It has been a busy week here at La Godefrere and the weather has stayed fine for October but it has got a bit colder. Time for the winter duvet, Mrs. Parish decides. The apples and pears continue to fall off the trees at a remarkable rate and a daily task for me is to go around and pick them up. A mind bogglingly boring and tedious task as well as backbreaking as of course they have fallen to the ground and have to be picked up. Not for much longer as plans are afoot to deal with this.

Mrs. Parish and I have been in planning mode and sat one evening both with a cat on our laps to plan for the future of the garden. However, stroking a cat on your lap inevitably leads to thoughts of world domination and super evil criminals from James Bond films. While at least it does for me. Mrs. Parish, ever practical, thinks that we should start with domination of our own grounds and build up slowly to world domination in due course. So we embark on our master plan to reorganise the garden and orchard. The plans involve creating a flower garden at the top of the orchard field next to our new patio and running down next to the vegetable garden. At the orchard end of the field we want to take down a couple of pear trees (ones that drop a considerable number of pears). The idea is to replace the cider and poire trees with ones that produce fruit that can be eaten. Some apple, cherry and plum trees. We also want to create a path through the orchard and plant up shrubs and bushes to provide interest all year round and also to plant things that will attract birds and butterflies. The final plan will also leave a large grassed area for sitting out and space for outdoor games etc. All exciting stuff and a lot of work in which I get the unskilled labouring work!

If we are to succeed with garden domination we have to see off the moles. In the past week Mrs.Parish has bagged another mole in her minefield defensive shield. She is fast gaining a reputation of being a mole hunter and I suspect soon she will be getting commissions from the locals. The job of “Taupier” or mole catcher is listed as an occupation in the local census records for the early 1900’s. A whole new career for Mrs. Parish. This week has also seen the moles adopt a new tactic of moving the goalposts, learned from the English badgers who have been steadfastly refusing to cooperate with the British Government who are trying to cull them. A Government minister when asked why the cull was failing answered that the badgers had moved the goalposts!! There have been some great pictures on the internet showing badgers carrying goalposts. Well our moles have been trying the same tactic. Last week our kill was on the right hand side of the orchard where Mrs. Parish had carefully laid out the minefield and successfully caught the mole. The very next day a whole new set of molehills suddenly appeared on the other side of the orchard. Mrs. Parish has been out today to re-site the traps. I helpfully offered to go around and do some singing to help. Interestingly it seems that the cows in Loic’s field like Leonard Cohen. I was out on the tractor in the week and there were no cows to be seen. I had my IPod with me and was singing along to Leonard Cohen when all of a sudden all the cows appeared. Who would have thought that cows would like Leonard Cohen, but that is the thing with cows, they are pretty difficult to work out. When I am chatting to them over the fence they don’t give much away.

Great excitement at our French lesson this week. We were at Cafe and Conversation, which we go to on Tuesdays when halfway through there was a knock on the door and there was an officer from the local gendarmerie outside. He had come in response to a difficult neighbour who was complaining that some of the cars parked outside were partly on the pavement so he had come to tell us off. The two cars were both owned by French ladies and it is quite common for French drivers to park fairly cavalierly. One of the French ladies, Elisabet, went out to move her car and proceeded to give the gendarme a piece of her mind about him having better things to do and then spotted the neighbour and gave him a verbal tirade as well. We certainly learned some interesting French words and phrases! We also learned a bit more about 89 year old Giselle. As part of the activities for the lesson we had to ask each other about how we spent our week. Mrs. Parish was paired with Giselle and found out that she had a busy week and on Monday’s she goes to line dancing and then tarot and finally choir singing; Tuesday is keep fit; Wednesday she plays cards; and on one Thursday goes to visit the old people in the local retirement home, she comes to cafe and conversation on Tuesdays and later in the week on Fridays has formal French lessons. She said she had trouble fitting all her activities into the week!!

Well, it has been Mrs. Parish’s birthday this week and on Friday we out to lunch at La Marjolane a very nice restaurant just outside Mayenne, on the river bank so we usually walk off the wine afterwards!! On Friday we had a really nice meal in what is an old fashioned traditional French restaurant. Even the decor is like something out of the belle-epoch or from a Francois Truffaut film. The really nice thing is that you are not hurried, lunch takes its course. As Mrs. Parish commented it’s like the restaurant that eats time. We went in at about 12-15 and before we knew it we were having a coffee at 2-15, 2 hours later.  Unfortunately on Friday it was raining so no after dinner walk and we had to find a quiet back road home where we promptly went to sleep on the sofa. We met a very nice young German waitress at the restaurant. She is training to work in the restaurant trade and came to the restaurant to learn French style waiting at table. She speaks very good English but had no prior knowledge of French so she was learning as she went. Very brave young lady!

Mrs. Parish is off back to England on Wednesday to see her parents. She will be away for 6 days leaving me in charge for almost a whole week. Every time she cooks there seem to be extra leftovers which she kindly puts in the freezer all labelled up. While I have acquired lots of cooking skills since retirement it is more difficult to cook for one person so the freezer meals will be good. It’s a bit like the service from Wiltshire Farm Foods that is advertised on the TV. I keep expecting Ronnie Corbett to turn up at the front door. I think the cats suspect something and may be planning a takeover during this period. They have been practising their pleading looks, staring in through the front door when it is getting close to meal times. For the cats this can be anything up to an hour and a half before actual feeding time.

The other bane of my life has returned. The starling who sits on the telephone wires has returned and has added to his repertoire of bird calls. In addition to his rendition of owl and buzzard calls he now does a pretty good impression of a lapwing. I spent a good ten minutes in the week scanning the fields and thinking, it’s a bit early to see lapwings when I spotted the starling. I think I need to join the local hunt and get a shotgun. The local hunt (Le Chasse) has been out most weekends hoping to catch a fox. They tend not to be posh blokes in red coats on horses but local farmers, on foot with a fluorescent jacket and a shotgun. They ring the maize fields and then send in dogs to flush out the fox. There tends to be a lot of noise and several times they have been in the maize fields close to us with lots of blokes lining the edge of the field. They don’t seem to get any foxes. Amazing really as we see foxes quite regularly and often in daylight in the fields behind our house!

I am now being called for a further planning meeting with Mrs. Parish. The cats are in place so once again we can plot the demise of world order and total domination for the La Godefrere (parts 1, 2 and 3)!!

A bientot