It is a very wet Sunday here at La Godefrere and so we have been catching up on indoor tasks including doing the ironing. It also means I can make an early start on writing up this week’s blog. This week the weather has been better although a bit windy. It has given us the chance to start the process of getting the cats used to using the cat flap in their new cat palace.

Up until now we have left the cat flap open and propped it with a stick. The cats have come in and out and have settled into using the cat beds. So we decided to move onto the next stage and get the cat flap into operation. We decided that food would be a good incentive to get the cats to use the flap so Mrs. Parish and I set out armed with a box of treats and three cats to start the tutorials.

Of course the cats thought the idea of treats a good thing and followed us over to the door to the barn. We shut the door and Mrs. Parish went in and closed the door and flap. She then called the cats and shook the treats. All three looked through the cat flap and looked confused. At first they thought the best approach was to try to pull the flap open but this wouldn’t work. Especially as all three were keen to get at the treats. Moggie tried first to get through and began to tap the flap with his paw but could not work out how to open it. So I half opened it and Moggie went though followed by the others. They were all inside then and keen to get their treat reward. We then swapped over and tried to get them to come out. Of course now various combinations of cat were trying to get through the flap at the same time causing blockage and confusion. Having sorted that out, we then had cats on both sides of the door and Moggie and Minou fighting through the cat flap.

Cats assault the cat flap

Cat jam

Mrs. Parish and I were now collapsing with laughter at the cats’ attempts. Moggie began to get the idea although we had to pick him up and sort of throw him through to start with. Minou was the smartest and waited for one of the other to go in and made sure she followed in immediately. Archie as a rather large cat can only just fir in through the flap and so we had to push him through, which was not easy. After a while he got bored and wandered off, concluding all this nonsense was not worth the treats. Moggie and Minou were up for more treats but really could not get the hang of using their heads top push the flap open. So no real progress and the cat flap remains propped open for the time being.

Mystery hand!

This week has been springwatch week here as well as on English TV. We have had blue tits nesting in one of our oak tree and another pair in a tree just in our neighbour’s garden. Up until now we have watched the adults going back and forth from the nest obviously feeding their young. The bird feeders in our garden have been constantly empty and so I have had to make sure they are regularly refilled. Anyway, this week the birds all fledged and this meant great numbers of young blue tits all careering around the courtyard and sitting on the roof and making a lot of noise. Fortunately the cats have been so taken up with the cat flap problem that they failed to notice this. For a couple of days now the adult birds have desperately been trying to organise their offspring and continue to feed them. On the wildlife front I found a baby grass snake out in the lane and managed to shepherd it back safely into the undergrowth. In France they are called Coulevre a collier. Which means snake with a collar as the grass snake has a white collar around its neck. The ants continue to work hard and the ant nest is growing by the day.

I seem to have spent a lot of time this week practising my French. We still go to French lessons, although this week was our last lesson for the summer as our wonderfully patient teacher, Jacqui needs a rest! I have really learned lots from Jacqui and as a consequence feel more confident about speaking to French people. This week I had to go to the DIY superstore to get some wood to repair the steps to the gite. Usually I have Mrs. Parish with me, but she was busy in the garden. So off I went and at the store found the wood display and soon realised that what I wanted was not on the shelves. So I went to the desk and asked for what I wanted and the man understood what I was saying! However the wood I wanted was only available in 3 metre lengths. Too big for my small car I explained. He sent me to see another guy on the inside wood department as he had the means to cut wood. So I go and explain again. He tells me I need to see the first guy for the wood I want. I explain I need it cut and he says I have to buy it from the first guy and bring it back for him to cut!

Back I go and explain that I want to buy the wood. The first guy offers me the use of a saw to cut the wood but I say that I have arranged for the second guy to cut it. So off he goes and I get my wood and then get it cut. So I finish my shopping and set off for home feeling very pleased with myself after conducting several conversations in French.
My day of speaking French was not quite over as when I got back I found Mrs. Parish in the lane raking grass at the side of our lane. I find out that she is helping Giselle get in some hay for her animals. The grass at the side of the lane is cut regularly by the local council. They just cut the grass and leave it on the verge. For a lot of French people like Giselle this is a rich source of hay and so Giselle goes and rakes it into small piles and leaves it until it dries off. Then it is collected and stored to use as food for the rabbit or as bedding for the chickens. Giselle is in her 70’s and find some task a bit of a struggle so we often help her out. So that evening we went out with Giselle and Daniel (and Pepito) and went up and down the lane putting the hay into great big sacks.

This was quite a laugh and involved plenty of banter and of course a few of Daniel’s appalling jokes. We got the hay collected and ended up covered in bits of hay where we had handpicked it. We then transported the hay into Giselle’s storage room. This is an Aladdin’s cave of weird and wonderful things including a large number of chest freezers. I think they are just used for animal feed and are not now connected but, where did they all come from? After this we were invited in for a drink to celebrate the hay harvest and had a good chance for a proper gossip with Giselle and Daniel and a further chance for me to speak some French.

At the end of the evening Daniel offered us some grog! At first I thought I had misheard but no it was grog we were offered. But what was it. I had visions of us all doing impressions of pirates and singing a few pirate songs. So we waited and then Daniel poured some hot water into a cup. Not encouraging I thought but then he got out the bottle of calvados and poured that in. So this is French grog and it is a lot better than it sounds and is quite a nice drink to end an evening.

Our own hay field is looking really good with lots of tall grass with loads of wild flowers. It is a wonderful sight and just about ready to be cut for hay. Our friends Andy and Julie have taken over responsibility for cutting, turning and baling the hay from Emile. We need a run of sunny days to ensure the cut grass doesn’t get wet. It looks as if we are running into a hot dry spell after today and sometime after Wednesday they will be around to do the cut.

Next week is a bit of a milestone for Mrs. Parish as she is now entitled to her old age pension!! She has reached the magic age of 62 and is entitled to her pension from the UK Government having paid in for the past 40 odd years. Her pension is paid 4 weekly and the first instalment is due this week. The money is paid directly into our French bank account, so that should be good. More opportunity to buy some wine.

At our local supermarket this week they were selling wine on the basis that if you bought two lots of cartons of 6 bottles, you get a further three cartons free!! How wonderful is that. The wine is decent stuff too and you can mix boxes so I got three different reds and two cartons of bottles of white sauvignon. Very nice it is too.

The cats have now come in for tea and are variously draped over me making typing quite difficult. I think the only thing one can do in such circumstances is to get an aperitif!

Bon courage