Autumn is now here but at the moment you would not know it. It is a gloriously sunny day and Mrs. Parish is happily pottering about in the garden. I even have my shorts on again, in October!! There are still an odd few swallows around who have not yet flown off to Africa. It is however chilly first thing in the morning and it gets cooler as the nights draw in. All this is causing the cats some bother and they appear at the window much earlier now. I have explained that it is no good trying the bad weather clauses as it is nothing like bad enough yet. Minou is sat outside the window and using her most pathetic and plaintiff crying to try to weaken my resolve. I must not give in as that way madness lies. I will then have three cats in and all marauding around demanding food. It will of course also set a clear and immutable custom and practice amendment to the contract and the cats will be in earlier and earlier! 

The autumn brings with it seasonal jobs and hedge cutting appears to be one of them. Yesterday I returned from a bike ride to find Mrs. Parish, Giselle and Daniel out in the lane with ladders, trestles, shears and electric hedge cutters, with wires going everywhere. They were all looking at the hedge and the piles of hedge trimmings strewn across the lane. Giselle was looking a little flustered and I soon found out why. She has been cutting her hedge with an ancient French electric cutter which wasn’t working too well. Mrs. Parish had offered to lend her our electric hedge trimmer which still has an English connection so she had to provide an English extension cable and adaptor. Hence the wires that were now trailing off to all points in Giselle’s shed. 

The hedge incident arose as Giselle tried to cut her hedge with our cutter which is a bit longer and heavier than her ancient model. The end result was that Giselle managed to cut through the wire accompanied by a loud bang and lots of sparks and smoke!! Fortunately Giselle was unhurt although a bit shocked as well as mortified that she had damaged our equipment. We reassured her and offered to finish off the cutting. Mrs. Parish attacks the side of the hedge while we look on. I explain (in French) that this is the same in Britain, one person working while three watch.

Daniel seems not to be allowed to cut the hedge as Giselle says he doesn’t do it properly. I conclude by looking at the trestles he has erected that he has the usual French casual approach to Health and Safety. They look decidedly wobbly and insecure.

For some reason, which escapes me, it is decided that I should go up on the trestles to cut the top of the hedge. I think it was because I am tallest although I am sure I caught that I was expendable! So I adjust the trestles to level “rock hard level and secure” and gingerly climb up the equally wobbly ladder to get up on the trestle and to then hoist up the hedge trimmer above head height to cut along the top of the hedge. Daniel meanwhile collects up the trimmings and disappears off to another part of their garden. Minutes later smoke is seen rising from behind their barn. We assume that Daniel has started a bonfire. There is no explosion so we assume it has been done safely!!

(Excuse me a minute while I go and show Minou the time and explain that she still has half an hour till tea, and that it is no good crying, I adopt a suitably tough tone I think).

Back to the hedge and Daniel decides it is time for a drink so we repair inside for a beer. Having refreshed ourselves we go back out to tidy up and manage to get into a right mess trying to reel back in the extension cables and sort out which things belong to us and which are theirs. All the time Giselle is still going on about the cut wire and that she will get it mended or buy us a new one. We shrug our shoulders and say that it is nothing and doesn’t matter. I think during the conversation we are offered a rabbit to thank us for all our help. They then insist we go in for an aperitif. This is good news as readers of the blog will know I am fond of an aperitif.

Daniel gets out a rather nice bottle of red wine and asks me if I will open it and hand over an ancient oak handled corkscrew. I assume that this is some mark of honour in a French household, and that I as an honoured guest am given the important job of opening the wine. I take great care to remove the foil and prepare to remove the cork. I feel like everyone’s eyes are on me and that this is also some sort of test that as an Englishman I must pass before being accepted. I line up the corkscrew and begin to turn it but nothing happens. Oh no, this could be some sort of disastrous failure to open the wine. A crisis could be on hand. I look up and see Daniel convulsed in guffaws of laughter. He has of course given me a left handed corkscrew which goes in the opposite direction and is delighted that I have fallen for his little trick!!

Anyway the wine when we got to drink it was excellent and we had a good discussion about wine and our favourite types. Fortunately I had prepared a fish pie ready for our evening meal so when we eventually could make our excuses and leave we just had to put it in the oven. In the morning Giselle arrives with a fully repaired cable for the hedge trimmer, so all is well.

I think that Frenchmen must all think they are comedians. I went to see my Doctor this week for an annual check up. Dr. Viennot is the French equivalent of a GP and he speaks quite good English which he likes to practice. I explain that my French is still developing and he immediately says, “don’t worry I speak perfect French”. We have quite a nice chat and he asks me if we have a garden. I reply that we do but that Mrs. Parish is the head gardener and that I am only the labourer and tractor driver. He then says that in his garden he always has the last word, which he then explains is “Yes, chief”!  A bunch of comedians but the French are great at protesting, which I think is good for democracy. I went from Dr. Viennot’s to pick up a prescription at our local pharmacy only to find a note pinned on the door saying they were supporting a national pharmacists strike and the shop was closed!

To end the week I discover this morning that I have a tightness in one of my chain links. I noticed when out on our Sunday morning bike ride that the chain was slipping. When we got home I looked it up on the internet and found several YouTube videos explaining how the chain works and that the most likely reason was a tightness in one of the chain links. Of course I also discover that I now need a bicycle chain adjustment device to resolve the problem.

However my immediate problem is that three cats have burst into the room and have surrounded me and are threatening my papers and laptop unless they get tea immediately. I must bow to the inevitable! I may not be able to finish the blog as one cat is sat on the mouse and the other two are trying to sit on the keyboard. (“788” has just been typed in by Archie walking across the keyboard!)

Perhaps once the cats are fed I can go back out to take advantage of the evening sun and sip a little aperitif on the patio!

Next week’s blog might be a day late as I am taking Mrs. Parish to Nantes for the weekend for her birthday.

A prochaine