A quiet but interesting week in which we were very surprised at the sudden return, to Loic’s field next to the gite, of 21 cows seemingly returned from the dead. You will recall that the cows went off to the abattoir a couple of months ago and the field was left for the grass to grow for hay. Or so we thought. Now as far as we can tell the bullocks are the same ones that were here before. They look the same and have the same numbers. Either they have returned from the dead as zombie cows or they were simply moved to allow the grass to be restored. I prefer the zombie theory.

Anyway it is good to have them back in the field as I did enjoy a good chat with them and they seem to have a higher level of conversation than the sheep. The sheep have now disappeared off for a few days for vermifuger. This is a great French word for worming. Patrick came round yesterday to let us know and also invited us round to his house for coffee. The French around here are amazingly friendly and hospitable and ready to invite you in for a coffee and usually a little something to go in it. At Patrick and Katherine’s a little “eau de vie”. They have a nice house on the road to Gorron, quite close to where Emile and Yvette live. A typical rural French home with a couple of dogs (nearly always kept outside in a run or tied up).  In France everything has its job and the dogs are there to bark if anyone or a zombie cow comes onto their land. If there are cats they are there to catch mice or rats. The cages of rabbits are raised for food. There are chickens and other birds and a small potager (veg garden). So they are as self sufficient for food as they can be. Patrick and Katherine have a small amount of land but not enough to make a living so Patrick works at a factory in Gorron. Their way of life is the same as Emile and Yvette and our neighbours Daniel and Giselle.

There is a great tradition in France of producing just enough to keep you fed, warm and sheltered and not to constantly be aiming to earn more and more money. In France it is against the law to write a cheque unless you have enough money in the bank and credit cards are virtually unheard of. I have been reading a book about French culture and this describes rural French women in the 19th century getting together in winter in sewing or knitting circles and making enough for their own use and selling just enough to buy them candles and a little something to drink so they can do the same next winter. It seems a great philosophy. Mrs Parish has her own sewing circle in her garret. She disappears off regularly to produce stuff. Curtains for the lounge, cushion covers, shopping bags and knitted hats or jumpers for the children of friends. We also have the potager for our vegetables and salads which is great. However we can’t bring ourselves to full self sufficiency by keeping animals for slaughter. So no rabbits and our chicken is under no threat (although she would be pretty tough eating!!). The cats are supposed to be outside cats with the job of keeping down the mice. However we let them in for a sleep on the beds and the occasional cuddle.

I am trying to develop my DIY skills and so far have done quite a lot around the place, including restoring the oak in the stable (now games room) and in making benches for our sitooteries around the estate. So we are trying to adopt the French philosophy and we are into bartering where we can. So we exchange our paddocks for sheep grazing for a leg of lamb. I don’t mind other people slaughtering animals for me to eat. We are just waiting for Emile to come and cut our big field for hay. Emile will keep half for doing the work. The other half we are looking for people we can barter the hay with.

So we are slowly becoming French. My language skills are developing week by week and as well as going to French lessons once a week we are now also going to a session run by our teacher Jacqui called “cafe and conversation”. This meets weekly and is a combination of English and French people. We have a coffee and Jacqui sets a subject for discussion and the idea is that the English people speak French (helped by the French people) and the French speak English. It is good fun and a big help in giving opportunities to practice. I feel a lot more confident and can manage to string sentences together.


Just to emphasise our Frenchness we went this morning to the end of the lane to watch “La Boucle de la Mayenne” which is a sort of Tour de France round Mayenne. Today was the final day of a three day cycle race around Mayenne. Today’s race started in a village a few miles away and the route came along the road at the end of our lane. So we went with Daniel and Giselle to watch. First of all there is the passing of the “caravanne” which is basically lots of motor bikes cars and vans of the sponsors. They roared past us and threw out pens, sweets, post it pads and balloons and also bizarrely a potted plant, which Giselle picked up. When the cyclists came past us they were also going at a terrific rate and were gone in a minute and it was quite difficult to get more than a couple of photos. In July the real Tour de France comes by not too far from us near Fougeres. We may have to go and have a look.


Last week we had a group of 3 young men staying at the gite. They were over here for the weekend and all worked for Moto Magazine which covers motocross. Mad people on bikes who race around very muddy tracks, Apparently a round of the World Championship was being held at a town called Ernee which is about half an hour from here and where they have a purpose built race track. There were thousands there for the two days. The lads enjoyed themselves but were out at the race for most of the time so we only saw them first thing in the morning and late at night. The cats enjoyed exploring their van.

My mornings are being made very difficult by mad, bad, Michael Gove. He is the Minister for Education in Britain and has the unfortunate habit of proposing really daft things for schools in Britain. This upsets Mrs. Parish considerably. Sadly Mr. Gove has been particularly barmy all week and thus Mrs. Parish has been very exercised and as the information comes through on the internet in the mornings this becomes the subject of discussion at the breakfast table. I say discussion but this more often becomes an angry rant and although the anger is entirely justified it doesn’t aid digestion or create the peaceful ambiance for eating French bread and drinking French coffee. So Michael Gove will have to go!! The French used to have a suitable remedy during the revolution!

The kittens are adjusting to being outdoor cats. The novelty seems to have worn off and they have appeared several times at the window looking, at times looking very cute and pleading to be let in. At other times they try the pathetic, cold and hungry look but we have steeled ourselves against all their tactics. Archie still hisses and growls when we put him out. It’s all show of course. This evening Archie did manage to catch a field mouse. We were watching him creep up and then pounce. Unfortunately for him Moggie also saw what was happening and stole the mouse from under Archie’s nose. Surprisingly Archie was very laid back about it and wandered off. I think he was trying to portray “not bothered, I can easily catch another”. Moggie mean time had a good play with the mouse and then ate it!!  Moggie then tried to show how clever he was by his attempts at mouse catching by putting his paws down various mouse holes. Minou seemed a bit put out and ran around pouncing on bits of grass for a while before getting bored.

The weather has been poor all week with windy and showery rain. It’s been dryer and warmer today but still cloudy. The forecast is better for the week so hopefully we will get a few decent days. I think it’s time to treat myself to a bit of French hospitality as it is father’s day (fete des peres in France) and have a nice coffee with a small drop of Calva. As I am now part French it seems the right thing to do.

Bon fete des peres