable day as we went on our first protest demonstration since we came to France. I had spotted a notice in our local pharmacy that there was a demonstration planned to protest at cuts to the services provided at our local hospital in Mayenne. Budget cuts were likely to lead to a cut in the number of beds and in staffing levels. There is a real threat that this could undermine the viability of the hospital and services could be moved to Laval which is a further 45 minutes away. 

So Mrs.Parish and I decided we should join the protest and with a couple of our friends Ian and Sarah we went off to Mayenne to play our part in supporting the campaign. Of course we wanted the experience to be as French as possible so we stopped off in a cafe in Mayenne for a coffee before going round to the assembly location. We joined over 1000 concerned hospital users who had formed an action group to organise the protests and to campaign against the cuts. After a couple of speeches we all set off to march around the town as a public demonstration of our concerns.

Protest march across Mayenne bridge with castle in background

This was a fairly gentle demo by French standards and there was no tear gas or water cannon! There were people of all ages including many with small children who rely on their local hospital. We marched around Mayenne for about an hour and on the way back to the assembly point we were tempted by the local patisserie and had to go for a snack. In proper French style we then went off to a restaurant for a good lunch as we felt we deserved a reward for our good work and solidarity. I was reminded of the 1848 revolution and the banquet protests and thought maybe we should revive the banquet as a form of protest!

It is calendar time in France and everyone wants you to have their calendar for 2017. Wherever you go there is a calendar on offer promoting a company or local business. Of the ones on offer there are two essentials. La Poste from our post lady and the one from les Sapeurs Pompiers (firefighters). The post calendar is a kind of tip for good service but clearly one does not want to offend the postal delivery. On the other hand the pompiers come round with their calendar and it seems not only a worthwhile charity to support the fire fighters welfare fund but also good sense. If you didn’t buy a calendar there is always that worry if you phone them will they check and be a little slower to respond! The other thing is that the pompiers have a cracking good calendar. This year’s is very up market and quite chic.

Sapeurs pompiers calendar

The cats are getting into winter mode and this means for them maximising the amount of in time they can get so they can gain extra sofa time. The cat contract allows them time in the morning after breakfast for about an hour. They seem to break this up with an initial warm up by all three of them sitting on me as I try to drink my cup of tea. Once I go off for a shower they settle down to have a sleep on the sofa. In the evenings they are let in about 8pm for a pre supper warm up. I have pointed out that in fact it is not yet very cold and they don’t need such an amount of time. Particularly now that they have their very own cat palace. Usually Archie and Moggie are easy to evict by offering them some food they tend to rush for the door to make sure they get their fair share. Minou is more problematic as she is convinced that she really is an indoor cat that has been wrongly ascribed. So at times she is very reluctant to leave and on occasions finds somewhere to hide away. This week she has been hiding under the sink unit on top of the clothes pegs. Not the most comfortable of hiding places!

Minou hides amongst the clothes pegs

We are now concluding our quiet and relaxing day by partaking of an aperitif, a rather nice kir cassis. I have been to the cave to choose a rather nice red wine to have with a lovely meal of roast beef. I think his evening Mrs. Parish and I will be asleep on the sofa and there will be no room for cats! Actually Mrs. Parish appears to be asleep already and so I am worried dinner might not arrive!!

Bon appétit