I left last week’s blog on a gloomy note with me facing an ignominious defeat in the backgammon tournament with friends from the UK, Alan and Debi. In a three-day round robin tournament, I was ending last Sunday at the bottom of the table, or so it seemed but in a late-night drama I clawed back points with a sensational victory against Alan. His luck seemed to have deserted him. I put this down to a planned visit to the pilgrimage site at nearby Pontmain and a tour round the basilica. This I believe neutered the devil’s luck that Al has with dice.

Anyway, I fought back with a great victory late into the evening after several drinks. The game ebbed and flowed but I kept my nerve and with some death defying strategies won the game. This meant we went into Monday with it all to play for and in the end, I beat Alan again to go into an unassailable lead and a final defeat to Debi resulted in her taking second place and leaving Al licking his wounds.

Such drama is at odds with the usual peaceful environment here at La Godefrere and in the surrounding rural landscape. This week the weather has been really nice with mostly sunny and dry days. We even saw some last minute swallows who were clearly late for the migration. Usually they are all gone by the end of September, but these arrived mid-week and sat on our power lines for a day or two before heading south.

The advantages of being part of the French as well as English community were also evident this week. We had peaches and grapes left for us from Giselle’s garden and Emile and Yvette came visiting with a bucket full of cooking pears. We also bought half a lamb from our farmer friend Olivier and picked it up yesterday. Most of it is in the freezer but today we had a shoulder of lamb for our Sunday dinner. Marinated in Beaujolais and we managed to finish the bottle to go with it. The lamb is much cheaper than in the shops and we have the advantage of knowing where it was raised and how well it was looked after. 

With our friends Ian and Sarah, we bought a whole lamb which included the head. We jointly decided to donate the head to Emile and Yvette. The French like a bit of lamb’s head and they believe in eating the whole animal!

On a slightly rural tack we have previously seen strange things in SuperU car park. Last year there was a tiger in a cage with a travelling circus. On Friday we went shopping and I spotted in one of the planters which divides the parking rows a rather large toadstool. It was a massive Fly Agaric, a poisonous toadstool.

Poisonous toadstool in the supermarket carpark

Arguably the most iconic toadstool species, the fly agaric is a large white-gilled, white-spotted, usually red mushroom, and is one of the most recognisable and widely encountered in popular culture.  Although classified as poisonous, reports of human deaths resulting from its ingestion are extremely rare. After parboiling—which weakens its toxicity and breaks down the mushroom's psychoactive substances—it is eaten in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America and is noted for its hallucinogenic properties, with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol. The mushroom was used as an intoxicant and entheogen by the peoples of Siberia.

So a possible rival to calvados! Anyway, there it was growing in the middle of a carpark!

While on the subject of shopping, a couple of tales of the French experience which can be a little bizarre. Some friends went to buy a tyre for their trailer and spotted an offer for a free inner tube with every tyre purchased. They duly took up the offer but when they got home realised that the inner tube was a different size to the tyre. They took it back and were told that the offer made no promise that the inner tube would fit the tyre bought! It was just an offer for a free inner Tube!

Some other friends were shopping and also saw a good offer for pillows. Buy one and get one free. So, they put the pillows in their trolley and proceeded to the checkout. There, they were told that the offer only applied if you brought in an old pillow to exchange! My friends protested that they seldom carried old pillows in the car in case of special offers but would come back the next day. A supervisor said that would be no good as the offer closed that day. Could they possibly hold the pillows for them and they would bring in an old pillow the next day? The supervisor said no and walked off. But the checkout woman said she would save the pillows for them!!

Customer service can be a little lacking in France.

Another thing that some French people are not good at is animal care and quite often animals that are not wanted are abandoned. The high number of English people in some way offsets this as the English are completely the opposite and there are countless numbers who have adopted cats, dogs, donkeys etc. There is even a theory that the French abandon their animals near to houses occupied by the English for this reason!

Stray or not stray donkey?

So, when out and about in France it is best to ignore animals, however cute as they may turn out to be abandoned and then you may end up having to take responsibility for them. When out for a walk recently we were followed by several cats and came across some very cute kittens and a rather friendly donkey. In all these cases we decided that they were too well looked after to be strays and hurried on, just in case!

Mrs. Parish and I decided that a menagerie of metal birds and animals was a much better idea. They don’t need feeding, don’t run away and don’t try to get into the house with dirty feet. Our latest addition is a big bird bought at an Art and the Garden event in nearby Ceauce. It looks good and stays where it is put!

Time to get ready to pop next door for a drink and a chat with our English neighbours, John and Lis who have a holiday home next to us and visit regularly. I suspect that once next door it will be several drinks and so I had better go over to the cave to get a bottle to take with us. Luckily, I am well stocked!

Bonne santé