La Godefrere has now become an international hub. At least that is how it feels after several reservations for our gite from around Europe. It is clear that we have a strong international branding and have embraced the European ideal! I mentioned last week that we had two cycling Dutch people staying in the gite. They gave us a very good review on line. At least I think it was good as it was in the Dutch language.

Since then we had a booking for this weekend from a German family, who are in the gite now. They go on Monday. They said that they came to us looking for culture and “detention”.  At first there was a danger of some sort of Basil Fawlty misunderstanding but we realised that this comes from the French verb “detendre” which means to relax!! Could have been the end of the international hub.

We then had some more Dutch people and a Belgian family enquiring but unfortunately, we were already booked. But another family from Holland has now booked our final vacant week in August. So, we have a full summer in the gite. We, of course, had a French family staying at Easter and our international tally is growing.

What is striking about this is that the Dutch couple and the German family all speak impeccable English. Very few of our English gite visitors speak any French. It does rather put us to shame and makes the decision to leave Europe under Brexit all the more sad.

At least I am doing my bit by continuing to attend French lessons, once a week in Mayenne. My confidence to speak French is improving and I can hold a conversation with my neighbours Giselle and Daniel and also with Emile and Yvette. A couple of weeks ago we had our final lesson before the summer break and Alain our tutor decided that we should make a tour of Mayenne and each student had a street or monument to research and to prepare a presentation in French for the rest of the group.

I was given the “Macracken Bridge”. I was aware of the name and story which concerns the 2nd World War and the American army advancing towards Mayenne in August 1944. Mayenne was a key target for the Allies and to take the town it was necessary to capture the one remaining bridge over the river. The Germans had placed 15 cases of dynamite on the bridge to blow it up. James Macracken was a 28 year old private and part of the engineers who had landed on D-Day. He went on to the bridge and managed to defuse the dynamite but sadly was shot and killed by the Germans. The bridge was saved and the Americans crossed over and liberated the town.

The plaque to James Macracken on the bridge in Mayenne

To honour the brave actions of this soldier the town renamed the bridge the Macracken bridge and it has a memorial plaque on it. So, I researched this and gave the presentation by the bridge. We then continued our tour around the town and eventually reached the “Ancien Marie” (the old town hall). This is where we normally have our classes. We had a presentation on the town hall and were about to move on when it started to rain, quite heavily and we decided to go into the town hall.

Inside in the lobby there is another plaque commemorating James Macracken and another US soldier. There were three people looking at the plaque. It turned out that one of them was an American who was over here touring WW2 sites and in fact was a relative of Macracken! The other two were a guide and driver who had volunteered to drive him specially to Mayenne to see the memorial and the bridge. An amazing coincidence that he was there at the same time as us. If it had not started raining we would never have gone inside and never known! We explained that I had done some research for my presentation and he asked me to repeat it in English, which I was pleased to do.

We also last week took Emile and Yvette out for lunch as a thank you for all the things they have done for us, including supplying us with cider and calvados. A group of 6 friends of Emile, we clubbed together and took them out for lunch and at the same time had yet another French culinary experience.

We went to an auberge near Carelles, which is about half an hour from us. An auberge is a French Inn with accommodation and a restaurant. But this auberge is on a farm in the middle of nowhere and only serves food if you book in advance. The proprietor is in his 60’s and does all the cooking but on an open fire which he then grills meat on. Not a place to take vegetarians! We had all ordered steak which was cooked to our tastes. We were the only group there and it was a very French experience with cider and wine. To get the cider the chef disappeared to some ancient shed in the garden and came back with a jug full of cider straight from his barrels. Cheese of course and a tarte tatin to finish. Then coffee and homemade calvados.

Emile and Yvette and friends at the auberge

Back to the realities of life at La Godefrere. As you will have gathered we have had a constant battle with Emmeline, one of our hens who is regularly escaping over the various gates around the grounds. We have to keep a close eye on her and every day have to hunt her down, either hiding in the garden or out in the lane or big field. We have repeatedly warned her of the risks of a passing fox. And we have seen a fox crossing the nearby fields. 

All this has been to no avail and so we have had to move to a more drastic solution and we have planned to clip her wings, literally. First you have to catch your chicken and Mrs. Parish was sent out on an undercover mission to lull Emmeline into a sense of false security. This afternoon was our chance as Mrs. Parish cornered her in the lane and managed to pick her up and carry her up to the house. In the confusion Moggie managed to sneak in and there was a delay while he was extracted before I could get to the wing with a pair of scissors. Emmeline was successfully snipped but would it make a difference.

Mrs Parish, chicken wrangler

Well, no is the answer and Emmeline can still muster enough lift to get to the top of the gate and jump over! So, our next approach is to try to make the gates a little taller. I did suggest we tie some lead weights to her legs or may be just let the fox get her. Neither suggestion found favour and now I am also persona non-grata with the hens!

On the bird front we have finally seen the hoopoe return after several months. We had a glimpse of the hoopoe in April, but this coincided with a spell of cold and wet weather and the hoopoe probably went back south. Now after the nesting season it seems we have a new hoopoe visiting the area and yesterday it was in our orchard and nearby fields. A welcome return and hopefully it will stay around and maybe come back to nest next year.

Hoopoe back in the garden

After several weeks of nothing but sun the clouds have returned and even a welcome bit of rain. Could do with more rain as the grass has turned brown and nothing is growing. So, this afternoon is an indoors time for writing up the blog. I will need to brave the bad weather to get to the cave for a little something.

When you are retired and living in France there is always a bright side to life!!

Bonne journee