Well, lots to report this week which ended spectacularly on Sunday night with the final leg of the Anglo-French Backgammon championship here at La Godefrere. As regular readers will know my good friend Anglo Al and I regularly compete at Backgammon each time Alan comes over. On the last visit I won a great victory and as a result the trophy rests proudly on a shelf in the kitchen. I have tried to insert a picture into the blog of the trophy. And failed! The trophy is a small pottery figure of a pirate!!(you can see a picture on my facebook page).

You will be forgiven for wondering quite what this is or why we should think it makes a good trophy. It appears to be a pirate and was presented, some years ago, by another friend Mike Ellis who lives near Poole (so it is a Poole Pirate). The origins and logic are now lost in the mists of time and alcohol but for good or ill it is now the trophy. Mrs. Parish believes that we are quite mad and hates the thing and hopes I will lose the championship so that Al can take it back to England.

Anyway Al and a couple of old UNISON friends from Dorset, the aforementioned Mike Ellis plus Dave Higgins came over for a long weekend and we decided that the trophy should be played in three legs each of the best of three games over three nights. The games started on Friday night after a sumptuous meal cooked by Mrs. Parish and of course lots of wine and a few drops of calvados. A tense first leg of exciting games resulted in a victory for me. First blood to France. On Saturday the second leg went to Anglo Al and thus setting up a final showdown on Sunday night. All to play for, not just the trophy but the honour of France was now at stake. In order to create some tension and excitement in this week’s blog I will withhold the result until the end of the blog. If you are of a nervous disposition you should immediately page down to the end to find out the result...........

So we had a trade union delegation to visit us for the weekend and we did what all good trade unionists do in such circumstances. We sat around talking, eating and drinking (we interspersed this with several games of pool and darts in our games room). Of course we talked a load of tosh and reminisced about old times. Mrs. Parish in order to preserve her sanity withdrew to the safety of her sewing garret. Dave is a bit of runner and likes to go for a daily run of about 5 miles. So we showed him on a map a simple circular route from our house to a local village and back. Off goes Dave each morning and arrived back very hot and tired. After a couple of days Dave noticed that he was finding the run quite a challenge and eventually using his sat nav phone worked out that he had missed a vital turn and was in fact doing nearly 10 miles!! Mike is happy with his pipe and doesn’t really do exercise at all apart from pool and darts. We were all pretty hopeless at darts but there were some amazing pool shots done and even some of them intended!!

It has been raining for most of the weekend but fortunately we have plenty of food and drink and could spend most of our time in the games room. After a great weekend the boys have gone home today and Mrs. Parish has felt safe to emerge from the sewing garret and resume normal life.

Or what passes for normal here given the crazy cats and other animals we have. The cats have been a bit strange this week. I think it is because the weather has been so bad that they have been tucked up in the lean to shed at nights, rather than out and exploring the local night life. As a result they are full of energy in the mornings, well the two younger ones anyway. Archie just slopes off upstairs to get in a bit of duvet time and crashes out. So we spend a lot of time saying to Moggie in particular but also Minou – get down from there, don’t go in there, stop doing that. They have also taken to playing with toys again so for about an hour in the morning there is mayhem in our house.

Mind you in recent days they have not been much better in the evening when waiting for supper and we have had several ornament incidents. On two occasions resulting in broken ornaments although on both occasions it seems that Archie was the culprit. He has this habit of intimidation by threatening ornaments by tapping them with his paws in a bid to get his supper early. Twice this week he has managed to actually knock a vase and a dish on to the floor resulting in breakages. On the second occasion this resulted in Archie being grabbed by the scruff of the neck and thrown out into the rain. When we let him back in of course he had ensured he was sufficiently wet to make us feel guilty. There was also a cake incident in the week and we found a little cup cake under the table. It had obviously been stolen from the worktop as it had been nibbled. So Mrs. Parish and I are now nervous wrecks form constantly shouting at cats, constantly having to anticipate what they might do next and trying at all times to not leave food of any sort unattended, even for a minute.

On the animal front a bit of sadness this week as we said goodbye to the sheep. The two remaining sheep, Mutt and Jeff have spent the summer with us grazing our paddock and it was time for them to go back to their owners for a final period before going off to the abattoir. The owners, Alex and John came round on Sunday and so we promised our guests the chance to watch some sheep gathering. We all had high expectations of chasing the two sheep around the paddocks and falling over in the rain for our guests’ amusement. In the end it was all a bit of an anti climax as both Mutt and Jeff were fast asleep in the little sheep house we have and John was able to creep up with a fence and bar them in the house. Alex then put a lead on them and they were led “like sheep” into their van. I did say could I mark one of the legs to ensure I got my choice leg of lamb but Mrs. Parish thought this would be a bit insensitive! The good news is that Alex and John are going to get some more sheep for next year so we will have some company again. Of course all these things come with a hitch and on this occasion it is clearing the sheep’s poo out of the little sheep house. Mrs. Parish helpfully reminded me that I was an expert on animal poo (see blogs on chiselling horse poo from floor of stable; collecting bat poo for analysis and spotting strange animal poo around the garden). Therefore I have been awarded the task of collecting up the sheep poo and taking it to the veg garden for fertilisation purposes.  Alex kindly advised me that it was best to do soon while the poo is damp as it would be much more difficult if the poo is allowed to dry out.

Once again I have thought to myself that this is not what I had in mind when retiring to live in France

Strange goings on have been noticed at our neighbour’s empty house. This is the house down the lane owned by an English couple and is next door to Giselle and Daniel. During the week Giselle came up to me in the lane and in conspiratorial tone told me of her concerns that equipment in the next door house had been mysteriously moved. A trailer which sits in the yard had been moved and Giselle took us round to see it. “Je trouve ca drole!” she said (I find that strange). Who could have moved it and for what purpose? I immediately adopted my Inspector Clouseau role and investigated the scene. Was someone trying to steal the trailer? A strange van had been seen visiting the yard. For the next couple of days we were on full alert in case the “voleur” returned and we made sure we locked up everything. During this period I reverted to my Inspector Clouseau accent and came up with all sorts of theories, much to Mrs. Parish’s dismay. In the end we found out from another neighbour that it was the man who comes to cut the grass and that he had permission to borrow the trailer. Another anti climax!

But no anti climax as we return to the final and deciding leg of the Anglo France Backgammon championship. We left it at one all and Sunday evening with the final leg. Best of three games. The tension was growing and the crowd were getting restless as we sat down to play. The first game was a tense affair with the advantage first going one way and then the other. Finally I managed to gain the advantage and took the first game. Advantage France. The second match was a real nail biter and Alan took an early lead in the game with some skilful and strategic play. I responded and came back strongly until we were both in the end zone bearing off counters. We got to a close neck and neck finish. I was in position to bear off my final two counters on my final throw. Al’s only chance with three counters was to throw a double. He shook the dice and the room went quiet, the dice rolled and spun across the board, the first dice settled and it was a 5. The second span around, would it also show 5.............. No it was a three and victory fell to France. The trophy was retained and there was great cheering at La Godefrere. Mrs. Parish was less impressed at the thought of having to keep looking at the trophy!

For me the satisfaction of winning and retaining my champion position was great and a few more glasses were emptied before bed.

This morning I am sat at the computer writing the blog and looking proudly at the trophy. Mrs. Parish suggests that we put the trophy on the cupboard next to the stairs. I reply but this is where Archie sits and where ornaments get broken. Mrs. Parish says “I know” with that look in her eye!!!

A prochaine