It has been really hot for the past few days and due to get even hotter here in France with the temperature due in the high 30’s on Tuesday. Mrs. Parish and I have just returned from the fete at St. Simeone a nearby village. We went for the lunch or repas with Emile and Yvette and some English friends.

There must have been at least 3 to4 hundred there and the serving of the food was a masterful display of organisation. There was of course tripe on the menu and Emile indulged himself. It never looks that appetising to me and the thought of eating the lining of the stomach is not appealing. Nor I have to say was the idea of Tete de Veau or the head of a young calf!! The French seem to delight in eating everything from an animal and of course make it to high cuisine standards. I stuck to sausages and Mrs. Parish to a grilled pork chop. Both options were very nice. 

The other thing about the repas is that they always have the full four courses. A starter (this time melon, salad or cold meats) and after the main course, a wedge of camembert cheese followed by a dessert (chocolate, crème brulee or a peach). And then there is coffee of course. It is amazing how they manage to prepare and serve it all as well as selling wine to go with it! 

The entertainment that goes with the meal is a bit more hit and miss. This time we were treated to a very loud accordion player who seemed to be on a round Europe trip with tunes ranging from France to Greece via Spain. I quite like the accordion which is very French but this was just too loud and we could not hear ourselves speak. He was followed by a young French woman who sadly had a terrible voice and her repertoire was not well served by singing songs by Jacques Brel which are a bit depressing and not what was needed to liven up proceedings. We escaped to watch the start of the fete cycling race which is another feature of village entertainment. The Grand Depart was not quite up to the standards of the Tour de France but there were about 30 entrants all with the proper cycling gear and in team colours.

St. Simeone lunch and "entertainment"

Cycle race at St.Simeone

One of the nice things about living in an old French stone built farmhouse is that when it is hot outside it is cool in the house. So I have come indoors to write up the blog in the cool and then I can go and sit in the garden when it has cooled down a bit outside. You would think that sitting in a lounging chair in the garden would be a safe and quiet affair. At least once you have worked out how to carry and erect the chair without losing fingers. One afternoon during the week I managed to successfully put up the chair and at the right angle for reading my book. I was sat there happily reading but being bothered by the occasional fly which landed on my bare leg. This required expending unnecessary energy in swishing them off my leg. I noticed yet another insect on my leg and was about to swish when to my horror I saw a very large hornet crawling up my leg.

Now, I have not been stung by a hornet but I gather it is much worse than a wasp sting. So I am fighting off the urge to get up and run. On the basis that this would mean using my legs which the hornet might not like. Swishing seemed a dangerous option as did shaking my leg. All the while I am thinking of options the hornet is rapidly crawling up my leg and the various places  where it might end up were frankly alarming. I decided that as my leg was bent in a sitting position the hornet would have to come round my knee to get to my upper leg. This seemed to provide an opportunity for a quick and incisive flick as the hornet came round the corner. I decided to flick him with the edge of my kindle as there would be less flesh involved. I waited carefully and fought to keep my leg absolutely still while watching the hornet reach my knee and come over the kneecap. The kindle was in position and just as the hornet came round the kneecap ................. (Dramatic pause to enhance the tension) 

I flicked and the hornet fell to the grass and to ensure it did not return I jumped out of the chair and onto the hornet.

Fortunately Hoopoes do not sting you and don’t as a rule crawl up your leg. This is just as well as they have a very large beak. This week I have heard the hoopoe calling (hoop, hoop, hoop – hence the name) and often seen it at the top of trees in the fields around us. This is the first time that hoopoes have stayed near us. Usually their arrival coincides with cold wet weather and they move back south again. This year the weather is good and so the hoopoes have stayed.

This week we have also had our first visit to hospital. Fortunately it was neither I (although the hornet incident could have resulted in a nasty sting or a nervous breakdown). Our neighbour Daniel came round and asked if we could take him to the hospital as he had very bad stomach pains. Mrs. Parish acted as the ambulance driver (she is also the La Godefrere first aider). He had to go in and have lots of tests and they eventually found that he had gall stones so operated to remove his gall bladder. A few days later, an English friend called Ian was also taken to hospital with stomach pains and it was discovered that he also had gall stones and had his gall bladder removed. As it turned out he went into the operating theatre immediately after Daniel.

Mrs. Parish had been making several journeys to take Giselle into hospital to visit Daniel and then we both decided to visit both Ian and Daniel who were in the same hospital almost in adjoining rooms.  Mayenne Hospital is newly built and was very impressive. Most patients were in single rooms and the care was first class. A chance to see the very efficient French health service in action and to add some new words to my collection. “Vesicule biliare” is French for gall bladder and the gall stone is called a “calcul”. Daniel kept his stones as souvenirs and one was like a large pebble. The unfortunate thing for both Ian and Daniel is that they have to rest for a couple of months and remove fatty things from their diets. So no cheese, poor Daniel has already passed on one camembert to us as he can’t eat it!!

We ended the week by arranging for the grandchildren of some other English friends to visit the alpacas on the farm of John and Alex. This was as mad as ever and particularly so as some of the alpacas have been sheared and look even sillier than alpacas normally do. Still the little ones had a great time and we managed to get some goats cheese from Alex which is always nice.

Alpaca after shearing

Now we are looking forward to next weekend when some special guests arrive for a short visit. 6 of my former workmates are coming to stay and this includes the two colleagues who retired recently and whose retirement parties I went over to England for. My mate Alan is driving and depending if he can set his sat nav, they will either be with us for breakfast on Friday or travelling towards the channel tunnel to go back to Britain. It should be a fun packed weekend and we have lots of eating and drinking to fit in.

I think I should start to practice now and so will have to have a little aperitif to supplement the red wine with the repas at lunchtime. It is really hard work living in France.

A la prochaine weekend