One of the pleasant things about living in rural France is that you get to meet such interesting people. I think it helps that we are good friends with our neighbours, Giselle and Daniel and with Emile and Yvette. In a rural community, they seem to know everybody and in a lot of cases are distantly related. For example, we have got to know a French famer, Olivier and his wife, Valerie through some English friends. It turns out that Valerie is a distant cousin of Giselle.

Anyway, we were at home last week and talking to Giselle in the lane when a car pulled up. They were friends of Giselle and Daniel. The man was called Louis and he used to live in Couesmes-Vauce when he was young and at one time was Daniel’s neighbour when he lived in the village. He is in his eighties and remembered visiting our house when he was a young man. So, we invited him to come and have a look at the house now. He could remember it before when it was an old farmhouse and barn. He knew the old French couple who lived here and told us about how Monsieur Gallien liked his drink a little too much! So much so that on one occasion he decided to paint the front of the house blue. You can still see places where the paint has resisted attempts to clean it off.

As is normal, we were invited back to Giselle’s for coffee and had a long and fascinating chat to Louis who served in the French Army in Algeria. He could also remember the occupation of France during the war and he was 10 at the time of the liberation. In Couesmes the American army arrived on 6th August 1944, 73 years ago today. As Louis is a veteran he honours the liberation with other army veterans and as he was preparing for the 6th August he had with him several old photos of the Americans with the local people including his brother and two sisters. 

As part of their celebrations of the liberation Louis also carries with him, his old service bugle and he proceeded to go through some of his repertoire and in Giselle’s yard managed to make quite a noise. Even in his eighties he had enough puff to play his bugle. A very nice and very interesting man and it was a pleasure to talk to him.

When they arrived, I was in the middle of doing the ironing (in French ”faire le repassage”). This is a fascination for older French people. When Louis’ wife saw what I was doing she commented with some amazement about seeing a man doing the ironing. Mrs. Parish of course pointed out that it was only square ironing: sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases etc. I have not yet graduated to complicated things like shirts. Mind you, even my limited ironing is far more than what most rural Frenchmen would contemplate. Emile is still of the school that believes his job is to drive the car to the supermarket and then to wait in the car while Yvette goes in to do the actual shopping!

So, I like to see myself as something of a beacon of good practice in rural France. Mrs. Parish says that I need a lot more practice before I can claim such an accolade!

Of course, we are now in August and you would be forgiven for thinking that all of France is closed for the month as everyone seems to be on holiday. In Ambrieres our boulangerie is on holiday for three weeks and the shop closed. At least there is another baker in the town and they coordinate their holidays. But it does mean that the whole town must rely on one shop, where the owner does not think it necessary to get in extra staff. So, we now have bread queues snaking out from the bakery down the street.

The local restaurants also get their holidays in, but there is little coordination here and little in the way of advertising so finding a lunch time meal can take a little longer than anticipated as you have to drive around to find the one which is open. The restaurant trade must be good as the owner of the one at St. Mars was telling us last week that he was off to Morocco for 2 weeks.

We have just arrived home from the local Couesmes event. It is called a “Poursuite sur terre). Literally a chase on the land. There is a grass/dirt track around a large field and men in rather battered old cars race around the track in varying size cars. As this is a French affair it is naturally organised around lunch, with the usual 4 course meal served in rather large tents. The food is as ever well cooked and there was a choice between a huge lamb chop or a smaller pork chop but with the addition of a sausage. Plus, frites as is normal and as usual lots of wine. You queue up for the food and then find a seat on benches in the tent.

A dead racing car being carried off

Once lunch is finished the racing begins and more often than not there are numerous crashes and engine failures. The cars that break down are picked by a rather large tractor and carried, unceremoniously off the track. Sadly, this is the last year this event will be held as the land has been sold.

The cats have been complaining that there is far too much attention being paid to the hens in recent blogs and that I should write more about them. The problem with the cats in the summer is that they don’t do much apart from laze about the place soaking up the sun. They do bother to turn up for meals. They still have the knack of charming our gite visitors and this past week we have had some return visitors who even brought with them some cat treats. So, the cats have had a good week. So did we as the guests also brought us a large bag supply of tea bags!

Cats normal pose at the moment

The weather has been indifferent for the past couple of weeks but at least it is giving the garden a chance to recover. We have had to water the courtyard almost every evening and it is looking good. Also Mrs. Parish has been watering the vegetable garden and we are having a bumper crop of blackberries, tomatoes and green beans. So much so that at every meal I am asked the question “you will want a tomato with that, won’t you?”

The gite from the gate with floral display

At least it is now sunny and I can once again sit out in the garden to write up the blog. It is probably time for a little drink to help the creative juices. Although, I have just finished the blog so maybe as a sort of post blog relaxation!
Bon sante, Graham