If you are reading the blog you will have realised that the end of the world did not happen last week. The French take these things very seriously and last Tuesday when all our “publicite” arrived from all the local supermarkets and other shops we had with it a leaflet from the local undertaker offering his services. I’m not quite sure how he would have coped had the world ended as predicted but he clearly hoped to have a few orders with cash up front.

My favourite “Tat” shop Gifi was advertising “Deguisments et autre accessoires de fete”. The disguises include some very strange golden suit for the man of the 70’s an elvis look alike costume and wig. The Marilyn Monroe dress retails at 15 euros 99 cents (about £12) so you can tell that these products are real quality. The most astonishing is a “rasta” outfit with appropriate make up to darken the skin. My favourite has to be the all in bottle disguise which is a green affair with a tall top that fits over the head and to make sure there is no confusion the word “Beer” is displayed across the front. The accessories include some rather dodgy looking disco lights and to illuminate your evenings various spectacles and drinking straws that are luminous.

When we were invited round to have drinks with Peter and Linda next door and some of the other neighbours we went with high expectations of disguises and accessories!! There was no outlandish clothing or lights but we did have a really nice time and a chance to practice our French on Daniel and Giselle our French neighbours. Daniel is good fun and took in good humour my attempts to tell him in French how well GB had done in the Olympic Games compared with France and that it was probably just as well that we staged the games and not Paris. I did of course concede that the French had the upper hand with regard to wine, calvaldos and a socialist government. So in the end honours were even and no diplomatic incident arose.

Talking of our neighbours and practising French Mrs Parish had an interesting experience on Friday. She decided to take round to Giselle a few English mince pies and sausage rolls as a gift for Christmas and a taste of England. I wasn’t convinced that exporting our best baked goods was a good idea, especially as the rest of the baking was in the freezer but was overruled in the interests of establishing an entente cordiale. When Mrs Parish arrived she heard Giselle talking in one of her sheds. She called out and was asked by Giselle to come into the shed. Mrs Parish pushed open the door to be met by an advancing Giselle, who is a short but somewhat sturdy and mature French lady, with a goose held by the legs and obviously not still alive. In the other hand was a large baseball bat with goose blood dripping from the end. She asked Mrs Parish to wait while she plunged the goose into boiling water to make plucking the bird easier. Such are the realities of rural French life!! We were rather glad we were not planning on goose for Christmas dinner. In any event we have been invited to Giselle and Daniel’s on 4th January for a Galette des Roi, to celebrate Epiphany. So that promises to be an interesting experience but I don’t think it involves killing anything!

Our two daughters Jo and Amy arrived yesterday to stay for Christmas. They came over as foot passengers on the overnight ferry arriving at Ouistreham at 0700 hours. This required me to get up at 0500 to drive there to meet them. It is very dark at that time of morning in rural France and it was not helped by constant and heavy rain. After driving for a while I realised why I was finding it so difficult to follow the road. French roads have no cat’s eyes and so it is quite difficult on roads you are not familiar with. Of course it seems no problem for French drivers! I was also struck by the fact that almost every town and village on the way all had municipal Christmas lights which looked just fantastic. It seems to be another feature of France that local Communes are nearly all clean and tidy with well kept gardens and flower beds and they take a pride in the local community. Something we could take note of in Britain (or should that now be “you”).

We are well on the road to being organised for Christmas at La Godefrere and all the food and wine is safely gathered in. There has been lots of baking done by Mrs Parish and lots of tasting and quality control work by Mr Parish!! The two girls are now doing their bit by making sure it is properly appreciated. Emile arrived yesterday with a Christmas bottle of Calvados and explained that it was well known for warding off “le grippe” (the flu). I confirmed to Emile that it was obviously working well as neither he nor I had had le grippe but I have decided to take no chances so have had a couple of glasses tonight to make sure it works properly. It seems to work also by warding off the kittens who fortunately don’t like the taste or smell. So far I have been able to type my blog without interference; there are also two extra laps for them to sit on.

The kittens are still crazy but have this unerring ability to reformat documents on the computer, switch off the wireless and mute the computer without any problem at all. Mrs Parish reckons this is because they are young and therefore instantly computer literate. They can do things with one paw that takes me ages. Our house at the moment is a bit strange as all the decorations and virtually everything else has been located just out of kitten range which leaves a sort of no man’s land (or no kitten’s land). We have however discovered an excellent way of deterring the kittens from leaping up the Christams tree. We have a water spray bottle next to the tree and if they are trying to climb up the tree a short squirt does send them running off. One thing is that all our pens seem to have disappeared. The kittens knock them off the table and then chase them round the floor and under bits of furniture where they then seem to disappear. I am reminded of the book the Hitch Hikers guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams where there is a planet to which all lost pens return through the ether. That must be the explanation and where all our pens have gone.

The weather has been so awful the last week that we have abandoned our offensive against the moles. We are regrouping and planning a spring offensive. One good outcome from our visit to Peter and Linda was to forge a triple alliance with our neighbours and with Mick & Jill who own a house just up the road from us. He has expertise on mole catching which we can use. I think that with this new alliance we will be invincible as soon as the weather improves.

Finally the builders have started work on our stable under the gite and are lining the ceiling and walls before putting in a loo and washroom after Christmas. The stable will become a wine cellar and games room. I managed to buy a second hand pool table when we arrived here and the builders are impressed that they have to work around it. I have been keeping in with them by providing a constant supply of Mrs Parish’s excellent cakes. The builders are suitably impressed and we have now built this into the agreement as an incentive bonus. Hopefully their work should be finished by mid January and there will be some decoration work and finishing off the wine cellar which I will need to do. Once completed this will be a big enhancement to the retirement plan. If only my ability to play pool would improve. I know all the shots in my head but the execution is somewhat wayward and this seems to be one area where Calvados doesn’t help!!

So almost Christmas and our first French Christmas. We have now been here for 4 months and we feel right at home with lots of exciting adventures to come in the new year. I have also produced a 2013 Calendar with my unorthodox look at French culture and life at La Godefrere. If you would like to have a look or download a copy go to the News section on my website for a PDF version. My former work colleagues will have some idea of what to expect!! Thanks to all who read my blog and thanks for the feedback. I plan to continue into the New Year as I have not yet got bored, if fact I quite enjoy looking back over each week.

Bonne annee, bonne sante