Christmas this year is coming in three parts. A bit like blockbuster movies where a story is stretched out to fill three feature length films. Our first Christmas started on Wednesday when our son Ian and his fiancée, Emma arrived for a three day visit. This meant that Thursday would become Christmas Eve and the Friday would be Christmas Day. It also meant cramming in three meals, games and plenty of drinking, not to mention seeing the Christmas lights. So an action packed three days faced us.

We started with a rabbit. This was the rabbit supplied by our neighbour Giselle. It was one of her own rabbits and killed and skinned by her. Giselle had promised us a rabbit for helping her cut her hedge. As we were not quite sure what to do with it, it had lain in the freezer but now Mrs. Parish decided we should go for a rabbit feast and disappeared with her recipe books to find a suitable dish. She found a good traditional French recipe which involved marinating the rabbit in red wine (always a good start I tend to think) and then slow cooking it with prunes. This of course meant that the rabbit needed to be jointed. Mrs. Parish disappeared again, this time with her computer and YouTube looking for guidance on jointing a rabbit. She later reappeared rather worryingly with a very large knife and a rolling pin, and with one of her determined looks. This looks like trouble either for me or the rabbit!

Fortunately, it was bad news for the rabbit as Mrs. Parish decapitated it and then jointed into several smaller bits. So, Mrs. Parish has now acquired butchery to add to her skill set. Wednesday evening we sat down to a rather lovely meal as the rabbit was superb and washed down with a rather nice few bottles of Bourgueil, a lighter red wine from the Loire valley. So we moved on to Christmas Eve and it was becoming more difficult to remember which day it was but it was decided that we should get some fresh air and plan for that day’s meal. Mrs. Parish now on inspirational form after her rabbit triumph suggested we go to the local restaurant in Brece. Luck was with us as they were having their special Christmas menu (Repas de Noel). This included an aperitif, choice of starter with a glass of white wine, duck or venison for the main course with a bottle of red wine and a bottle of cider. Followed by a cheese course and then a wonderful chocolate dessert and coffee (all for 16 Euros) about £12. The French certainly know how to do a Christmas meal!!!! The restaurant was packed full.

So we staggered home and all went to sleep for a couple of hours before the Christmas Eve treat, a tour of the “Manifestations de Noel”. Lots of the villages over the border in Normandy put up Christmas lights and compete for the best lights organised by the local Office de Tourisme in Domfront. They also organise coach tours around the villages. So we decided to go on our own tour and see the lights for ourselves. What a French experience. We went through a couple of small villages which had fairly normal but basic Christmas lights. The tourist office has a leaflet showing the villages and what level to expect. This promised at several villages displays which warranted the label “Elabore” or elaborate. The first on our tour was the village of Mantilly which describes itself as the Poire (pear cider) Capital of poire and their lights featured the story of pear making as well as various other lights. So quite educational and interesting although we were a bit worried at a dolphin illumination on the village lake!

The St Mars Dinosaur

We pressed on to St. Mars D’Egrenne a small village on the main road to Domfront. We were somewhat taken aback at the sheer number of illuminations and even more surprised to see a whole load of animals illuminated including giraffes, kangaroos, squirrels and pelicans. Not animals notably associated with Christmas but turning a corner we came to the piece de resistance in a very large lit up dinosaur!! Emma by this time was over excited and we had to buy her some hot wine to calm her down. We later discovered that for some reason the village had taken the theme of Noah’s ark and thus the large variety of non Christmas related animals. Impressive, hilarious but not very festive!

Our final elaborate display was at the village of Ceauce which is on the main road to Mayenne not far from us. There were loads of lights in the main street and a lot more festive with candles and illuminated trees. At the church there was a display of tableaux, many quite weird with rather sinister looking dummies including a barber shop, and a school room. But to offset this departure from Christmas they did have a stable display including live animals. A donkey, 2 goats, some sheep and some rabbits and chickens. Not entirely like the stable at the Inn in the bible but an interesting display nonetheless.

Ceauce Nativity scene, note large Jesus and small sheep!!!

We went into the chuck to see the nativity scene which was a bit bizarre. The characters were all there. The three wise men and shepherds, Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus but there was a bit a problem with size with there being some miniature sheep and a huge baby Jesus almost as big as the cows. The puppy dog motif on his baby clothes was also not very biblical (no swaddling!!). We were now in fits of giggles and received some stern looks so we retreated outside and made for the hot cider stand. By this time we had to fight our way through some large groups of French visitors who had arrived by coach.

A great but very French experience. This however set us up in the Christmas spirit ready for Christmas Day and our wild boar. This was one of the treat we had ordered from our local butcher who has an amazing array of great food for Christmas. So we had roast boar. It was a French roti and so no boars head to put an apple in. It was however delicious, and this time enjoyed with some lovely St. Emilion red wine.

Christmas Part 1 was a great experience but had a sad ending as Ian and Emma (our two young heroes of food and drink) drove off in the morning mist for their date with destiny that is Brittany Ferries at Cherbourg and a return to real life and work on Monday!!!

For us life is a continual dream world. Well Mrs. Parish tells me that I am living proof of this!. Anyway no sooner had Ian and Emma left than I had to drive to Caen to meet the Brittany ferries arrival from Portsmouth to bring our daughter Jo here for Christmas part 2 and to gear ourselves up for another week of eating and drinking and a further visit to the “Manifestations of Noel”.

In the midst of all this merriment I have managed to carry out further Mince Pie experiments to fully explore Schrödinger’s theories. I left last time having established that in a sealed box Mince Pies could either exist or not exist or be eaten or uneaten at the same time. I must thank Mrs. Parish for her supreme efforts to maintain a steady supply of Mince Pies throughout this period. All for science I explained to her. One feature of the experiments was a steady decline in the number of Mince Pies in the box. This could not be explained in purely theoretical terms, although I am working on developing and extending Schrödinger’s work. However I did come to a very clear conclusion about one aspect of this. Looking to the original experiment and using a cat, I was able to prove that in all cases where the cat and Mince Pie were in the box together it was always the case that the Mince Pie disappeared. Never once did the Mince Pie eat the cat!! My thanks to Archie for his assistance with this experiment.

So we now await the real Christmas as part of Part 2 of the trilogy. The final part will not take place until the 5th January when our youngest daughter Amy arrives with her friend Charlotte.

Time to get a bottle open I think and start this evening’s entertainment.

Joyeux Noel