It has been a beautiful sunny Sunday morning with a lovely blue sky. So nice that Mrs. Parish and I went out for a stroll along the River Mayenne. Sundays in rural France are particularly quiet as there is a general rule that garden machinery should not be used on Sundays and all big shops are closed so there is little traffic on the roads. So it is really quiet and apart from a few joggers we had the riverbank to ourselves. It is like Sundays used to be when I was a child.

We got back home in time to help our neighbour Giselle and her son in law, Jean-Pierre, collect the apples from our orchard. This year has not been so good for the cider apples and we had thought we would have to leave them to the birds. But this morning Giselle asked if we had any apples as Jean-Pierre needed some more so he could make cider. We were pleased to help as this usually means a bottle or two in return. So we spent an hour picking up apples and then went back to Giselle’s for an aperitif and a chat and of course Daniel’s jokes!

Sadly we learned from Giselle that Maurice had died last week. You may recall Maurice from an earlier blog. He lived in the local village and did odd jobs farm labouring and garden work. He was 90 and was still working up until his death. He was almost an archetypical French rural farm worker with his berry, single tooth and cigarette in the corner of his mouth. What we liked about him was his sense of humour and even at his age acceptance of us “foreigners” into his community. We had a drink or two and a few jokes with Maurice and will miss him.

So last night we experienced event 2 on the Choucroute circuit. This time it was an evening event at the nearby village of Saint Simeon, in the village hall. We met up with Emile and Yvette for an aperitif with some other English friends before getting to the hall for the advertised 8pm start. Like most of these village events things did not get started until about 9-30 when they came around with more aperitifs and eventually the food started to arrive at 10pm. With uncanny efficiency the steak I had ordered duly arrived and was well cooked in the French style which means it is very bloody. This was the alternative to the choucroute a meal of sauerkraut and various large bits of pork! After the meal we had the entertainment with a disco, but before we got into the dancing we had some singing and then the seemingly compulsory napkin waving song. Everyone waves their napkin over their heads and some people even stand on their chairs for added effect. I’m still not sure what the point is but it does give a chance to get into the evening’s mood of madness.

Napkin waving at St. Simeon

The dancing started with a weird sort of dance to a song that seemed to involve repeating the words chikki chakki or something similar while appearing to imitate the shape and movements of a chicken. All very strange but the French seemed to enjoy it. We then got down to a more conventional disco dance but of course French pop music is pretty hopeless and the English entered the dance floor once we had some decent disco music. There was also the chance once again to do some air violining to one song and great evening was rounded off at about 2pm with a French version of the conga which seemed to involve the snake of people without the occasional jump traditional in Britain. There was one thing in common with Britain and that was in the bar area which was full of men and young lads!

In the morning a rather weary Mrs. Parish and I were feeling our age! Next week we experience a Pot au Feu evening at Brece village hall. Pot au Feu is beef slowly boiled with vegetables. This of course will be accompanied by an evening’s entertainment, this time we have Laurent and his orchestra to look forward to. 

As we were going out for the evening I decided that it would be a good idea to clean the car. One of the disadvantages of living in rural France is that the lanes and roads around us are always filthy with mud from tractors and sometimes worse when the dung spreader has been past. This all seems to transfer itself onto the car which has a coating of brown. We also use the car to transport excess garden waste to the local recycling tip. Added to this we have three cats who seem to delight in walking over wet grass, then crossing the shed area which is covered in dried earth. This of course coats their paws with a fine layer of mud which they then transfer onto the car by walking up over the bonnet and across the roof before settling down for a sleep. So the car gets very dirty.

So yesterday I decided to (897890 – this secret code has just been typed by Archie who walked across the keyboard) clean the car both inside and outside. I finished the cleaning at about 3pm and went in doors for a cup of tea. Mrs. Parish did her usual joke in these circumstances in asking whose car was in our courtyard as she didn’t recognise it. Any way once I had had my tea I went to move the car and low and behold there across the car was a set of brown cat paw prints, they started on the bonnet, went up the windscreen across the roof of the car and then there were prints where a cat had slid down the back!! I was not impressed. By the end of the afternoon there were two cats asleep on the car roof!!

Cats and paw prints making car dirty again

Regular readers will know that our cats are thieves and scroungers as far as food is concerned and that we have to guard any food which is outside the fridge to protect it from prowling cats. Meal times can require additional vigilance as the cats sit on the dining chairs and try to get onto our laps, just so they can be a bit closer to the food. Any laxity on our part and the cats will strike. We are getting increasingly good at anticipating cat behaviour and denying them opportunities for food theft. In the week Moggie came up with an entirely new and cunning plan. One perhaps he had not fully thought through.

Underneath one of our worktops is a small pedal bin into which we put our food waste which cannot be recycled. It is behind a curtain and we flick back the curtain and tip the waste into the bin. Moggie’s cunning plan was to get behind the curtain and sit on the pedal bin, thus being in the right place to intercept the food on the way to the bin. Moggie is not the brightest of cats and had not considered was the reason it is called a pedal bin! And that before we tip the food waste we put a foot on the pedal and the lid flips up, which of course would have sent Moggie flying backwards just as the food disappeared into the bin. Nice try Moggie!!

Moggie's cunning plan

I read during the week that many blogs have arrangements with commercial sponsors and as a consequence give mentions in the blog to their sponsors’ products in a surreptitious way. I would like to reassure readers that no products have been mentioned in this blog either surreptitiously or not. However if there are any commercial interests who would like to sponsor me I could quite easily and casually mention the names of wine producers, whisky distillers or cheese makers for example. I think the value of such endorsements by this blog would be worth a lot to such commercial ventures and they should contact me accordingly!!

The cats have now been fed, properly with a particular variety of French tinned cat food and are now settling down for a few hours inside time before having supper (French cat crunchy make). While I have some peace and quiet to finish the blog typing the blog into a particular make of laptop computer which uses a well known operating system. While doing this I will be making myself an aperitif probably with a brand of cassis and a white wine from a famous vineyard. There will be wine with dinner and perhaps a little whisky at the end as a digestif. You will probably have noticed the subtlety with which I have introduced the opportunities for product placement. I wait for the stream of offers.

Bonne chance