Sorry that the blog is a day late but as you will see below we have had visitors this week and much eating and drinking so the blog has had to wait until today.

This has been the week of the great Calvados showdown. My friend Alan came to visit and he lives in Somerset. I have been bragging about how good is the local farmhouse Calvados so Alan decided to challenge this and to stand for the honour of Somerset. He threw down his gauntlet (metaphorically, as Alan only has a glove) to my french friend Emile whose Calvados I have championed. The time and place were set down, unfortunately high noon was not possible so we agreed to dusk on Friday 23rd at La Godefrere, Emile and Yvette were invited and told of the challenge to their French regional pride.

Alan arrived with us on Thursday 22nd (along with his friend Steve, of whom more later). Mrs Parish decided to start the weekend on the right note with a delicious french classic Coq au vin, washed down with some rather nice Medoc. Having established french culinary status, we moved on to after dinner drinks. Alan showed us his best of Somerset Cider Brandy, which he had secured after scouring the land and raiding his savings.  We decided we should try the Cider Brandy and compare with my bottle of calvados ready for battle next day. Poor Alan, his look of disappointment after tasting his own offering contrasting to a bitter look of defeat once the calvados was tested. His brandy was smooth, vaguely alcoholic and didn't taste of much. You can really taste the apples in Emile's calvados and you then get a delicious 70% alcoholic kick.

Alan of course spent a miserable 24 hours in anticipation of conceding vicory to Emile. We all, helpfully kept reminding him of the scale of his humiliation and at dusk when the combattants faced each other for the official contest, Alan graciously conceded defeat much to Emile's great pride. He was gracious in victory and complemented the brandy but not as good as his Calva. we explained that the english bottle was Somerset "Appellation controlee" to signify quality. Emile's eyes twinkled as he presented us with a large bottle of his home made calvados and he replied "mine is applelation Petite Rousseau", the name of his farm where he distills his own calva using a hired still that travels around all the farms in the area where Calvados is produced. Alan is now on his way home clutching a sample of this great calvados!! Alan is also clutching the  Backgammon Trophy that I took to France earlier this year after defeating Alan. This time Alan's legendary luck with the dice held up and he won back the Trophy. Bizarrely, the trophy is a small porcelain model of a pirate (donated by Mike Ellis). Mrs Parish was not sorry to see it go.

If only we could use the Calvados to defeat the evil mole empire. This week has seen major incursions into our orchard. Strategic HQ has been is despair and drinking rather alot of calvados. what to do, how can we strike back. Through the calvados glaze I arrived at the only answer, find a HERO, it works in all the films, find a Conan the Barbarian, Pale Rider or a Ronin, someone who can save the nation and be sent forth single handed to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. Where to find one? You can't advertise, that never works. You just have to wait and one turns up, at least in the films I've seen. Well this week our HERO did turn up just when you least expect it. Alan's friend Steve introduced himself to our french friends as Etienne and that aroused my interest as this seems just the right sort of hero name (admittedly Steve does not resemble Arnold Swarzenegger or Clint Eastwood). However needs must and most importantly in his luggage he had with him a mole trap!!! So now we have Etienne the Moleslayer as our hero and over the weekend we set out on a quest to catch the mole. Great distance were covered, there was much tesing of the soil and wind; looking at molehills and finding possible mole runs. Finally Etienne found the optimum spot and the moletrap was set and now we wait..........

Alan and Etienne the Moleslayer have now returned to England but we have the moletrap set and we are poised to strike back. Hopefully they will manage to get through customs OK as they are also travelling with a small plastic container full of bat poo from our old stable block. They are destined for the Somerset Bat group so we can find out what sort of bats we have. Despite the weather getting colder we still see one or two bats flying around the buildings.

On more mundane and French matters we have once again been outsmarted by the French system of bureaucracy. I mentioned last week that we had finally got our headlights fitted the french way! We had also got our control technique sorted. Mrs Parish and I assembled all the documents we would need - Passport, proof of residence, DVLC document; proof of ownership of car, certificate of conformity, controle technique and chequebook. We checked the documents about 12 times and were convinced we had everything we needed, we decided to take our whole file of everything to do with the car ever with us just in case. According to the french govt website we had everything and we were directed to the sub prefects office in Mayenne about 30 miunutes from home. We duly arrived at the Sous prefecture and spoke to a very nice and very helpful french lady who first of all explained that they only dealt with changes of address there, for a new "Certificate d'immatriculation" we would have to go to the Prefecture in Laval, another 40 minutes away!!!!!!!!! Thankfully she said she would check our documentation for us. Just as well as we had brought with us a water company bill for our french address as proof of residence. Appartently for some unknown reason a water bill is the only utility bill that you CANNOT use in France, but of course no one tells you that until you turn up at a government office. We had no other form of proof so, defeated we returned home. After spending about 2 hours searching on the web we found out how much it would cost and we have now sent it all by post. Fingers crossed, we may have french plates before Christmas or of course they could devise some other hurdle for us to cross first!

Finally, trombones! No I have not had some long felt urge to learn bizarre musical instruments but "trombone" is the french word for a paper clip! Isn't that wonderful, the french may have crap bureaucracy but they have a great use of language.

Sadly still no news about Trigger and no news yet about when the sheep will be going on their travels (only one way!).

It is now 3.30pm and Archie has just arrived to tell us that it is feeding time, only 30 minutes early but it will now be a constant level of harassment until he is fed. The problem (for us not Archie) is that it is much more difficult to judge measures when feeding one instead of two cats so I am sure that Archie is getting better fed now he's on his own. Not that is what he would tell you, he has a very pathetic, hungry look at the moment!

Oh well might as well give in and feed him.
a bientot