…..but not just yet. The first two days of November were gloriously and cloudlessly hot and sunny; all the better to highlight the rich russet textures in the trees, and other such effusions about autumn.We even took breakfast on our terrace on those two days it was so warm.

Prior to that we had performed the usual end-of-summer rituals such as storing the hammock and the large garden table in the shed as well as lighting the fire. So far, though, the woodburner has only seen service on three evenings. Even though I had previously stocked up with more wood than ever on the basis that, after two mild winters we’re bound to have a brass monkey one, I have this fear of running out of logs before the warmer weather arrives. When this happened two winters ago, our usual supplier had no more on hand so I had to get what I could from other sources, which proved to be rubbish. Will 20 stères (approximately 20 cubic metres) suffice? I’m not confident, though, as the wood I have bought burns too well!

William the Conkerer.…Perhaps, wherever you are reading this, you won’t have had

Horse chestnut peek-a-boo

Horse chestnut peek-a-boo

the pleasure, but growing up in the Sussex countryside, along with other young lads, I used to enjoy gathering large horse chestnut seeds, drilling a hole through them, threading string through them and playing “conkers” against other boys. The idea was to hit the other boy’s chestnut (conker) and, if possible, split it. Some lads even used to resort to “underhand tactics” such as soaking their conkers in vinegar to toughen them up. What was good for Sussex is also good for Normandy. The grounds of the chateau at Carrouges are littered with conkers and this has led me think about William the Conqueror. As the audio guide at the Bayeux Tapestry tells visitors, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, The Duke of Normandy went from being

Conker

Conker

called Guillaume le Bâtard to Guillaume le Conquérant. My theory, though, is that something got lost in translation; he always was a Conqueror, but of the game of conkers. He was nobility after all and if he had wanted to coat his horse chestnut seed

in lead, who was there to  tell him nay? In any case, as like as not they didn’t stop at horse chestnuts but used the heads of men killed in battle! They were tough in them days, ay! If you don’t believe me, think on this: an old English word for head is conk!

Mushroom season almost passed us by. After we returned from Australia and New Zealand we found very few out in the countryside. When two good friends visited us

Wild mushrooms finally tamed.

Wild mushrooms finally tamed.

 

from Sydney towards the end of September we took them out on a forage for fungi but although we returned with some, there were no real treasures amongst them. In fact, it took longer on our return to decide which ones might kill me – no-one else was game to try any – and which I might survive. Sue and our two friends, Janett & Lisa, have around 60 years experience as scientists. Indeed, Lisa is the CEO of the NSW Food Authority. What

It's so easy to tell the good from the bad!

It’s so easy to tell the good from the bad!

does she know about anything?! So, after a couple of hours of poring over our guide to mushrooms, their

conclusion was that they couldn’t definitively rule on any of them but they thought I wouldn’t need a stomach pump. Comforting..not, but it is very difficult sometimes to tell the difference between edible, inedible and downright life-threatening. Each autumn our local pharmacy puts two boards in its window to try and indicate to people which mushrooms are good and which are not so. Some from both sides are almost identical. In this case-  Taste test: Bland, but I’m still here.

 

 

 

Before went on holiday, we could tell that our Standard Poodle, Alice, was having difficulty moving and that was confirmed after we returned. She has found it increasingly difficult to jump into our car or onto a sofa or a bed (Yes, we’re tough parents, aren’t we!) and she is also having difficulty in climbing stairs. We didn’t really need the vet to tell us that she has arthritis but that issue was, and is, being compounded by her mental state. She has always been a nervous girl, but now, if she slips, she just sits down and gives up. In that situation Sue and I just have to lift her up. I’ve put non-slip tape on the stair treads and we will be buying her an electric blanket. In addition, and on the recommendation of a good friend, we’ve put her on Glyco Flex 3 tablets. These have a high concentration of Glucosamine and MSM plus a host of other ingredients listed in very small print on the jar. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there is dried essence of eye of newt and toe of bat in there somewhere. Medicos sometimes poo-poo such remedies but my friend says that his dogs have benefited greatly from Glyco Flex and, besides, the medication prescribed by the vet also had Glucosamine and MSM in it.

The other treatment Alice is receiving is a weekly session at a hydrotherapy centre near Caen. That’s 86kms away but she is already showing some benefit from a swim in the pool plus massage and heat treatment. She loves the massage and the heat lamp and sleeps well in the car on the way home. Oh, I was amused to discover that, under her jacket, Cecile the hydrotherapist’s work “uniform” is a wetsuit!

Well, you are meant to be a water dog, Alice!

Well, you are meant to be a water dog, Alice!

Alice on the treatment table

Alice on the treatment table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Boulardiere “International” Aerodrome! A couple of sunny Sundays ago, Paraglider close-uphearing some strange sounds emanating from the field behind our house, I investigated and found a man using it as a launch pad  and landing strip for himself and his motorised paraglider. Such excitement in rural France!  The “motorised” bit seemed to be just a giant fan that the man strapped to his back. It worked though. He took off effortlessly, flew around for about 30 minutes and then landed again. For the latter operation -landing- it always helps to have some indication of wind direction lest one overshoots and ends up in a pond, or worse. In this case, Monsieur Paraglider had simply stuck a short metal rod into the field and attached a length of red & white barrier tape to it. Simples!

Paraglider landing

Every Hallowe’en for the past several years we have always stocked up on treats for any children who may call round. And every year up to now, we have been left with Halloween Ewen and Elsaenough to stock a small candy store because no-one has knocked on the door. This year we decided not to bother, with the inevitable result that two of our neighbours’ children, Darth Vader and The Wicked Witch of the West, came calling. Fortunately, Sue had bought a packet of sweets for use on car journeys. Having never played it myself who decides on whether or not it should be a trick or a treat? What form can tricks take and who performs the trick?

 

This & that, here & there…..What are we going to do now that the Rugby World Cup is over? For the past six weeks or so Sue and I, plus some occasional Kiwi visitors, have enjoyed a feast of great rugby. We won’t talk about England. They disappeared from sight very early on, much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of advertisers on British TV who had used people such as the England captain in their ads on the basis that the national team was bound to make it beyond the first round….wasn’t it?!  Fortunately, I had a back-up. Sue was born and brought up in New Zealand so it was an easy task to transfer my loyalties to the eventual, and deserved, winners. She only had one nervous moment. During the last five minutes of the semi-final, with South Africa only two points behind the All Blacks, she had to put her coat on and go for a walk down the road.  Up to and beyond the final whistle in the final itself, I though that the highlight had been Japan’s defeat of mighty South Africa. That was, simply, the greatest upset in the history of the world cup, and possibly in the whole history of rugby union. But then, magic happened. After the final, the All Blacks team walked around the pitch at Twickenham on a lap of honour. At one point a young Kiwi lad, only 14 years old, and slightly built, ran onto the pitch to greet the players. Immediately he was crash tackled by a security guard but, one of the New Zealand players, Sonny Bill Williams, stepped in quickly, calmed the situation down, spoke to the young man and took him back to his parents in the stand. So far so good, with everyone happy, but then….SBW took his winner’s medal from around his neck and presented it to the boy. Price of a ticket to the final: probably well north of £200. Win Bonus for the New Zealand players: almost certainly in the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The look on that young man’s face after he realised that he had been given a winner’s medal by one of his heroes: Priceless.  Look it up on YouTube; it’s worth it.

Country matters….A lot of maize remains unharvested in the fields. I’m told that’s because the weather hasn’t been dry enough for the crop to reach full maturity. I wonder if farmers have to give back their EU subsidies?

I’m used to seeing fields of yellow oilseed rape in the springtime but I’ve noticed several fields of it this autumn. That’s a first for me.

Sorry, this is the best I can find in the way of local wildlife……

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Thought for the Day: With the diesel emissions scandal enveloping the Volkswagen group, perhaps Audi should change it’s advertising slogan to read “Vorsprung durch Schwindel”?

Gallery Susan.….Since visiting New Zealand, Sue has taken inspiration from Maori culture. Here is a gallery of her latest work, mostly based on modern Maori women but with a memory of an albino girl she saw in Tonga back in 2000.

Vernissage.…On Friday evening, Sue has a Vernissage (opening) of her work at the Communauté de Communes du Mont Des Avaloirs in our nearby town of Pré-en-Pail. This is an umbrella body responsible for services in 27 local communities. France is a very cultural country and councils have budgets to promote the arts. Last year Sue had an exhibition in the town of Condé-sur-Sarthe, near Alençon, sponsored by the local authority. This time she is closer to home. Last Friday was hanging day and, as you can see from the photo, Sue and I didn’t have to do much. The staff at the Communauté building did it all for us. I’ll let you know soon how the evening went…..À Bientôt!

L'Équipe

L’Équipe

 

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