The past week has almost been spring like compared with the past few months. At last the storms and tempests have ceased and we have gone back to what is more normal for this time of year. We have even had some sunny days. This week we have had a pair of dunnocks singing and displaying outside the house and today we saw a skylark soaring and singing right above the house. In sheltered spots in the orchard there are even a few primroses coming into bloom. The buzzards continue to engage in flying displays over the orchard and in the fields around us. Hopefully we have turned a corner and we will now get some normal weather.

Mind you, we have not yet had “Le grand frois”, the usual winter spell of very cold weather when we usually get some snow. So there may still be some challenging weather before we get to spring. 

The week has also been good from an alcohol point of view. On Thursday we got home after our usual French lessons to find that in the lean to shed had appeared a crate with 12 bottles of cider from Emile. He had visited while we were out and had left the crate for us. So of course we have had to test out this year’s cider production and it is lovely. Even more pleasing as it is made with apples from our orchard. At times like this I can look back and think that all that apple picking was worth it after all. I just wish there was some way of stopping the apples dropping on to the ground as it is back breaking work picking them up. Of course Emile makes cidre not cider. This is not gassy apple juice cider, this is proper cidre! Mrs. Parish reckons that she may convert from drinking wine to drinking cidre from now on. The unfortunate thing is that we will have to wait for about 12 years to see how this year’s apples turn into calvados! Still at least we can drink cidre and calvados while we wait and build up an expert palate so we can fully appreciate it at the time. There is always a positive way to look at things.

Of course the past two weeks we have had the winter Olympics to keep us amused. I have struggled a bit with the “street” language associated with half pipe snowboards but definitely got into curling and Mrs. Parish and I have spent a few hours glued to the TV while the GB men and women played out tense game. We especially like the sweeping and have introduced curling style sweeping into our daily routine as we sweep out the grate and the downstairs floors in the morning. The French of course have a sort of equivalent game (without the ice) called petanque or boules. This involves throwing metal balls to see who can get nearest to a jack ball thrown out onto the play area. This is a great pastime for the French and when we went to Fougeres on Saturday we parked next to the town Petanque terrain. This is a large square area about the size of a football pitch covered in fine gravel. 

There was obviously a competition going on as there were at least 15 different games. The games were played by teams of two each player having three boules to throw. There were some very old Frenchmen playing and we watched for about an hour and it was fascinating to watch especially as the players all had their own grunts, shrugs and grumbles. The match closest to us involved one elderly Frenchman whose main style was to throw his boule aiming to hit the opponents boule out of the scoring position (nearest the jack). He was amazingly accurate. On the opposition team was a very canny player with a Groucho Marx moustache. He was also good at taking out opponents boules and he was very expressive in a typically French way. Of course I am now set on getting some proper French gravel and setting up a petanque terrain here at La Godefrere. Mrs. Parish is sighing again!!

The highlight of the week has to be meeting TJ and Harvey. My good friend Al has been for a visit and brought with him his son Dan and Dan’s partner Gemma with her two sons. TJ and Harvey are 11 year old twins. I can almost hear your expressions of sympathy. Well it was a challenge remembering which one was TJ and which was Harvey but by the end of their 4 day visit I had just about worked it out. They were very lively kids but well behaved and good fun even if they did beat me at backgammon and at pool. What amazed me most was their appetite. Not just the quantity of food, as all 11 year olds seem to eat constantly but their willingness to try new things. We had a meal at the La Marjolaine restaurant and they had the full French menu without demanding something and chips. A meal at La Marjolaine is of course at least a 2 hour affair and the kids were very patient and had a great time. When Al cooked a meal involving chicken gizzards and clams they did not bat an eyelid and just got on and eat it! In fact the grown ups were a bit more circumspect! Of course as 11 year olds, they were fully teched up with Ipads and mobile phones etc but used them to produce video and photo displays about their holiday as well of course as playing games. Nice kids and we enjoyed their company.

One unforeseen opportunity arose as Harvey invested some of his holiday money in a model of a dragon with a knight. This seemed to me the ideal aerial force to deploy against the moles. They have been fortunately quieter this week with no new incursions but we do need to prepare our defences and so I decided to hire the dragon or at least a photo of the dragon to see if this could be used to scare the moles or at least confuse them. The picture is displayed here and I am still working out how best to deploy this new weapon. In a pincer movement with our crack assault Mrs. Parish who has been sharpening up her mole traps just waiting for the chance to attack.

Of course Al’s visit has also meant a Backgammon tournament to determine the fate of the great backgammon trophy which has remained in France following the last two visits. This time we decided to play 4 legs of 3 games to decide. The last time we played the result went down to the wire and was decided on the last throw of the dice. This time the dice gods deserted me and I went down to defeat after losing three legs in a row only gaining some pride by winning the fourth leg when it was too late. So the trophy is now on its way back to England to be placed in a suitable trophy cabinet. There is now a very large gap on the kitchen shelf where the trophy resided and I am still wondering how the game turned so badly against me. Mrs. Parish on the other hand is delighted that the trophy has gone. No longer will she have to look at it or dust it or listen to my tales of the great sacrifices gone through as I fought to win it.

So this evening I will be drinking to forget my sad loss and of course some of Emiles cidre followed by a glass of calvados will cause the pain of defeat to become blurred and I can adjust to life without the trophy. Mrs Parish has reminded me that it is all very well concentrating on the blog and this week’s sad events but it is 5-30pm and she does not have a drink, she is muttering about slipping standards. Well I suppose I could do with a drink as the trophy is now on board a cross channel ferry.

Bon courage