Well, I managed to survive nearly a week on my own. The cats and the hens came through with no damage from a period under my supervision. Mrs. Parish has returned and all is back to something like normal here at La Godefrere. Mrs. Parish arrived back home late on Wednesday evening with a car laden with Christmas presents. So, a successful trip all round. The cats of course came out from their palace to greet her. I rather think that they could see the prospect of additional supper. 

While we were unpacking the car, it was impossible to keep the cats out of the house and once inside it is only food which will persuade them to leave. The cats had a second supper and went back to bed.

This last weekend we have had two repas. On Saturday we went to St. Simeon, a nearby village for their fete de choucroute. A traditional meal consisting of a knuckle of pork with various pork sausages and sauerkraut. It originates from Alsace and is accompanied by Alsace beer. It is a mountainous plate of food and not for the faint-hearted. There were 9 of us in our party and all English and we all chickened out and opted for the steak. We had a large entrecote steak which was incredibly well cooked when you consider the numbers of people attending.

As is normal for these events we had copious glasses of Bordeaux red wine and then cheese, an apple tart and a coffee with homemade calva. Not as good as Emile’s but we did all toast his memory once again.

Anyway, it was a superb meal and we then got on the soiree dansante as the disco started up and we stumbled to the dance floor. Mrs. Parish and I had started the evening off with aperitifs at our house, stepping into the large gap left by Emile. We then of course had to offer coffee and calva back at our place at the end of the evening. There were four stalwarts (the two of us and Ian and Sarah) and we got back at 1am and this time had a proper calva, made by Emile. He has left such a gap in our lives!

Bed at 2am and up again by 8am to feed cats and let out the hens. We also had to get ourselves ready physically and mentally for the repas des cheveux blancs (meal for the white hairs). This started at 12 noon in the village hall and was the special free meal for the over 65s in the Commune. Fortunately, the rain reduced to a drizzle as we needed to walk to the hall. A 20-minute walk to sharpen our appetites and so we did not have to have a driver to get us home. We knew what awaited us.

We arrived at the hall at 12 noon exactly as the church bells were ringing. It is essential to arrive on time as there is a lot of meeting and greeting to do. We started off with the Mayor and then went around all the over 80s who are especially honoured. This meant shaking hands and kissing and explaining in French who we were and where we lived.

There were around 40 of us there for the meal and we were with 4 English friends who also live in the Commune. The meal was once again fantastic. We started with a kir cassis and then had some little savoury tarts. Next was a fish dish of salmon with vegetables. This was accompanied by a rather nice white wine – a Muscadet, and they came around and topped up the glass before moving to the main dish, a very nice chicken dish in a white wine sauce with mashed potato. This was served with a red Bordeaux wine. Our glasses were topped up a couple of times while we moved on to the cheese course.

Dessert came in the form of a café gourmand. 3 little desserts with a lovely sweet dessert wine – a Montbasillac. Then finally coffee. There was the usual singing with several old ladies bringing out their battered song sheets from many a past year. At 5pm Mrs. Parish and I made our way home a little more unsteadily than when we had come. We made it to the comfy chairs and settled down for a little sleep in front of the fire. But not of course before the cats had had their tea!

A superb weekend with all the best that is rural France. The lovely thing is that we are welcomed as English people to join in and share these communal events. We are accepted and treated as part of the community. Being willing to learn and speak their language is the least we can do to and it does mean that we can participate and communicate as well as eating and drinking!
There has been trouble amongst the hens this week. We had noticed that there is a definite pecking order with our four hens and the one at the bottom of the pecking order had lost a few feathers from her chest. A few days ago, we saw that she had been wounded by this pecking and was bleeding. We managed to catch her and spray on some anti-septic. We had to isolate her in the wood shed for a couple of nights. She was not at all happy at this treatment and now keeps well away from Mrs. Parish.

Mrs. Parish found on line a spray which is supposed to stop the pecking of other hens. We ordered some and it works by spraying on to the victim a spray which smells awful and discourages the offending hens who don’t like to peck a smelly hen. It does smell horrible, like creosote that has gone off. We have put the pecked hen back into the hen house and it remains to be seen if this method works.

France has all of a sudden been beset by protesters dressed in fluorescent yellow jackets. In French “les gilets jaune”. They are protesting at the rapid increase in car fuel costs, particularly for diesel. In typical French style they have taken to the streets and blocked towns and major roads. In the process lighting fires and burning wooden pallets and tyres. At the weekend there were major confrontations in Paris.

The French know how to protests

Mrs. Parish on her return from the UK encountered the demonstrators on the road from Caen to home at the town of Flers. There the ring road around the town was completely blocked on all the roundabout, with fires burning. This was at 11pm at night and Mrs. Parish had to find another route going through the centre of Flers before re-joining her normal route.

It seems the protests will continue over the next week.

At the end of our lane is an old cross by the side of the road. This is one of the few remaining crosses which mark one of the pilgrim routes to the Mont St. Michel. The cross dates from the 17th Century and is known as a “Calvaire a bourdon”. Named after the bourdon, which was the staff carried by the pilgrims. The staff had a metal claw at the base which served as a defence against dogs and brigands. It is known as the cross of La Godefrere. It shows how old the settlement in our village is, although our house only dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century.

The cross of La Godefrere

Now we are approaching winter the animals and birds are changing their behaviour. I caught this picture of a huge flock of starlings perched on our neighbours’ telephone line as they meet up before dispersing to feed in the surrounding fields. 

The starlings come to visit

Our adjacent cows are now settled in and enjoying the space in the field and the attentions of the bull.

The cows

The cats have now come in early for their warm up. They arrived mob handed and rushed in when we opened the front door. They are now curled up and will be sleeping for the next hour, then more food I expect.

It looks like rain for the rest of the week, I may have to go and reorganise my wine tomorrow!

Bonne semaine