It is bank holiday Monday in Britain, so of course it is raining and it is also raining here and after a morning of heavy drizzle it is now pouring down. With true British spirit we sigh and concentrate on indoor jobs. The cats are also concentrating on indoor jobs by sleeping away the day. On days like this they invoke the bad weather clause in their contracts and disappear upstairs on the bed to sleep until it stops raining. 

Last week we celebrated the fact that we have now been living in France for 2 years. Of course we marked the occasion by a visit to the local butchers and had his take away meal. A lovely crab salad followed by roast beef and then we purchased a very nice chocolate dessert from the local baker’s shop. We then had the meal in the evening with some nice expensive wine. To be able to get such superb home cooked food from our local shops is one of the great things about living in France.

Rural France is such a delight. Everything happens at its own pace. People are very friendly and helpful and also very relaxed. Although they work very hard, there is a less materialistic approach and as a result people seem much happier. August is a very good example as lots of the shopkeepers have their 2 weeks holiday during August. Here most just put a sign on the door with the date they return and you just go to another butcher or baker that fortnight. Some days in August it can be tricky finding fresh bread but it is not really a problem and no-one complains, it is just August they say. Our friend Emile has been trying to get a replacement part for his tractor but the supplier is closed. It’s August, says Emile and gives a Gallic shrug (my spell checker wants to make this a garlic shrug!!).

I think it is nice too that shops are closed on a Sunday. Small shops are open in the mornings for bread and papers etc but all the supermarkets and DIT places are all closed. In does make Sunday a special day. You are not supposed to use garden machinery and so mostly the area is quiet and families do get together for lunch. Mrs. Parish and I have now taken to our bicycles for a Sunday morning ride out. We do a trip to a nearby village called St. Fraimbault, get some bread and have a coffee in the local bar. The church is just across the square from the bar and after morning service there is a ready procession of elderly French church goers who stroll across the square for an aperitif and a chat, before going off for Sunday lunch. It is a round trip of about 18 kilometres and despite the fact that we are in a very flat bit of France there seems to be quite a few hills.

In 2 years we have done a lot of work both to the house and gite as well as the garden and of course the wild area at the bottom of the big field. We are now in the process of replacing the wood burner with a new model so that when winter comes not only will we have plenty of wood ready to burn, new front doors that do not let in the draft but also and brand new and efficient wood burner. We are also in the process of replacing the shower in the gite with a new one. That work will be done in the winter when all the paying guests have gone. We have a nice family of Germans from Canada at the moment! So that means we have had Australians, Americans and Canadians as guests. Truly the world comes to La Godefrere!

In two years I have become an expert in many things and now I can add motor mower repair man to the list. I have already replaced the battery and changed the air filter. This last week I borrowed a jack from a neighbour to have a look at the cutting blades as I had noticed that it was not cutting properly. The blades are worn out and a bit bashed probably where I have tried to mow over tree stumps! So with some assistance from my neighbour Peter we got the mower jacked up and removed one of the blades to get a part number. Of course the machine is so old that you can’t get exactly the same part. Anyway with the wonders of the internet I have been able to source suitable blades and some new anti-scalping wheels. It is a whole new exciting world and when I get a problem there is always some helpful YouTube film to watch showing how to do things!!

The other feature of my two years here is what a constant battle against nature living in the countryside is. Moles, wasps, hornets, snakes, ants, caterpillars, mice, shrews, stone martens, rabbits and hares, fruit and nut eating birds are among many living creatures that seem determined to make my life difficult. It is quite like war of the worlds here at times. In the last week we have discovered that our vanishing mole has reappeared but this time over in Peter’s garden. I explained to him that this was a new export policy we had adopted to get rid of our moles. Mrs. Parish has been at war with a whole nest of wasps who decided it would be a good idea to make their nest in her allotment. So we now have shares in the wasp spray can industry and seem to have spent several nights risking life and limb to spray the nest. Hopefully last night we were successful. We can’t go and look as its pouring with rain still. Last night we also noticed a couple of hornets had dropped down the chimney and were stuck with a very load buzz in the wood burner. 

It is not just animals that conspire to make life difficult. We have loads of weeds that seem to grow and grow, apples and pears which constantly drop off the trees before they are ripe resulting in back breaking bending to pick them up. And brambles that shoot out from the hedge rows. One iron rule seems to be that whenever we are clearing garden debris away there is always a bramble and it always manages to rip the skin off your legs. After a bit of clearance work this week I have a six inch scar down the back of one leg and at least 10 other scars, all caused by brambles. And after all this we now come to Worts. As I think I have told you we have top quality grass in our hay field and one of the plants that we must not have is Ragwort which apparently is poisonous to horses. So we found one or two plants in the hedgerows near the field and I was sent into the undergrowth to despatch them before they produced seed. The problem is that Ragwort (bad) looks a lot like St. John’s Wort (good). Why is this necessary, why could they not be entirely different? You see nature likes to make things as difficult as possible. So now I am sent off on Ragwort patrol. I noticed a whole load on the other side of the steam at the bottom of the big field and so found a suitable crossing and went behind enemy lines on a search and destroy mission. So our grass is still top quality and they should be round to cut it again soon. More money for watching the grass grow.

Of course there are compensations in nature and as well as watching some lovely animals and a great collection of birds and bats, we are surrounded by livestock. The herd of cattle has now moved into the field behind the gite to graze the grass there. There are around 50 cows and calves and the very large bull. They can now come right up to our garden fence, so we can talk to them. And of course we have our sheep, although we are now down to just two ewes. The lambs were taken to the abattoir a few weeks ago and now the ewes are being taken in turn for a blind date with a local ram. So more lambs for us to look after next year.

My new friend no. 4049

And then of course there are the cats! What to say about them. I did rather curse them as last night they seemed to be having a cat fight right outside the house at about 2 am. This morning we have a dead field mouse on the front doorstep. The cats have now woken up from an all day sleep and have started to demand their tea, even though it is still nearly an hour until tea time. I think Minou needs the toilet as she is fidgeting about but she won’t go outside in the rain. Because of the rain I will be despatched to take the cats food over to the shed so they can eat in the dry. I have to get wet so the cats can keep dry. This tells you a lot about the pecking order here at La Godefrere!

It is still raining and Mrs. Parish is finding indoor jobs to do including bizarrely making chocolate courgette cake. This does not sound right at all. Minou is helping by attacking spare courgettes in the basket.

I think it must be time for a little something to celebrate again the last two years. Here’s to the next 2.

Bonne santé