So, we are at the end of another week in France as we move into December. The weather has turned cold and windy. One the best bits of living in rural France is being able to wrap up warm and walk around the garden and fields that make up our property. Walking round the nature trail in our big field I can look out across the neighbouring fields and watch flocks of Lapwings, one minute feeding in the fields and then as one taking of and wheeling and swirling around before coming back to land in the field.

I have just been out and around the grounds, mostly to get some fresh air after another late Saturday night at the Repas for the neighbouring commune. Back home around 2am, but more about this later in the blog. Returning from a cold and windy walk I came into the house to be greeted by the smell of mince pies and sausage rolls. Mrs. Parish had been busy in my absence. So of course I have had to quality test both pies and rolls and I can report that Mrs.Parish has maintained her excellent standards. What could be better than a brisk walk and home for sausage rolls and mince pies. And as we approach Christmas it can only get better!

Minou guarding the Christmas walnuts

While walking around the grounds I kept an eye out for any further signs of activity by the boars. Mrs. Parish and I had tried to fill in as many holes as we could in the past few days, mainly so we could assess whether the boars were still about or whether they had moved on.  It would seem that the boars have got bored with us and have moved on. There was no sign of new boar activity. It could well be that my singing has persuaded the boars to move on. Certainly this retreat by the boars has been matched by the moles withdrawing from our garden. They had been using the diversion caused by the boars to make incursions into the exclusion zone. Since the boars have gone the moles have made a strategic withdrawal. So all is quiet out in our grounds.

When I say all quiet, this obviously excludes noises made by humans. Yesterday the air was somewhat blue out in the courtyard. I had decided to use a bit of time while the sun was out and it was a bit warmer to do some winter maintenance on the new tractor mower. When I bought the tractor it came with a huge instruction manual. It was so big as all the instructions were in about 10 different languages. Fortunately one section is in English (I would not have fancied reading a technical manual in French!). Anyway, according to the manual after the first 8 hours of use of the tractor you should change the oil and replace the oil filter. The manual is very friendly and has lots of pictures with bits labelled up. So it would be a nice easy job and should only take half an hour. So I thought.

The first step was to drain the oil from the machine into a bowl. This was relatively easy. It would have been totally simple were it not for Moggie arriving to help me. He jumped up onto the engine and was about to jump on the bowl into which was draining some very dirty oil. The prospect of cleaning the floor and a very oily cat flashed across my mind. I just managed to catch Moggie as he tottered on the brink. I persuaded Moggie to sit on the seat and under his supervision attempted to remove the oil filter. According to the friendly and helpful manual all I had to do was turn it in an anti-clockwise direction. Mind you reading the manual became increasingly difficult as Moggie managed to sit on it with muddy paws!

Moggie, threatening to jump in the oil!

The filter resolutely refused to move an inch despite my increasingly desperate attempts to turn it. When even swearing would not work, I decided that help might be needed. So I phoned my neighbour and fellow member of our tractor club to ask for his advice. You need an oil filter wrench says he. It is impossible to do it by hand.  There is no mention of difficulty or extra equipment mentioned in the now not so helpful manual. Do you have a wrench I asked hopefully? Ah no says John but I think you should be able to do it with a bit of wood and a length of rope. My incredulous reply of “what?” brought forth an offer of help and John duly arrived about 10 minutes later.

John explained that by using a piece of wood drilled with some holes we could attach the rope and fix this the filter and use it as a lever. So we proceeded over the next hour to make various attempts to attack the filter. Now the filter of course is not in an easily accessible place and we could not get enough leverage. We decided to give it up and for me to get a wrench next week. A bit later on I get a call from John who is determined not to be beaten by the problem and has come up with a new idea. So back he comes and we get a new bit of wood and drill more holes and tie this around the oil filter and manage to use the wood to create some leverage. John is holding the wood while at the other end I am holding the rope and pulling as hard as I can. Something has to give. Is that the filter moving or am I getting delirious. The rope gave out and snapped causing me to fall head over heels backwards while John bashed his hand and drew blood.

Mrs. Parish arrived as the La Godefrere first aider and after administering assistance surveys our dismal efforts to undo the filter.  She examined our lever device and then announces that this is similar to a device she has for getting lids off jars. John and I now hate the oil filter and are willing to try anything. We try the jam jar lid opener and to our utter astonishment it works!!

Later we are all at Emile’s for aperitifs as a prelude to the evening’s repas at Brece. John and I are telling the tale of how it took us nearly 3 hours to remove the filter and risked death and serious injury in the process. Emile, smiles that old French farmer look and says all we needed to do as we were replacing the filter was to hammer a screwdriver through the filter and then turn. John and I are deflated, beaten first by a domestic implement and put in our place by a French farmer!! We resorted to drowning our sorrows.

It is election day in France today. Elections for the regional councils. Our local newspaper which is very good on reporting political issues had the brilliant headline of “aux urnes citoyens” after the words “aux armes citoyen” from the French national anthem. It means “to the ballot boxes citizens”. It was followed up by a leader which called for all French people to stand up for democracy and go out and vote, particularly following the Paris shootings. The paper went further with this excellent bit of advice “Non au vote de reflexe; oui au vote de reflexion”. It means don’t vote as a reflex or knee jerk reaction, yes to vote after proper reflection and thought. A thinly veiled appeal not to vote for extreme candidates like the Front National.

Finally to report that we went to another great village repas last night in Brece for the small village of Lesbois. We had pot au feu which is slow cooked beef with potato, cabbage, carrot, leek and turnip. The stock it is cooked in is served with bread as a soup for a starter. There were over 300 there and the meal was superb. Washed down with some nice French wine. After we were entertained by Didier who played an accordion, but also a trumpet and sometime both at the same time. He was accompanied by Irma on drums. They were very good and kept going from the end of the meal around 10-20 until we left at 1-30am. They said they were going on until 6am and it looked like some of the locals were geared up for a long nights dancing. We of course went back to Emile’s for a night cap and either coffee and calv or grog which is hot water and calva. I had a grog and as a result slept very well when we finally got home after 2pm, to be met by three cats, who were very angry that they had to wait so long for supper!!

Didier the one man band at Brece

Mrs.Parish has just reported that she has a spare sausage roll that will not fit into the box. Would I like to help her out by eating it? I think we all know the answer to that. And I figured a sausage roll would go quite nicely with an aperitif. It has been a good afternoon. Sausage rolls and my football team Exeter City won in the second round of the FA Cup. Cause for a celebration.

Bon Dimanche