The more astute amongst my readers will have noticed that the writing of the blog has moved from Sunday to Monday. This is mainly to do with Sundays now being very busy. It is normally the day when I have my French lessons and this takes up 2 to 3 hours of intensive study, we are a small group of 4 and get very excited about this terms story book which we have to read out loud and then translate. The book is one of a series about Ratus the green rat and his chums Marou and Mina who are cats. Belo the grandfather cat and Victor, who we are not quite clear whether he is a bear or a dog. Anyway, there is great excitement as the story is all about a skiing trip which goes wrong. It is aimed at age 7 which just about suits the group! Our teacher is a friend, Sarah, who manages to cope with four silly adults remarkably well, although sometimes I am not sure how she retains her aura of calm authority! She probably has a glass of Emile’s calva before we start the lesson.

We have also been studying how to deal with emergencies in France and we have been learning the French for parts of the body in case we nee to call for help. Mrs. Parish is quite relieved at this as she can now safely have an accident in the knowledge that I will be able to call an ambulance. I have explained that so far, we have learned the words for parts of the head and the feet so she would have to make sure any accident was confined to those areas!

This weekend the French lesson was moved to Saturday as on Sunday we were all going to the village Repas at Brece. This is organised by the local “Committee des fetes” and this weekend was the 30th anniversary of this particular repas and also the 30th anniversary of Roger who has been the president for all those years. So, as well as the usual, aperitif, wine and homemade calva we also had a glass of bubbly to celebrate. The meal was “Poule au pot” a chicken slowly casseroled. There were giant portions for everyone and there must have been around 300 there. This is the repas with an “apres-midi recreatif” and this year we had a French disco which played music suitable for the more mature audience. As usual we then all went back to Emile’s for coffee and more calva.

A nice end to a week that has been full of shocks for us. On Tuesday we took the new cat along to the vets for a check-up and after examining the cat the vet said that in fact she was a he and around 2-3 months old. His testicles had not yet dropped so it was quite difficult to tell. Apart from being very thin the only problem was that he had worms and the vet gave us some medicine for that. We then called in to the pharmacie for some anti-sceptic cream to put on all the little scratches caused by the cat who has this habit of running up your body using his very sharp claws to drag himself up and then to sit on your shoulder.

The cat seems to have settled in and is happy sleeping in the shed next to the house. Moggie and Archie spent the first couple of days hissing at the new arrival but now they mostly ignore him unless he tries to get at their food. New cat has a few scratches on his nose as a result. A taste of his own medicine!

As part of my daily ritual I put out food for the wild birds. This causes much confusion and amusement to our French friends who cannot understand why we should want to do this. They regard it as another piece of English eccentricity. At the moment we get lots of birds coming to the feeders as it is very cold. I have to fill the feeders every day. I put out peanuts, bird seed and at one of the feeders I hang up a tube full of balls of fat which also have seeds and nuts in them. They are very popular with the tits and greenfinches.

I recently bought a supply of fat balls from our local DIY/garden centre and they had a two boxes for the price of one offer so I now have two large boxes now stored with the other bird food in the lean-to shed next to the house. The seed is safely put away in an old dustbin to stop mice getting in. The fat balls are in cardboard boxes which are kept shut as the cats are prone to try it out as a food source.

One morning last week I went out as normal to fill the bird feeders and opened the fat ball box and put my hand in to pick up the balls when I saw a movement in the box. I quickly removed my hand and gave a yuck shout realising that I had a mouse running around amongst my fat balls and making a right mess. I managed not to drop the box which would have been a disaster and eventually got the mouse to run away. Of course, I then had a stiff word with the cats reminding them that getting rid of mice is their job not mine and that maybe the regime here had gone a bit soft. Perhaps the cats were too well fed to catch mice! 

Our final shock of the week came on Sunday morning as we looked at the pictures taken by our trail camera overnight. We site the camera at the bottom of our big field in a clearing we have made just next to a small stream. We looked at the pictures and saw some of the usual suspects. A deer; a wandering cat (probably a male on the lookout for females); a hare and a badger. Then we looked at a video taken at 5.25 in the morning and were amazed to see four wild boars trotting in a line across the clearing and stopping right in front of the camera. They were very big, the sort you wouldn’t want to meet face to face! They were probably the ones who caused the damage in our lane.

A line of 4 boars in our big field

We followed a clear trail back along our nature trail to where they crossed the stream. On the other side is a small plantation of trees and this must be where they are during the day. Fortunately, with the frosty weather, it was -7 degrees at the bottom of the field and so it is a bit trickier for the boars to dig up the grass and there was no sign of further damage.

There has apparently been a huge increase in the boar population across Europe and coincidentally there was an article in our local newspaper today. Boars have no natural predator (except where there are still wolves!) apart from Man. Global warming has led to milder winters so that boars who are born in the winter time are more likely to survive. There have also been changes to agriculture and with an increase in maize and other animal feed crops the boars have more cover which enables them to move around a lot more. Their food sources have also increased and in general boars are healthier.

Boars at the trail camera

Boars cause a lot of damage and are involved in an increasing number of collisions with vehicles. The only effective way to control numbers is to allow the local hunt to shoot them and in Mayenne in the last 12 months 3000 boars have been killed. This is about double the number shot five years ago. The local hunt was at the bottom of our lane this morning so we asked their advice, but the hunting season ends tomorrow so it looks like our boars are safe but we need to persuade them to move on!

I could try singing to them as this works well with the moles but I am a bit worried how 4 wild boars will react to a rendition of Bob Dylan songs as sung by me. Mrs. Parish gets very aggressive if I sing in her hearing so maybe the boars will too. I need to find a small boar to practice on!

All these shocks have certainly increased the alcohol intake and it may be that having reminded myself by writing the blog that a little something may be in order right now.

Bon courage