I am sorry to say that the Blog is 24 hours late this week. I have to blame an older boy who is a bad influence. We had guests staying with us this week and my old friend Sandy Clark does bring out the worst (or it could be best) as far as drinking is concerned. So on Sunday we were out to lunch with a very nice Saumur Champigny and after aperitifs we had with our dinner in the evening a couple of bottles of Cahors followed of course with several glasses of Emile’s calvados. So a late night and while I was up with the lark to let out the hen and count sheep we have been so busy all day that I have just got round to writing the blog. You must all be on edge after leaving you with a cliff hanger ending last week re the great backgammon playoff. Well read on, it’s worth the wait!!

I left you last week on tenterhooks. The great Anglo-French Backgammon contest between Anglo Al and Monsieur Moi stood at one match all with the final, best of three games, match set to be played out on Sunday evening last week.

Picture the scene. The backgammon board set up on our dining room table and the two combatants sat face to face across the table. On one side the trophy on the other two glasses of Emile’s calvados. The crowd settled and after a shake of hands the match began. The first two games were tense, close affairs with neither side giving any quarter and it was one game all. All then was resting on the final game. The early advantage went to the home player with some deft dice throwing and clever tactical play. Anglo Al is not the sort of player to let this bother him and he came back with some strong play and was set up in prime position with his pieces in the end zone first and he started to bear off his counters. I responded and got all my counters into my zone and started to bear off but was behind.

We got to a position where Al had only two counters to remove, and any throw of the dice would see him win, while I had four left. It was my throw and only a high double could bring me victory. The crowd fell silent, the tension rose, you could hear a pin drop. A pin dropped to the floor with a monstrous clang. I took up the black dice, for I was playing with the black counters. I prayed to the gods of luck, rattled the dice around in my cupped hands and threw them across the board. Time froze and the dice clattered for what seemed an eternity before they settled and revealed a double six!!!! I had clutched a legendary victory from the jaws of defeat. The crowd rose as one to cheer (actually by this time there was only one as Mrs Parish had got rather bored with the whole game and was not pleased to learn she had to find somewhere for the trophy). Victory was mine and the story of the epic game will now be retold in the halls of La Godefrere, each time we get out the calvados and whisky. It was a game fit for legend.

It turned out to have been an unsuccessful visit for Al as he also brought with him some bottles of Somerset cider to challenge the local Emile made drink. You will recall that Al had previously tried to challenge Emile’s calvados with some Somerset Cider brandy which had gone horribly wrong with Al conceding defeat as soon as he tasted Emile’s calvados. He was hoping his Sheppey’s Cider would do the trick. Sadly for Al a single sip of Emile’s cider was enough for Al to once again concede defeat.

So it was a more humble Alan that left La Godefrere last Monday and I swear there was a tear in his eye as he saw the trophy proudly flaunted by the victor as he drove away bound for England. No doubt he will return soon on a quest for revenge. Alan’s visits are always memorable and on this occasion we were pleased to have met Dan, his son who rather wiped the floor with us at pool and maintained a very calm air while his dad succumbed to defeat. However now seared on our minds and bodies is the radioactive prawn curry cooked by Alan while he was here, it was somewhat fierce and counselling was required before we recovered!!

As I said earlier more good friends Sandy and Kathy came to visit us this week and we had a lovely if alcoholic week with good food, good wine, calvados, Armagnac and whisky to help. Sandy and I did our MA together some years ago and have met up regularly since then. When we all get together there is much talking, laughing and drinking and this time our conversations ranged from quantum physics, parallel universes through politics to the virtues of 1960’s children’s TV and programmes such as the Woodentops, Rag Tag and Bobtail and Robin Hood, William Tell and the Sword of Freedom! We also managed to get out and visit lots of nice places in the area. Another good week.

We now await our friends from Weymouth Red Ramblers, the walking group we belonged to. 8 of them are coming at the end of May for more eating and drinking, this time with a little walking thrown in.

Well after all this excitement it was time to take stock this morning and Mrs Parish was keen to attack the garden after a week of inactivity and has been mowing, strimming, digging, watering all day. In between all this we had to go down to Mayenne (there is no French equivalent of going down or up to a town, they just go to town and don’t understand this English quirkiness as going down to Mayenne may well involve going uphill!!). Anyway we had to go to get some tiles for a new shower room we are having put into our bathroom. Larry the Leak, our plumber is doing the work and asked us to get the wall tiles. Simples we thought. Oh no, the French aren’t going to let us get away with simple. The first place we went had no tiles on display. They were all out in the goods yard covered in polythene waiting to be sorted and put on display. So off we go to another DIY store and find the tiles alley to be met with a dizzying display of tiles. However we soon discovered that only some of them were actually in stock, the rest had to be ordered. The ones on display were stuck up on the wall so it was difficult to examine them. We found a buzzer that promised to bring someone to explain it all to us. So we tried pressing the buzzer but nothing happened and no one came. We tried climbing the displays to see the tiles and we tried moving things to get to boxes hidden away containing tiles. Usually these contained entirely different tiles than the ones on the display. When we found some we quite liked there were not enough in stock to complete the job. In the end Mrs Parish’s patience (not usually long in nature) snapped and she decided that it was only a bloody shower so these cheap white tiles will be perfect. There are millions of boxes of these tiles. I think the shop must have over ordered these tiles so by subtle and devious torture get you to choose to buy them. Next we had to buy stuff to stick the tiles to the wall and some grout. That proved almost as difficult not just because the packets are all written in French, which we can eventually work out but they are not all placed in the same place so you have to play a guessing game as to which is the right stuff. We returned home somewhat exhausted and Mrs Parish took out her frustrations on the garden.

On the animal front, the cats have been outside most of the week, running riot in the garden. Archie has been creating mayhem with the various workmen we have had about the place. Matt who has been here putting in a patio for us reported that he had inadvertently left his car door open and found that Archie had got to his sandwiches and eaten one of them. We warned Larry and while he had Archie for company throughout his lunch break he was able to defend his sandwiches. Moggie and Minou rampage around the garden, climb up trees and into the roof of our sheds, they try to get into all the cars that come here and after a day of all this crash out like some dead cat has been thrown on the sofa in the evenings.

Development on the mole front. Either Archie is neglecting his weeing duties or the moles have found an antidote. There were four or five new molehills at the bottom of the orchard this morning. Henny Penny decided she should intervene by making a nest on top of one of the molehills. I am not sure what she hopes to achieve but she refused to make way when I was bearing down on her on the tractor mower so I ended up with a grass island with Henny in the middle. Mrs Parish has the moles firmly in her sights for tomorrow. The residual frustration from the tile incident will make her even more determined to take the fight to the moles. I begin to feel a little sorry for them.

Great excitement this week as we sighted our first Hoopoes. Hoopoes are terrific looking birds about the size of a Jackdaw they have spectacular pink with black and white colouring and have a lovely black and white crest. They are not seen much in Britain but are fairly common in France. I thought we might be too far North for them but this week on Friday we saw three of them early one morning (just as the sun was rising etc) in the orchard. They have a lovely call of Hoo poo poo.

Just as exciting this week has been the return of the bats. It has been so cold that we have not seen any bats at all until Tuesday of this week when after a glorious sunny day we were sat out on our new patio and saw a bat flying around the orchard. This caused me great excitement as one of my best Christmas Presents was a bat detector (sad I know). Mrs Parish indulged me and bought me a detector which picks up the bat echo location signals and amplifies them. This means that you can set the detector to different frequencies to detect the bats. Bats echo locate at differing frequencies so you can tell which sort of bat you are watching. I have had this since Christmas but have not been able to use it (apart from listening to people rustling paper). You can thus imagine that it was just like an excited child on Christmas morning all over again as I rushed indoors and came back with the detector. I then disappeared into the gloom to find and detect bats in the orchard. The clacking sound is great and I detected lots of Pippistelle bats and there also seemed to be a larger bat with a lower frequency but I am now waiting for a similar warm evening to try again.

Things promise to be a bit quieter this week as Mrs Parish is off on Thursday for a week, back to England for a school reunion. I think a big list of things for me to do while she is away is being prepared, so my thoughts of bird watching all day and bat watching all night may have to be revised!! I will report back hopefully on Sunday so we can get back to what passes for normal at La Godefrere.

Bon nuit