As reported last week my daughter Jo and her partner Nicky were here for a week and they were keen to take Mrs. Parish and me on in La Godefrere games. After last week’s blog we were honours even and this week we managed to cement our class on the pool table, continued to be absolute rubbish at darts and then tragedy struck on the Petanque terrain. I say terrain with some exaggeration as we have to play Petanque on the grass in the orchard. This has several disadvantages. As we have no recent rain we have not cut the grass which is not growing much. It is high enough to hide the jack when thrown, making aiming the boules a little difficult. Secondly there is a high degree of irregular bounce as there are tufts of grass as well as areas where the moles have tunnelled which means that the boules bounce less in these areas. There are also occasional cat hazards as one of the cats tries to chase the jack or even the boules. I have not yet managed to train them to flick the jack towards my boules. This should give the home team a bit of an advantage with local knowledge but sadly not. Jo and Nicky soundly beat the La Godefrere team and so we lost our 100% home record. However it has given us the challenge to create an improved terrain and I have plans for obtaining proper French sand to make a proper playing surface. I have also discovered that Emile is a bit of a player so may recruit him as La Godefrere team coach.

Jo and Nicky had a great week with almost wall to wall sunshine and so they were properly relaxed just in time to go back to school. Nicky has taken to darts and was determined while here to get in some practice sessions. According to Jo you need to put in around 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert so Nicky has to get some time ready for the world championship next year!

I am in Archie’s bad books. One of his favourite places to sleep has been on top of an old barrel which is at the side of our courtyard next to the hedge. It was a perfect place as it was sheltered from the wind, got morning sun so was nice and warm for the afternoon. Archie could sleep there and keep an eye on the door of the house in case any food opportunities arose. He could also see any cars in the car park and weigh up opportunities for stealing sandwiches. He was there so often that we took to calling him Diogenes after the Greek Philosopher who lived in a barrel. Apparently on one occasion Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether there was anything he wanted. Diogenes replied “you could stand a little out of my sunshine”. How cool is that!! Anyway, I was not in Archie’s sun but had noticed that the barrel had a distinct lean to one side. I decided to be helpful and get the barrel upright. Unfortunately the barrel literally collapsed in my hands and fell apart! So now we have a pile of wood and metal hoops in a heap. Archie now lies on the grass and scowls at me every time I pass him. In general I have noticed that Archie is developing grumpy old cat status. When I remove him from our bed and try to deposit him outside, reminding him that he is an outside cat, he growls and hisses at me. I have shown him the job description and contract which clearly specifies the outside nature of the arrangement. We feed him and he catches mice, the mice are outside, so he needs to be outside. I hear that Archie is considering joining the cat branch of the CGT (French trade union) and submitting a list of grievances. When we came home yesterday all the cats were in a line outside the house and I thought for a moment they had formed a picket line. To try to restore some peace I have had to promise to replace the barrel.

The two small cats have been driving us mad as they have been honing their scavenging techniques. Mrs. Parish and I had already introduced a system of food warnings so that when we were preparing food there had to be one of us in the kitchen at all times. A complex formula was developed based upon the classic puzzle of the chicken, fox and grain being transported across a river. If you left the fox with the chicken, disaster! Similarly with the chicken and the grain. The complex formula at times involved taking a cat with you if you went outside. What we had not quite factored into the equation is the range of things the cats are willing to steal. This weekend Mrs. Parish has been making seemingly endless batches of ratatouille to try to use up our tomato mountain. The weather has been so hot over the past month that we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes. This means loads of salads with tomato and dried tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, comfit of tomatoes and loads and loads of ratatouille. Moggie decided that this would be worth trying. So Mrs. Parish and I were sat watching TV when we heard the sound of a cat lapping something. We dismissed it in the firm knowledge that we had left no food for cats anywhere. When we eventually went to look there was Moggie with his head in the still warm ratatouille. Of course what made matters worse was that he had put his paw into the bowl and when he ran off left little ratatouille paw prints all across the floor. This afternoon Mrs. Parish left a tea towel over today’s batch and later came back to find the towel floating in the ratatouille and signs of a little cats paws.

Minou, who is supposed to be the good little cat, and puts on this angelic, butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth, cat face is becoming silent thief number 1, today being on the dining table stealing a piece of bread and later trying to lick a spoon in the sink. They are like stealth weapons. One moment they are fast asleep and the next have slunk to the kitchen and are on the table, worktop or sink trying to steal anything going. It’s not as if we don’t feed them well. Although they would tell you different and have been seen to try catching tiny little flies immediately after a meal.

So cat chaos reigns here but at least the hornets have been defeated after my commando operation last week. There have been no signs of them since then so we can put this down as a comprehensive victory. The bird life are much less of a problem although a pair of wrens have decided to nest in our lean to shed next the house. It is quite a late nest but it is right at the top of the shed and there seem to be several young birds. Thankfully they are high enough up to have avoided the attention of the cats, so far. Hopefully they will fledge before Moggie spots them. He has set his sights on climbing to the top of the highest trees in the orchard but doesn’t always remember how to get down!

This last week we were out in the orchard after dinner in the evening and heard a tawny owl in an oak tree in our neighbour’s garden. One of the many talents I acquired in my youth is the ability to cup my hands together and produce a sound like an owl’s hoot. So I duly hooted to the owl and we had quite a conversation. I noticed that Mrs. Parish and JO and Nicky soon disappeared indoors leaving me and the owl to chat the night away.

By the way my new team Rennes drew 0-0 this weekend (Liverpool beat Man Utd and Exeter won as well).

So tomorrow, my son Ian and his fiancée Emma re coming to stay with a friend Sarah as well as Tommo the three legged ball of fur. So we are looking forward to a fun and drink filled week.

Now it’s time for dinner and we will be having ratatouille!