Here I am sat in our marvellous and large garden, enjoying the afternoon sun. On my lap curled up, is a small grey cat and so quite naturally my thoughts turn to world domination. I stroke the cat and begin to narrow the eyes and mutter in a strange but probably German accent, “so Mr. Bond”. I am awoken from my reverie by Mrs. Parish (in practical mode once again) who reminds me that Blofeld had an evil looking all white cat and our Minou hardly comes into that category, and never mind dominating the world until you have made me a cup of tea. Without an evil cat all thoughts of world domination evaporate. For a moment it occurs to me that our ugly sheep look quite evil but I can’t think of anyone with an evil sheep that was taken seriously as a threat to good world order. So I plod off to make the tea.

Sat with my cup of tea and a slice of Mrs. Parish’s excellent lemon cake I continue to contemplate world domination. The French under Napoleon could have achieved that but I think Napoleon was defeated by the “heure de dejeuner”, the French lunch hour (although it always seems to be 2 hours!). You can just imagine the troops lining up for the battle of Waterloo and Napoleon about to issue the order to attack when someone says sorry pal (desole, mon ami) but we can’t possibly attack until after we have sat down for our lunch time meal, which will be 3 courses, with wine and a nice coffee after, could you comeback in a couple of hours. Two hours later and the battle is lost, Napoleon is sent to St. Helena and the chance of beating the English is gone. Mind you the French kept their lunch hour and we got McDonalds!! Same thing in World War 2. The French sit down to lunch and the next thing they know is that Paris has fallen to a Blitzkrieg attack.

Interestingly, I have just read a book about Paris during the war and because there was no fuel for taxis the French used cyclists to pull trailers as transport. If you needed a fast taxi you called for the Tour De France team of cyclists!!

Anyway one of the benefits of L’heure de dejeuner” is that there are loads of small cafe/restaurants in almost every town and large village which serve lunch. Most of them serve what is called a “menu d’ouvrier”. Basically a workers menu as they cater for so many working French people who want a proper lunch. The “ouvriers” menu is usually very cheap and you can get 3 courses, including a bottle of wine or cider for less than 10 euros (around £8-50). The food is usually excellent and a very good way of telling which are the best is to see how many lorries and vans are parked outside, with the workers inside. A couple of weeks ago Mrs. Parish and I visited a small town called Juvigne, which is a floral town with an agricultural museum. We went for lunch in a small unassuming bar in the town square. There were several vans outside and a good number of workers inside. We went for the “ouvriers menu” and had a really lovely slow cooked beef in a rich sauce. It was superb and followed up with a brilliant dessert. We also had a bottle of cider and coffee afterwards and all for 9 euros, amazing value. (We could also have had a starter and a cheese course). Who needs world domination when you can eat like this.)

Of course the downside of l’heure de dejeuner is that most shops and tourist attractions are shut for a couple of hour over lunch time. This can be frustrating until you get used to it and then adopt a phlegmatic gallic shrug! In the past we have been refused entry at Fougeres Castle when we arrived at 11-30 as we would not have had time to see the entire castle before they closed at noon. We have also been thrown out of shops while still contemplating a purchase as the lunch hour had arrived.

Nothing is quite “normal” in France as regular readers might have gathered. I suppose it’s all normal to the French but it does take some getting used to. Take electrical appliances as an example. Our fridge makes the most amazing array of noises. It has a grumbly noise, a sort of hum, occasionally a whiney noise, a knocking noise and also an odd assortment of squeaks and what can only be described as sighs. It can be very disconcerting if you are sat quietly typing up the blog in the kitchen to hear a strange noise. After a momentary panic you realise it’s just the fridge. The fridge in the wine store in the stable is just the same apart from the fact that it is a bit creepier, particularly if you are in the games room and can’t actually see the fridge. The washing machine also has its moments and rattles in a very high pitch when spinning.  

The oven has two controls one for turning on the oven and another for setting the temperature. If both are not on the oven doesn’t work. In the past couple of weeks Mrs. Parish has forgotten on two occasions to turn on the temperature. Most unlike Mrs. Parish and very worrying for me. I remind her that I am the one who forgets things and rely on her to know important things, like how old the children are and when are their birthdays. If she starts forgetting as well then this where the King Lear quote comes in as it will be a case of “oh that way madness lies, let me shun that, no more of that.” I put it down to the heat as we have now had over three weeks of really hot weather, that and the intensive jam making that has been going on. We now have jars and jars of Apricot jam (as well as the brandy and the kirsch). We also have a glut of courgettes and accordingly are having to come up with a range of courgette dishes or accompaniments. Mrs. Parish has also been making vast loads of ratatouille for the freezer (which doesn’t have much to say for itself).

Talking of madness, the cats are driving me mad at the moment. On Tuesday Moggie went missing at breakfast time, unusual as the cats are normally waiting outside the front door when I come down in the morning. On Tuesday only Minou and Archie were there and despite calling Moggie did not arrive. He then turned up about 10 minutes later soaking wet and looking very bedraggled so we had to catch him and dry him off before he could have his breakfast. We have no idea where he was but think he must have gone hunting in the fields. For most of the time the cats disappear to find some shade, usually in some strange place. Moggie has been taking to sleeping up on top of a wardrobe in the spare room. Archie disappears and Minou has to come for a cuddle, creating world domination ideas. In between that they have taken to fighting and chasing each other, which means that you see two cats go flying by. It usually ends up in trouble as Archie gets to play too roughly and the little ones start to complain, requiring some intervention from me. It’s a bit like having young children about the place.

Usually I can find some peace and quiet and an escape from the madness in the garden and with the lovely butterflies we have here. Walking around the grounds yesterday I spotted 10 different varieties and there are loads of them, in the fields, down the lane and in Mrs. Parish’s potager. These include a swallowtail which is quite rare these days in Britain. The peace and quiet is even more special at night fall as we get superb views of the starlit night sky from the garden. When I say peaceful, I mean apart from the bats and the owls and the occasional bitey insect which seems to find some unguarded bit of Mrs. Parish to bite!

Hey ho, all thoughts of world domination have now been put aside as it is once again time to consider an aperitif prior to eating this evening. I think we are having something with courgettes!!!

Bon appétit