What a week! After a cold and wet week sunny days and soaring temperatures have arrived. La Godefrere is looking lovely as all the trees are coming out and the flowers are looking very colourful. It has been so warm that we have reverted to shorts and have been eating and drinking outside on the terrace. Being outside and enjoying a drink in the evening sun at 8pm is a delight.

But, the ice saints are coming this weekend!  In France les Saints de Glace have a special status. St Pancras, perhaps best known in Britain as a railway station, is a member of a trio of saints, the others are St Servatius and St Mamertus. Their fearsome threatening name comes from the traditional belief that their saints days, 11, 12 and 13 May, bring cold weather and the last frost of the year. Many gardeners in France will not plant until the Ice Saints have gone. 

The alleged mid-May cold spell was investigated by some pupils of Galileo, who diligently recorded the weather from 1655-70. They reported a marked cold snap over the days of the Ice Saints, and later studies seemed to confirm their finding. It was even theorised that a belt of asteroids blocked out the sun's rays over this period. But in 1902 William Dines, President of the Royal Meteorological Society, used modern statistical techniques to demonstrate that the Ice Saints were a myth, brought about by selective reporting.

The Ice Saints were often said to arrive early or late, and in meteorological terms, the last winter cold fronts do tend to pass by around this period. A review of Kew Gardens data from 1941-69 showed that 13 May was usually the warmest day of the month but was followed by a sharp drop in temperature. Whether unreliability and lack of punctuality are enough to dispel all credence in Saints de glace is left to personal judgment!

Aside from the excitement of the weather there are other interesting occurrences. Most disturbing is the puzzle of the disappearing ants. Down at the ant experience there is a definite lack of ants. It seems they have jumped ship and moved to a more favourable nest. Usually by this time of year the ants have revived from their winter hibernation and are manically rebuilding the nest. This year there were some signs of the ants but then they decided to leave. It may have been something I said or perhaps I will get a demand to renegotiate their contract.

When I looked yesterday there were a few more ants about but they didn’t seem to be rebuilding. Possibly a May Day protest or a full-on strike! 

While the ants have disappeared, we have more visitors caught on our trail camera. There was a picture of a strange beast riding a mighty steed and in no way getting too close to the muddy bits or any inconvenient trees. Mrs. Parish need have no fears this time.

Me keeping well away from the mud!!

As well as the usual and more unusual suspects on camera, this week we caught a buzzard which landed right next to the trail camera and then we got another picture as it flew off. It did not seem to have caught anything. 

Buzzard by the trail camera

May 1st marked the 50th anniversary of the May 68 civil unrest in France. The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions, values and order. It then spread to factories with strikes involving 11 million workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time, for two continuous weeks. The movement was characterized by its spontaneous and de-centralized wildcat disposition; this created contrast and sometimes even conflict between itself and the establishment, trade unions and workers' parties. 

The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quell those strikes by police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in Paris's Latin Quarter, followed by the spread of general strikes and occupations throughout France. De Gaulle fled to a French military base in Germany, and after returning dissolved the National Assembly, and called for new parliamentary elections for 23 June 1968. Violence evaporated almost as quickly as it arose. Workers went back to their jobs on the promise of pay increases and a limit of 40 hours to the working week, and when the elections were finally held in June, the Gaullist party emerged even stronger than before.

Poster from May 1968

However, the impact of the unrest was a significant shift in social attitudes, a liberalisation of moral positions and an improvement in the rights of women. Within a year De Gaulle had resigned. 

For us May day is a bit more relaxed and we usually walk to La Pas, the next village around half an hour walk. On May Day they have a vide-grenier (car boot sale) and we have a drink at the local bar (Chez Fanfy). We also have a traditional sausage with frites for lunch. This year we went there with our son, Ian and daughter-in-law, Emma with two of their friends Luke and Liam. A chance in introduce them to the joys of a public holiday in France and they had a great time.

Sadly, on Friday they had to leave after a week staying in the gite. They seemed to have a good time, judging by the number of visits to the recycling centre to get rid of empty wine and beer bottles.

We now await the arrival next Saturday of our good friends Sandy and Kathy who arrive on Friday for a week’s stay. Sandy is very good at helping me tidy up bottles of whisky that are half full. No doubt there will be a lot of tidying to do. As a consequence, the blog may be a bit late next week.

John, our English neighbour is here for a week with some golfing friends. We are now off to join them for a drink. According to tradition we will also have to visit the Michelin star restaurant L’Eveil des Sens on Wednesday. It is a tough life living here in France.

Bonne soiree