It has been a quiet week and not much has happened. We are in a kind of mid Christmas limbo. As I mentioned last week we are awaiting the arrival of our son, Ian and his wife, Emma along with friend Sarah. They arrive tomorrow and we can then officially start Christmas no.3. So this week has been pretty much spent preparing for their arrival.

We have had to go out and do lots of shopping and the cart seemed to be outweighed by alcohol and cheese. We especially had to get some Beaujolais so that we can use this to marinade the leg of lamb that has been waiting in the freezer for just this occasion. The leg of lamb is from one of the sheep that grazed in our paddock last spring and summer. These are the ugly French sheep that have very red faces. But they are very nice to eat. So we are planning to have this on Monday evening. I also bought some very nice red wine to have with the meal and some sparkling Loire valley wine for the aperitifs.

Now Monday is going to be a bit confusing because as well as our 3rd Christmas, Monday is also Ian’s 40th birthday!! Those who know me will be now shocked and will be saying that cannot be possible, Graham is far too young to have a 40 year old son. Sadly it is true. But it does give a great opportunity to celebrate and we will do so in French style and we have already been to the local baker to order a special birthday cake, they will make for us.

Life will also be complicated as Ian and Emma have two dogs who are coming with them. Tomo, a three-legged Keeshond has been before and has started to form a relationship with our three cats. They don’t much like him but he brings with him food opportunities. He tends to leave some of his dog food, to come back to later. This is a mistake with pour cats around. They will steal food that is on the table or even in wrappers, so a bowl of food on the floor is fair game!!

Ian and Emma have a new dog called Kiki. He is a rescue dog from Romania and she hasn’t been here before so this will be a new experience for the cats to have another dog to steal food from. It will be an interesting experience for the cats to have two dogs to cope with. They have got into a nice routine at the moment as according to the winter contract they are entitled to a certain amount of indoor sofa time. This now starts at about 1 hour in the afternoons before tea time and then for a similar period before supper time in the evenings. Now of course at exactly 1 hour before food time they form a procession out of the barn, through the cat flap (which is still propped into the open position) and across the courtyard to take up their window positions from which they can begin intimidation tactics to be let in. You can almost set your watch by them. 

3pm and the cats in position for intimidation. Let us in or else!

Once inside they find the sofa for about half an hour and then start to agitate for their tea/supper. Resisting this torture is difficult but this afternoon I was resolute and they had their tea, dead on 4pm.

Anyway the lamb has been taken out of the freezer, yesterday to allow sufficient time for it to defrost. The defrosting has really to be done in the fridge as this is cat proof. Anywhere unguarded would put the lamb feast at risk. So it is now in the fridge in the cave behind three doors two of which are firmly locked. The lamb should be safe and we are now ready for a week of eating and drinking, with a few board games thrown in!! Christmas no.4 with Amy and Charlotte is the following week.

So it has been quiet here and the weather has been awful which has meant that we have spent most of the week cooped up in the house with the wood burner roaring away. We did have a sunny spell and a bit of excitement earlier in the week. I have reported before that Mrs. Parish is very keen on fire. She loves a bonfire and takes full control of the wood burner and especially the lighting of it. She likes nothing more than to poke around the fire with the poker before putting another log on. 

Mrs.Parish has now discovered a way to combine fire and gardening! She has bought herself a flamethrower to attack the weeds in the courtyard. This takes the form of a three headed stick with three nozzles from which flames emerge. The device is powered by a long pipe which is attached to a large canister of gas. The flamethrower is used to burn off the weeds which then die. Mrs. Parish had the chance to try it out and so is a very happy woman. It should be noted that Mrs. Parish can be lethal when confronted with things that get in her way. She has no mercy on moles, attack slugs and snails and now uses her heat ray on weeds. Note to self, be sure to not upset her!!

The three headed beast from Hell

As it has been quiet and an indoors week I have been reading my book on the Hundred Years War and also reading up about French Kings. I have mentioned before that many of them have been given names (Charles the Mad etc). Now I discover that French Kings die in bizarre circumstances and in ways which produce strange coincidences. So for example there are two French Kings who died as a result of hitting their heads on door lintels!

Louis III, who incidentally did not have a name, died on 5 August 882 at Saint-Denis in the centre of his realm, having fallen from his horse whilst chasing a girl with amorous intent. He hit the lintel of a door with his head while mounting his horse and fractured his cranium on impact. He could have been given the title Louis the softhead, I suppose.

Charles VIII, who was known as Charles the affable (which I think is the right sort of title for a king) died in 1498, as the result of an accident. While on his way to watch a game of jeu de paume (real tennis) in Amboise he struck his head on the lintel of a door.   At around 2 PM, while returning from the game, he fell into a sudden coma, and died nine hours later, perhaps of a subdural hematoma.

Now the links to headbanging form a strange coincidence but Charles was not the only King whose death was linked to a game of real tennis. Louis X (called the quarreller, because he fell out with everyone) was a keen player of real tennis, and became notable as the first person to construct indoor tennis courts in the modern style. Louis was unhappy with playing tennis out of doors and accordingly had indoor, enclosed courts made in Paris "around the end of the 13th century". In June 1316 at Vincennes, following a particularly exhausting game, Louis drank a large quantity of cooled wine and subsequently died of either pneumonia or pleurisy, although given his title there were plenty of possible options for the suspicion of poisoning. (I should make clear that at no time did Charles upset or quarrel with Mrs. Parish!) Because of the contemporary accounts of his death, Louis is history's first tennis player known by name.

Of course those of you who know your history will realise the irony of the royal tennis link. On 20th June 1789 the French Assembly was banned from meeting and moved to a nearby tennis court, where they swore an oath which pledged not to disband until a new constitution was agreed. A month later the revolution started!

The Tennis Court Oath by David a month before the storming of the Bastille

So, there you are some interesting and little known facts about the strange deaths of French Kings and links to the revolution. All this excitement in the blog and you get educated!! All this knowledge has given me a thirst so I think it is time for an aperitif. Mrs.Parish is getting restless for a drink so I don’t want to annoy her!

Bon dimanche,