One of our regular jobs in France is to do the shopping at our local French supermarket. It is always fun at least as it gives an opportunity to visit the wine aisle. Well in France of course the wine aisle is vast with huge numbers of bottles of wine. Mostly reds of course and a large number of rose but usually very few whites. Enough of course for a good selection both in types of wine and in price. What you won’t find is much in the way of wine that is not French. One or two varieties of Italian or Argentinean wine if you are lucky. So normally Mrs. Parish disappears off to check out the weekly bargains while I am left to my own devices in the wine aisle.

It is interesting that I am occasionally accosted by French women! At first I thought that it was my masculine appeal that attracted all these women but I soon realised once my French improved that they assumed that as a lone man in the wine aisle studying intently the shelves that a) I must be French and b) I am some sort of wine expert. They ask me for my advice on what sort of wine to buy their husbands as a special treat. Well my expertise runs to saying that it must be a red wine (no self respecting Frenchman would choose white wine) and next what sort of price they want to pay. Usually, a good Bordeaux is a safe bet. Mind you as long as I sound like I know what I am talking it is usually OK.

The other thing about French supermarkets is that there is always a great fish counter with a wide range of fish and of course an extensive choice of bread. Our supermarket also has an English aisle selling baked beans, tomato sauce, tea bags, marmite etc. We usually go quickly past as the stuff is either embarrassing or expensive.

What you don’t expect on a trip to the supermarket is a tiger in the car park! Last week we arrived at Super U in Gorron our local supermarket to find that the circus had taken over about half of the car park with a big top tent and arrayed around the rest of the car park were camper vans and trailers and in one of these trailers was a large white tiger. In Britain the circus usually takes over a local field for the tent but here the tent had been put up on the tarmac of the car park. As usual French health and safety was at the forefront as the tiger cage had no outer fence keeping people way nor anyone looking after it. You could have gone up and put your hand in to stroke the tiger. Not a good plan and we just went up and had a look.

The circus tiger at Gorron

Sadly the French still use wild animals in their circuses. While there are complaints public opinion against this is nothing like as much as in Britain.

Well, we are now firmly in the repas season. The local village and town lunches are a thing of rural France and a great way of raising money for local charities. In Britain we organise the sale of old clothes and unwanted household goods in jumble sales to raise money or buy these things in charity shops. The French on the other hand organise a meal with plenty of alcohol as a way of raising money. I know which I prefer and of course the French do it in their own style. 

As ever we are drilled in our attendance at the repas by our friends Emile and Yvette who come round with the tickets to sell to us and then we all have to go to their house for an aperitif. Usually homemade Pommeau (made from cider, calvados, orange, prunes and sugar, steeped for 6 months). Once we are all gathered (it mostly English friends of Emile and Yvette) we all go off to the village hall for another aperitif included in the ticket price. Usually a Kir. Most of the repas are at lunch time on a Saturday or Sunday.

The format for the meal is always four courses including naturally a cheese course. It is finished with coffee and homemade calvados. We then are expected to go back to Emile and Yvette’s house for another coffee and of course some of Emile’s calvados. By this time we are totally wrecked and go home to go to sleep on the sofa.

For some reason (weakness, I think) we were roped into two repas this weekend. Yesterday we were at Oisseau for a meal to raise funds for the local old folks who I think must have been doing the organising. (There were a couple of hundred people attending). We arrived for our second aperitif at 12-30 lunchtime but as is often the case nothing happened until after 1pm. We got our starters about 1-30 and it was well past 2pm before we got the main meal which was poulet blanc. A casserole of a quarter of chicken with rice and veg. At this repas drinks were included in the 12 Euro ticket price and they kept bringing around bottles of red wine. Well in between courses there was not much else to do apart from drink and chat. It was 4-30 before the coffee and calvados were brought round and then the French started to dance. We eventually arrived home at about 5-30 and the cats were rather miffed at having to wait for their tea!

Today we went to the meal organised in aid of the Sapeurs Pompiers (firefighters) in Gorron. This is always a well attended and well organised meal and in this case they serve meals from 8am all day. The majority come at lunchtime and the large theatre building in Gorron is usually full. The delivery of food is much more prompt and after our second aperitif the food came thick and fast. The choice of main meal was either tripe or grilled pork chop, both served with chips. Like most of the English in attendance we chose the pork chops. Most of the French had tripe, which I have to say looks pretty awful!

Gorron and this only half the hall for the fire fighters repas

The sapeurs meal is a family affair and there were all ages in attendance and we heard that during the day they were expecting to serve around 600 meals. Once again we finished with coffee and homemade calvados brought round in a wide variety of different types of bottles. Today we finished at about 3-30 and after calling back to Emile’s we managed to be at home for 4.15, so the cats were a little happier.

Mrs. Parish and I are now exhausted and sat in front of the fire. It is only her knitting and my writing the blog that is keeping us awake. We have decided that two French village repas in two days is excessive and the quantity of food and drink that we have been forced to consume is too much. Clearly better planning is required.

Mrs Parish pointing out the sapeur pompier Sam

Autumn brings a windfall of nuts and other produce which it is apparently impossible to give away as everyone else seems to have a surplus. We have loads of walnuts and chestnuts in the garden (even after the birds have eaten their fill there are loads left). So it is really difficult to give things away. If we manage to give anything to Giselle next door politeness means they have to give us something in return. We have to accept this even if it is stuff we already have. Even people who don’t have nuts and fruit are reluctant to admit this or else they will be deluged with stuff from those of us who do. We need to organise a commune bring and take event (probably with food and drink) so that we can all bring our surplus and exchange it for something we need. I did discover that the hens like walnuts but only if you take them out of the shell and crush them up. They only get this service when I am cutting the grass as the tractor mower chops them up quite nicely. This does create a bit of a traffic hazard as I have to avoid running over the hens!

Talking of traffic I have written before about the lack of traffic hold ups on French roads and that this is one of the joys of living in France. Last week we visited Malaise a French town on the way to Caen. Mrs Parish looked on Google maps for a time for the journey. She reported back that the drive time would be 1 hour and 13 minutes or if there was traffic it would take 1 hour and 14 minutes!!

C’est France