So, I am still home alone and in charge at La Godefrere. Mrs. Parish remains across the Channel and I will be joining her next week for her dad’s funeral on 4th November. It is somewhat ironic that he is being buried around Bonfire night as he has always had a great love of fireworks and there was always a great display in the back garden at his house in November. So next week he will be going out with a big bang, which he would appreciate.

The loneliness of command is however weighing heavy with me and I think the cats are plotting against me. Archie in particular is flexing his muscles after his recent cheese incident. This happened just before Mrs. Parish had gone back to Britain and we were having an evening meal with my son Ian and fiancée Emma. We had just started the cheese course and had made the error of judgement in allowing the cats in. We figured that with 4 of us we would be safe. It was raining outside so we felt sorry for them. A big mistake as for a second our attention strayed and Archie leapt onto the table and seized a whole round of cheese. He was in the process of making an escape when Mrs. Parish intervened and tried to save the cheese. Archie had his teeth firmly into the large cheese and would not let go. In the end Mrs. Parish tore away the outer part of the cheese leaving a sizeable chunk inside Archie’s mouth!

In the mornings I let the cats in and feed them around 7-30. They usually stay in for an hour or so until we have finished breakfast and then they go out. Since I have been home alone the cats have taken to ensuring I don’t have a relaxing breakfast. Our kitchen table has six chairs around it. The cats have taken to jumping onto the chairs (I have to fight them off the table). It also means that whenever I get up to pour coffee or get some more toast, the three second rule seems to apply and a cat leaps onto my seat. I then have to move to the next seat and to move my plate and knife etc. It is like a cross between musical chairs and the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland as I have a moving breakfast working my way round the table!

Things have been made worse this weekend as the clocks have gone back which meant they were an hour late in getting their breakfast. They were not happy and seemed especially intent on disrupting my breakfast and Moggie decided that he would try to sit on my lap while I was eating. If this fails the cats decide to chase each other around the house and have fights upstairs so I have to get up. Today I was even harassed outside. I went to take some photos of snowdrops for the camera club competition and was down trying to get a close up. The close up I got was of Moggie’s tail as he came to help. After shoving him out of the way he decided to help by sitting on my shoulder. As Arthur Dent once said in the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy: “Would it help if I just went mad now?”

Captain Flint cat!!

I decided this morning to get some exercise and I went for a walk to the village to get some bread. Half way along the road there is a large farm and on the side opposite the farm I spot a very large dog. French dogs are usually guard dogs, employed to bark a lot and to persuade you that it is a bad idea to step onto their land. This dog seemed to be guarding an empty shed and fortunately it was attached to a very large metal chain. This seemed to me to be a very good thing, especially when it came chasing out at me, barking very loudly. At this point you begin to wonder, is that chain short enough to stop the dog before he gets to me!! I suddenly wish I had paid more attention in Maths lessons. As I am writing the blog, using both hands you will gather the chain did its job.

Dog on a chain

This week I have had two saviours. Giselle was the first to assist. We had ordered a new wood burner so that come winter we can produce heat with the maximum efficiency. We asked our builder to install it for us and he also ordered the burner. A man came to deliver it while I was out shopping. Unfortunately the burner had been ordered to be delivered in the name of the builder to my address. Now in rural France the postal address is the hamlet. So La Godefrere is the address for 4 houses here. To assist with post we all put our names on the post boxes outside the house. So the delivery man is looking for a Monsieur Jessop and of course there is no such name on the post boxes. Eventually he calls on Giselle who does not recognise the name. They then phone the mayor’s office to see if a Jessop is moving in anywhere near. No luck there. Eventually Giselle spots that there is a phone number (as the deliverer is supposed to ring to see if you are in!!). They manage to find out that it is our number and successfully deliver it to my house.

Incidentally I spotted Giselle in the lane a few days ago so decided to go and practice my French by having a “bavardage” a chat. She was in the middle of a bush struggling to paint her back fence. I admired her work and asked why Daniel was not doing this. She replied “Il est nul”. I thought nul must equal nothing and was a bit taken aback. When I got indoors I checked. It simply means” he is useless”. Poor old Daniel. Anyway a useful addition to my vocabulary. She has quite a colourful repertoire of expressions and shrugs and hand signs that we are gradually learning. Her name for people she doesn’t like is to call them “mechant chiens” or naughty/bad dogs!! It is usually said with a dismissive scowl and a shrug of one shoulder. Two shoulders are shrugged when it is a “comme ci comme ca” moment or a “Qui sais”, who knows! Learning French is more than just learning the words!!

My second saviour has been Jean Renoir, who is a legendary French film director in the 1930’s. I got a boxed set of his films at Christmas and haven’t got round to watching them. This week I have been very bored being on my own. In the evenings the TV is so useless and despite all the channels on UK freeview and on the French equivalent there is absolutely nothing worth watching so I have got out the set and have been working through them. I particularly enjoyed La Grande Illusion about the First World War and the watched La Marseillaise a film about the French revolution and the volunteer revolutionary army from Marseilles whose marching song became adopted as the French National anthem. Excellent films and managed to save my sanity. Which the cats are attempting to undermine again!

It is an interesting fact that virtually everyone asks how Kate is at this difficult time. They then ask if the cats are all right and if they need someone to look after them while we are away. Occasionally I get the “oh, I suppose you are OK”, as a sort of afterthought. It says something about my relative position in the pecking order!! By the way, to all of you out there, to save you asking - I am fine, I am eating very well, in fact I have cooked myself a meal every day with no resort to ready meals. I am coping with the rigours of command. I have mastered the washing machines and the ironing basket is empty. The cats are still alive, although if they wind me up once more (Archie is threatening the ornaments). It is 8pm and of course their stomachs tell them it is 9pm. Trouble lies ahead!

Anyway I have just cooked myself a nice curry and washed it down with a very nice buzet. Coffee and a whisky tonight I think. Just to demonstrate who is in command here? The cats are now surrounding me and I am sure I hear sounds of the Marseillaise. OK citizen cats I will get you supper.

Aux armes citoyens