Bon fete, today, the 14th July is Bastille Day in France. A national holiday to celebrate the storming of the Bastille in Paris during the French revolution. Mrs. Parish and I joined the French in celebrating by going to a local town for a mass car boot sale. The French seem to like nothing more than a boot sale although in France it is called a ”vide grenier” which literally means empty attic. Judging by the amazing array of stuff for sale, there are a lot of empty attics locally. Mrs. Parish and I decided sitting in a cafe with a cold beer was the best approach to take.

It has been so hot over the past week with every day being full on sun. Of course everyone is now complaining about it being too hot and that nothing will grow in the garden. It does mean however that our giant balls of hay will properly dry out and Emile will be around next week to take them off for sale. It will be interesting to see what sort of price we get. It has been a bit of a shock for the cats and they have been looking to find cool places to sleep it out. This usually means sneaking upstairs as being a stone farmhouse has the advantage of keeping cool.

The hot weather has meant a lot more watering so Mrs Parish has been busy most evenings. I am not entirely sure that she has welcomed the assistance from Hurricane Harry who is still with us. Harry and family are at the end of their first week in the gite. They seem to be having a good time. Harry is having a great time. He particularly likes seeing the cows and the sheep (and constantly wanting to see the little dragon that lives in the water metre). However his favourite thing is helping Mrs. Parish either to pick vegetables or water the flowers. Throughout all these activities Harry keeps up a constant dialogue. I am not sure how his parents cope he tires us out in five minutes!

It has been a bit of a crazy day for sport. I have been keeping updated on the cricket which came down to a tense finish but eventually at the last Australian wicket to win the first test match. If that was tough then sat down to watch the Tour de France, which after car boot sales is also high on the French likes. Although this year there have been no French riders who have won a stage. Today we watched the cyclists ride up a great big mountain and after 5 hours of riding Chris Froome the race leader was sprinting to the finish. Total madness. Enough to drive one to a cold drink. Mmm not a bad idea.

Of course all this heat has meant getting the daily chores done early before it gets too hot. This includes my daily mole patrol to check if there have been any incursions. This week all has been quiet, which may mean that it is too hot for moles or more likely that my weekly renditions of Bob Dylan songs have done for them. It could of course be that they have gone to Dorset for their summer holidays. The sheep are maintaining their ability to cause me to panic. I go down each morning to check they are OK and whether they need more water.  Now they are testing my patience. Usually they are all grouped together in the mornings but then one will have disappeared meaning a search only to find it is hiding behind the little sheep house. Then next day they will all be eating grass apart from one who is lying flat on the ground and seemingly not moving at all, perhaps not breathing. This means having to untie the rope on the gate (that in itself can be a struggle if Patrick has been to visit as he ties a very fiendish French knot which takes ages to undo. It could I suppose be a sheep shank, I never did master that in scouts. I just keep to the good old reef knot!!). When I struggle in I usually managing to step in the sheep poo. By the time I get across the paddock the sheep is up on its feet and running away. You can almost hear them laughing. At times like this I do have to be philosophical and say OK sheep have your fun now, but I think I will have the last laugh!

We have been under attack again this week by a very large hornet. One managed to get past Mrs. Parish’s air defence screen by avoiding the water jet anti aircraft positions and got into the bedroom. It is quite amazing how loud their buzz can be indoors. Mrs. Parish however quickly regrouped and armed with a very large book in hand challenged the hornet to single combat. I was sent in first, as it seemed to me a human sacrifice, but Mrs. Parish explained that I was to regard it as a red cross mission to remove the cats who were sleeping on the bed and woke up thinking it would be good to try to catch this buzzy thing.  I was not entirely confident the hornet would respect the red cross so moved with great stealth and speed to remove the cats, who by now were leaping up at the hornet. After fearing for my life on being dive bombed by the hornet I managed to get out with the cats and left the battle zone clear for the combat troop that is Mrs. Parish. It was a fierce battle and Mrs. Parish missed with her first attack, a mighty swing with the book which the hornet just managed to avoid. Mrs. Parish followed up her attack first flicking the hornet to the floor and then bashing it several times with the book. I have just been told that not only was this a fearsome Asiatic hornet but a queen hornet to boot. A veritable clash of the titans, but of course only one winner!

It’s a tough life this country living. I was sat out the other afternoon, reading a book and generally relaxing. I may even have had a small glass of wine in hand, when my peace was shattered by the sounds of bird alarm calls and then right in front of me flew a sparrowhawk with a small sparrow in its claws. It flew right over my head and settled about 10 yards away to prepare to eat its prey. I am obviously getting hardened to this as my first thought was “can I get to my camera to get a picture”. No was the answer.

However, talking of cameras I was somewhat astonished this week to learn that I was this month’s winner in the Euro Mayenne camera club competition. I sent in two pictures, one of Moggie sat in a wall niche like a religious icon and one of the leading cyclist in the “Boucle de Mayenne” a local cycling race. Much to my amazement they came joint first. No prize for winning but I did feel quite good as it is only the second month that I had entered.

The English abroad can be a bit embarrassing, I’m afraid. Last week we were doing our shopping in the local supermarket and came round the corner to see an elderly Englishman (in shorts, which we don’t always do well in!!) leaning over a shop assistant who was kneeling to put tins on a shelf and he was raising his voice ever louder to make her understand that he wanted “pork pies”. She looked blankly at him and clearly had no clue what he was talking about. He then tried his obviously limited French by saying to her “you know, petite gateaux, with pork”. “Little cakes with pork”. Poor girl clearly thought he was mad. Then today when we were at the cafe an English woman asked the waitress “ou est les toilets” in a very loud English accent. Why is it that we think that by speaking English or Franglais in a loud voice that French people will understand us?

This week we have been mostly “jamming”, that is making apricot jam. We even went out and bought a brand new copper pan to make the jam in. Apricots are really cheap at the moment, so Mrs. Parish bought in a rather large box to make jam to have with our baguettes at breakfast. So we now have loads of jam jars all over the place with cooling apricot jam in them. I had a rather good idea to get some brandy so that we could make some apricot brandy, to lay down for the winter. Apricots seem to go very well with brandy and there are lots of other fruits to consider. I have a very large wine cave, so filling it with a variety of differing alcoholic drinks seems to create some useful opportunities. Mrs. Parish has said that I should find some new hobbies to fill my retirement. Food for thought.

And while I am thinking I really should be celebrating Bastille Day and they only way to do that in France is with a large glass of wine.

Vive la France