Well, all is now well with the world as Mrs. Parish has returned from her visit to the UK. I managed to survive the week and keep the cats and the hens in order. The hens have now started laying again and I think the prospect of the change back to proper management has encouraged them. I have to thank my good friends Ian and Sarah who fed me for a week. Well actually it was Sarah who did the cooking but Ian kindly offered the late-night taxi service to get me home after dinner.

The cats were waiting on the doorstep and bitterly complaining that not only was supper late but also that they were missing contracted sofa time. In fact, such has been their disgust at this poor treatment that they have started on a series of protests This involves the dustbin protest where they deliver a message that as they are treated like rubbish they have to sleep on the dustbins. Moggie has taken to sleeping in the sack of straw for the chickens to reinforce the point.

Rubbish bin cats

Moggie, a cat of straw!

Archie has taken things a stage further by developing cold like symptoms. He has a blocked nose and keeps sneezing. We realised that he must be ill as he is off his food. This is almost unbelievable. It is probable that his blocked nose has affected his sense of smell and it is more difficult to eat. So, we decided to keep him indoors last night to allow him to recover and he seemed to be a lot better this morning and his appetite is back. He is still snuffling and sneezing and no doubt this will get worse at supper time as he tries for another night in sick bay!

Moggie is very confused as he still gets chucked out but can see Archie indoors. This has only added to his sense of grievance. But at least separating them at night reduces the chance that Moggie will also have a “Rhume” which is French for a cold and pronounced “room”. This is a lovely French word and to followers, like me, of Peter Sellers and his Inspector Clouseau a chance to really murder the French language and over-emphasise the word. The French word “Rhum” (rum) is pronounced rum. While rheumatism is “rhumatisme”. So endless fun can be had from a “rhume” needing a “rhum” to stop one feeling “rhumatique”!

French can be fun unless of course you have homework from a French course! This week I have had loads of homework including a series of sentences where I had to conjugate the verb to the correct tense. Is it future simple or future conditional. Is it the imperfect, past or even the pluperfect? Or is it just the present tense? I also have to establish whether the verb is regular or irregular.

A sense of despair is cast over me but I have no choice but to knuckle down and get on with it! Is this me, I think to myself. When I was at school I could think of a hundred other things to distract me from my homework but now I am a diligent student. Where did it all go wrong!

So, I set to and took up the whole dining table with my lap top. My large French/English dictionary and my book on the conjugation of French verbs. Various text books and paper and pen. I find that all of these tools are advisable to get me through the task. I have also discovered that it is essential to have a glass of wine. It seems to me that getting into the right mood is essential for doing homework and as it is French homework what could be more natural and complimentary than a glass of French wine.

French homework!!

I reason that drinking wine is bound to make me feel more French and therefore logically be able to understand it better. I am not sure that this theory works but I am going to keep on trying it. It at the very least dulls the pain of French verbs.

I also had a long list of French words to learn where the pronunciation is not as it would seem by the spelling of the word. For example, the word “femme” (woman) is pronounced “famme” as in famish. Mind you the English word “women” is pronounced “wimmen!” The problem with all language is that there appears to be no rules that consistently apply and so you just have to learn everything.

Still, it is beginning to work and last week I managed to take a telephone call from a local department store and once I had slowed them down was able to understand and have a sensible conversation about delivery of a new bed.

Archie has just turned up and demolished his tea, so he is obviously on the mend but we will let him stay inside again tonight to make sure. It is due to get quite cold overnight and drop below freezing. We could even have some snow before the end of the week!

Our trail camera down at the bottom of the big field records the temperature and most nights next to the little stream the temperature is below freezing and yesterday morning the camera snapped three Roe deer crossing the grass and it was still minus 1. The deer were a male with small antlers and two females. It is the first time we managed to catch three in one photo.

3 deer from trail camera

We are now fully into the repas season and last night went to the village hall in Saint Simeon for an evening repas. This has the exotic label of being a “soiree dansante” (evening with dancing). We have been to this repas every year and it is usually good fun. In past years the repas, which on the tickets starts at 8pm, usually starts serving the food at around 10pm. This is part of the French rural way of life where things happen in their own time. However, this year there are a couple of English women who have joined the village fete committee who organise the event. 

The addition of English time keeping and efficiency meant that by 8-30 the kir had arrived at 9pm the meal started. We didn’t finish the coffee and calvados until midnight and then the disco and dancing started. We left about 1 pm and the dancing just goes on till morning! This year there were 320 people attending and they cooked 250 portions of “Choucroute” and 70 steaks. Choucroute is a knuckle of pork with sausages, a boiled potato and sauerkraut. The dish originates from Alsace and is very popular amongst the French. We had steak! Despite the numbers the food was amazingly well cooked and there was an army of helpers to serve everyone.

Mrs. Parish brought back jars of mincemeat from the UK and has been making mince pies all afternoon. Part of the preparations for Christmas but I exercised my rights as quality control chief to carry out a random sample testing of the mince pies. I am pleased to say that they were top quality.

I have just had a call from some friends in France who wanted me to identify a bird from their rendition of its call. So, I had to listen to people making bird noises down the phone at me! I wasn’t able to identify the call!! I now need a large drink!

A la prochaine