We can report that the survival rate for the visit of our friends from Weymouth was quite high despite the weekend comprising rather a lot of alcohol and riding bikes. The only casualty being the delay in writing the blog. You may have seen the photos instead. The plan for the weekend was really all about riding our bikes but also venturing out to restaurants and having a few drinks while obviously doing a lot of talking to catch up with dear friends.

We went to a very local restaurant at St. Fraimbault which is a 10-km cycle ride away from us. The day was very hot and sunny but fortunately the bar – Le petit chef is run by a Belgian who serves an amazing glass of excellent Belgian beer. This served to cool us all down and prepare us for our meal. We were booked in for lunch and had a superb meal for both the vegetarians and meat eaters among the group. Washed down with a nice Muscadet and a lovely Chino red.

After a couple of hours, we had inevitably to face the 11-km return cycle ride home in the even more intense heat. Of course, once we got home we had to counter the heat by finding some cold beers and then face an evening eating bread and cheese with more wine. Sunday was mostly a, day of recovery aided by regular intake of food and wine.

On Monday, we cycled to Brece (another 11-km) and had lunch in the Briccius Restaurant. This was the usual fixed price lunch at 12.50 Euros but included in the price is a bottle of cider and a bottle of red wine and coffee to finish the three courses. At this point one of the group said that she was beginning to understand why we moved to France. 

On our return to La Godefrere we maintained the French traditions by playing a game of Petanque while drinking Pastis. Pastis was first commercialized by Paul Ricard in 1932 and enjoys substantial popularity in France, especially in the south-eastern regions of the country, mostly Marseille, Pastis emerged some 17 years after the ban on absinthe, during a time when the French nation was still apprehensive of high-proof anise drinks. The popularity of pastis may be attributable to a penchant for anise drinks that was cultivated by absinthe decades earlier, but is also part of an ancient tradition of Mediterranean anise liquors that includes sambuca, ouzo, arak, raku, and mastics. The name "pastis" comes from Occitan pastís which means mash-up.

Petanque and Pastis (a French tradition)

Pastis is normally diluted with water before drinking, generally five volumes of water for one volume of pastis, but often neat pastis is served together with a jug of water for the drinker to blend together according to preference. The resulting decrease in alcohol percentage causes some of the constituents to become insoluble, which changes the liqueur's appearance from dark transparent yellow to milky soft yellow, a phenomenon also present with absinthe and known as the ouzo effect. The drink is consumed cold and considered a refreshment for hot days.

Although consumed throughout France, pastis is generally associated with south-eastern regions of the country, particularly the city of Marseille, where it is nicknamed Pastaga, and with such clichés of the Provençal lifestyle as pétanque.

130 million litres are sold each year (more than two litres per inhabitant in France). So, we not only cooled ourselves but maintained a French tradition by combining Pastis with Petanque. I have to say that we were not very good at Petanque but aided by the drink we had a good competition and the La Godefrere team, plus Elaine were the victors.

As our friends left to cycle back to Flers we had new arrivals in the gite. A couple from Holland on a cycling tour. These were proper cyclists for whom 80-kms a day is just the starting point. Despite the fact that we think it very flat round here, apparently it is very hilly compared to Holland! So, our weekend exertions have been put into the shade by these impressive Dutch cyclists. Mrs. Parish and I feel tired just looking at them.

The hens are taking up a disproportionate amount of time. Emmeline keeps escaping and we have had to strengthen the fence to try to keep her in. Sylvia now seems to have discovered the escaping bug although she seems to be finding holes rather than flying over. I think the chickens must be getting bored as they are finding new games to play and now they are all playing chicken with the tractor mower and running in front while I am trying to mow grass. 

The chicken playing chicken

In addition, they have taken to playing hide and seek by finding more and more obscure places in the garden to hide. Sometimes behind bushes or shrubs and on occasions they have got into the lower parts of trees to hide away. This means that when we check on them we have to tour the garden and if we can’t see them the question arises as to whether they have escaped. So, we have to make a tour of outside as well, only to discover them in some new hiding place and then I’m sure they have a little chuckle when we spot them.

I am beginning to think that having hens was not such a good idea. In fact, having any sort of animal around seems to create trouble. The little owls have now both fledged from the nest and while they go back from time to time, they are now going further away to feed. This at least minimises the chance of the cats catching them and means that the owls are not screeching at or dive bombing the cats.

The cats have succumbed a bit to the hot weather and when not eating they are finding places to sleep the summer away.

Archie not here. If I cant see you, you cant see me!

While talking about animals we have been getting good results from our trail camera and in the past couple of weeks have seen the deer again and a couple of hares as well as both a male and female fox all at the bottom of the big field. We were surprised a week ago to discover on film a wild boar which we had never seen before. We have had sightings of the results of boar digging holes but this was the first photograph taken at half past midnight. It looks like a young male maybe just passing though as there was no damage to the ground and he headed off across the stream. We have had no further sightings. We did however manage to capture a couple of Dutch holidaymakers as they walked by.

Wild Boar in our big field

It has been a hot and sunny Sunday and even Mrs. Parish has found it too hot and is sitting in the garden in the shade. I have come indoors to finish the blog as it is too hot and too bright to work outside and it gives me a chance to keep up to date with the Tour de France.

Time, I think to head to the cave as Mrs. Parish will no doubt be expecting a little evening drink to help her relax. I may just decide to join her as I think all the animals have now gone quiet, I may just be able to relax without having to play hide and seek with a chicken!

Bon Dimanche