For almost the past week I have been in charge here at La Godefrere as Mrs. Parish has gone to England with a car load of French produce. I like to describe it as a humanitarian mission to take comfort and cheer for those poor Brits having to put up with Brexit. Mrs. Parish had a car full of 10 boxes of wine for the immediate family as well as presents for Christmas. The car was full. Thankfully our new French car has lots of room in the boot.

So, I have been fending for myself. Well, for some of the time. Mrs. Parish left on Thursday evening so I had to cook on Friday and Saturday. On Friday a spaghetti Bolognese (admittedly from the freezer) but on Saturday, I cooked myself a rather nice steak – frites. Of course, washed down with a rather nice haut medoc red wine.

On Sunday we had a village repas at Brece with a rather lovely gammon in sauce as the main dish. This was our first repas without Emile (and Yvette was not up to attending). So, we all felt a little sad and awkward without our team leaders. We are now into the repas season and hopefully Yvette will soon feel up to coming along with us. There will be a Mass for Emile next Sunday which will signal an end to the formal mourning period.

This weekend we have a soiree dansante (an evening meal with added disco) at St. Simeon on Saturday and then on Sunday we are off to the old folks’ dinner in Couesmes -Vauce. A slap-up meal provided free to the over 65s with lots of wine. It starts at 12 noon and does not finish until after 5pm!

Yesterday, I was provided with a superb meal by good friends Ian and Sarah (thanks to Sarah for the cooking and to Ian for the taxi service) and today we ate out at the bar restaurant in Ambrieres. I fear that tomorrow it will be a case of back to the freezer for dinner! But I shall be cooking again as I have to make a cottage pie for dinner on Thursday. Mrs. Parish arrives home late on Wednesday evening.

As Mrs. Parish left for England the weather turned colder and today we had a few flakes of snow. The wind has got up and it is very cold outside. This is not a great background to my day as I have to get up early, while it is still dark to get through all my chores. I get up at 7-30am and the cats are all gathered outside desperate to get inside for their breakfast. There is a clear message from them saying “Come on let us in, do you know how cold it is out here, where is breakfast”. They wolf down their food and take to the sofa or bed for a warm up and a nap.

As soon as it gets light, I have to go and let the hens out and give them breakfast. They can be heard tapping on the door and they have a similar message to the cats but with an indication that I am too slow and should have got there sooner! The hens have been concerned about being left with me and a couple of them even tried to sneak into the car boot to go off with Mrs. Parish.

The hens in a desperate escape bid

After feeding the animals, I get a chance of a cup of tea and then it is time to clear out the fire and relay it. A chance then for some breakfast for me before going outside again to fill up the wild bird feeders. In this I am assisted by the hens who follow me and try to grab the seed. Yesterday they managed to rush me as a mob and knocked over a feeder, spilling bird seed everywhere. I used Daniel’s favourite bird organising shout and I yelled at the top of my voice - “nom de Dieu”. At least I am swearing in French now!

Then I have to go back to the hen house to collect any eggs, which is a good thing. At the same time, I have to remove any excess of chicken poo, which is a bad thing. 

After sweeping up the floor in the house and tidying up I am about ready for a mid-morning cuppa and a slice of fruit cake, kindly left by Mrs. Parish.

The next job is to go to the bottom of the big field to get the memory card from the trail camera. We continue to see daily the young deer, who spend a lot of time in our clearing and they have been curious about the camera and come to have a look at it. 

The nose of a nosy deer

On Sunday morning at around 4am the camera picked up a rather large boar. This is the first sighting of boar for some time. It is possible that it is a single male on the look out for some females and so it might go off and continue its search for a mate rather than dig up our field. We will have to keep an eye on the camera pictures for the next few days.

A rather large boar

While talking of animals mating, there is news from Xavier’s filed where the rather large bull has now had his harem enlarged with the addition of another 15 cows. So, he now has 19 females to keep him happy. You would think that this is more than enough. But big boy has now noticed that at the bottom of Xavier’s filed there is a hedge and a stream. On the other side is another bull with some cows. Big boy has taken to patrolling the hedge and making a lot of snorting and roaring noises.

I am not sure if he wants to have a go at the other bull or if he is trying to invite them over, Anyway, he seems rather grumpy at the moment and when he is up at our end of the field, he tends to look me up and down and wanders right up to the fence and looks threatening. He does it rather well and I usually take a step or two backwards!

Meanwhile, over at the sheep’s paddock a ram has arrived to service the three ewes that are there. Patrique brought the ram over on Sunday when I was out eating, so I only noticed it the next day when we had 4 sheep instead of three. The ram (un belier in French) has red dye on his front so that he will leave a mark when he mounts the ewes. He is clearly at the 1st date stage as the ewes are unmarked but are nonetheless sticking close to the ram. We assume that the ram will be successful and that the ewes should provide baby lambs next March. I am not quite sure how many there will be as last year some of the ewes produced twins.

The red ram and his women

In order to send much needed wine aid back to Britain I had to invest in wine at the various Foire aux Vins. This meant that the wine cave is now fully organised and I have put up some extra shelves to accommodate all the wine. Mrs. Parish was worried that the shelf would not support the weight of all the wine and that there could be a great wine disaster if the shelf collapsed. This was of course very worrying so, in order to avoid any catastrophe, I immediately took action to reinforce the shelf.

The wine cave now looks very impressive even after boxing up 60 bottles for Mrs. Parish to take to the UK. I am working my way through the collection and it is surprising how quickly gaps appear on the shelves. I may just need to top up the wines ready for Christmas.

Three cats have now arrived at the window and are demanding their tea. I had better see to it otherwise there may be a riot!

Bon courage