It will have to be a relatively quick blog this week as we have yet more visitors. This time it is a royal visit from Mrs. Parish’s mum and dad always referred to as Granny and Granddad by our children and by us. This has meant much travelling this week as on Tuesday at 5am I had to get up to drive Amy and Joyce back to Ouistreham to catch the morning ferry. It is a two hour drive and quite nice once the shock of being up early has passed. Of course a big advantage of driving on French roads at this time is there are very few other drivers. In France this is a good thing!

I even sailed around the Caen peripherique a sort of crazy ring road around Caen usually populated by equally crazy French drivers, fortunately for the most part all travelling in the same direction. The good thing about the peripherique is that it completes a circle around Caen so it doesn’t matter if you take a wrong turning, you will still end up in the right place. By the time I returned it was a bit livelier. The trick is to avoid the signs that direct you to Paris. It seems everyone wants to go there and thus there are queues at the Paris junction, therefore the answer is to go the opposite way round and avoid the problem.

To collect Granny and Granddad we have a 1 and a half hour journey the other way to Rennes airport. Luckily this was not at the crack of dawn but late on a Saturday afternoon which meant that dealing with the rocade (the Rennes ring road) was no problem at all. It seems that most of the largest cities in France have a ring road. Bordeaux and Rennes seem to have decided on rocade, while the others are all peripheriques apart from Paris which of course has a superperipherique (well it would wouldn’t it). Both words mean ring road so I’m not sure how they choose. There is probably some sort of bureaucratic process knowing the French. Anyway it’s a much more exotic title than the M25! On the previous occasion going to Rennes on a Friday afternoon at rush hour it was a much more challenging experience.

I finished last week’s blog by telling you how we had become expert hay stackers. That was not the end of our hay experience. On Monday and Tuesday of last week we helped to load the hay bales onto a trailer to be taken away for storage before being sold. This meat walking with the pickup truck and trailer and lifting the bales onto the vehicle from the stacks in the field. The stacks had been there for a couple of days and some of them had bent over where the string was not tight enough. This require a special technique known as “wiggling your bales”, to make sure they were in tight rectangles ready to be stacked onto the trailer and easily stacked again into storage. Yet another skill to add to my increasing range of farming skills. Daniel our neighbour now refers to me as the Agriculteur Anglais (English farmer). After each day working on the Hay harvest it is compulsory in France to drink a glass of cider. This is a good thing and Mrs. Parish and I were happy to continue to uphold French traditions.

No sooner had the hay disappeared than we had a delivery of logs to fuel our wood burner for the winter. We have learnt that it is a good thing to order firewood in the summer as it is usually cheaper and you are guaranteed delivery before you need the wood! Anyway on Thursday just after lunch a huge lorry arrived and deposited 10 cubic metres of logs in our courtyard. The lorry driver is very skilled (amazingly so for a Frenchman!!) and manoeuvred the lorry so that he could drop the logs as close to our woodshed as possible. This still required myself and Mrs. Parish to wheel barrow logs to the shed and then to stack them. After about 4 hours shifting we had got most of the logs into the shed and properly stacked roof high. There appears to be no cider tradition relating to the stacking of logs so we had to invent a new one. In our tradition a successful log shift now requires a large cold beer to be drunk. We checked with our friend Emile whether this was permissible and he approved although he would have preferred cider.

Talking of what is or is not permissible we may have witnessed the restarting of the 100 years war between England and France. Our down the lane English neighbours have arrived from England for 5 weeks and have been doing some work on their property. They bought the house down the lane a few years ago with the idea of either a holiday or retirement place. We have only seen them about 3 times during our 22 months here but now they have arrived and have lots of plants to put and other work to tidy up their house and grounds. However a problem has arisen with their boundary. The filed in front of their house was owned by the farmer who owns Loic’s field next to our gite. This land has recently been sold by Loic’s father in law, Camille who lives in Couesmes. It has been sold in two lots. On Saturday Camille arrived to explain to our neighbour that one of his boundary hedges was in the wrong position and may restrict the access of the new owner of the field. Camille speaks no English and our neighbour’s knowledge of French is limited. So enter Mrs. Parish as interpreter and mediator (Mrs. Parish is of the JFDI (just f***ing do it) school of motivation, so I feared the worst). It seems that the meeting did not go well and our neighbours believe they are in the right and may decide to take French legal advice. The scope for an ongoing dispute to match the 100 years war seems likely. To make matters worse it seems that our new neighbours may also have upset Giselle and Daniel. At least they retain a sense of humour when I went round with a copy of our land plans showing boundary lines, which might help,  I was met with the response that he thought I had come round with a writ! I suggest to Mrs. Parish that after a hard session of mediation and translation tradition demands a nice bottle of wine. She agrees.

The World Cup continues with England capitulating and losing both their first two games and thus failing to qualify for the knock out part of the tournament. No such problems for France who came into the World Cup on the back of scraping through a playoff against Ukraine. They won the first game 3-0 and then came up against the Swiss team and in a great game scored 5 goals letting in 2. The papers and media have now gone wild about France’s chances of getting through to the semi finals or even winning the world cup. Just as well I got in my world cup tat when I did. My giant hand with “Allez led France” written on it would I suspect have gone rapidly up in price. It does help having two teams to support and at least I can cheer for France for at least the next week.

Back to Granny and Granddad’s arrival at Rennes airport. As Granddad is 88 he has a few problems walking so a wheelchair was ordered to bring him across the airfield and into the terminal. Mrs. Parish and I were there to meet them and we saw a number of wheelchairs coming into the terminal. It looked like a race to be the first through the customs area and into the terminal. There were at least 5 wheelchairs and granddad was 4th. A couple next to us who had also ordered a wheelchair couldn’t see their dad and were worried he may have crashed or been cut up by the other wheelchairs. He did eventually arrive unharmed. But an exciting start to their visit.

Since arriving with us we have had to constantly move granddad around the garden looking for the best place to park him so that he is warm enough in the sun without getting too much sun. I have suggested that I provide him with a questionnaire so that he can score all the spots and we can then select the most appropriate. We do need to keep an eye on him as to start with he got a bit confused with the layout and almost wandered out of the front gate on one occasion instead of heading for the garden. Fortunately he doesn’t move very quickly so we were able to cut him off. A bit later we thought we had lost him again but found that he had wandered into the games room and was sat in a chair having a doze. He has now settled down and providing we supply him with his favourite sherry and the odd glass of wine he is being well behaved and has found some good places to eat and sleep. All in all he seems to be enjoying his holiday. As of course is granny who is not at all like the traditional mother in law and is pretty nimble for someone in her eighties, particularly when she has had a glass of something.

Granddad in his favourite spot

Granny and Granddad enjoying a bottle or two.

Well I must finish off the blog and get ready for the next match, Chile v Netherlands on early evening followed by Brazil later in the evening. Of course it is a well established tradition that you need beer to properly enjoy football so I think a trip to the fridge in the wine cave to get some beers ready, a few snacks and I’m all prepared for an evening’s football.

Bon soiree