So this week we move away from history to arrive at the land that time forgot. Here at La Godefrere time has stood still and it is still Christmas. At least for us it is Christmas no.3 as our son Ian and wife, Emma arrived along with friend Sarah. They arrived on Monday and we went into Christmas mode with lots of presents to unwrap and of course Kir Royales to drink.

It was also Ian’s 40th birthday and so we had a double celebration and to mark the occasion we had a lamb feast. This was with the leg of lamb that had not long ago been romping around our paddock with three other legs and several other lambs. Of course the leg is what we get in payment for allowing the sheep to eat our grass. Frankly it is a good deal. I don’t have to cut the grass and we get something eatable instead. And I don’t have to go round and pick it up, it gets delivered oven ready for us to eat. When I say oven ready, this of course is not quite true and Mrs. Parish exercises all her culinary skills to turn the leg into a lamb feast with the assistance of a bottle of Beaujolais in which the lamb is basted.

Ian and Emma with birthday dessert and wine

To accompany the meal I bought three lovely bottles of Bourgogne red, with pinot noir grapes. This went down a treat and we polished off all three bottles between the five of us. As it was a birthday treat we got our local Boulanger/patissier to make a lovely chocolate dessert, which was amazing. It is one of the great benefits of living in France and having access to locally produced food prepared by skilled artisans. The rest of the week was devoted to Christmassy things and so we played lots of board games and ate and drank lots.

To add spice to our third Christmas Ian and Emma brought with them their two dogs. Tomo, the three legged Keeshond has been here before and has been mentioned in the blog once or twice. This time they brought a second dog that they acquired through a dog rescue charity. This rescues street dogs from Romania and little Kiki is a rescue dog.

Of course having two dogs around the place was challenging for the cats. Mostly Moggie disappeared as soon as the dogs were anywhere near and Minou kept her distance, although was always first to arrive when food was around. Archie took the arrival of the dogs as a personal insult and steadfastly refused to change his habits. On one occasion he remained sat on the back of the sofa growling at the two dogs if they came anywhere near him. They of course had no answer and did not know how to react to this very fierce and large cat, in a position to defend himself and do damage with some rather large claws.

Tomo and Kiki

During one evening the cats were out and the dogs were having a walk round the courtyard. They decided to investigate the cat flap into the Cats barn (palace) and both went up the steps and were sniffing the cat flap. The cat flap is still propped open with a stick as the cats refuse to be demeaned by opening and shutting their own front door. The dogs were sniffing away when suddenly out through the cat flap emerged a long white furry front leg with claws and proceeded to whack the dogs across the nose. They yelped and immediately ran away. Archie looked out through the cat flap with a sneer and something of a very pleased look about him!

After this incident the dogs were a bit more respectful and generally behaved very well. The cats were a bit put out but as long as they got fed and of course both the dogs and cats had lamb leftovers, so they did pretty well.

The weather has now turned very cold and we have already had a few flakes of snow. According to the nice weather lady on French TV. The one who is always immaculately dressed, like she was on her way out for the evening once she has given the weather report. Well she says it will snow tomorrow. This has been confirmed by Giselle who is usually spot on. I think she uses some ancient French farming method to divine the weather. Today the sky is clear but it is very cold and has been for the past few days. This has meant lighting the log fire first thing in the morning and keeping it going all day. The house has been very warm and cosy.

The cats have of course invoked the cold weather clause in their contract. I have tried explaining that we have to use the UK Government method to assess whether the temperature has reached a low enough level. When we first came to France we were still entitled to the Winter Fuel Allowance paid in the UK to over 60’s. This was because we were part of the European Union. The UK Government decided to change the rules to save money and so said that they would only pay the allowance if the average temperature in the EU country was lower than in England. The crafty sods decided that in order to assess the average temperature in France they should take into account the French overseas territories which are officially part of France. This includes islands in the Caribbean and Indian Oceans. Accordingly it is deemed to be warmer in France (even in the Alps) than it is in the UK and so we are no longer entitled and I explain to the cats that this cut in our income has to be reflected in cuts at La Godefrere.

The cats refuse to accept this methodology and so we have a dispute. At stake for the cats is the amount of indoor time they get before meals. At the moment we let them in about 30 minutes to an hour before meals. They of course are sat outside well before this threshold and stare, trying to intimidate us into letting them in. They have tried other methods to look as cold and miserable as possible. Moggie has tried wearing Minou like a fur coat to emphasise this look. I think they have been secretly watching Colditz as they are trying various options to try to get in.  Minou tries hiding in the laundry basket when we put washing ion the line. She hopes we will not notice her when we go back indoors. Moggie hides in the wheel barrow with the wood for the same reason. Archie is much less subtle and rushes the front door as soon as it is open, hoping to catch us by surprise. This often works if we answer the door to visitors and see a flash of fur rushing past. I am now waiting for them to forge identity cards and impersonate a French man.

Moggie wearing his new cat overcoat to emphasise cold weather!

As it is now less than half an hour until teatime the cats are now officially inside and all went to the fire to demonstrate how cold they were. They are all draped around me waiting to start agitating for an early tea.

Ian and Emma went back to England yesterday and now we revert back to reality and to a few days of January to before we again experience a time warp and re-enter Christmas no.4 when our third child Amy and friend Charlotte arrive on Wednesday. This of course will have the difference of being a vegan Christmas, although we will have presents, drinks and board games and maybe a visit to see the Alpacas.

Mrs. Parish has now arrived in from the garden. She has seized the opportunity for some gardening as the day is sunny and clear if very cold. She seems to have adopted the cat tactic of going straight over to the fire to warm up before engaging in intimidatory tactics. So I think it wise to go and get her a cup of tea. The cats are now huddled together and I think they are planning some new approach to getting their way.

I just need to go over to the cave to get some more wine. After all these Christmases, stocks are getting low, but I am sure there is enough for an aperitif and to drink with the veal we are having tonight. I may need to lay down some meat supplies. (Mr. Parish says that she thinks that over the 3 Christmases I have laid down enough animal products to last until the summer)!

Bonne noel (3)