We have just returned from an afternoon of culinary excellence and stamina that is the annual meal for “Les Cheveux Blancs”. The white hairs is the name for the over 65s who live in the Commune of Couesmes-Vauce. Every year the Commune Council organises and pays for a meal for the older people in the area. Not only do the Council pay for the meal but the local councillors act as waiters and waitresses.

The meal was due to be held in November 2017 but was delayed due to refurbishments to the Village Hall. The Council spent 350,000 Euros on a complete renovation of the hall which was in a pretty poor state. Work was slightly delayed and so the meal was put back to January. We went last week to the “Portes ouvert” (open doors). A chance for the Commune to come and have a look around. Of course, this being France we were offered a glass of wine and a pastry! We also got a kiss from the Mayor, Madame Baglin.

The hall has been reduced to one floor but with a higher ceiling and a new floor and walls. Also, the tables and chairs are all new. After the open day the first formal event was the meal today for the “Cheveux Blancs”. Mrs. Parish and I attended a previous event in 2016 so knew what to expect and so despite a grey and drizzly day we decided to walk to the hall as driving home would not be a safe option!

The renovated "Salle des fetes" the village hall

We arrived at the hall at 12 noon and went through the kissing greetings with it seemed, everyone and at 1230 we took our seats for an aperitif, a kir. To accompany this, we had an amuse bouche of black pudding with an apple sauce on toast. A soup course followed with a very nice pumpkin soup. We then moved to the fish course and were served a white fish, possibly Pollock and with this a nice white wine.

For the main course we had wild boar with mashed potato and carrots. We had a red Cotes du Rhone with this. It was superb.The next course was a cheese course with brie and salad served with a nice Bordeaux red wine. In between courses the Mayor went around with a microphone and various French people sang a song. The privilege of starting went to the Doyen (the eldest man attending) who was 92 and still has a lovely voice. This was followed by several women who kept us entertained during breaks between courses.

Inside the hall with "Les cheveux blancs"

Back to the meal and lastly came the dessert. Actually two desserts, a custard flan and a fromage blanc. And naturally we had a sweet white wine with the dessert. To finish off we had a coffee and at 5pm after 5 hours it was time to stagger home and we were pleased we had walked! It was a fantastic meal and we enjoyed the company of around 50 local villagers who made us welcome and were very friendly.

We are now back at home and have apologised to the cats as it was an hour and a half after their normal tea time. Needless to say, they were waiting at the gate when we got back and there was a lot of cat tutting while I prepared their meal. For them it was only one course and just some water to go with it.

The cats have had a bit of a campaign this week about their rations. They have each day two bowls of wet cat food, one first thing in the morning and one at 4pm. In addition, they have a few treats at mid-morning and a few biscuits when they are put out for the night at 9pm. Not a bad feeding regime, which can be supplemented by the odd mouse which they catch. I was a bit surprised to find the cats stealing hen food in the week. Firstly, Archie was found sneaking into the hen house to help himself to chicken feed from their feeder. Then with Moggie they decided to raid the food store and were caught eating hen food out of the bag! It cannot be very appetising to eat dry seeds and the message is obviously that they are so starving hungry that desperation forces them to eat hen food!

Hen food thieves

Last week I reported on the tacking hens of La Godefrere. Our three hens who have to cross the courtyard in strong winds and having to tack diagonally to get across. I have now been asked by a friend in the USA to provide a video of this phenomenon! Now, Mrs. Parish and I like a challenge and so we set out to film the hens. This proved to present various logistic problems. The first of which was having a strong enough wind and one which comes from the right direction. 

Then there is the problem of getting the hens to cooperate, particularly as there are immediate disputes as to who will have prime billing or prime pecking order and the best dressing room. Getting all three hens in the same place and doing the same thing is not easy! The cats turned up and demanded a part in the film or else they would disrupt the shoot. They have a very good agent. By this time, I was feeling like Robert Aldrich, the director of “Whatever happened to Baby Jane” a USA movie made in 1962 which featured a full-on battle between the two stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford who hated each other and made life a misery for the director. 

So, this week the wind has dropped first thing in the morning when the hens normally cross the courtyard. This meant we had to wait for the wind to be strong enough and when this occurred the hens were in the wrong place and sheltering behind the hedge and not out in the open wind. I decided to get out with the camera/phone to see if I could chase the hens out into the wind. All I seemed to achieve was to chase them under the hedge. Then Moggie arrived for his walk on part and was surprised to find a hen jumping out of the hedge at him. I did manage to get some footage of hens in the wind. I’m not sure that this counts as tacking but we will continue to see if we can make our film. “Whatever happened to gone with the wind”.

Our first effort is now in post-production and if I can manage to cope with the technology we will be able to put up the video on the blog and Facebook page. We may be in line for best short film at the Oscars.

I have had to pause the blog as Moggie arrived and decided to sit on my lap and thus disabling me from typing. My typing is slow enough as it is without a wriggly cat who has a habit of using his claws in my shoulder to pull himself up.

He has now gone to look for some supper but he is too early. Mrs. Parish and I will not need any supper this evening and may be not any food for a couple of days after this afternoon’s excess. In fact, I may need to follow her example and have a quiet sleep in the armchair in front of the fire. Our quiet may be disturbed as tomorrow the Vegans arrive for a week’s visit. More exciting times!

Bonne semaine