Sadly no news of Minou but thanks for all the kind and helpful comments.

In the past week we have slipped quietly into post Christmas mode. We duly went next door to Giselle and Daniel’s house with a couple of other English friends and Alain, a friend of our French neighbours. This was for our annual celebration of Epiphany called the Galette des Rois. The Galette is a French cake.

The cake traditionally celebrating Epiphany is sold in most bakeries during the month of January. Three versions exist: in northern France the cake called galette des rois in French and consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense centre of frangipane or apple. 

Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève, which nowadays can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a broad bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain or, more recently, plastic. These figurines have become popular collectibles and can often be bought separately. Individual bakeries may offer a specialized line of fèves depicting diverse themes from great works of art to classic movie stars and popular cartoon characters. 

A paper crown is included with the cake to crown the "king" who finds the fève in their piece of cake. To ensure a random distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place him- or herself under the table and name the recipient of the share which is indicated by the person in charge of the service. Despite much raucous behaviour we decided to dispense with this part of the tradition!

Formerly, the cake was divided into as many shares as there were guests, plus one. The latter, called "the share of God," "share of the Virgin Mary," or "share of the poor" was intended for the first poor person to arrive at the home. As no poor people turned up we ate all the cakes between us and as there were three different cakes I managed to get a figurine and be King for the evening even if it meant wearing a cardboard crown.

It is a mark of my improved ability to speak French and to almost understand Daniel I felt able to get fully involved in the discussions and jokes. Such was the good fun (aided by several bottles of wine) that we went past the cakes into the coffee and grog stages without hesitation. (Grogue is calva and hot water, with optional cube of sugar). At about 10-30 Daniel asked if we would like a liqueur and we were too polite to decline. Daniel disappeared into his cave and several minutes later came out with a large kilner jar full of a very red liquid, which turned out to be a concoction of cherries and calvados which was about 10 years old. It had been maturing in the cave for 10 years. It was beautiful and we had to have several glasses and we all became very drunk. Just as well that the journey home at about 11-30 was just across the lane and we managed to stagger across. A brilliant evening spent with French friends who are not sophisticated but good honest country folk who are good fun to be with. This is one of the great French traditions that make living in France such an adventure and a joy.

Talking of adventure I have mentioned both the freezing weather and the propensity of the suffragette chickens to escape. These tales have flowed across the Atlantic to a growing group of Americans who follow the blog, including my brother Mike and his girl friend Shuriu. Such has been their concern for the chickens that they have gone to great lengths to send emergency aid to help us. 

It turns out that Mike and Shuriu have a friend for reasons not explained called “Eeyore”. She is in her advanced years but from a lifetime of knitting has accumulated many unused or ends of materials. It just happens that some of the wool is a nice convict jumpsuit orange sort of colour. Accordingly just the wool for chicken jumpers and so this week a parcel arrived from the USA, just to prove that the Americans can rise above Donald Trump. Inside were three beautifully knitted jumpers. Each has a knitted badge which says “Eschappe de la Godefrere” meaning escaped from La Godefrere. The bright orange was to help us locate the hens either in the garden or if they escape! You will see from the pictures that we have modelled them on our metal chicken and introduced them to the hens who are not too keen. We have yet to attempt a personal fitting for the hens.

Trial for the convict jumpers

The hens are not impressed

If that were not enough craziness for one week I had not anticipated our French lesson this week. I now go to a 2 hour lesson every Thursday afternoon and it has helped me improve my French considerably. Our tutor Alain is keen to develop our skills in other matters and this week arranged a demonstration of how to deal with cardiac arrest (arrête cardiaque). This involved using a plastic dummy called mini Anne. Using the model to do heart massage. So the first volunteer to have a go was a Spanish woman, Alma. The lesson was in the charge of an English nurse on the course. She said that in order to get the right number of chest presses she was taught to sing the song “Nelly the Elephant”. So to help Alma we all sung the song while Alain took a video of it all. So there we were in the old French town hall in Mayenne with 12 of us all singing a bizarre children’s’ song. A couple of Americans on the course insisted we also sang “staying alive” by the BeeGees which is used in the USA. Poor Alma who does not speak English was totally baffled! 

Mrs. Parish was very pleased that I had learned the techniques and that said that she now feels much safer living in rural France. Of course we are in the middle of a very cold spell and the temperature has rested for much of the time in the minus.  Despite lovely blue skies and a lack of wind it is still very cold. Described by our lovely French TV weather lady Evelyn as “glacial”. Evelyn is very jolly whatever the weather and has a good way of describing whatever the weather.. 

Mrs.Parish is concerned that we should keep the hens warm and so I have noticed this week roast and mashed potatoes disappearing off my plate and then served warm to the hens. My protests are waved away as I mutter that the hens are better fed than the humans round here. It would not be so bad if I could get near the eggs but Giselle keeps coming round to ask if we can let her have some eggs as she has several clients for her free range eggs and not enough production at the moment. So my potato goes to the hens and my eggs go to support La Godefrere enterprises!

To finish the week on a bright note, I was sat typing up the blog when I noticed the pile of logs sat next to the wood burner. The logs were next onto the fire but the log at the top of the pile was smiling. Isn’t that nice, a log that is happy with his/her role in life and ready and happy to sacrifice itself to keep me warm. I felt just that bit warmer when I threw it onto the fire!

The happy log, why cant we all be like this log

Tonight I volunteer to peel the potatoes for Sunday roast. Mrs. Parish looks surprised but I am going to make sure that there are enough roasties for me and the hens. Fortunately the hens don’t drink alcohol although maybe I should get some extra bottles just in case. Which reminds me that it is time to brave the freezing weather to go to the cave to select tonight’s wine.

Bonne soiree