So, we have survived a weekend full of food, drink, games, laughter, more drink and a lot of walking. Our good friends Debi and Al, who I used to work with arrived for a visit on Friday evening and departed this morning to return to the UK. Sadly on Friday the weather was not good and we had a day of rain.

This immediately produced a problem for Debi on her arrival as she had not completed her daily task of making 10,000 steps as part of her slimming world regime. Interesting that I have used the word “regime”. In France going on a diet is to “suivre a regime” or to follow a diet. In France and in Britain this requires sticking to strict rules. For Debi, part of this is to complete 10,000 steps every day and she has managed to keep this up for well over a year. So when she arrived and it was pouring with rain she had no choice but to walk around our lounge to complete her tally. We very kindly set up a drinks station on our coffee table so that every so often she could pick up a glass of Kir to keep her going. The task was successfully completed in time for dinner and Mrs. Parish had prepared a lovely boeuf bourguignon, with dauphinoise potatoes. We then had a lovely chocolate dessert prepared by our Boulanger/patisserie (all washed down with some lovely French wine: a haut-medoc red and some white Touraine sauvignon.

France is a hard place to come if you are following a diet but Debi had been working hard to prepare for her visit by losing 3.5 pounds over the previous week. So to maintain the regime we planned some walking sightseeing for the next day with a visit to Bagnoles de l’Orne. This is a spa town about 30 minutes away from us and has a self guided walk around the town with its Belle Epoch houses and central boating lake together with thermal baths and a lovely park. Ideal for getting to the 10,000 steps. When we arrived we discovered that somehow Debi had gained a bonus of 3,000 steps which her computer showed she had already done. We reckoned some bumpy country roads in the car may have boosted her totals. The steps are counted by a device that is carried and counts movement. But we managed to complete the steps without too much trouble. Helped of course by a rather nice tartiflette  (a lovely French dish of potato and bacon covered with melted cheese).

Debi checks her steps by the lake at Bagnoles de l'Orne

For dinner we brought home some rather lovely fish in a prepared meal from our local Charcuterie. We had a grenadier cooked in a citron sauce. The grenadier is a deep sea fish and very ugly although it was lovely to eat, accompanied by a very nice Cheverny (a white wine from the Loire Valley. We had to eat more tart from the Boulanger. This time a caramel tart.

We had Sunday lunch at our favourite restaurant, La Marjolaine, which is just outside Mayenne. In order to maintain the step requirement we parked the car, alongside the river and had a twenty minute walk to the restaurant. This had the effect of giving us a healthy appetite and enjoying a superb meal. After a walk back to the car and some more circulation in our lounge Debi was able to complete her schedule in time for some pate and cheese for supper!

Of course as well as eating and drinking we also played some games. Al is a serious backgammon player and we have to play a series of games to see who can be the current champion (for some bizarre reason known only to the French it is called Tric-Trac in France). Anyway we usually have a series of tense and close games to see who can win. Alan of course is renowned for his incredible luck at throwing dice. Indeed in our first game I was poised to win when Al threw a double three to snatch victory from me. It is generally agreed by all those who play Al that he is in league with the devil and that is where he gets his luck from. Hence the reference to “Sympathy for the devil” which is a song track by the Rolling Stones and coincidentally came up on one of the discs in Alan’s car when we were out and about.

This time the devil’s luck ran out and I emerged as the triumphant winner of the tournament. I tried not to brag too much. We also played a game called Articulate which involves giving clues to your partner who must then guess the word on the card. We play this every time Al and Debi come over. This never stops Al from forgetting both the name of the game and the fact that we always play it. He said on Friday that he had a good game at home but he had forgotten the name and could have brought it with him. We then said is that it is Articulate, which we always play here!! Despite this uncertain start Al and I won both the games we played somehow. When asked for the name of a bird which was the same as a single letter of the alphabet coming after H and I, Al was completely confused. However our minds are clearly well attuned as we rallied from this low point to win comfortably against Mrs. Parish and Debi.

If all this was not exciting enough we had once more a surreal experience at our local supermarket. Last week we had the visiting circus in the car park and the encounter with the white tiger. This week we arrived to see a sign up outside the door which encouraged us to come shopping with the Schtroumpfs. It was only by looking at the large poster that we realised this was the French name for the Smurfs. I am not keen and these creatures are probably the least likely things I would want to go shopping with. Fortunately we were not terrorised by anyone dressed up as a Schtroumpf and managed to avoid any further intrusion into our shopping apart from the fact that the piped music playing was “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles. I have no idea why. But often “why?” doesn’t really work in France so you just shrug your shoulders and carry on.

I have had a sore throat and cold for most of the last week. It could be the effect of having a flu jab the previous week. Now I am 65 I become entitled to all sorts of exciting things and the flu jab is just one of them. I had to go to my GP and get a form to take to the chemist to get the solution which then I had to take to the local district nurse so she could inject me. It is all free so why not. I had to explain to the nurse that I preferred Emile’s anti flu precaution of drinking calvados. Anyway, I have had this sore throat and one apparent remedy is to take a Grog before going to bed. Grog is a mixture of calvados and hot water. You can put sugar into it but it is a bit too sweet for me. So a grog before bedtime seemed good to me and better than throat medicines. It has worked as the sore throat has now gone.

Autumn is now in full flow and as we have had more rain this has watered the soil and as a result we had had several mole incursions. I have been out to shout and swear and sing to them but we have had a few mole incidents. Moggie decided to intervene and managed to catch himself a mole. He was muttering about a reward and that surely there should be a price per tail for catching moles. The French for mole is a “Taupe” and taupiers or mole catchers were listed in the census details 100 years ago when they got paid by the tail for getting rid of moles. There is still someone in the commune who is paid to catch Coypu which have escaped into the wild in France and become quite a nuisance. The coypu catcher has to take the tail into the local mayor to get paid!

Archie and Moggie help to box up the wine

Wrapping Christmas Presents

Well it has been a quiet and rainy Monday and Mrs. Parish has disappeared to her sewing garret to make things for Christmas. I on the other hand have just put bottles of wine into boxes ready to take over to England for presents. Which reminds me that it will soon be time once again for an aperitif or should I abstain after a weekend full of wine. I think I may need a little something to help me work through that problem.

Bonne semaine