Well, I have just sat down to write up my blog and I am sorry it is 24 hours late. This is entirely due to the unfathomable way in which the French operate. We are members of the Euro Mayenne Association. This is an organisation formed 25 years ago with the express purpose of welcoming European citizens who have chosen to live in the Mayenne Department. The aim is to help those people settle into the area, introduce them to french culture and to help them to learn how to speak French. The French being proper Europeans have a mature and positive attitude to immigrants. As English immigrants to France we have joined the organisation and benefitted from the friendship offered by the French members of the group.

This is in stark contrast with the way in which many in the UK sadly react to immigrants in Britain!  Since we moved to France 4 years ago we have met nothing but kindness and helpfulness from French people who welcome the contribution we make to their country.

Anyway, the Euro Mayenne Association decided to celebrate their 25th anniversary with a social event at a garden park near Gorron. We were invited to attend and the ticket said the event started at 4pm. Given the time we assumed that there would be a few drinks and nibbles (maybe a small buffet) and we would be able to get home within a couple of hours. That would give me time to write up the blog before settling down to watch France play Portugal in the Euro football final at 9pm. The ticket gave no clue as to what was planned

Of course we reckoned without the French approach to such events. In fact while driving to get to the venue for 4pm we were struck by the fact that we seemed to be the only car on the road. Could this be due to the fact that it was an English 4pm and everyone was already there or a French 1600 hrs which means there is little point arriving until 1700 hrs. It proved to be a French operation and 4pm meant nothing. We sat around chatting until an aperitif arrived at 5pm. By this time we realised that this was no nibbles or buffet but a full on meal and that there was a whole pig roasting round the back. We half jokingly said that probably meant a starter at 6pm the main meal at 7pm and the dessert at 8pm.

The starter duly arrived at 6pm! By this time we were sat on bench seats at long tables and having a really nice time. We sat next to a lovely French couple. The husband originated from Tunisia and his wife was born in France and they lived part of the year in France and part in Tunisia. She turned out to be a former president of the organisation and they both spoke very good English but asked us which language we would like to speak. We chose French.

At least having someone to chat to meant it was not such a wait for the roast pork to arrive at just before 7pm. Fortunately the wine was flowing and new bottles seemed to turn up from somewhere as soon as one was empty. The food was lovely especially considering they were catering for 150 of us. The French have such a great approach to these things and like to take a long time over their food, mixing in glasses of red wine and a little conversation. It is just that it would have been helpful to have warned us in advance. Not only was I keeping an eye on the time for the football, but we also had people arriving in the gite and we had left the cats to show them round. I was also conscious of the fact that writing up the blog was fading into a blur of red wine.

At about 7-45 cheese arrived, with some more wine. In the end we had to leave before the dessert arrived as we needed to check our gite guests and to be in place ready for the football. But all in all it was a good way to celebrate 25 years of such a positive attitude to Europe. We even had the local Deputy (MP) turn up and give a very short speech.

All this occurred at the end of a lovely sunny week in which Mrs. Parish’s brother John and his family came to stay with us for a week in the gite. John always has sunny holidays and this week was no exception. It was however a truly European experience. One of our nephews has a Norwegian girl friend (Inge) who he met at university and she came with the family to stay with us. Our niece has a Spanish boyfriend. Our other nephew works for a bank and following Brexit has a lack of certainty about where he will be working. By coincidence Inge’s parents were on a tour round France in their camper van and so they came for lunch on their way back to St. Malo, before going back to Norway via England and Denmark..

None of us could quite work out why some people in Britain are so anti European when for so many young people this gives so many great opportunities. Our New Norwegian friends explained that they were not in the EU but had a trade agreement which meant they had to accept free movement of labour and pay for being linked to Europe. The things that the Brexit campaign didn’t like but will have to accept. The fallout from Brexit continues.

Talking of fallout brings me to a sad bit of news as one of the little owl chicks fell out of the nest in the gite roof and sadly died. I guess this is one the hazards of nesting high up and we found the dead body and had to bury it. The chick was quite big and had feathers so it can’t be too long before the others are fledged. The good news is that there are still at least a couple of chicks in the nest. You can actually hear the owl chicks wheezing and scrabbling about from in the gite bedroom. In the evenings the two parent birds are very active in feeding the chicks flying acrobatically up into the nest and sitting on buildings as well as the TV aerial. Last evening they were out dive bombing the cats who they reckoned were too close to their area.

The Tour de France has now started and at the moment British cyclists have won the majority of stages and Chris Froome retains the yellow jersey as leader of the overall race. Last week we went to the nearby town of St. Hilaire to watch the tour go past. As with last year we enjoyed the pantomime of the “caravan” of sponsors of the tour who go past before the cyclists arrive giving out freebies. We went with Kate’s brother’s family so there were 8 of us in position to catch all the freebies thrown from the passing vehicles. We went up into the town to see the actual race go by and of course to partake of sausage frites from a street stall. The French are not doing too well in their own cycling tour and have not yet won a stage and it is some years since a French rider won the Tour.

Nephew Rob, typical English cycling fan!

Unfortunately for France the Euro 2016 football final was not so successful and after getting through to the final France lost 1-0 to Portugal. We sang the “Marseillaise”, we waved flags and shouted at the TV but they still lost. The chickens were very disappointed, although they perked up when Mrs. Parish did her Chicken Lady act. When it is time to lock the chickens into the hen house at the end of the day she gets some corn in a scoop and shakes it to make a noise. The chickens now associate this with getting a treat and run after Mrs. Parish all the way down to the hen house where they are shut up for the night. Two of them run straight into the hen house but Emmeline, the biggest always walks around the hen house one more time before going in. A sort of act of defiance!

Mrs Parish, Chicken Lady

I spent the day catching up on the ironing after having the gite full of people last week. Appropriately in the circumstances my accompanying DVD was “The Longest Day”. Three hours worth of film and probably 1.5 hours worth of ironing but when watching DVDs I don’t iron very quickly!

I am now finishing off the blog after dinner. A nice frittata made with eggs from our hens washed down with a nice drop of Chinon red wine. Life is not so bad!

A la prochaine, Graham