After all the excitement of last week we looked forward to a bit of peace and quiet. For me a chance to let my petanque wound heal and savour the great victory. Our visitors returned safely to the USA and our next visitors are not due to arrive until next Wednesday, when we entertain 9 walking friends from Weymouth.

Today Mrs. Parish and I have been to vote in the French European Elections. Sensibly the French vote on a Sunday and we went to the local Mairie to vote. In France there is no official ballot paper and you just have to collect a list of candidates produce by the Party you support and this goes into an official envelope issued by the election officials. The lists are sent out in advance by most parties but there are also piles of lists at the Mairie. Earlier in the week we got an official mailing form 9 of the parties standing and like in Britain there was quite a mixture. I was quite pleased to get a leaflet from “Lutte Ouvriers” which means Workers Struggle and is a far left party. The leaflet was helpful in improving my French vocabulary and I can now denounce the bourgeoisie in French and rail against the evils of the “economie capitaliste” and engage in the “guerre de classe” on behalf of the “classe ouvrier”. The Left Front which includes the French Communist Party seemed quite mild by comparison which didn’t mention capitalism or the working class at all.

By comparison the “Front National” (far right Nazi party) was pretty unpleasant calling the UMP (Tories) a bunch of liars and equating Romanians with all being delinquents. They seem to be a bit like UKIP, bunch of head bangers! Anyway we went with the Parti Socialiste who will be part of the left in the European Parliament with MEPs from the British labour Party. We now await the results and hopefully in Britain we will Labour get an MEP for the South West Region. Our friend Clare Moody heads the Labour list and is due to visit us next week with our walkers. We are hoping to welcome Clare as the first member of the European Parliament to visit La Godefrere.

I am managing to maintain my status as the crazy and eccentric Englishman among my French contacts. Last week I was on my way out to fill up our bird feeders when I noticed that Patrick and Katrin were down in the sheep’s field. I wandered down to say hello and to have a chat. It is quite difficult for me to understand all that they say but it is a good chance for me to practice my French. After we had exchanged pleasantries and discussed the sheep and Patrick explained that he would be taking the sheep off to get them sheared this week before returning them to our field. After this the conversation tailed off so I explained to Patrick that I was off to feed the wild birds. Poor Patrick looked quite bewildered and could not work out why anyone would want to feed wild birds. I tried my best to explain that I feed the birds as I am a birdwatcher and like to attract birds to the garden. He decided to humour me and smiled politely. I thought it best to let them get on with their sheep minding and went off to feed the birds.

I also amused Emile and Yvette when we went round to them for a coffee and I explained about my petanque induced head wound. He thought this was hilarious and a suitable subject to pass onto his French friends. I was not too offended as he had produced another crate of his excellent cider for me. I am sure this will please our guests next week.

We also had a long chat with Giselle and Daniel. Mrs. Parish had noticed them struggling with putting down a plastic sheet in front of their garage so they could put down some gravel. Daniel was moaning and huffing and puffing so Mrs. Parish, who is well organised, went to assist and brought with her proper equipment including a wheel barrow and rake and proceeded to organise Daniel and shift some of the gravel to the right place. I managed to arrive once the work had been done. Daniel was very impressed with Mrs. Parish and described her as an “attaque femme”, literally an attack woman or someone who tackles a job straight on with some aggression. I agreed that this was quite a good description of Mrs. Parish. Of course then Daniel has to resort to his favourite subject and asks me if she is the same in the bedroom! I diplomatically change the subject and we then all went into their house for a beer and a coffee and a chat. My French conversation has improved no end this week.

This week we also re-encountered French bureaucracy. Up until now we have been able to access the French Health system based upon our National Insurance contributions from when we were working in Britain. This used to cover early retirees in France up until retirement age when we would get entitlement as pensioners. The British Government has changed the rules meaning that our entitlement has run out and so we had a letter from the French Medical Assistance committee telling us that our Health card used to get reimbursement of medical expenses had been suspended. This meant a trip to their office in Mayenne to try to sort things out. Our problem also being that we have top up medical insurance which is only valid if we have something to top up! So until we get things sorted we will have to pay for any medical expenses. So we drove very cautiously to mayenne.

It turns out that we may be entitled to the safety net cover which kicks in depending on our income. The nice lady gave us a long list of all the pieces of paper we will need to produce together with a very large form. Of course this is all the same information that we have already given them when we first registered for French health care but that is all to no avail and we have to apply as new with all the documents together with information as to our income. We also have to await a letter from the Overseas Health Dept in Britain who have to tell us we are not entitled to cover from GB. Once we have all the information we will need to go back to Mayenne and will probably find they have invented a new bit of information to provide. It then all goes off to Nantes for lengthy processing. So we will have to take care and avoid accidents until then. I am under strict instructions to keep away from Petanque boules!!

The last week has been pretty awful as far as the weather is concerned and we have had rain most days. This has been frustrating as there are lots of jobs in the garden waiting to be done. Of course under the cats contractual arrangements they are entitled to extra time indoors in accordance with the foul weather clauses. The cats are very well aware of their rights and insist upon the letter of each clause and sub clause. The cats have extra time in the morning and are allowed to stay in after their tea in the afternoon. Archie and Minou have invoked these clauses this afternoon and are both fast asleep on the sofa. Moggie has gone off somewhere to do some hunting despite eating a large tea. When we came back from voting he had a mouse which after dutifully playing with he ate. He has just returned from his expedition and is now deciding whether to sleep on hang around Mrs. Parish who is cooking a nice piece of beef in the hope that more food falls his way.

Not content!


My attempts to renegotiate the contract have led to accusations of bourgeois oppression and that they have joined the “lutte ouvriers” and as working class cats are expressing solidarity with the struggle. That is the problem leaving leaflets around where the cats can access them.

Mrs. Parish is now asking questions about her entitlement to an aperitif under the European Treaty and is threatening to join “Feminists for Europe”.

I am resigned to defeat and give up my seat on the sofa to the cats and go off to get drinks. I am sure that under the equality directives that if Mrs. Parish ahs a drink then I am also entitled to one.

A la prochaine, Graham