Great excitement here at La Godefrere as we bag our first mole in the great fight back. We have noticed all week an increasing number of mole hills around the orchard and it soon became clear that strategy number 1 was failing. Strategy number 1 is of course my major offensive armed with tractor and songbook. Despite much revving of engines and some truly awful singing we found that the moles must have improved their defence mechanisms and now be wearing ear defenders or maybe they had just got used to the noise. After a hastily organised Council of War Mrs. Parish decided to take charge and implement strategy number 2.

This consisted of declaring an exclusion zone across the whole orchard and then laying out minefields at intersections in the orchard where several mole tunnels meet. Mrs. Parish then digs a section of earth and puts in several mole traps and we wait. I am desperately keen to put up signs saying “achtung minen” and having a skull and crossbones as in all the best war comics. Mrs. Parish points out that the moles are unlikely to understand German and that the signs would be above the ground and the moles below. I complain that this is being very picky and no fun.

Anyway today Mrs. Parish went to inspect the traps and found that we had we had a dead mole in the trap. There are apparently rumours that the mole was moving away from the exclusion zone at the time but we are clear that the mole posed a real threat to our garden. So our first taste of battle results in a clear victory for Mrs. Parish. We have now moved the minefield to the top part of the orchard where further mole activity has been spotted. I think Mrs. Parish is now entering into the spirit of this as she wants to put the dead mole on a spike at the bottom of the garden as a grisly warning to other moles. I suggest we strike some medals and organise a victory parade!

The cats got quite excited at our success. Moggie came along and helped by digging in the holes where the traps were and even tried to dig in the new holes, running the risk and springing the trap. To try to divert his attention I put him in the wheel barrow and he had great fun as I pushed him around the orchard. He thought this a great idea and was then reluctant to get out. The cats have had an interesting week as we have had some cat softies staying in the gite and they have encouraged the cats to come and visit them. The cats were there right away and enjoyed this idea of pampering. Indeed they got to a position of making a real point to us. The usual cat routine in the mornings is that they are sat right outside the front door at 7-15 when I get up to make Mrs. Parish a cup of tea and I then give them their breakfast. Their usual practice after breakfast is to find a place either on the sofa or up on a bed to go for a long sleep, before we get any ideas about reminding them they are outside cats. Not this week, as soon as they had their breakfast they were asking to go out and in one line of cats they marched across the courtyard and up the steps to the gite. They then all sit in a row looking in through the window in the door, fully utilising their ability to portray hungry cats who have been out all night and are starving. They alternate this with “look how cute we are and wouldn’t you like to cuddle us”. It works a treat with the people in the gite and in they go for a second breakfast and some cuddles on the sofa.

Cats are clever, though! Today the people in the gite left to go home and as soon as their van was out of the courtyard the cats were back over with us. Mind you they are going to have a harsh regime next week as Archie is looking an extra bit fat, so we will need to reinstate his exercise programme.

We have been really pleased at how successful the gite has been and throughout the summer from June the gite has been in use most weeks and we still have some bookings for a couple of weeks in October. We also had this week our first enquiries and a booking for next year. We have had a couple of enquiries and one family has booked the gite for a week in April. So if you want to come and visit you may need to get your bookings in early! It has been really nice to meet a range of people of different ages and interests. Fortunately everyone who has visited has liked the gite and found it well equipped and enjoyed the peace and tranquillity that is here at La Godefrere. It has been a positive experience and we are already looking forward to more visitors next year.

Hopefully by then we will have made some real progress with developing the gardens. Mrs. Parish is full planning mode and already pricing up plants and shrubs for the garden. One of the things we want to create is a path around the garden and grounds for us to enjoy and as an attraction for people visiting. So as well as a variety of trees (ones that don’t drop stuff that needs to be picked up!!!!), plants and shrubs we want to have places that attract wildlife and create different views and themes. All very exciting.

It has been the “Foire aux Vins” time at all the supermarkets. This is the festival of wines in French supermarkets when they get in and promote wine. Anyone who has visited a French supermarket will know how big their wine aisles are and the range of wine that is stocked. 99% French wine of course. Well the Foire aux vins doubles the size and range of the wine for sale and in addition they contain a decent number of special offers. When we first encountered this we got a bit carried away and bought the best offers we could find. This has included “buy one carton get one free”. A carton being six bottles of wine, so effectively 6 free bottles of wine!! In some cases this means paying less than 2 Euros a bottle – around £1-60!!! However experience has led us to realise that the cheaper wines are cheap for a reason. Often it is because there has been a very good year and a glut of wine, so you can get quite good wine for a low price. In some cases the quality is not that great. Although Mrs. Parish and I subscribe to the view that there is no such thing as bad wine but that some is less good. Usually by the time you get to the third glass, you are past caring!

Now that we are part French, we are acquiring a more sophisticated palate and have gone for wines that are a little bit more expensive and better quality. Mind you that is still very cheap compared to prices in England. We bought a box of 6 bottles of red “Haut-Medoc” for 25 Euros around 6 Euros a bottle, around £5 per bottle for a high quality wine which I suspect would be at least £10 a bottle in the UK. The end result of course is that the wine cave has now been fully restocked and is looking very healthy again. We still buy the very cheap wine as of course we can use it for cooking wine!

And finally this week we met Maurice. On arrival back to La Godefrere the other day we spotted activity going on at Daniel and Giselle’s house. We went to investigate and found that they were cutting back their hedges or at least trying to. Mrs. Parish went to help and found out the full story! Daniel is on his three week holiday break. He works at the sausage meat factory in Gorron and they close down for a summer break. This means that Giselle lines up lots of jobs for Daniel to complete and hedge trimming was one of them. Daniel is not good on ladders and Giselle was not happy that he was cutting the hedge correctly. So Giselle is next up the ladder and this is quite amusing as she is a rather large lady. Fortunately in the midst of all this Maurice arrives and clearly he is ready for work as he is wearing the traditional blue overalls that French men wear when working in the garden or in other manual work. So Maurice is sent up the ladder to finish off the hedge trimming and we get invited in for coffee to meet Maurice. Maurice is almost your archetypal French country working man with his blue overall and black beret, he has no teeth and all would be right if he had a gauloise cigarette in the corner of his mouth. It turns out that he is 89 and is still working.

Maurice is a real treat and great fun. He is quite difficult to understand as he has no teeth and occasionally lapses into patois but he has a fine sense of humour and so we spend a happy half hour in his company.

All in all a very successful week and I think we now deserve something nice to drink. Mrs. Parish is still full of herself following her mole slaying success and suggests get some sparkling Vouvray to celebrate, seems like a good idea to me.

Vive la Chasseuse