Well, here I am back at La Godefrere after a few days R&R with old friends. It seems neither the cats nor the chickens actually missed me, although the cows did miss out on our regular over the fence chats. The problem with going away at this time of year is that everything sneakily grows in your absence. The grass in the garden had shot up and when I went around the nature trail the brambles had started to shoot out over the path. So the first task is to get out the tractor mower and cut the grass in the orchard and round the big field.

One of the problems has been that the weather has been consistently wet and warm making grass and weed growth at maximum velocity. This means that not only is the grass growing rapidly but that finding a day when the grass is dry enough to cut becomes difficult. Mrs. Parish is constantly looking at the weather forecast from the French Meteo. This is very reliable and gives a pretty good assessment of weather there will be rain in the next hour. So planning and executing grass cutting is now becoming a scientific exercise. Have we had rain in the last 24 hours, will the sun and wind dry the grass enough to cut and will I have enough time to cut it before the rain starts. Then do I cut the grass long or short. If the grass has grown too long then it has to be cut a little at a time. Who knew grass cutting was so complicated!

Tomorrow is officially the start of summer but someone needs to explain this to the weather as it is still unsettled with predictions of showery weather with the risk of thunderstorms. Every day when I go out the grass seems to have grown and it looks like it needs cutting again. Today is Sunday and grass cutting is not allowed. Generally in France you are not allowed to make a noise on Sundays. In some areas you have between 10am and midday but after that silence is the expectation. So hopefully when summer arrives tomorrow the weather will change although showers are forecast for Monday, so perhaps Tuesday, who knows.

We were lucky though as we had a dry interval a couple of weeks ago which allowed the grass in our big field to be cut for hay. Although it got a bit tense at the end. The grass is cut first and then dried by turning it in the field twice a day for about 4 days. Then the baler comes around to pick up the hay and leave bales of hay which are then taken away to be stored in a barn. The baler had done half of the field when the cable which drives the baler broke. A mechanic was called out and he spent a whole afternoon splicing the cable back together. All very fine but when it was done it was then too rough to operate and kept jamming. The next day a new mechanic arrived with a new cable and spent all day fitting it only to find that it was the wrong size and would not work!!

Andy and Julie who do the cutting and baling were tearing their hair out while keeping one eye on the weather. If it rained then the bales would need to be stacked until they dried. They were also due to go away on holiday. So it became a tense race against time. And of course every other baler in the area was being used. Eventually a friend was able to use his baler after work to bale late into the evening and we managed to get it all in before the rain came.

And we thought living in rural France would be relaxing with no stress! We had got our hay in and started to relax when we were alerted to the fact that our neighbours, Giselle and Daniel had their own hay problem. The lane that runs from our hamlet up to the main road has a grass verge on either side and the grass is cut from time to time by the local Council. It was cut last week and Giselle has the habit of recovering the cut grass as hay. This involves collecting the hay and putting it on one side on the lane to dry until it can be baled into hay. On a rare hot day Giselle and Daniel were out gathering the grass and so we went to help them. Mrs. Parish and Giselle were using pitchforks to move the grass from one side to the other while Daniel and I came behind with rakes to make sure we got all the grass. It was at this point that I realised quite how long the lane is. 400 metres long and hot and back breaking work. I managed to get a picture of Mrs. Parish and Giselle with pitchforks in hand. Two Femmes Formidable!! Ils ne passerant pas (They shall not pass). Anyway we got the work done ready for the baler and then we all went back to our house for a well earned beer.

Giselle and Mrs. Parish, les femmes formidable

I did mention to Mrs. Parish “what happened to our quiet and relaxing retirement”, but not while she still had the pitchfork in hand! Of course with the hay cut the cats are having literally a field day as the field mice don’t know until it is too late that the grass cover has gone. So they come out of their holes and our cats hoover them up. In one afternoon while I was sitting in the garden Moggie came back with at least 4 mice and proceeded to eat them all right in front of me. It is what we call the Happy Times for hunting after the use of the phrase by U boat commanders in the Second World War when it was easy to sink allied shipping. 

Archie has been maintaining his position as the Lord of La Godefrere. Recently some friend came round and left their car in the courtyard. Immediately Archie came to see if he could get into the car as he associates cars with food. He jumped up on to the edge of an open window only to be confronted by Oz our friend’s dog. Archie did not flinch but quietly assessed the situation and realised the dog was on a lead tied in the car so his movement was limited. So Archie just explored the inside of the car keeping just out of reach of Oz. 

Archie and Oz

So we are in Euro 2016, the European Championship of football, which is being held in France form 10th June to the 10th July. France is going football mad and there is great enthusiasm when France is playing. So far they are doing quite well and have won their first two games. As England was playing Wales we organised a football evening and a special welcome to two friends (Steve and Lynne) from Wales who decided to visit us to coincide with the game. We had to admire the Welsh tenacity as our friends nearly did not get here. They were booked to fly to Nantes on Monday but the plane was cancelled. They were then rebooked to fly to Nantes the following day from Gatwick and when they were en route they heard that this flight had been cancelled due to the industrial action in France. So they came over on the same ferry that I was on and I was able to give them a lift to La Godefrere.

Steve and Lynne

Thankfully we won the football and so had bragging rights over our Welsh friends. In order to continue their holiday they wanted to hire a car. In France we like to make life difficult and the hire companies only operate from Airports or other transport hubs. Our local supermarket has hire cars but only for French residents so we had to hire them a car so they could do their tour of the Loire Valley. They are due to return next week so we can take them back to the ferry on Tuesday when hopefully there will be no further strike action.

We have just arrived back home after the latest village repas at Brece. The lunch was in aid of the local sports club and for the main meal we had Mechoui. In the cuisine of Northern Africa, Méchoui is a whole sheep or a lamb spit-roasted on a barbecue. The word comes from the Arabic word šawa, which means "grilled, roasted". This dish is very popular in North Africa. There were around 200 people there and the roasted lamb was really excellent. Afterwards we watched the locals playing petanque. We returned home via Emile’s house for a coffee and of course some calvados.

So am now home and writing up the blog so that I can get to my seat to watch the football tonight at 9pm when France play Switzerland to see who comes top of the group. This will decide when they play the next round. If they win the next game is at 3pm next Sunday right in the middle of the next Repas at St. Simeon. Hopefully they will have a big screen!!

Allez les bleus