The weather has taken a turn for the worse and we have a “vigilance orange” situation. Meteo France the weather people issue warnings when we are likely to get bad weather and there are four levels, green, yellow, orange and red. 

Red is the most serious. According to Meteo France: Absolute vigilance is required.  Hazardous meteorological phenomena of exceptional and catastrophic intensity are expected. Keep abreast of the meteorological evolution and strictly adhere to the advice or instructions issued by the Authorities Orange is next and means; Be very vigilant.  Hazardous weather events are expected. Keep up-to-date on the weather and follow the advice given by the authorities. 

Yellow means: Be careful if you are involved in activities that are sensitive to meteorological hazards. Usual phenomena in the region, but occasionally dangerous (eg moderately rainy weather, locally heavy showers, sustained wind with gusts) are expected. Keep abreast of the weather. Green means: No particular vigilance. Attention, it does not mean that it is nice: a cloudy sky and weak rain, small showers are classified in green vigilance.

This morning Meteo France issued an orange warning due to a prediction of violent winds with up to 120 km gusts, heavy rain and what in France are called “orages”, thunder storms as well as possible hail storms! Meteo France is usually very accurate and we had heavy rain this morning which they said would stop at 10 past 11. Dead on the dot it stopped raining. It is predicting the storms will start round about now and it has got very dark. The last time we had this sort of weather the gusts of wind blew over the hen house with all the hens still inside.

Now, as I have reported the hens are not at all happy due to their enforced imprisonment due to the bird flu regulations. They have had a pretty miserable week with lots of rain and they have been complaining vigorously about their situation.  Mrs. Parish reckons they are planning an escape attempt as to feed them she needs to pull back the hen run leaving space for hens to escape. When Mrs. Parish goes out first thing in the morning she can hear them muttering in the house. She reckons they are plotting and may be about to rush her as soon as the door is open. There have even been reports that they have been clucking the theme music to the great escape!

The problem is that when you see the hens shaking the dust out of their feathers you have to think. Is this the product of a dust bath or is this soil from an escape tunnel that they are trying to disperse?

Anyway we have decided that we should avoid the risk of them being blown over which might create escape opportunities. Mrs. Parish has the bright idea to lock them away in the old hen house, which we now use for storing wood. The difficulty is getting them from A to B without losing one or all of them. We decide to use the glass bowl with food in as a bribe. It usually works and we get half way across the garden before Sylvia makes a break for it veering off towards the bird feeders. I am coming up the rear like a good sheep dog so manage to get behind her and redirect her back towards the wood shed.

Hens on forced march to storm shelter

After a few more attempts by all three of them to back track Mrs. Parish manages to herd them in and shut the door. Hopefully they will not be able to escape and be safe in the high winds. So we have firmly battened down the hatches and have retreated indoors to wait out the storm.

Mrs. Parish does impression of bird of prey at entrance to wood shed (storm shelter)

I am not sure that I am supposed to have all this stress as I continue on my road to recovery. I went to see the surgeon at the hospital on Thursday for my final check up. Dr. Rouabehi is a charming man and went through my treatment and told me that they had a bit of trouble with my operation. As they were doing surgery to my stomach they needed to pump in gas to keep my stomach inflated while they did the surgery. The Doctor told me that half way through they ran out of gas and had enormous trouble to change the gas bottle!

So they had to suspend the operation for half an hour while they all tried to get the bottle changed. Having changed the gas bottle for the cooker in our gite, with difficulty, a lot of swearing and a rather large wrench, I had an immediate mental image of all the medics in full theatre dress all trying desperately to get the gas bottle changed!! Anyway I was signed off as OK and told I could now start eating again and the only restriction is not to lift heavy weights! As if, just as well that Mrs. Parish is such a formidable woman.

My digestive abilities were put to the ultimate test on Saturday as we attended the local repas at our own village hall. A full on French repas will test the digestion of the strongest. After the usual kir aperitif we had soup followed by what can only be described as a mountain of chicken, rice, mushrooms and other vegetables. This was followed by a wedge of camembert and an apple tart, with coffee to follow. All of course washed down with a very nice Bordeaux. I got back home and rested my stomach for the rest of the day. Everything seems OK! 

So we move on and Archie was very pleased as his personal sandwich van turned up. This week we have our builders in to remove the outside staircase to the gite and build a new internal staircase. The outside stairs have got some serious damp rot problems and would have needed replacement. They also require major work each year as they are subject to all the various weather conditions.

So we have our regular builder, Mark and with him Gary. Now Gary has so far lost two packed lunches to Archie. He firstly got into Gary’s car and stripped the cling wrap off a cheese and tomato baguette before eating it. He has also grabbed Gary’s lunch when he put it inside where he was working. So Archie was very pleased to see Gary’s car turn up and immediately went and sat on it and looked to see if he could get in. It seems Gary has learned his lesson!

The building work has progressed considerably and should be finished next week. The games room looks a complete tip with tools, materials, saw dust and boxes all over the place. Mark is a fantastic builder and always does a brilliant job but he must be the most untidy builder ever! I have to say that he also always clears up at the end. We have also had Duncan here to do the electrics and he seems to work at 100 mph while he trails wire everywhere. He even managed to fix one of our switches in the house almost while passing.

The new stairs and builders mess!

So next week the internal stairs should be finished and then the old external stairs will be taken down. It will certainly save a lot of work and will look quite different. We then have to redecorate and spring clean the gite ready for our first visitors at the end of March.

It is one of the joys of this time of year. We spend time planning visits of our friends and family during Spring and Summer. So far we have some of our children coming at the end of March along with two dogs but only seven legs. In April, 4 friends I used to work with arrive and in May two friends are coming for a week. In July another 4 friends from Weymouth arrive on their bikes and in August, Mother in Law is due for a visit.

As well as that this is the time of year when we get most of our bookings for the gite and that is always exciting to get bookings and to be able to look forward to meeting new people who come for a holiday. We have quite a few bookings so far and a nice mix between couples and this with young children. It also emphasises that we have a lot of work to do to get the place looking good including the gite, our garden furniture, the garden itself and of course our ever developing nature trail. Lots to do, but it keeps us busy. The cats will also be preparing for the season and working on their tactics so that they can get attention and more importantly get food out of our visitors!

Well, I had better go over to the cave before the storm arrives to make sure we have enough wine in the house to survive for 48 hours!

Bon courage