It is now the middle of January. Whatever happened to December and the beginning of January? I turned my back for a moment and they were gone. Now it is 21 January all of a sudden. Mind you with the interminable rain and wind, every day seems the same and Mrs. Parish and I have to remind ourselves what day it is and what time of day. It is just a vision of rain and greyness. We have been reduced to monitoring our new weather station and muttering “do you know that we have had 15mm of rain today and that the wind speed is now 30km per hour. 

More about the weather later but first some interesting news that President Macron has offered to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain, The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres (230 ft.) long and 50 centimetres (20 in) tall, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle. It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans.

The Bayeux tapestry is one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque .... Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous. The tapestry consists of some fifty scenes embroidered on linen with coloured woollen yarns. It is likely that it was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William's half-brother, and made in England—not Bayeux—in the 1070s. In 1729 the hanging was rediscovered by scholars at a time when it was being displayed annually in Bayeux Cathedral. The tapestry is now exhibited at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux.

The designs on the Bayeux Tapestry are embroidered rather than woven, so that it is not technically a tapestry. Nevertheless, it has always been referred to as a tapestry until recent years, when the name "Bayeux Embroidery" has gained ground among certain art historians. I don’t think that will catch on! The French, of course, call it “La telle du conquest” or the “Cloth of the Conquest”. Emphasising from the French point of view the fact that the French conquered Britain!

On 18th January 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the Bayeux Tapestry would be loaned to Britain for public display. It is expected to be exhibited at the British Museum in London from 2022. It will be the first time that the Tapestry has left France in 950 years.

The tapestry is well worth a visit if you are in France and the exhibition of the cloth is superb in a special room where the lighting is controlled to prevent deterioration.  When we visited some years ago we were fascinated to see the detail in each panel and how the story unfolds. We were also amused by a strange American who came into the darkened room with his movie camera glued to his eye. After a few minutes he grumbled to his wife that he could not film as the light was too poor and simply walked off to the exit without so much as a glance at the actual tapestry!

Back to the weather and this has become a bit of a challenge for the hens. I mentioned last week that we had moved the hens up to the courtyard, next to the gite, to give the hen house some protection. This is OK as when they are in for the night there is shelter and the hen house is not in danger of being blown over. The problems arise when the hens are out as they want to go across the yard to shelter in the lean to shed next the house. This exposes them to the wind and in particular to gusts as they pass the hedge. If the wind comes around the hedge it blows full in the face of the hens thus stopping them from crossing. To get across the hens have to tack like a sailing boat by walking diagonally and then at an angle back towards the shed.

The hens take over the shed

We spent an amusing half an hour watching the hens struggle against the wind. They have spent a lot of time in the lean to shed to get some shelter. They have been sat next to the tractor and making dust baths in the earth floor. From time to time they get up and sit on the logs in the wood pile. At least they are out of the wind and rain. The cats have just disappeared into the cat palace and don’t come out unless it is close to meal times. 

For Mrs. Parish and I we have had to find indoor jobs to do and we have been doing a bit of decorating both in the house and the gite. Mrs. Parish has her knitting and sewing to get on with so this week I decided it was time to don the apron and get on with some serious cooking as well as sorting my Calva collection.

Le chef (or maybe "here's Johnny!"

For cooking I was pleased to wear my new chef’s apron with an appropriate mole theme (curtesy of Mrs. Parish for Christmas). The moled wine logo seemed a good idea. May be killing the moles and making wine might be worth a try! Even if the wine is rubbish there will be fewer moles in the garden. 

I always think that a good apron improves my cooking! This week I was making one of my specialities, a fish pie. Like a cottage pie but with fish. My cooking tends to take up a whole afternoon and usually involves using a wide range of pots and pans and making a nice mess. The end product is OK and the fish pie was delicious. It was very much enjoyed by Mrs. Parish who was relieved that she could have a day off cooking. The animals were also pleased as the cats could have some left over fish for supper (a great favourite with them). The hens also cash in with the mashed potato which is one of their favourites. So, everyone’s a winner. The fish pie also requires just the right sort of white wine and I chose a “Quincy” from the Loire Valley, nice and dry.

So, that was one afternoon and the next day I tackled the calva situation. We have had several bottles of home made calvados from our friend Emile. Emile always delivers the calva in any old bottle, with a cork and wrapped in newspaper. It is therefore a nice thing to decant the calva into decent bottles and we have made some sticky labels to attribute the calva to Emile, appellation controlee Le Petit Rousseau (his house). I bought some small bottles to use and they also serve to create a suitable souvenir of La Godefrere for special friends.

The calva collection

So, I spent a happy afternoon with my calva collection and now the bottles are all ready to use to serve the calva or as gifts. Unfortunately, we can’t sell it as it is made under the curious and very French rules that allow farmers to make calva for personal consumption without duty. The taxman would be upon us if we sold it but it makes a nice present. The nicest thing about my calva afternoon was having a glass to help me with my work!

As it has been raining Mrs. Parish has prepared a sumptuous roast pork dinner with pork from our local farmer Olivier. It was superb and naturally washed down with a nice white wine. This time a Savonniere, also from the Loire Valley. I am now finishing off the blog and trying to stay awake long enough to complete it. 

France is great even when it is raining!

Bon courage