At last it seems that spring has arrived at La Godefrere. The sun has been shining although it is still cold. This morning Mrs. Parish was in her sewing garret. It has all the features necessary for a garret. It is at the top of the house, it is used as a work room and it is has no heating (albeit Mrs Parish cheats a bit by using a hot air fan. She was in the garret sewing dresses for the lovely Matilda, who is the daughter of a friend back in England. She is 3 (and a half) or probably nearly 4. Being small she only needs small clothes so Mrs Parish can almost rustle up a summer collection in a morning. I digress as I was talking about spring and the sun. So I went for a walk around the estate and was pleased to spot some summer migrant birds in the form of a couple of Willow Warblers. The banks of earth around the orchard have little clumps of primroses and walking around the big field there were birds singing everywhere. It was delightful and the morning was capped by me spotting not just one Little Owl which I had seen the previous day but two Little Owls sat in two trees next to each other the other side of the big field next to our gite. This is great news as it seems probable that these are a pair and will have a nest nearby. So hopefully the patter of tiny talons soon.

Today’s weather is a total contrast to the last week when it has been wet and cold all week to the extent that Mrs Parish and I have been consigned to indoor play. When Mrs Parish was talking to Giselle next door in the week all she got was a series of grumbles which the French do very well, with lots of sighs and shrugs and she finished of saying that the weather was just bizarre this year. Yesterday we had what the weather lady described as “flocons de neige” or flakes of snow. Mrs Parish got quite angry and said that the flocons could just “floc off” as we had had quite enough bad weather.

The cold weather has meant that we have had to keep our wood fire going for longer than we anticipated. I keep thinking we are going to run out but Mrs Parish (who is firmly in charge of the fire, which is an Edwards thing. Her father was always having bonfires and her brother Pete, when young was in constant danger of burning the house down!) keeps disappearing into the chicken shed where we keep the logs and turns up with enough wood for another nights fire. She turns up at the door cradling another log. It reminds me of the log lady, from the TV series Twin Peaks (a weird US series directed by David Lynch, if you have seen the film Mulholland Drive you will have some idea of how weird this series was). Anyway there was this strange old lady who was always carrying a log around. Mrs Parish is not happy with the comparison!! I’m really not sure where all these logs are coming from but we are at least managing to keep warm. Hopefully spring is properly here now.

Earlier in the week we went to Mayenne to see the carte vitale man, although this time it was a woman. She checked through all our paperwork which by now is a small mountain’s worth. Mrs Parish and I sat with some trepidation waiting for the verdict. Would all the paperwork be correct or would they find something else we needed. No this time we were there, all correct. We asked how long it would now take to get the carte vitale. The woman gave us a look, then produced a fantastic Gallic shrug and said that the papers now had to go to Nantes. Her voice raised and trembled at the very mention of Nantes. Her clear meaning was that being sent to Nantes was the bureaucratic equivalent of purgatory and that mere mortals could have no understanding of how long the papers may have to remain there. So we wait for Nantes...........

The French have this strange approach to things. On the one hand the bureaucracy can be incredibly slow and nonsensical. Officials seem to have to adhere rigidly to the rules or what they tell us are the rules. La Poste, (the post office) seem to work to a whole different set of parameters. For example, don’t pay to send post recorded delivery to France for no matter how big the label on the letter it will just be delivered without bothering to stop for a signature. That is of course if they can deliver to the right address. I had a birthday present sent to me from Amy, clearly addressed to me in Couesmes Vauce. The post office miss allocated it to go to Vauce which is the next village to us. The post lady there obviously couldn’t find La Godefrere there. Instead of returning to the post office she delivered it to the post box of an English family in that village. Her reasoning presumably was that any English person would be fine. Fortunately we got a call from the family and had to go over to collect it!! There are only three occupied houses in the little hamlet called La Godefrere but quite regularly our post lady (who is a very nice young French woman) gets confused and delivers mail to us for our neighbours.

The French are great but very strange. On the way into Laval is the most bizarre visitor centre/come theme park ever. It is called “Lactopolis” and is dedicated to milk and milk products. There is a huge building with loads of plastic cows in front of it. It is apparently the world’s largest dairy museum and boasts over 4000 objects and documents from the dairy heritage. This includes Marie Antoinette’s milk churn!!! She used to like playing at being a dairy maid, and had her own dairy built at Versailles. No wonder they cut off her head.

The guided visit to Lactopolis takes incredibly two and a half hours and includes, according to their website, an impressive collection of camembert labels. Mrs Parish and I have added this to the list of museums we have managed to avoid visiting including (the Bagpipe museum on Skye; the Electricity museum in Christchurch, the Bakelite museum in North Devon, the Pencil museum in Keswick and the Radar museum in Norfolk).

Time for an animal round up of news. The cats recovered from their operations. Minou managed not to pull all her stitches out and seems to be healing well. However both kittens have caught colds. I didn’t know a cat could have a cold but apparently it’s quite common. Minou started sneezing and wouldn’t go outside but after a couple of days seems fine. Poor Moggie he has the cat equivalent of man flu. He’s been sneezing all day and now has a bunged up nose and is dribbling all over the place as he tries to breathe through his mouth. He is feeling very sorry for himself. As you may know as I have previously reported that the French for cold is the very Clouseau-esque Rheum. So I have been driving Mrs Parish mad by my impressions of Inspector Clouseau and constant references to the “Chat Rheum”!!!

Archie and the chicken are both fine thankfully as I think either of them with a cold would be very bad tempered. The good animal news is that we will be getting some more sheep or lambs to be more precise. We could end up with two lots. Since the sheep went to the great sheepfold in the sky in November we have been looking for something to go into our paddocks. Alex the nice lady whose sheep we looked after gave us a ring last week as she has acquired a couple of lambs which are currently being hand reared and she wants to put them into out paddocks in about a month’s time. So great news. A friend of Emile’s has also been to look at the field as he has 4 lambs that need some grazing land. He seems to be someone who doesn’t make quick decisions so we are waiting to hear from him. So we could have up to 6 lambs. Wow, great and of course this will lead to legs of lamb and more lamb feasts.

The cows in Loic’s filed next us have had a long cold winter but they still come over to have a chat from time to time. The beginning of last week I managed to get the tractor mower to start, with the help of Peter’s jump leads and decided to cut the grass which was getting quite long. All 29 of the cows (actually they are bullocks) came over and lined themselves along the fence and stared at me going up and down on the tractor. It seemed to me that they were discussing my performance and saying “he’s not going in straight lines”, “that’s pretty poor work”, “he’s not a real farmer” and “he can’t be French he hasn’t got any blue overalls and he’s wearing a silly bobble hat, not a beret”. Bullocks can be very unkind.

Our war correspondent (Mrs Parish) reports from the front that there has been no sign of mole activity over the past couple of weeks. Certainly there are no new mole hills. At a recent cross border consultation, our staunch ally, Peter reported no activity on his side of the border. It could of course just be the bad weather but I have a feeling in my water that this may be down to Archie’s wee. On our daily walk round the orchard he is still using molehills to relieve himself and I think this may be having the desired effect. They are still out there though. On my morning walk around the estate there were some pretty big molehills down at the bottom of our big field, let’s hope they stay there!

Last night we had “Lapin aux Pommes” as rabbit is very good value in France and very lean meat. It was a lovely meal but at the end I looked at Mrs Parish with a worried look and she said “whatever’s wrong?” and so I said “my god, I think we just ate the Easter Bunny”, Mrs Parish gave a Gallic shrug and a very big sigh!!

nd now it’s time for Sunday dinner a very nice piece of pork with a nice Muscadet to help it down. I probably need an aperitif to prepare myself for Mrs Parish’s cooking at its best. My wine cave is looking very good, by the way, thanks to Super U and its “foire au vin”.

Bon appétit