Lots to catch up with after 2 weeks and a trip back to England. Sadly I have to report the sad demise of Henny Penny our aged chicken. We inherited her when we bought the house as she was the last of the chickens owned by Dave and Julie. As regular readers of the blog will know Henny was certainly a character. She was clearly top of the pecking order, keeping the cats at bay with strategic pecks. She also had the ability to train her sights on any piece of cake or sandwich that came within her range and she would then grab it from your hand. At the end she contracted a digestive disease and could not eat. We went to see Giselle next door to ask her advice and she administered the coup de grace to avoid any further distress. Mrs Parish was then going to dig a rather large hole to bury poor Henny when Giselle introduced us to the realities of rural France as she suggested we leave it for the fox to dispose of. Kind of ironic really given the number of times we forgot to lock Henny’s chicken house and the fox never got her then.  So the fox became nature’s undertaker! And Giselle is firmly ensconced as the local wise woman or “sage femme”. Interestingly the French still call midwives, “sage femmes”.

So off to England for Amy’s graduation and we had a great time and watched with great pride our youngest daughter receiving her degree. She was more thrilled to be presented with the degree by the University Chancellor, the actor John Hurt. She also had a picture taken with him at the reception afterwards. It was also an interesting day at the Norwich University of the Arts. Lots of interesting hair styles and colours and amazing shoes. The exhibition of work was something. Most of the work was amazingly good but of course being art students there was the occasional bollocks. Like the photograph of a man smothered in duct tape which apparently distorted our perceptions of indexicality. In the fine art studio we saw some live ants in a plastic box; a deconstructed radiator stuck to a wall and my favourite, the top of a gate leg table propped against a wall. Amy as a games design student was not impressed given the vast amount of hard work she had to do.

It seems the Norwich city centre coffee shop was entering into the spirit of things. It has long been a strain to me seeing the range of coffee options available. I just want a cup of coffee but they offer me Mocha; Americano; Espresso; Latte or Cappuccino. I have only just got used to ordering Americano when the waitress asks do I want it complex, mellow or intense!!! I just wanted a coffee not a distortion of my perception!  This was the first time back in Britain and I was struck by how much more crowded it was both on the roads and streets.

Leaving Britain via the channel tunnel was also interesting. The announcer had a voice just like the one from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when at the abandoned space ship she announces that take off will be delayed until the lemon scented napkins are delivered. Very spooky. Spooky, as when we got into the queue to go on the sign came up to say that it would be delayed for 30 minutes due to a technical problem, but I knew the real reason!!

Back in France and back to great excitement at La Godefrere. Full on sunshine at last, Mutt and Geoff our new lambs have arrived. I have to say that they are a great deal more good looking than the existing sheep who have pink faces which show off their bulging eyes. The new lambs have nice black faces and are much friendlier as they had been bottle fed so they come over for a pat. At first the two groups of sheep did not mix during the day but next morning I found them all asleep in the sheep shed. Since then they seem to be the best of friends and all hang about together. So far every morning when I go out to check them they have been in the shed. On Thursday they decided to try to distort my perception by hiding! When I got to the paddock there were no sheep to be seen. There are seven sheep, how could they go missing? Momentary panic and so I go down and find all seven sheep right at the bottom of the second paddock by the fence, which is just over a little mound so they couldn’t be seen.

The moles are also doing their bit to distort my perceptions. I think they had spent last week while I was away plotting a new approach to try to confuse me. On Thursday there was no sign of mole activity. On Friday during my morning Mole patrol I noticed two new very big molehills but on opposite sides of the orchard. Was this the same mole or two moles in a pincer movement? In any event I went over them with the mower and revved the engine up to maximum while singing Hey Mr. Tambourine man in a very loud voice. Hey presto and today no sign of any moles!!

We came back to a bit of a frosty reception from the cats, although they had been well looked after by our gite guests Janet and John. I think they were just trying to make a point that they disapproved of our absence. They soon changed their tune when we got the food out. Janet and John thought our cats very sweet and well behaved. Had they looked behind the hedge they might have changed their view. Mrs. Parish discovered the remains of the young hare under the hedge, next to the veg garden. We had seen it a couple of times running around the courtyard early in the morning.  We don’t know if the cats caught it but they were certainly involved in eating it. Particularly Moggie who had a very large bulge in his stomach and missed tea the next day and spent all day sleeping off his over indulgence.

Well, it’s also harvest time as far as Mrs. Parish is concerned. She disappears off to do some pottering in the garden and comes back in with baskets full of potatoes, beans, peas, lettuce and spring onions and the occasional strawberry. I’m having to work hard to try and eat it all!

Emile has also been here to bring in the hay. This involves cutting the grass in our big field and then doing a lot of fannying! This involves a tractor and a device which turns and mixes the grass to help it to dry out. It comes from the French verb “faner” to make hay. On these occasions Emile would arrive with his little tractor with only one seat along with Yvette who was standing behind holding on for grim death. While Emile did the fannying, Yvette got to work with a large pitchfork dealing with the hay round the edge of the field. Remember these two are in their eighties!! Finally an even bigger tractor arrives and only just fits down our lane. This tractor goes over the lines of hay and picks it up at one end and then spits it out in a great big roll at the other end. We now have 28 rolls of hay scattered around the field. It has to stay there for 3 weeks to properly dry out before Emile takes it off for sale. He gets half for doing the work and we get half for having a big field. We also got a bottle of Emile’s Calvados as part of the deal. Things are rather good at harvest time!!

We brought back a dart’s board from England. While I say we, I’m not sure Mrs. Parish entirely approves. Of course as soon as we got home I had to get it put up in the games room. This involved all sorts of maths including geometry so that the board and cabinet are the right distance above the ground and taking into account the slight slope of the floor in the stable and then calculating the exact spot for the oche. All this was managed successfully and Mrs. Parish was tempted by the prospect of a cold beer to play the inaugural game. A tense three set game which Mrs. Parish took by a remarkable double one. We soon realised that the new walls around the board were going to take a pasting as our youthful darts skills had clearly deserted us and the darts somehow missed the board completely and stuck in the wall. So next day some additional surrounds were put in!!

Finally in this exciting last two weeks we encountered Hurricane Harry. This is not some strange French weather phenomenon but a 3 year old young man who is staying in the gite with his mum and dad and 4 month old Theo. Harry arrived last night and apart from when sleeping or eating he is running all over the grounds and never seems to stop talking. As soon as he got here he wanted to see the sheep and commandeered Mrs. Parish to take him to meet them. He has scared the cats by chasing them so at least they will think twice before trying to scrounge some food from them. Mrs Parish and I are already worn out and he is with us for another 12 days. I’m not sure we will survive.

In such circumstances I think it necessary to distort my perceptions with some of Emile’s Calvados!!  

By the way we have a two week period in August from 16th to 31st when the gite is not booked. There is a special offer of £280 per week (£50 per week off the normal price). If you know of anyone interested let me know. I will also throw in a free glass of Calva!!

A bientot