This week has been quite quiet as we recover from Noel and the fin d’annee. The weather has been fairly typical of this area in January, constant rain or drizzle and low cloud. It’s still dark when we get up and doesn’t seem to get much lighter all day. So this means that there is not much we can do outside and we are waiting for the builders to finish the work on the stable so we can get going on finishing and decorating. It now looks really good and there is just some plastering to complete and then finalise the electrics and plumbing. A couple more days and it should be done.

Our week was lightened by our return to French lessons on Thursday when for some reason Jaqui our tutor had to consult her very large French/English dictionary and discovered the phrase “faire le petit train”. This is translated as “chugging along” and I immediately thought this was a great phrase and one which described our circumstances this week, just chugging along. In fact it’s the sort of phrase that could have been invented for me, at least that is what Mrs Parish commented! Anyway I think this is a phrase I shall continue to use.

It was always going to seem quiet this week in the aftermath of Christmas and the visit of Jo and Amy, my two daughters who are great fun, but tend to take over the house! They decided that our male kitten Moggie should be called “The Mogster” so unfortunately now we can’t help but use this term as it seems to suit him quite well. Mrs. Parish says he is “such a boy” when he is playing in the cat litter tray, whizzing round in circles sending showers of cat litter across the floor. He is also into climbing up things, especially trees when we let them outside, under strict supervision. He seems very good at climbing up things but much less skilled at getting down, falling he can do quite well.

Unfortunately he quite likes climbing indoors and a few nights ago the curious incident occurred when at 3am we were woken up by an almighty crash form the office. When we got there, a clock and various ornaments that had been put up on a beam were scattered across the floor, with the clock in several pieces. The Mogster was sat trying to look innocent! Having two kittens is “an experience” and trying to tie shoelaces with a kitten hanging on to each shoelace is quite a complicated task. Archie has not improved matters and this week he and Moggie were involved in a further incident, this time with cakes (I now take great care with cold sausages).

On the cat front, there has been no further news about Trigger. We have been around where he was sighted before Christmas but have had no luck and there have been no further reports. It seems that he is having such a good time that he is keeping one step ahead of the posse out looking for him.

I forgot to mention the other bright spot in the week which was a visit from Emile and Yvette accompanied by a New Year’s gift of another bottle of Calvados, which is extremely good news as I have come to the conclusion that you can’t have too much calva. Emile had just recovered from a very nasty chest infection and I told him that he clearly wasn’t drinking enough calva to keep the germs away.

Shopping in France is an interesting experience. The supermarkets are straight forward, just like in England although there never seem to be enough check outs open so the choice of queue is always paramount. The other thing about supermarkets in France is that they sell almost everything so you could exist in France and never shop outside of a supermarket. France still operates a fairly strict Sunday closing regime, and all the big shops and stores are closed. The CGT (French unions) held a demonstration in Mayenne this weekend as there is quite a lobby to get shops to open on Sundays. I was tempted to go and join them, not been on a demo for some time. Apart from supermarkets the other quirk of French shops and most everything else is “l’heure de dejeuner” where everything shuts for an hour or two hours between 12 and 2pm for the staff to have lunch.

This means that if you are going shopping you have to time your visit to avoid having a two hour wait. You can of course follow the French and have your own lunch during this period which makes shopping a more enjoyable experience. Our neighbour Daniel works in Gorron (at the sausage factory!!) and comes home for lunch every day a round trip of 40 minutes. The “heure de dejeuner” also applies to most visitor attractions again making timing important. On one remarkable occasion, some years ago, we were refused entry to Fougeres Castle at 11.30am on the basis that there would not be enough time for us to properly visit before they closed at noon. They did not reopen until 2pm so on that occasion we gave up. If you have not purchased goods by 12.00 you get chucked out of some shops dead on time. Of course in France for every disadvantage there are positives. The fact that lots of French people are eating lunch means that there are lots of cafes and restaurants with very competitive prices, so you can get a very good quality 3 course meal for around 10 euros (about £8). The local restaurant in the next village has a special “ouvriers” (workers) menu for 8 euros which includes a bottle of cider all sat round a communal table. It looks really good value.

Today it has got very cold and the forecast is for some snow showers tomorrow and for the next few days. Hopefully it will not be too bad as my son and his fiancée and a couple of friends are coming tomorrow for a visit and will be staying in our gite. The gite has no central heating and is quite cold at the moment although we have put in a gas heater and some electric fan heaters so it should be alright although we have warned them to bring some extra jumpers. With them of course will come Tomo the three legged Kieshund. He is a very fluffy dog which originates from Holland. He is a very crazy dog but also friendly. Not quite sure what the kittens will make of him. So far their experience has been with the chicken which they like to stalk and the cows which they are afraid of at the moment. Still it should be good fun to have people to stay. We also have lined up a great feast with the massive leg of lamb given to us by Alex and John for minding their sheep.

The blog this week has been a bit of a meander, almost a “faire de petit train” experience. Hopefully thing will liven up a bit next week and we can return to the high drama, pathos and side splitting humour of earlier blogs!! One thing is certain, with two kittens around life is unlikely to be dull.

A prochaine semaine