I look out the window and its blowing a gale and raining. It seems to have been raining all week although we bizarrely had a sunny day yesterday when we sat out on our patio drinking a cup of tea and enjoying the afternoon sun. Apart from that it has been raining almost all week and Mrs. Parish and I and the cats are all going a bit stir crazy.

To start the week the cats were glad to get their house back after the visit of Tommo. They insisted that they also get back their proper place in the blog after “Tommo’s tale” last week. So this week the blog is about cats. The cats have been taking advantage of the bad weather and have been pleading for indoor play. There is a constant battle over their status as outside cats. So from time to time I have to assert myself and throw the cats out into the rain. Minou immediately runs round into the lean to shed next the house and disappears up into the “Bijoux Apartment”. This is the specially built shelf where the cats sleep. Not just built but also insulated with foam blocks and which now has an old duvet for them to sleep on. With such luxury I wonder why they ever want to come inside! Anyway Minou rushes to get there so she can grab the best corner to curl up and sleep. Moggie usually has to rush around and inspect a few mouse holes in the garden before retreating soaking wet to the Bijoux Apartment.

Archie on the other hand has a habit of going across the courtyard to his “Gloomy Corner”. This is an area next to the gite which is enclosed on one side by a hedge and thus it doesn’t get much sun. Archie huddles up under the hedge and manages to convey such misery and despair in an attempt to make us feel guilty and let him in. In fact his spot is well sheltered from the wind and he is strategically well placed to watch what is going on and if there is a chance of sneaking back indoors he can respond quickly.

The cats different characters are a matter of fascination. In the mornings they come in at about 7-30 for breakfast and are almost always waiting outside when I come down stairs. After breakfast they disappear upstairs to find a bed to sleep on. If the weather allows us outside we try to get the cats to come outside with us. Usually with a bribe of a cat treat. Now as soon as Mrs. Parish goes to get her coat out of the cupboard Moggie is instantly there ready for his “throwing out treat”. Minou arrives a bit later and sits under the kitchen table and most often decides that she might be better off indoors and tries to hide and on occasions this requires a game of hide and seek before we get her outside. Archie is totally different, he just turns over and curls up tighter on the bed. He has reasoned that a nice warm bed indoors is better than a small treat outside. So we have to go and get him and carry a very heavy cat to the front door.

If we are working in the garden then Moggie has to come to help, this usually involves him racing down the orchard and running up a tree. Then racing to where we are working and digging holes or putting his paw down a mouse hole. Then racing up another tree and managing to get himself wet and muddy in a matter of moments. On a rare, not raining day he spent all day charging around between Mrs. Parish and me who were working in different parts of the garden. When he came in for the evening he got straight on to a sofa and collapsed in a heap and didn’t move for about 4 hours until supper time!

Minou is much more delicate and ladylike. She doesn’t like getting her paws wet so is reluctant to come out into the orchard unless it is reasonably dry. She tends to keep out of the way of the marauding boys. This does unfortunately result in her having too much energy left when she comes indoors. She is the one who wants to play with the cat toys and then for no apparent reason goes mad and runs all round the house. So we have one little cat crashed out while the other is full of beans.

Archie is a bit more considered and tends to go at his own pace. He likes to come and see what we are up to in the garden but he usually walks and then gets bored with us and wanders off. He does get most excited when vehicles come to the house and he is a master at getting into cars and vans and tracking down any food products (as you know he especially likes workmen’s sandwiches). One day in the week I was calling Archie to come in for tea. No response, which is unusual so I went to the lane and then to the garden shouting his name when I spotted him in the back of my car crying to be let out. I had earlier in the afternoon taken some bird food we had bought from the boot to the shed. In the five minutes I was gone Archie had got into the car. He managed to find some dog treats left over from Tommo’s visit, so it was worth his while.

It is still raining and for once all three cats are indoors and all asleep. Or are they? Open a cupboard or get some food out of the fridge and all of a sudden there will be three cats patrolling round ready to seize any opportunity, any turning of your back to grab a snack!

Earlier in the week we had a non rain day (I say no rain, but it still had some drizzle and the occasional shower and then annoyingly brightened up just as it was getting dark and we had a clear sky all night). So we decided to get on with garden work as part of our grand garden development plan. Mrs. Parish has bought herself a new super dooper “Debroussailier”. This is French for strimmer. This is a proper professional one with a blade and handles and a harness which holds the weight of the machine. The harness has fluorescent yellow straps for safety but I reckon it makes Mrs. Parish look like a crossing patrol lady. Mrs. Parish gets togged up in the gear and off she goes to the bottom of our big field to clear the brambles and under growth so we can eventually make a path along the trees and next to the winter stream.

Meanwhile I am tasked with tackling a bramble infested bit of the orchard. This is an area at the side of the orchard between a bank full of trees and behind is the barbed wire fence next to Loic’s field. There is a path from the gite down to this area but there is about 50 yards of impenetrable jungle where the bottom part of the path once was. In my normal fashion I treat this as an expedition to discover the North West Passage and gather my tools. This includes a hand scythe, saw, loppers, secateurs, a wheel barrow, a rake and a set of native guides and bearers (Moggie and Archie). So I arrive and start hacking, lopping, sawing and soon am lost in the undergrowth battling with ancient and monstrous brambles that seem to find ways of wrapping themselves around my legs and creating a criss cross of cuts and scars on my legs. At times I have to saw through branches which are over hanging Loic’s field. At any moment I am expecting to confront a wild boar or a wolf.  The only animals that I find are  the cows who have to come over to see what I am doing and it seems to me that they are having a good laugh at my heroic efforts to break through.

After a long and tiring day I manage finally to cut a path through and reach the big field at the end of the passage. I return to the house in triumphant mood. Mrs. Parish has also returned and is preparing food. I announce that I have discovered and reopened the North West Passage, a feat which will rival that of Dr Livingstone and other great English explorers. Mrs. Parish looks unimpressed and advises in her usual down to earth way that the path is in fact in the South East corner of the orchard and no, I cannot have a flag to put up. Mrs Parish is equally unimpressed with my cuts and scars and in the manner of a professional gardener who has seen it all before.

I remain none the less, in my own mind at least, a great explorer. After a lovely meal and a couple of glasses of wine I settle down to sleep the evening away in the company of my trusted native guides and dream of future expeditions!

It is now just after 3pm French time and it is still raining. In fact it seems to be raining more heavily and has been raining nonstop for about 5 hours. I remember that I am English and at times of stress like this I must do what any good Englishman would do. I make a cup of tea, after which all will be well. Perhaps then I will start planning my next great expedition.

Bon courage