It seems that we have a stressed cat on our hands. For the past couple of weeks we have noticed that Moggie had some bare patches where his fur had been pulled out. As it did not seem to be getting any better we decided to take him to our local vet in Ambrieres. It is a very nice vet’s practice but typically French. The Vet’s surgery is an old shop premises in the square in Ambrieres and going in you are met by shelves full of various ointments and pills for cattle. 

Being in a large dairy area, there are cattle everywhere and so not surprisingly the vet has a lot of cattle farmers as customers. Usually there is a farmer in buying some concoction. When we went in the vet’s receptionist was on the phone arranging a visit by the vet to castrate a whole load of bullocks. The vet was waving her hands in the air and shouting that this would be a job for more than one vet and she wasn’t going on her own! There is a small area where the receptionist works and another space which seems even more full of boxes of pills etc, where the vet is sitting. The examination room is off the reception area and is quite a small space.

Anyway Moggie is in his cat carrying box and is refusing to come out. He is not keen on this vet idea at all. The vet speaks a little English but we tell her that Moggie is a French cat and so will understand French. Eventually she manages to prise Moggie out of the box and examines him and asks us a few questions about whether he is eating etc. Oh, there is never any problem with Moggie eating! After a little while I hear the vet saying “il est stresse”. I was not sure but I thought the vet said “He is stressed”. Mrs. Parish confirmed that I had heard correctly. Stressed, a cat, one of our cats, impossible!

Does Moggie look stressed, does anyone in this picture look stressed?

Well, that is the vet’s diagnosis and she gives Moggie an injection to stop any itching from where he had been licking the fur off. She also gives us some medicine to give him daily. Fortunately it can be given with his food. The medicine is called Nervosyl and contains among other things Camomile and Valerian. The vet said that there could be various things causing the stress, but I am struggling with the very concept that cats can be stressed. Especially one of our cats who despite what they might tell you lead a life of luxury. Two main meals a day. Sofa time in the mornings followed by treats as a bribe to get them to go outside. They even get supper before bedtime and of course they have a luxurious palace to sleep in.

I suggest that maybe we should play some light soothing music in the palace and install a Jacuzzi and provide counselling. Mrs. Parish suggests that I stop being facetious. Anyway Moggie is now on medication and we are trying to make clear to the other two cats that they have to be especially nice to Moggie and not create any stress. It has not been helped this week by the French Army of the Air who have decided that with some fine weather they should practice low level flying of their jet fighters right over us. Moggie hates this and has to rush off and hide. I may have to write to the Air Ministry and explain our cat stress situation and see if they could go elsewhere for their practising.

A relaxed Moggie next to his medicine

In the meantime I am tempted to try some of Moggie’s distressing medicine, although Emile tells me that Calvados is just as good and probably tastes better!

March 8th is International Women’s day and it seems appropriate to reflect on one or two issues. Despite the French Revolution in 1789, there was no move to give women the vote. In fact the revolutionaries felt that the emancipation of women was not a priority. The Paris Commune in 1871 gave women full political rights but these were removed immediately following the repression of the Commune. In fact women were not given the right to vote until 1944 with the new French Republic following the war. 

Women’s representation in local and national assemblies remained low as it has done in many countries. The French rather warming to the task of women’s rights have recently introduced laws which require local and national assemblies to have an equal number of men and women elected.  So 50% of French MPs are women and this goes right into Government where half the French cabinet posts are held by women. After much pressure women still only make up one third of the current UK Government.

So do women now wear the trousers? Apparently not. Women wearing trousers in France are still technically breaking the law, although few of them are aware of the fact. A 19th-century law stipulating that any woman “wishing to dress as a man” must obtain permission from the local prefecture (Government office) has never been repealed, although later exceptions were made for women holding a horse’s reins or a bicycle’s handelbars!! When MP Jean-Yves Hugon suggested that the law be scrapped in 2003, he was told that it was not worth the bother.

You would be forgiven in rural France for not noticing any of this! In most cases among older French couples little has changed and women have a clear function as being in charge of the housework, including cooking and shopping. Our friends Emile and Yvette are fairly typical. Yvette does not drive the family car and so Emile has to drive the car to take her shopping. However he does not deem it necessary to actually get out of the car and we have seen him sat waiting in the car park for Yvette to finish the shopping! The French couple who have their sheep in our filed, Patrique and Catherine are somewhat younger but are not much more liberated. However we have seen them shopping and at least Patrique goes into the supermarket with Catherine. He then heads for the “male preserve” of electrical goods while Catherine does the weekly shopping!

I am viewed with some suspicion as not only do I share the shopping but also do some of the cooking and ironing. Admittedly the ironing I do is not technically challenging as it involves mostly straight things like sheets, pillow cases and duvets. I also do quite a bit of the cooking although I have to work to a recipe! In the Parish household we have not yet reached full equality but I like to think of it as working towards equality. Mrs. Parish takes the view that it would be better if I worked a little faster!

While on the subject of French men I should tell you of one other habit I have noticed among farmers. They all have a special famer’s knife, for cutting baler cord and other things. However they also use these knives when eating meals. I had noticed that Emile at the village repas getting out his own knife to cut up the meal. I thought this was an Emile quirk until at one repas he was sat next to 3 other French farmers and when the food arrived they all got out their French knives. Giselle has one too and so I bought one for Mrs. Parish so she could feel at home. The women I notice use their knives for cutting plants and never for eating!

Finally this week an update on the sheep and also on the clearance work. Patrique believes the ewes are ready to lamb and has taken them back to his house so he can be on hand if needed. This is a big relief as while they were with us I kept going down the lane to see if anything was happening. I am not sure quite what I expected or indeed what I could have done to help a lambing ewe. I did watch countyfile last week and saw some lambs being born. It all looks a bit messy and complicated so as well they are now at Patrique’s. 

Our clearance work continues apace and we have got rid of a large number of brambles. I have also put up 3 new bird boxes and already Great Tits have been to inspect one of them. The weather is improving and there is a lot more bird activity as the days get longer. It will soon be Spring!

Latest clearance with pile ready for burning

Moggie is looking a bit anxious so I must go and prepare his tea (and special medicine)

Bon weekend, Graham