The French like a good strike and at the moment it seems as if everyone is on strike! The train drivers , air traffic control, airline pilots, nuclear power workers have all taken action over the past week. Before that the unions were blockading the oil refineries creating a real problem of getting hold of fuel.

The dispute is all about France’s Labour laws which afford good protection for workers. The French have a legal right to a 35 hours week and it is very difficult for French companies to make staff redundant if the company is making money. French workers also have rights to good pension arrangements. Because of the state of the economy the Government, which is a socialist government, wants to remove some of these protections to make it easier to take on more employees. Conversely this would also make it easier to sack people. The illogical argument is that if it is easier to sack people them employers will take on more staff! The consequence would also be to enable employers to require longer working hours and reduce pension entitlement.

Not surprisingly the French unions and a lot of French people think this is a bad idea and in true French style they take to the streets, get hold of some old tyres to set fire to and generally create mayhem. The French in general have the view that workers contribute to the success of companies and the wealth they create and that therefore it is only right that the workers should share the benefits. French workers also believe that if necessary they will defend their rights by demonstrating and by going on strike.

We had a discussion at our Cafe and Conversation group last week and the French people who were there were generally sympathetic to the workers point of view. We told them that in Britain there were workers on zero hours contracts who did not know from week to week what if any hours of work they would get. They were astounded and said why did the workers not take to the streets in protest. Sadly in Britain it is much more difficult to go on strike and workers are much more compliant than in France.

Luckily we had just filled up the car when the oil refinery blockade started and so we were able to cope as being retired meant we did not need to use the car very much. It was more of a problem not being able to fill up jerry cans to use for the tractor and the mower. The grass was growing before our eyes as we tried to eke out the fuel supply. Fortunately this part of the dispute was over quite quickly and we were able to get back to keeping the grass under control!

The cats have put us under notice that they are considering coming out in sympathy as they have some issues about their pension arrangements and hours of work. 

As well as being a country of strikes France is also a country of saints and each day is a different saint’s day. Our French calendar has all the saints days itemised and I was amused to discover that today is St. Igor’s day. Interestingly Igor is Igor of Kiev and became a monk after big quarrel with his brother which ended up with Igor being thrown into a pit for a while. When he was eventually released a local mob decided that he was a threat to the throne and promptly murdered him, by destroying the balcony he was standing on thus resulting in him falling to his death. This was in 1147. Of course I can’t hear the name Igor without thinking of Frankenstein and his monster. Igor was always the crook backed assistant!

More interestingly I find that tomorrow is St. Norbert’s day. St. Norbert was a bit less violent but was nearly killed by a thunderbolt in 1113 in Germany. He was quite a severe ascetic and managed by the severity of his regime to kill his first three disciples. He did go on to become an archbishop and died in office without the attentions of any mob. Of course to someone of my age any one called Norbert is a Nobby after the great Nobby Stiles who played in England’s world cup winning team in 1966. Of course there is also the thought that St Nobby might just be the patron saint of French cocks!!

The weather has been a little strange recently and after some rainy weather it has settled into a run of overcast but warm weather. We have not seen the sun much but at least it is fry and warm. Today we have spent the day sat around in the garden with all the cats who have also been very busy helping us to enjoy the garden which Mrs. Parish has been working on. The garden area and our courtyard are full of colour and we have also invested in some new garden chairs. The cats are particularly impressed with these and have tested them thoroughly.

Archie and Moggie testing out the new chairs

Minou testing the old bench

The dry weather has also meant we have been able to get on with doing some work in the garden and around our nature trail. We have been strimming and hedge trimming and also cutting back the grass. This has improved the path around our big field and made it easier to see some of the plants that we have put in at the bottom of the big hay field near the stream. The hay has now been cut and is been turned daily before being bailed up next week. The warm weather has resulted in us hearing the hoopoe once again. It arrived a month ago and then the weather turned cold and we did not hear the hoopoe so it must have gone back south to find some warm weather. We have also heard the turtle dove who also disappeared when it got cold.

While working down at the bottom of the hay field I heard a bird singing that we could not recognise. Of course it was one of those birds that sings from the middle of a large bush. I heard the singing for several days and never got a glimpse to be able to identify it. In the end we went through the RSPB catalogue of bird song to try to indentify the song. Eventually we worked out that it must be a Melodious Warbler, a summer visitor. I have never seen one before as it is a rare visitor to Britain but fairly common in France. Of course the day after we identified the sound I managed to get a good view while working and could then clearly identify it.

We now have quite an array of summer visiting birds including blackcap, whitethroat, willow warbler, chiff chaff and redstart. This makes the walk along the bottom field by the stream a really nice experience with a range of bird song. The butterflies are also now starting to come out with the warmer weather and we have seen a swallowtail, painted lady, red admiral and a spotted wood this week. The bats have also started to be seen more frequently as the warmer weather arrives and there are more moths around.

All this sitting in the garden has given me an appetite and of course it is essential in France to have an aperitif so I had better go and organise some drinks.

There will be no blog next week as I will be away visiting a friend. But when I return we will be into the Euro football tournament which is taking place in France. So wall to wall football for the next month and we have had to invest in a large screen TV to ensure we get the full experience!

Bon weekend