The wind has turned and is coming from the North so it has got very cold today and there is also a strong wind which makes it even colder. At least the rain has stopped for a while and the sun has come out. But the rain is due to return tomorrow. This means we have not been able to get out and do some more work on the garden. There are piles of brambles and brushwood all over the big field which Mrs. Parish is desperate to set light to but it is too wet.

One benefit is that I have been able to spend time yesterday and today, watching the six nations’ rugby. Today of course it is the turn of France who are playing Italy in Paris. Not such a great game unfortunately so I am writing the blog at the same time and reflecting on the past week.

As you will have gathered as regular readers of the blog is that we live in rural France in a hamlet of four properties (one of which is not occupied). Our hamlet is at the end of a long lane which is a cul de sac. So we don’t have many casual visitors. You can therefore imagine our amazement when we had a knock at the door and saw a man and a woman calling on us. Well we may be in France but you can tell a Jehovah’s Witness anywhere. Fortunately I was on the phone and so Mrs. Parish went to the door. It turns out they are targeting English people! I suppose the French are all either devout Catholic or too sophisticated to consider their message. Anyway Mrs. Parish in her best French suggested that a conversation would be a waste of time. We have plenty of time they said. Mrs. Parish said “But it would be a waste of my time, au revoir”. Perhaps they think that the English are particularly in need of saving. 

The rugby has perked up and in the second half the French have found their form and have so far scored 3 great tries. It has also started to rain here. Mind you it is now past 5pm so I think I can justify a little drink. Mrs. Parish thinks this is a good idea. Drinks have been poured so I can get back to the blog or at least I could if Moggie would settle down. He has been outside “marauding around” since tea. He has just comeback in and is soaking wet and determined to try to knock over my drink.  He is now trying to wake Minou up and she is having none of it. Finally he has curled up on the sofa. Peace returns for the moment. Two players just sent off in the rugby, one each from France and Italy, game is spicing up!!

Last night as it got towards dusk we heard an owl calling and so I went to investigate and spotted a little owl on the chimney of one of the neighbour’s houses. This is good news as last spring we had two Little Owls in the field next the gite but had not seen them for some time. Hopefully they will return to nest again this year. It has not been good weather for Owls and it is now sometime since we saw a barn owl. They suffer particularly in continuous wet weather. However there is plenty of food for owls as our orchard and the big field are full of field mouse holes and it usually follows that if there are lots of mice there will be lots of predators.

It has been a bit of a bird week as I went out bird watching on Tuesday, one of the brightest days of the week. I went with Peter from next door and we went down to a lake near Juvigne and had a very pleasant day out. I also got an email from the French Maine/Sarthe bird group telling me that a rare visitor had appeared near Le Mans and they were organising a car load to try to spot it. The trip left at 6am so I wasn’t tempted but there was a Hume’s Leaf Warbler and apparently this is the first time it had been seen in Sarthe. It usually lives in mountain regions in Asia but is a rare visitor to France.

I have been reading a book about French history which I got for Christmas. It covers the complete history of France. One thing that struck me on reading about the early French Kings is that they all had nicknames and many of them far from flattering. Some of the kings of the Franks in particular such as Clovis the lazy, Pepin the short and Charles the bald. There was also Louis the stammerer, Charles the fat and Charles the simple. I am not sure why this became a habit with French kings but the following are my favourites. Louis the quarreller, so called because he liked an argument. John the posthumous who was born after his father was dead and only lived for 5 days, thus completing the shortest reign in French history. Philip the fortunate seems to have the most inappropriate name as he seems to have been rather unlucky, taking France into the hundred years’ war, his army was smashed by the English at Crecy and his reign saw a major outbreak of the Black Death. Charles the mad was in fact quite mad and thought he was made of glass!!. Louis the cunning (also called the universal spider), was decided unpleasant, constantly plotting against his father and being rather unreliable and treacherous. The nicest by far has to be Charles the affable, who it seems was quite laid back and affable! I think we should follow the same idea with politicians but I suspect we would get very rude. Michael Gove the noxious would be my starting point.

I have been quick to highlight some of the idiosyncrasies of French bureaucracy so when it proves to be surprisingly efficient I should also mention it. Just before Christmas I got flashed by a French speed camera. Silly really as the French have signs up telling you that there is a speed camera ahead. I thought I had slowed down but it is difficult to read the kilometre speed dial so I was slightly over the limit. Anyway I duly get a letter asking me to pay the fine and I decided to do so on line. I duly looked up the website and put in my French number plate and to my surprise was taken to payment site in English. So they could tell I was English and also they must have a lot of English people to collect fines from to make it worthwhile to have a website in English as well as French.

Finally this week a bit of a rant. I am fed up with packaging that says it is easy to unwrap and has easy tear off strips. They never work. There are some French biscuits that we buy which proclaim that they are easy to unwrap but despite buying them every week I have yet to get the easy tear strip to work. The problem then is that the wrapping paper is impossible to tear and it takes ages to actually get into the biscuits. Usually once it starts to tear it then goes all the way and you end up with biscuits all over the floor and all of a sudden you become popular with the cats who always are ready to help clear up food which has fallen to the floor. Well they see any unguarded food as fair game. The cats are all fast asleep now. They have so much energy in bad weather as they spend most of the time tucked up in their beds. So we have reinstated the afternoon walk around the garden. Moggie is always game for this and even walks with you all around the big field which is quite some way for a cat. The others have to be encouraged to come for a walk around the orchard. Once he gets the idea Archie can be quite energetic and even attempts to climb the occasional tree. Minou is the most reluctant as she doesn’t really like getting her paws wet, but she comes with us eventually. Only the English would take their cats for a walk! Our French neighbours think we are slightly mad.

The rugby is finished, France have won and the cats are asleep so it is peaceful bliss and Mrs. Parish is cooking dinner, which will be ready soon, so I had better go to the wine cave and choose some nice wine for this evening. Then I might have to join the cats and go to sleep. Although it won’t be long before they start the ritual pre supper intimidation.#

Gives Gallic shrug
Bon courage