Another mixed and interesting week in rural France.  It has also been very hot and since Thursday we have had glorious blue skies and scorching hot days, but with a light breeze so it has not been impossible to work outside. Although we have taken plenty of opportunities to sit and enjoy the garden, often with a nice ice cream to keep us cool.

I have spent most of the week repairing the steps that lead up to our gite which is on the first and second floor of the building opposite the house. The ground floor is a games room and wine/food store. The steps are made of wood and suffer a bit with the winter weather and one or two of the planks at the platform of the stairs were showing signs of water damage. So this required taking them up and replacing them with new planks. Of course as with all jobs, life became more and more complicated. Once I had taken up the planks I discovered that the wooden beams underneath were also damaged and so I have had to cut away the damaged wood and to fit in various sized blocks of wood to repair the damage. 

I was working over at the gite but had my wood cutting station in the lean to shed next to the house where there is shelter from the sun (or rain) and space to work and make a mess. My tools and spare bits of wood store is in the opposite corner of the courtyard making an eternal triangle of work stations. Of course when working you realise that the tool you need is in the workshop or you need to cut or plain a bit of wood. So all week I have been trudging around this triangle, almost constantly. I must have walked miles. It has amused Mrs. Parish, who has been working in the garden to see me walking backwards and forwards often carrying a bit of wood (not the same bit of wood, I hasten to add).

Anyway my carpentry and stamina skills have been fully tested and the repair work is now complete and I have to say the stairs are looking good and most importantly we are unlikely to lose any of our visitors in some sort of great collapsing steps disaster. This would not be good for business! Luckily we have managed to avoid bookings for the gite in June and this has given me the chance to complete the works, although there is still some painting to do. There has been a pressure as from 19th June through to the end of September the gite is pretty much fully booked. Which of course is good.

This week we have heard and seen a turtle dove. So far just the one so no leads into a song. We of course can find French hens over at Giselle’s. But with the hunt around finding a partridge may be a challenge. Turtle doves have become fairly scarce so it is good to have seen one which has perched and called from the big tree in our large hay field. Unfortunately a magpie got fed up with its constant cooing and came and shooed it away and we haven’t seen it for a couple of days. We do have plenty of birds and wherever you go in our grounds you can hear birdsong. Mrs. Parish has just rushed in with news of a sighting of a Hoopoe. So I have had to suspend the blog while I investigate. It turns out to be a Curlew wandering across the field but on the far side of the field are in fact two hoopoes. This is good news as we usually see them but they always disappear. It is possible these are nesting birds. Unfortunately two hoopoes doesn’t fit into a song.

In France and I assume other catholic countries everyday is a saints’ day. Our calendar proclaims which one it is. Yesterday, 6th June, I happened to notice that it was St. Norbert’s day. Of course for someone my age this immediately conjured up an image of England footballer, Nobby Stiles. Who was anything but a saint. So of course, yesterday became St. Nobby’s day. Apparently St.Norbert was originally Norbert of Xanten and a bit of a high liver until one day riding his horse in Germany he was struck by a thunderbolt and took this as a message from God to mend his ways. Which of course he did and ended up a saint. He will now always be St. Nobby for me.

On the subject of Saints, I was given this week a 2.5 litres box of rose wine in our local supermarket. Apparently a free gift for spending more than 60 euros. This must be a sign from God I thought and a much better one than throwing thunderbolts about. It made me wonder who is the patron saint of wine. Apparently there are two contenders. St. Vincent and St. Urban. 

It would seem that St.Vincent is the patron saint of wine makers and also vinegar makers which is not so good. What if he gets his blessings mixed up. He was around in Roman times and with his bishop Valerius was put on trial. Valerius maintained he had a speech impediment (probably too much of the wine) and so got Vincent to do the talking at their trial. This proved a shrewd move as they let Valerius off and killed poor Vincent by roasting him, accompanied by a rather nice burgundy so the story goes. Anyway he is now the official patron saint of winemakers. His Saint’s day is the 22nd January so raise a glass to him then and every other day really.

On the other hand St. Urban is famous for escaping religious persecution (and presumably thereby escaping a horrible death) by hiding in vineyards in France. He then cleverly went from vineyard to vineyard converting the workers to Christianity and having a glass or two while they hid him. A far more sensible lifestyle choice than St. Vincent. So St. Urban is the patron Saint of all those who work in the wine industry. His feast day is the 2nd April. Once again the blog is at the cutting edge of education!

However it turns out that the free wine from Super U is in fact Spanish rose wine. I knew it was odd, the French giving away wine! They don’t sell foreign wine (or very rarely) but they can give it away. It may be alright.

So also this week we have started to get in our hay harvest. An English couple Andy and Julie have taken over cutting our hay in the great big field which Emile used to cut. The hay making has not gone entirely smoothly. Andy and Julie have a sheep farm not far away and have set up a hay baling business and keep the bales in an old hayloft on their farm. They were out last week sorting the hay loft to receive all the new hay when Julie fell through the rafters and broke her ankle. So she is laid up for at least 6 weeks. Andy has still been over with is tractor and cut the hay and is now returning twice a day to turn the hay to make sure it dries thoroughly before baling commences.  In our area of France this is called faner the verb to toss. Meaning to toss the hay which would have been done by hand using a pitchfork. So of course we now say that Andy is fannying about down in the hay field.

Our hay field ready for cutting

So I have just returned from the big hay field where I have been looking over Andy’s tractor and being very impressed with it. Mrs. Parish reckons I have tractor envy as Andy’s is much bigger than mine. Andy will be coming to faner the hay for a few more days then he will come around with the baler attachment to put the hay into bales ready to go into his hay barn (with the floor suitably mended. I did offer my rustic carpentry skills!!). The bales are then sold on to people who want small bales of hay – stables etc. Last year we produced 800 bales so lots of work over the next few days.

Andy's tractor

In that case I must pay tribute to the two patron saints of wine by having a glass or two, for religious purposes, you understand. Next week I am off to the UK for a few days to help a couple of good friends to retire. Alan and Kay are work colleagues and they will be most interested in my saintly studies and there links to wine drinking. As I will not be back until late on Sunday the blog will probably have to wait until Monday. It will of course be worth the wait!!

Bonne soiree