It’s hard to know where to start this week as there has been much excitement here at La Godefrere. What more? I hear you say, surely more excitement cannot be possible in one small place. Well this is magical France where there is excitement and wonder every day. (That may be a slight exaggeration). To start I must make you just a little jealous. I am sat in our garden on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. I have a glass of white wine (a rather nice Macon) and I have been watching from my chair three buzzards calling and displaying right over my head. One of the buzzards is having an aerial dual with a crow. The crow wants to chase him off and every now and again the buzzard flips over in flight and shows his talons to the crow. Just letting you know I’m tooled up!!

Well, I have had a busy few days as I have been left in charge (Le gardien as Yvette described it). Mrs Parish has returned to the UK for a school reunion. Somehow or other they have all become 60, while no one noticed. So they decided on a get together and as they had not seen each other for 40 years there was much to catch up with. So here I am 4 days in and my supplies have not yet run out. Mrs Parish took the car with her and so I have been without transport. I have been out foraging for food and been pretty successful returning with deux baguettes on two occasions. I have also been creating some exotic sausage dishes for dinner as well as raiding the freezer.

Have been out on the tractor mower all afternoon. It’s tough work but someone has to do it. Of course sod’s law has to intervene and the tractor ran out of diesel, right at the bottom of the orchard, the farthest point away from where the rather large diesel container is kept. So I have to walk all the way up to the shed and put the diesel can on a trolley and take all the way back to fill up the tractor. I think this must be the curse of the shorts! I have long had the theory that the wearing of shorts should be confined to a two week holiday in August. In recent times encouraged by Mrs Parish, who reckons that a bit of sun on your legs does you good, I have allowed myself short wearing time in July and even June. I decided today that as we were now in France it would be a good idea to start wearing shorts in May. I think this was a mistake. No sooner than I had got the shorts on when the tractor ran out of fuel and the sky clouded over and for a time it went very cold. I am sure I remember an old saying “Ne’er your trousers cast, ere May is passed”. It could of course be the fact that my legs are so white that the reflection of light has caused some ripple in the cosmos affecting the weather and my tractor fuel!! I even had to put on my sunglasses.

Must stop for a moment as I have just heard a hoopoe. I can’t see it but I think it is down in the wood at the bottom of the field next our gite. Their call oop, oop oop is quite distinctive and carries for some distance. Hopefully they will nest close by as they are spectacular birds.

As well as being in charge of the garden and strategic watering in accordance with the strict schedule set out by Mrs. Parish I have also been in charge of supervising the workmen on site. We are having a new shower put in the bathroom of the house and a patio and pagoda in the garden. Actually it is a pergola but I have it firmly set in my mind that it is called a pagoda and can’t rid myself of the thought. The shower is in the safe hands of Larry the leak and is all but finished. In the garden we have had a patio laid so that we can sit out and see all the orchard and the fields beyond. The pergola is both to grow plants around and to afford some shade. It is being built of green oak by an English artisan, Matt and is now finished and looks stunning. I am currently sat under it with my wine and laptop. However I have had to have words with Moggie who seems convinced that we have built him a wooden climbing frame. As soon as the structure was complete Moggie had climbed up and was walking along the wooden struts and using it to jump into the bush behind to make a closer acquaintance with some sparrows.

I’m rather afraid that the cats have taken advantage of the lenient regime since Mrs Parish went off to England. Archie so far this week has managed to pinch a sandwich from Matt’s car and then to demolish the cling wrapped cheese and tomato roll from Gary who was here to do some plastering. I heard a plaintive cry of “the cat’s eaten me snap” to find Archie had broken through the wrapper and had started to devour the roll! Luckily I had been foraging and could replace the roll. Sadly Matt did not learn his lesson about the animals here. He was sat on the patio with a sandwich in hand, when the chicken struck and pecked it out of his hand and ran off to eat it. I sat the animals down to discuss this behaviour but they pleaded that this was natural behaviour and complied with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and therefore not their fault.

The animals argument was that they were fulfilling their basic needs of food, drink, shelter (sex no longer applies since the operations for the cats and extreme old age for the chicken) and it was all very well me trying to satisfy my self esteem needs by acting in a managerialistic manner but they were still trying to exist at a basic level. I’m sure they have been reading Animal Farm again, must keep my copy of the Communist Manifesto under lock and key. If they get a whiff of Marx, I’m lost. Talking of which we have the second round debate with Citizen Keith next Friday and I’m keen that the animals don’t get to hear about Trotsky and world revolution.

The battery is running low and I think it’s time for dinner. I have in mind a nice salad, with ham, a quiche and a rather nice cold merguez sausage I managed to save from yesterday. Will return to the blog later.

Very nice salad and lovely white wine for dinner. Am now back at the laptop on the patio.. This time with a coffee and some Armagnac. It has been tough being in charge so I need now to relax and finish the blog in some style.

It has been a bit sad this week as the cows in the field next to the gite have all gone. I had become quite fond of the panda cows and their little orange numbers on the ears. I got to know some of them by number and they were fun to talk to although their conversation was a little limited. Still they have gone to a better place and I will think of them fondly the next time I tuck into boeuf bourguignon. Loic has now put fertiliser down to get the grass to grow which I presume he will use as winter feed. At least he has not been manure spreading on the field. This is the time of year when the French spread the shit. There have been piles of it in all the fields around us and the farmers could not spread it while the weather was cold and wet. A few nice hot days and away they go and of course a bit of heat brings on a nice rustic smell! You also have to be careful when driving along country lanes as the French farmers are not too careful when spreading and get very close to the edge of the field next to the road. You can drive round a corner and be met by a shower of it!!!!!

I said things were exciting around here and each month we get a list of events in the local area. Our excitement could not be held in when we saw that at a nearby town called Ferte-Mace on 9
th to 11th of May there is an International Exhibition of Meccano. Not just an exhibition but an international one. Wow!!

I mentioned in my last blog that I was now taking on the French Income Tax system as my next project. I duly signed on the the UK tax website to file my tax return for last year up to the date we left England. That was fairly straightforward as I had already done my books for when I was self employed and paid the tax I owed. As a resident of France I have to submit a tax return on all income since I moved to France. I have already paid tax on my occupational pension so hope to be able to reclaim this. There is a double taxation agreement between the UK and France to ensure you don’t pay tax twice!! So I now have a form to send to the tax office in France (one in English and one in French) to register my status as a French tax payer. That seems fairly simple. So all I need to do is to fill in a French tax return and it’s all done. The French tax forms are available from 1
st May and have to be returned by 31st May so I duly log on to the French tax website. For an explanatory guide I have purchased it seems I need for 2042, and form 2042c and possibly 2042e. I aks for the forms and the website says I can have a 2042M a 2042 OM or a 2042A. My limited French tells me that according to the description unless I own land overseas or have some sort of off shore account that these are not the forms I want. After half an hour searching on the website I give up. In the end I manage to find out from another source that this happens every year that the forms are not ready until half way through May and the deadline is always extended! It would have been helpful if the tax website had said this. I suppose if you are French this is what you would expect.

One of the sheep developed a limp this week. It’s all very well being in charge here but when you get situations like this decisions are necessary. I contemplated phoning Patrick the owner of the sheep. However he only speaks French and has quite an accent. It is difficult to follow him when he is face to face. A phone conversation would be tricky. I decided to maintain a watching brief as the lamb did not appear to be in distress and was eating. Fortunately the next day Patrick arrived so I had a prepared speech, culled from my trusty French/English dictionary ready. I explained that one of the lambs had a limp and I thought that maybe this was a problem with his leg. Patrick had already spotted this on his last visit and had turned up with some ointment to treat an inflamed hoof. I was going to move on to explain that when the time came could I have a different leg of lamb as payment but I decided that this might seem insensitive.

Minou has just arrived and jumped on my lap demanding a cuddle. I am considering whether this is still part of Maslow’s basic need of warmth and shelter for Minou or whether this is evidence at level 3 of the hierarchy demonstrating a need for affection and relationship. I ask Minou for her view but she is just purring contentedly and has fallen asleep.

A fitting end to a splendid day and the sun is now beginning to set, the birds are singing their last songs and soon I will be joined by the bats. Just as well I brought my bat detector with me and the bottle of Armagnac.

Bon nuit