We have just returned from our latest Sunday lunch experience. This time we went to a little village over the border in Normandy called Mantilly. This was another in Emile and Yvette’s round of lunch time events at various village halls around the area. This one was in aid of veterans of army service in Algeria just for a change. This was a much smaller affair than many we have been to but French nonetheless. It was the usual arrangement with the tickets saying from 12 noon. We arrived at 12-45 and food started to be served at around 1-45 after the required aperitif. This time we had various bits of chicken. The first course being chicken gesiers which is chicken gizzards. It was actually a lot better than it sounds. This was followed by a chicken casserole with rice. All of course washed down with suitably nice red wine and then cheese and tart followed by coffee and of course homemade calvados.

We were not expecting entertainment this time but clearly the organising committee had been round the village and drummed up support from the local amateurs. This led firstly to a couple who started off with a mouth organ and flute duo of “When the saints go marching in”. We then realised they were English as they started to sing the “Wild Rover” and of course our table joined in the chorus. The no nay never bit much to the bemusement of the rest of the room which was all French and could not fathom what we were singing. It brought back memories of Mrs. Parish and I of all the folk clubs we frequented in our youth. They followed this up with a rendition of “Yellow submarine” and again after all the wine and calva we were keen to make a noise. The French were now totally nonplussed. After this we had a crazy French guy who sang a lot of songs that no one not even the French could sign along too. His singing was unaccompanied and was not quite on key!! Everyone looked bemused but we are getting used to rural French ways so we just hummed along and had a good time, and drank some more. In between songs he launched into a lengthy monologue of jokes which the French found quite funny but for us by the time it was translated the humour was lost.

The Wild Rover in rural France

This week we had to drive and to pick up some new English friends John and Sandra who live near to us. I decided that we could not take them in a filthy car so I would need to clean it. It has been several months since last cleaned. In winter in rural France the local lanes and always covered in mud, where the farmers have been with their tractors and trailers. In many cases carrying out manure to fertilise the fields. So the car gets very dirty very quickly. It is not helped of course by our three cats who seem to think that the car is there for them. When we get a bit of sun the car gets warm and is therefore good to walk on and to sleep on. When the car is in our lean to shed it is also a convenient spot for the cats to use to jump up and down to the roof space where they like to go for a sleep. The lean to shed has an earthen floor and when it is wet they pick up lots of mud which is then transmitted to the car!

Of course when we arrive home from shopping the cats are keen to get into the car also with muddy feet so the inside of the car also gets very dirty. So on Saturday I decide to clean the car and the cats decide that it is a good idea to help me. I have to have the front door of the house slightly open to connect up the vacuum. This of course means the cats can sneak into the house. So I have to stop cleaning and chase the cats around the house, with them finding places to hide. Once outside they then decide that they should get into the car as the doors are open while I clean inside. This means I have to chase the cats around the car, with them hiding under seats and of course they have muddy feet which make the car dirty again. I am now throwing my wet cloth at the cats and trying to spray them with water to get them out of the car. Eventually I have to resort to bribery and offer them cat treats if they will go away. I should have realised that food is the driving force in their lives and started with bribery!!

So it has been a surreal end to what has been a quite surreal week. It was earlier in the week that Mrs. Parish had to experience back puffing or whoofing. This is a situation when you get minor blasts of hot air in the wood burning fire. It arises when you put new wood on a fire as the logs can give off gas which burns above the wood. When this ignites it causes a minor blast which can rattle the fire doors and at first is a bit of a shock. It just needs the draft through the fire to be open at first so that the gas is burnt off quickly. All this was discovered by Mrs. Parish on the internet.

It was not long after the back puffing incident that Mrs. Parish checking her emails suddenly exclaimed that something was wrong with her computer. What is up, I asked and was told that she had disappeared from Google, her normal search engine and the screen told her she was now in Binkyland. This did not sound at all a good place to be and all sorts of images raced through my mind. It seemed to be another search engine which had taken over her computer and no matter what she did she arrived back at Binkyland. I checked on my computer and was able to explain that this must be the binkyland virus and needed to be got rid of right away. Mrs. Parish rather grumpily said that she knew that but how could she get rid of it. Fortunately there were several sites on the net with advice and we were able to delete the virus and return Mrs. Parish safely back to Google.

So then when we thought that surrealism had firmly descended on the Parish household and all things weird would continue we had a knock on the door and there was Jean-Pierre. He is the son of our neighbour Giselle and in the autumn we had given him all our cider apples so he would have enough with his own to make cider. He now arrived at our door with two bottles of Pommeau. This is a drink made in Normandy from apples and calvados and is drunk as an aperitif.  It is made by mixing two thirds apple must (unfermented apple juice) to one third of one-year-old Calvados. The proportions are chosen to ensure that the resulting mixture has 16–18% alcohol by volume. The resulting drink is mahogany in colour with a bright lustre, and has an overall smooth taste, often with vanilla, caramel and butterscotch flavours. It is very nice and homemade pommeau is really great. As is normal with the rural French they do nothing to glamorise the drink and it was delivered in two recycled bottles. One which was plastic and had originally held orange juice and the other a glass jar which had held asparagus. Jean-Pierre had just written “pommeau” over the label. This is exactly how Emile delivers our calvados, although he usually wraps it in newspaper! Of course we are English so we immediately decant the pommeau into some posher bottles!!

Of course what is important is what is in the bottle and that speaks for itself. It is however the joy of the rural community. We didn’t want our apples and were happy for Jean-Pierre to have them. We expected nothing in return so it was a real joy to welcome him with his gift of two bottles. It was also important for Jean-Pierre to give something in return for our gift.
So this last week we have continued as the weather allows to get outside and to continue to work down at the bottom of our big field. We cleared another area and then went out to visit a French nursery to buy some trees and shrubs. Mrs. Parish drew up a list using Latin names which of course the nursery understood and we were soon sent out to find our way to meet Patrique who would sort out our plants for us. We found him and discovered that he was a man of few words but fast action. He immediately went through the list and instructed his assistant who arrive on an ancient little tractor and went off to find the plants. Patrique said he would get the trees and jumped into his white van and disappeared with skidding tyres across the nursery yard and two minutes later he returned screeching to a halt with two trees. The tractor returned and we went off with a whole load of plants to put in. I have also been putting up some nest boxes in the trees down at the bottom. So hopefully the birds will use them.

I have been greatly assisted in this by my new trailer which attaches to my tractor. It is great and I have been using it most days to take tools and plants down the bottom of the field and to move brambles and other cut waste back up to our bonfire. I have felt a bit like Eeyore in the books about Winnie the Pooh. Eeyore is a sad donkey who lives in a gloomy place and on his birthday was given a burst balloon and an empty honey jar. Eeyore gets much enjoyment of putting the balloon in the jar and then taking it out. He spends all day doing this. It seemed just like me putting things in my trailer and then taking it out again. Great fun. If you are bored just get a tractor and trailer!! 

So I think I shall have to try out Jean-Pierre’s pommeau. It would be rude not to!

Bonne semaine