I managed this week to finish reading one of my Christmas books about the 100 years war. It seems like almost 100 years of reading as it was quite a big book but very interesting. The war came to an end after the resurgence of the French and following the appearance of Joan of Arc. Her appearance seems to follow the typically random way things happen in France. In the middle of a war fought on behalf of Kings of England and France a peasant woman suddenly turns up to lead the French army. This results in sudden French victories. Eventually she is captured by one lot of French (the Burgundians), abandoned by the other lot of French (the King) and sold to the English. No-one knows what to do with her so they pass her over to the Catholic Church who put her on trial and send her to be burned at the stake for being a heretic. So, that’s what happens to women who try to interfere with men trying to kill each other for 100 years.

The Battle of Castillon in 1453 is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years' War although England and France remained formally at war for another 20 years. The successful French King was Charles VII and he was rather unimaginatively called Charles the victorious! The War almost resumed in 1474, when the duke Charles of Burgundy, counting on English support, took up arms against Louis XI of France. The response Charles received was that the English were too busy. After unsuccessfully fighting the French for 100 years and losing the English had decided that they should fight amongst themselves and had started their very own Wars of the Roses. However, future Kings of England (and later of Great Britain) continued to claim the throne of France until 1803. 

With further reference to the interesting subject of naming things and the French approach. As we have seen the French do not name their cats or rabbits (cats are for catching things and rabbits are for eating). They do give names to their Kings until they got fed up with doing this and decided to get rid of Kings altogether. The last King being Louis XVI also known as Louis the headless. It seems to me that the French are very unimaginative about their King names. (Mad, bald, affable, the stammerer, fat etc.).These are all descriptive and I suspect fairly factual. English Kings although rarely given names do tend to attract much more debatable names. I mean Alfred the Great (was he really great? He did burn cakes after all). And Richard the lion heart (no-one really believes he actually had the heart of a lion). There is probably a whole PhD’s worth of research here!

So we approached the recent arrival of a baby for our farmer neighbour Xavier with some interest. How would he and his partner approach the naming of the baby? Xavier’s mother, Therese was very down to earth. It’s a baby was all we got from her. Maybe they don’t name babies. Is there some function a baby performs? Even the French don’t eat babies so maybe something else. When we spoke to Xavier we got a more enthusiastic response and found the baby did have a name – Armand. Mrs. Parish is very happy about the baby as she has someone else to knit for and has already given a somewhat astonished Xavier a knitted cardigan. We waylaid his tractor when he was coming to feed the cattle!

On the subject of names we met a nice French lady called Margot. She was visiting the shop/cafe where we have our Cafe and Conversation each Tuesday morning with a mix of French and English friends. She was there with a friend called Pierre, who happened to be English but with a French father so spoke both English and French. Anyway they were delighted to find our group and asked if they could join us. We had a good chat with new people to find out about. It turns out that Margot’s claim to fame is that she appeared as an extra in the film “The Vikings”. This was a 1958 film starring Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas. It turns out that this was the 3rd most popular film at the British box office in 1958! Apparently it was filmed on location in Brittany. The castle of a Northumbrian King featured in the film is the 14th Century Fort-La-Latte which perches spectacularly atop the cliffs on the North Brittany coast. In the film the heroine Princess Morgana (Janet Leigh) is rescued from here. A typical Hollywood location as there were no stone built castles in Viking times!! 

Anyway, it seems that Margot lived near the castle and got a part as a peasant in the film. So our Tuesday morning was graced with a film star! It gave us a new subject to talk about as several of us had seen the film. It was not Tony Curtis or Kirk Douglas’ greatest film, but good old stuff nonetheless.

While all this was happening, winter crept up on us again and we had snow. This time quite an appreciable amount and while we had a family staying in the gite. It was a bit of surprise for them to wake up to a layer of snow everywhere. A bit of a surprise for the cattle in the fields next to us as well. They looked very cold and miserable as they could not get to the limited grass left. They cheered up a bit when Xavier came with some hay. It was a good opportunity to get outside to take some winter photos.

The calves looking cold with la Godefrere in the background

The cats of course immediately invoked the winter weather clause in the contract and demanded extra sofa time. In fact it was very difficult to get rid of them even with food bribes. Moggie loves the snow and immediately chases round and starts digging in the snow and running up trees. Archie of course has seen it all before and just finds somewhere warm and cosy to see out the snow. Minou hates the snow and tries to find ways of avoiding walking in it. If she has to, she stops every now and again and shakes the snow off her paws. As soon as she gets indoors she sits right next to the fire to make the point of just how cold she was and how uncaring we are to make her stay outside when it is this cold. The snow had all melted by the end of the day and the sun came out so when it came to kicking out time the cats had no effective argument!

The cats have invoked the winter weather clause!

The sunny weather then lasted for a couple of days which meant that Mrs. Parish and I could get down to the bottom of the big field to do some more clearance work. Mrs. Parish was able to cover two of her favourite tasks. Firstly attacking the brambles with her heavy duty strimmer and then burning all the brambles on a bonfire. Some people have all the fun. I was left with the tasks of cutting out the brambles next to the trees and then transporting them to the bonfire site. This of course requires wrestling with the brambles which get entwined round your body and especially the legs. And we seem to be fighting giant brambles that fought back. I can quite see how all the princes failed to get through to Sleeping Beauty. Not only are these giant brambles but they have giant thorns. At the end of the day in the shower I discover just how many scratches are covering my legs and arms by the pain as the hot water jets over them. We are making progress with the nature trail and discovered more trees hidden in the undergrowth. We also managed to dig up some more toads. Incidentally they are called “crapaud” in French. I find also that Monsieur Jean Crapaud is a derogatory term for a Frenchman (a bit like using the term frog). I probably won’t try it out).

Giant bramble, with giant thorns

So by the end of the week the rain and drizzle has returned and so I am here in front of the fire writing the blog. There is football on the TV this afternoon and Mrs. Parish has found a lovely piece of pork from our new pig consignment and is promising roast pork and roast potatoes. We have wine in the cave that awaits. Life is good (apart from the bramble scratches which still itch).

Bonne journee