All is calm once again here at La Godefrere after a challenging week. This morning Mrs. Parish and I took mother in law back to Rennes airport to catch the plane back to Exeter. She had been with us for a week, although at times it seemed longer! My brother in law John had accompanied her.

Mother in law is going well for a woman of 86 and she can certainly eat and drink! She polished off a full menu of food and even did justice to a full-on French meal at our favourite restaurant, La Marjolaine.  As I said in last week’s blog my mother in law likes to talk and consequently she doesn’t always listen and hence, problems arise. As last week’s question about my dead mother’s health showed!

This week she decided that our young male cat, Moggie was in fact a female and despite diplomatic attempts to correct her she was still saying she and her at the end of the week, and I had given up correcting her. Poor Moggie was quite confused but did use the attention to his advantage by grabbing bed space with MIL in the mornings.

On another occasion, the family who have been staying in the gite kindly offered us some cake the mum had made to bring on holiday. It was a porter cake made to an Irish recipe using Guinness to soak the fruit. Well, cake is always welcome in our house and so I gratefully accepted 4 large slices of cake and brought them back with the story of the cake’s origin. A few minutes later MIL suddenly says “So, the family in the gite are Irish, are they?” I explain that the cake is Irish but the family are very much English. Later MIL asked, “where in Ireland are they from?” I reached for the wine and I chanced my arm by explaining that the fact we were drinking French wine did not make us French. Mrs. Parish gave me a hard stare!

We went to La Marjolaine for lunch with our good friends Ian and Sarah who had with them Ian’s sister and brother in law. At the end of the meal we were all chatting generally and in a lull in conversation, Ian, who has a tendency to put his foot in it, said to MIL, “You look very well for a woman in her nineties.” A stony silence followed. Ian, realising he had made a faux pas, turned to me and made matters worse by saying to me “You told me she was 96!” It did have the effect of temporarily silencing MIL!

Still, she had a great time on her holiday and now Mrs. Parish and I are relaxed once again. However, there is now a great big hole where my wines were stored and I am going to have to restock! I did remark to Mrs. Parish on the way back from the airport, that I reckoned that Edvard Munch must have painted the scream during a long visit from his mother in law!

The scream by Edvard Munch, painted during a visit from his mother in law!

On Tuesday, which was a public holiday in France, we went to the nearby village of St. Fraimbault where they were holding their annual festival “Les flories d’antan” which is a festival of rural traditions. It is a great day out and there are street stalls selling local produce and crafts. In the afternoon, there are demonstrations of rural crafts and machinery showing how they harvested wheat and straw using steam driven machines. They also have a parade of vintage cars.

Of course, because we live in France, food forms an important part of any event. So, we had saucisse frites (sausage and chips) for lunch and then mid-afternoon we went to the ice cream stall for a little top up in the sustenance. I discovered to my great delight that they had calvados flavoured ice cream. Wow, what a great idea.

While at the festival we went into a quite remarkable exhibition, which we almost missed. While walking past a young French woman asked if we had seen the exhibition of models made by her father. No, we had not and so we went in. The young lady explained that the models were made by her father and all made from recycled cardboard. Her father was a retired stone mason and had made them all by hand. Well, we went inside and were completely bowled over by the sheer number of models and the incredible accuracy of their construction. 

Part of the collection of cardboard models

Cardboard models part 2

At first, we could not believe that they were made only from cardboard with a few small bits of wood. They looked like metal dinky models. Not only were they accurate models but also animated so the combine harvester blades went around, the saw mill operated with the saw working, windmills turned. It was absolutely incredible and all made by an unassuming, elderly Frenchman sat in his overalls. There were models of whole farms, saw mills, stone quarries etc.  The photographs I took show only a small part of the collection and doesn’t really do justice to the skilled craftsmanship on display.

As an end to the week I have to report on some ongoing sheep sagas. In the week Patrique brought round 4 new sheep to stay in our paddocks. This time it was three ewes and a ram. Clearly the ram had a job to do and he had a red stain on his chest which would stain the ewes when he mounted them. He seems to be doing a good job judging by the marks on the ewes. However, he does not appear to be the brightest ram on the block as he keeps putting his head through the fence around the paddock to get to grass on the outside. The grass is always greener, etc. The problem is that he keeps getting his head stuck through the fence.

Ram with three ewes

He then becomes stuck and makes an unholy racquet pulling his head back to try to get out. The fact that he is missing is that he has to twist his head to get through but forgets this when trying  to get free! So, Mrs. Parish goes to help him and he then pulls even harder and manages to get free but this is starting to weaken some of the fences. Eventually we are going to have an escaped ram, who will probably try to get at Giselle’s sheep and cause havoc and mayhem and no doubt ensuing paternity suits!

Our friends Ian and Sarah also have a sheep saga. Their farmer friend, Olivier has some sheep that he keeps in the field at Ian and Sarah’s house. Amongst the sheep is an ancient ewe that somehow (it is best not to ask) managed to avoid the abattoir and has kept going for some years. It is now so ancient that it is not much good for anything. It can barely walk and needs Sarah’s constant attention. However, Olivier reckons he has spent money on keeping and feeding the sheep. He has a plan to make merguez sausages from the ewe (a kind of spiced lamb sausage). To do this he must get it slaughtered and butchered and he wants to do this as cheaply as possible.

There has been talk of our neighbour Daniel being called in as a retired Charcutier to do the butchering (we effected an introduction but negotiations don’t seem to have started). Both sides have done a lot of shrugging and tutting so far! The problem has now been complicated by the ewe getting an infection and so it is too ill to be slaughtered and they have to wait until it is well enough to kill!!!!

Frankly we all think the best solution would be kill and bury the sheep as we cannot imagine it will be worth eating and none of us will accept barbecue invitations at the moment. But this is France and animals raised for food have to be used and not wasted. It is the French farmers code!  So, now the ewe is being nursed back to a state to become a whole load of sausages!

I think it may be no coincidence that Mrs. Parish has opted to make vegetarian lasagne for tonight’s dinner. I must go and see if I can find any wine worth drinking left in the cave.

Bon weekend