When setting up the adverts online for our gite, I pondered how to sell a holiday here. It seemed to me that a great selling point was the peace and quiet and slow pace of rural life. So, I made this the main strap line on the website and in adverts with holiday companies.

Last week I went to sit in the garden on a nice sunny morning and thought this is just the day to enjoy that lovely peace and quiet. A half an hour later and I wondered whether I would be charged under the Trades Description Act. Coming from across the lane was the sound of our neighbour’s dog, Pepito, barking. The French in rural areas tend to keep a dog and usually keep it outside. Its job is to bark when anyone comes into the yard. Pepito however barks a lot when Giselle and Daniel go out and leave him on his own. On this afternoon, the neighbours were out so Pepito was barking and at times he keeps up a regular single bark but repeated constantly.

Added to this was the neighbour’s cockerel, Victor, who was crowing, presumably about some amorous success with his harem of hens. Further down the lane an English neighbour started up his mower ready to cut the grass. Just over the fence are Xavier’s cows and a day or two ago he came and took the calves away from the cows. As a result, the cows were mooing loudly and regularly complaining about this and calling for their calves. This for some reason started off the sheep in our paddocks even though their lambs had long gone, but they felt they had to make a point.

To add to this growing cacophony the little owls decided that they didn’t like the look of our cats and that they were too close to their young ones, so they started to screech loudly and to dive bomb the cats. In the background is the sound of combine harvesters and tractors at work cutting the wheat or baling up the straw. There is a constant drone of agricultural machinery at work.

Just when I was thinking that the noise could not get any worse, I remembered that this was a sunny afternoon and as if on cue the Army of the Air turned up in the form of two very large and very noisy jet fighters that screamed across the sky.

This was not the peace and quiet of rural France that I recklessly advertised. But just as I was beginning to despair I heard in the distance the sound of the church bell announcing that it was 12 noon. This of course announces the arrival of “L’heure du dejeuner” or lunch time. All the man-made noise ceased as the French go off to the local restaurants for a well-earned lunch.

The animals are also French and seemed to sense that they should also tone down the noise and I finally got to sit on my reclining chair and to get to experience the peace and quiet of rural France and the only noise I could hear was the song of a yellowhammer sat in a nearby tree. Even he was attuned to the lunch theme with his song which sounds like “little bit of bread and no cheese,” Of course, if there was a French version of this the cheese would accompany the bread! “Un grand baguette et beaucoup du forage!” Doesn’t quite work.

Anyway, I have been disrupted in the writing of the blog by our neighbours John and Lis who are going back to the UK tomorrow. They have invited us round for end of holiday drinks and John is particularly keen that I help him to tidy up a bottle of whisky. I think the blog will have to wait until Monday!!

Back to the blog on a bright and sunny morning. No ill effects from the very nice Aberlour that we drank last night. A clear head ready to finish this week’s blog. This bit is about our hens and how they have adapted their tactics. When I am using the tractor mower they used to hide behind trees and then leap in front of the mower. This form of playing chicken is clearly not dangerous enough for them. Now they seem to be casually pecking away at the other side of the orchard and when my guard is relaxed they suddenly run full pelt across the grass and straight in front of the tractor. This is very unnerving and could very well induce driver stress. It seems that the vibration of the tractor causes the crickets to start jumping up and down and thus provides the hens with a juicy morsel. It would appear that the taste is enhanced by the risk!

Yesterday, Mrs. Parish and I went for a long walk around the local lanes and came across a few interesting things. We met Grison the escaping donkey. The one we saw running along the road a few weeks ago. This time he was in his field and not trying to escape. Apparently, donkeys don’t like to be alone and this may have been the cause of Grison continually escaping. His owner, Phillipe, has now put two cows in the field with Grison and he is  very happy with his new friends. Whenever we go past the field he is in close proximity to the two cows and seems calm and content. So, at least a happy ending for the donkey!

Grison and his new friends

A bit further on we came to the hiding hens. There is a chicken house for lots of egg laying hens. They have a house to go to at night but during the day they are out in the accompanying field. The grass in this field is very long and this results in the hens being hidden when they are pecking and then all of a sudden, they put their heads up and a whole load of hens appear. It is quite bizarre.

The hiding hens

Further still on the walk and we came to another chicken house, except that this time it was for Guinea Fowl (Pintade in French). These are very, very neurotic birds who panic at the sight of almost anything. We just walked past the field and they all started clucking and ran away to the other side of the field. It was like a mass stampede with birds suddenly realising that others were panicking and so they should join in. A kind of mass hysteria. I am told by those in the know that farmers must be very careful when packing birds to take to market as they can be so stressed they can keel over and die. (The guinea fowl, not the farmers!) A clear difference between our hens who seem to positively court danger by running at the mower or escaping into fox territory compared to guinea fowl who appear to be frightened by their own shadows.

Neurotic guinea fowl

We returned from our walk to spot the little owl baby sat on the roof of the gite. They are still a bit fluffy but now flying well and beginning to feed independently of their parents. It seems as if we only have one baby using the nest for roosting during the day. The older chick has moved off to the trees in the next field and the younger one will probably go soon. One of the parents is around to keep an eye on things and to shout at our cats.

It is nearly time for lunch and Mrs. Parish is preparing a lasagne and I think that we may need to have a little drop of wine to accompany such a nice meal. The local church bells are announcing “l’heure du dejeuner” so I had better get over to the cave and select a nice bottle.

Bonne semaine