In fact the past 2 weeks have been very wet and gloomy. In typical fashion Mrs. Parish was complaining we did not have enough rain and the garden was dying. Now of course we have had too much rain and Mrs. Parish has been cooped up inside which is not good. A great deal of pacing up and down like a caged tiger and grumbling. Fortunately there has been sewing to complete so Mrs. Parish has taken herself off to the sewing garret to make some cushions for Ian and Emma.

The bad weather has led to some altercations with the cats who appear indoors and try to find ways to stay put. Archie has been particularly grumpy when we have tried to restore his outside cat status. He lies on the bed and tries first of all to portray cuteness, there curled up fast asleep, challenging you not to be so hard hearted as to move this poor cat. When you try to pick him up he goes “dead weight” and as a very large cat is difficult to pick up. He then proceeds to hiss and growl and spit all the way down the stairs and outside. The other two cats are also expelled with little bother although Minou has now taken to running away and making us chase her round the house, but once cornered she gives in gracefully. Moggie is much easier as he usually follows Archie out of his own volition. This is not always a wise move as Archie in grumpy mood seems to blame the first thing he encounters (i.e. Moggie) and growls and tries to hit Moggie, as if being thrown out is all his fault. Archie then goes off to a gloomy corner over by the hedge and sits all hunched up in the rain trying for all he is worth to look like some pathetic orphan forced to sit in the rain.

The cats liked our idea of holding a La Godefrere Enterprises annual shareholders meeting. Mrs Parish and I decided it would be a good idea after 12 months living here to take stock and review what we have done and what needs to be done in the future. There are some improvements we want to make to the gite and particularly we have major plans to develop our garden and grounds. So we plan to see what we can afford to do and plan how we go about getting it done. I have proposed that we cut down all the trees in the orchard that drop fruit! You will have gathered from previous blogs that this is a very back breaking and boring job. Mrs Parish has counselled against a too hasty reaction and we have come to a compromise that we will replace some of the trees that only produce cider apples and pears with fruit trees that produce fruit we can eat. If we harvest some of the trees we can also use these for firewood so the plan makes sense. We also plan to improve the gardens with extra flowers and shrubs and to extend the areas where we plant. (I say we but Mrs Parish is the gardener although I expect to be brought in to some of the unskilled labouring). I propose that we consider all sorts of new equipment for the purpose and I am sure there are things we could attach to the tractor which would help. Mrs. Parish gives me one of her looks!

I said that the cats were also keen on the idea of a shareholders meeting. They submitted a proposal increasing the amount of indoor duvet time they were entitled to as well as extra food rations. They thought that they could out vote us three to two. I had to explain to them that this was not a case of one person (or cat) one vote but that Mrs. Parish and I had control of the majority of shares and were able to exercise a card vote. The actual vote once counted was 200,000 votes to 3 and thus their proposal was defeated. I did remind them, as I often did to our children, that life is not fair and that they had better get used to it. Mention was also made of Animal Farm and the point that some are more equal than others!!

Anyway the weather has got much better and today we have been back to full on sun and shorts. Mrs Parish is much happier and so are the cats although they have been up to things over the past couple of days. Yesterday, when we got up and went to feed the cats we found under the seat outside a pheasant’s head which the cats were playing with. Moggie was looking a bit green and didn’t eat all his breakfast an almost unheard of occurrence. We thought back to the hare incident and wondered if he had caught and eaten a pheasant! A worse scenario then arose as Mrs. Parish remembered that when she was talking to Giselle the previous day she had said that the local hunt had brought round a couple of pheasants they had caught. Giselle was the going to prepare them for eating. A dreadful thought flashed through us. Had Moggie crept into Giselle’s shed in the night and stolen her pheasant!! With some trepidation Mrs. Parish went round to see Giselle and found to our relief that the pheasants were safe but that she had cut off the heads of the pheasants and left them in a bucket to dispose of later. She had wondered where they had gone when she found an empty bucket the next morning. She also told us that mysteriously the bread she had left out to feed her geese had also gone missing. So it looks like Moggie had made himself some pheasant’s head sandwiches for a midnight snack. After struggling with only half his breakfast he went off to find a bed to sleep it off and by tea time was back to his normal appetite.

Today it has been sunny and we have had cat madness. All three of them decided that as it was a nice day they would come and help me with the fruit clearing. The first problem was while I was picking up the pears to persuade them that it was not a good idea to try to catch hornets. Flies or even butterflies but nothing that buzzes will be good and particularly not the ones that sound like helicopters with a great big sting. That test over Moggie decides to chase Minou and she runs up a tree. The next thing I notice is poor Minou hanging on for dear life right at the end of a very flimsy branch with Moggie following her along the branch and trying to whack her with his paw. Fortunately they were only on a branch about 6ft off the ground so I was able before the branch broke to poke Moggie with my fruit collecting hoe and force him back onto the main tree trunk and then to rescue Minou. Of course while doing this chasing they managed to dislodge lots of fruit. Minou was then chased by Archie and I had to separate them before they came to blows. Minou then found somewhere safe to hide. Moggie decides that it would be a good idea to wind up Archie with some playful blows to the chin and another chase ensues. After a while it was Moggie’s turn to creep up on Archie who when he saw Moggie coming he ran behind a tree to hide and so he could leap out and surprise Moggie. The problem being that Moggie had already seen him and secondly that Archie is bigger than the tree trunk and so sticks out and could easily be seen. I give up trying to collect fruit and go off to make a cup of tea!

The moles are back and we have had a full on invasion with a string of mole hills across the bottom of the orchard and some at the top. Clearly Moggie’s prowess at catching them was a flash in the pan and we are back to drastic measures once again. The problem I am sure is that it has been several weeks since they felt the cold steel that is the combined effect of the tractor noise accompanied by my singing. So plans have been laid for a dawn counter attack (I say dawn but there is a bit of poetic licence here and probably more like 9-30 after breakfast). The tractor has been polished and made ready, I have checked that the battery is full on my IPod so I can sing along to maximise the impact on the moles. Of course this year I am without my major ally, Peter so will have to face the fight alone. I have got ready my speech ready to rally the troops. Lots about standing alone against the mole tyranny and fighting them in the orchard, on the lawn and down the lane and never so much being owed by so many to so few etc. I also mention Henry V and “once more into the breach dear friends”. Mrs. Parish, practical as ever suggests this may not be the best thing to allude to and casually mentions that Agincourt was part of the 100 years war and that maybe it was not a good idea to tempt fate.

Hey ho! I am duty chef tonight and must therefore start the preparations for my fish pie. The first task will be to visit the wine cave and select a rather nice white wine, possibly a Bourgogne. By the way it is the “Foire au Vin” at the supermarkets next week. This is a marvellous time when all the supermarkets celebrate French wine and have loads of great offers. An ideal time to stock up the cave! I will report back on our purchases next week. I think it is also time for a little aperitif.

Santé, Graham