The currency exchange rate is really going mad with the Pound being at its best against the Euro for over 11 years. This means that we get many more Euros to the Pound when we change money. This week it has risen to 1.34 Euros for every Pound. That compares with 1.27 when we moved here in August 2012. The European bank has been engaging in quantitive easing with is basically printing Euros and injecting them into the European economy. So far this has not impressed the currency speculators and so the rate continues to improve.

This is good news for the Parish household as I have a monthly transfer of my occupational pension from England to France and this means I get more Euros in the transfer. Of course I have taken the opportunity to transfer some extra funds, in part to pay for a service and repairs to my little tractor mower which now is working perfectly and for some other major purchases. I just have to phone my guys at Moneycorp and tell them to buy and it is all done for me. It is great being a currency speculator although my socialist principles cause my conscience some troubles!  At least I get the compensation of spending my money in the French economy and therefore can believe that it is good for the French economy.

The weather has continued to be cold but most days have been clear and sunny and providing you can keep out of the wind it has been really nice to be outside. This has given us the chance to continue with work at the bottom of the big field, clearing a path through the brambles. It is still a bit wet to do too much clearance work as the brambles are at the bottom of the field and the water and snow drains down into the stream that runs along between our land and that next door.

So on Friday I decided to do some winter restoration and enhancements to the Ant Experience which is in the far corner of the field. One advantage is that this is in a sheltered corner so that there was no cold wind and I could take advantage of the warm sun. I needed to improve the access to the ant’s nest and to clear some wood covered in barbed wire as well as cutting back the brambles. Of course the ants are all hibernating and there is no current activity so I have been able to remove the wood and cut the brambles without being attacked by the ants. As part of the improvement programme my son Ian and his fiancée, Emma bought me some giant plastic ants which have now been placed strategically and artistically in the path to the nest to enhance the overall visitor experience. I am convinced there must be some sort of Euro grant available either as part of a nature programme or as a tourist attraction.

The giant ants at the Ant Experience

The Ant Experience

Mrs. Parish suggested that we also take the opportunity to restore the barbed wire fence at the ant corner and at various points around the field. We are a bit of a crack fencing team and kit ourselves up with replacement fence posts, special fencing tools which include a wire cutter, pliers, wire twister and a hammer all in one really useful tool. We also carry a rather large sledge hammer to drive in the posts. I get to do the hammering work which is largely brute strength and limited skill (apart from managing to avoid Mrs. Parish’s head and hands). Mrs. Parish then comes in which the wire nails and secures the barbed wire to the poles. We have now got this off to a fine art and soon fixed the fence behind the ant’s nest and repaired the fence in one or two other places around the big field.

We next need to repair some of the posts surrounding the sheep field. Our friend Patrique popped in over the weekend and said that he wanted to bring a couple of sheep back to our paddock. This would be a male and a female. The males tend to be much bigger and a bit more aggressive that the ewes and so we want to make sure our fence is strong enough. I don’t fancy chasing a crazy male sheep up the lane!

This afternoon we went with Emile and Yvette to a village meal at Brece with some of our English friends. This time is was just a meal and no music or dancing. The funds raised go to help rural families with children who have disabilities. These village lunches are always well supported and there must have been over 300 in attendance. The meal this time was pot au feu. This is a standard French dish of slow cooked beef with carrots, cabbage and boiled potatoes. These affairs are also typically French and going in you enter a different dimension where time is suspended. The tickets said that it started at 12-30. After aperitifs at Emile’s we arrived fashionably late at around 1pm. That is fashionably late English style and not French! We found our seats around a trestle table and eventually we were served an aperitif. 

Around 1-30 the first course, a soup arrived. We had to wait for another hour for the pot au feu to arrive and this came of great big platters with whole cooked carrots and a huge great cabbage, plus the meat. A separate bowl came around with the boiled potatoes. We all filled our plates and tucked in. The food was very nice and hot, considering they were catering for so many.

After this we were expecting a cheese or dessert course and were sat patiently. About 4pm around came further platters, not containing cheese or dessert but a whole load more pot au feu. We thought we had got stuck in a time warp and would have to perpetually eat plates of pot au feu. There seemed to be a general reluctance to stuff more pot au feu and while some of us tried our best, they seemed to be taking whole loads of food back into the kitchen. We then got a course of camembert cheese followed by a cream or chocolate blancmange, followed of course by coffee. We eventually left the village hall at about 5-30 having spent 4and a half hours over the meal. Mind you during all this we did consume rather a large amount of wine and had a nice afternoon chatting.

The previous evening Mrs. Parish and I sat down to watch our favourite French TV show. The greatest cabaret in the world. I have reported regularly on the acts that appear and while this includes some impressive acrobatic, juggling and magic, it also contains much that is decidedly weird. This time we had skipping baboons. Not only was this a weird act containing trained baboons which did a variety of tricks but it was also a bit disagreeable to see such wild animals reduced to cheap tricks. It seemed out of touch and in poor taste. Of more excitement and perfectly acceptable was a troupe of Ukrainian ladder dancers. This involved two dancers who went up and down some ladders in some sort of dance routine supported by some scantily clad dancers. There was even an act featuring two young men dressed as pilots who both had radio controlled airplanes and proceeded to do a routine involving synchronised flying over the heads of the audience.

So far January has been quite strange and hopefully things will settle down a bit. I doubt it though as France always seems to produce something to amuse me or to cause comment or to be totally bemusing and bewildering!

The only thing to do in such circumstances is to head for the drinks cabinet. After our pot au feu today we of course went back to Emile’s for a coffee and a calva. So maybe another calva now we are back home.

Bon soiree