The weather is a bit curious just at the moment. We thought that autumn had arrived as the weather turned cold and we even had some heavy rain. But over the weekend, yesterday and today we have had clear skies and full on sun. It was really hot today.

For much of the past week we have been helping our friends, Ian and Sarah with the job of removing the roof of their very large barn. The roof was in a poor state and the slates needed to be replaced. This meant stripping all the slates off one side and then removing all the battens to allow the roofers in to replace the wood and to fit new slates. The barn is two storeys high although on the side we were working there was only a single storey outside where the lane passes. Inside there were still two storeys to fall into if you were not extremely careful.

Ian is like me and not too keen on heights. He happened to mention to his French neighbour Yves what he had planned. Yves who is a retired farmer, immediately offered to help and said he was happy to work at the top of the roof. It was only after a few days that we discovered that Yves was 80 years old. But he is still remarkably fit and worked all afternoon, 2pm to 6pm (with only the statutory French break for coffee). At the weekend with his partner he was out dancing to the wee small hours. It must be the calvados.

Ian was responsible for the lower part of the roof. Sarah was a sort of perpetual motion go between. One-minute breaking up slates, the next shifting wood to the wood shed and the next making coffee, and in between searching for the tools that Ian had misplaced!

Yves (age 80) and Ian and Sarah (not so old)

Mrs. Parish and I were sent to the slate quarries. All the slates from the roof were to be reused in a ditch at the back of the house so we had to break up all the slate and remove the metal clips. This was good fun smashing up slates but also hard work. When we had finished that we were onto breaking up the wooden batten to be used as kindling for their wood burner. This is France where everything can be reused!

The slate quarry!

As we are in France the custom is that the workers get provided with lunch so for 3 days over the past week we have been treated to lunch at the village restaurant at Oisseau, Lasaveur, run by the lovely owner and great chef, Anne-Sophie. Lunch is nearly always a 2-hour affair with a three-course meal (four if you have cheese) with wine or cider and then a coffee to finish. It is a good way of making you rest and relax at lunch time so you can work extra hard in the afternoon!

The loneliness of the long distance roofer

Anyway, after three days work we had managed to completely strip the roof and now it is ready for the next stage of replacing with hew wood and slate but this will be done by the professionals.

While talking of eating I should mention that on Sunday we went to the Fete Communale at Oisseau. We went with Ian and Sarah to the restaurant for a special fete meal entitled Couscous Royale. This consisted of a bed of couscous on which were carrots, courgettes and turnip with a merguez sausage, some chicken and a slow cooked lamb chop. It was superb. Of course, we had an aperitif of kir bretonne (Cassis with cider) and wine with the meal. The dessert was a very nice crème brulee. We just had to finish a lovely meal with a cognac with our coffee.

The Lasaveur is a nice and friendly local restaurant. Now we get kisses from the waitresses when we arrive in the French style and then Anne-Sophie always comes around during the meal for a kiss and a chat. It is a great atmosphere and the food is always good. The fete meal was fully booked out on both Saturday and Sunday. Father Joseph the elderly catholic priest was there as he is every lunch time.

After lunch we slowly waddled our way outside for the rest of the fete. In the square were a lot of amusements: a merry go round, hook a duck and a shooting gallery as well one stall making very sugary sweets which we avoided. We were more interested in the afternoon’s main event. The wheel barrow race. This was a race between four teams who had designed and made their own wheel barrow consisting of one wheel, a seat and two handles. The race consisted of a person sat on the seat while team members pushed the barrow around a laid-out course with chicanes and reversing, sharp turns etc.

The wheel barrow race!!

To make life more difficult the person sat in the seat had a small wooden board and had to balance a tennis ball while being pushed! The race was very serious and there was a trial lap to decide the places on the starting grid. The four teams were in fancy dress and consisted of a team of smurfs (known as strumpfs in France), the all black rugby team, cowboys and a football team. The race was won over six laps and the clear winners were the all blacks.

A fun afternoon and as it got cold we were forced back into the restaurant for another coffee.

Meanwhile back at La Godefrere our trail camera had been out of action for a little while as it decided that it would not work properly and it refused to take video pictures. Mrs. Parish took matters in hand and searched high and low on the internet for a solution. Eventually she came to the view that its software needed updating and she downloaded the appropriate material and effectively cleansed the machine and installed the up to date software. I think she also gave the camera a good talking to and low and behold it is now working perfectly.

We have captured a couple of young deer playing and chasing magpies next to the camera. Keep a look out and I will add a video of this to the La Godefrere facebook page. We also spotted a coypu, which is not good news. Hopefully this is just one passing through as they can be real problem. On one day we got a video of a buzzard feeding on the ground and about to be harassed by the magpies. We have also seen a hare and a stone marten as well as a small fox.

Finally, for this week a bit of tractor trapeze. Or at least a high wire act. We were returning from the restaurant at Oisseau when we came to stop behind several vehicles. We then spotted the reason for the hold up. Ahead there is a new duck shed being constructed (Un canarderie in French). A very large lorry had arrived at the site but could not get on to the site because of the telephone wires running alongside the road. Unlike near us where someone had just driven through our telephone wire this driver was a bit more responsible. He waited while a tractor (known as a manitou) with an extending arm manoeuvred itself into a position to hold up the wires to allow the lorry through. It was a bit like the ballet! But it worked and no damage was done to the wires.

The tractor and the high wire

The cats have been a bit miffed as we have been out eating and working and so tea has been late on several occasions. This has led to hard stares and a good deal of moaning. To assuage their annoyance, we did find some left over pheasant that we had for Saturday dinner. It was a pheasant shot by the local hunt and given to us (cleaned up and prepared for cooking) by Patrique and his wife Catherine. We had a nice roast pheasant and the cats rather liked their share.

And so all ended well and there is peace and harmony at La Godefrere. The hens are doing OK as well and we have a surfeit of eggs.

Bonne semaine