We have had a week of poorly cats and at times La Godefrere has resembled Animal Hospital and hence our expectation that at any time Rolf Harris could have come bouncing in. I have of course been doing my bit with some excellent Rolf impressions and the occasional rendition of “Tie me kangaroo down” interspersed with “Two little boys”. Until Mrs Parish threatened divorce proceedings, she can put up with Inspector Clouseau but draws the line at Rolf Harris, I can see her point!

I mentioned last week that both Moggie and Minou had colds. On Tuesday we had to take Minou to the vet to have any remaining stitches taken out and for a check up. In the end we decided to take Moggie as well. In addition to his blocked up nose and snuffling he developed a sort of cat conjunctivitis and had a very bunged up eye. Poor thing he was quite miserable. So we took him to the vet and saw both the older and younger vets. The older vet is the French equivalent of Siegfried in the BBC vet series and seems to permanently wear wellington boots (I’m not sure that it’s good form to refer to wellington boots in France, I don’t think they have yet got over Waterloo). The French for wellington boots is bottes de caoutchouc which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Anyway the vet gave Moggie a thorough examination and all was well until he tried to take Moggie’s temperature which involved putting the thermometer in his backside. Unsurprisingly Moggie took great exception and tried to bite and claw the vet. I was thinking here we go, a repeat of Waterloo but the old vet had been around a bit and deftly avoided the blows. He gave us some ointment to drop into Moggie’s eye three times a day, so more work for us at Animal Hospital. The vet showed us how to grab Moggie by the scruff of the neck and hold him up on tiptoes (the cat not us!!). This has made it surprisingly easy to do.

Not so easy has been coping with Archie who has also developed a cold and what a fuss he has made. Lots of sneezing and snuffling and being incredibly grumpy, with lots of growling and hissing if anyone goes near him. We decided he must be ill as he refused food!! This has simply never happened before, quite the contrary as Archie seems to have no “full” button and seemingly would go on eating. However having a cold meant he slept all day in front of the fire and didn’t eat. So we let him sleep in the house as it was very cold at nights. After this first night Archie seemed determined to play this for all it was worth. When it was meal times he dragged himself from his sick bed and came very slowly over and managed to force some cat food down. He strategically left a couple of chunks of meat to let us know that he was still ill and would need further indoor bed rest. He then followed this up with a bout of sneezing and went straight back to bed. Moggie soon improved and while his eye is still a bit runny he is back to himself and rushing about all over the house. Archie however is trying to convince us that he will need a long period of convalescence with some special treats thrown in before he is in any sort of state to be put outdoors. He has kept it up for four nights. Well today he is eating like normal and Mrs Parish has exercised some tough love and told him that he needs lots of fresh air and as it has been a lovely sunny day all the cats could spend it outside!! There was a lot of grumbling and hissing from Archie but out he went. I think there may be trouble later when we put him out for the night!

Well, here at La Godefere Spring keeps on trying to arrive but the weather keeps on fighting back. Earlier in the week we had some more flocons of snow but after more abuse from Mrs Parish this nonsense did not develop any further but we have had very cold winds but also some clear days when the sun has got through. On Monday, I was out looking for the Little Owls and I am pleased to say that I have seen at least one and often two of them every day this week. So that augurs well. But on Monday I also saw my first Swallow of the Spring. It was only one and I think it may have gone back as it got cold and I have not seen it since. We do have signs of Spring in the garden with a pair of Nuthatches building a nest in one of our trees and making a lot of noise about it. We also have a crow’s nest in one of the trees at the bottom of the orchard. We noticed a couple of crows pulling sticks off some of our trees and we later saw this mess of twigs at the top of a tree and now we can see one of the crows sitting in the nest. At the same time we have great flocks of around 30 greenfinches daily feeding at our bird feeders as well as several bramblings. There are still lots of fieldfares in the fields around us. Normally these birds would have gone back North as they are winter visitors. But we have had cold winds blowing from the North which has made life difficult for migrant birds.

Still I have seen a report from one of the French birders email group indicating that he has heard a Hoopoe. This was just a bit further down in Mayenne but hopefully we may get one stopping here. They do come up this far and have been seen here and close by. A Hoopoe is a very distinctive and colourful bird whose call is hoo poo poo. I am off on Tuesday evening to do a talk to the Camera club on Birds of Prey in Mayennne. This was snowed off last month. Hopefully the PowerPoint will work otherwise I may have to do impressions of the birds or I suppose I could do a few Rolf Harris numbers.

No word from Nantes.

I’m a bit worried about what the moles are up to. There have been no sightings now for a few weeks. Even in the big field all seems quiet. I had thought that with Archie laid up we would not have cat wee in the orchard and this may result in new incursions but nothing. I think they may be lulling us into a false sense of security and so I am mounting regular patrols around the orchard, ready at any stage to call in Mrs Parish as our crack assault force should that be needed. I think these are sound tactics but a nagging doubt persists.

Ever since I introduced the Chicken to the works of Edgar Allen Poe she seems determined to push her new found knowledge to the limit. Every day now she comes a tapping at my chamber door, usually from first thing, just after I have let her out of the chicken house. She can be quite persistent and at times I think she must have now read the “tell tale heart” as she seems to be mimicking a persistent heart beat. I must ensure she does not read the “Pit and the pendulum”. She still firmly lays down the rules and I think she has established rules of the farmyard. I discovered the other day while cutting the grass that there is an old rule of “feather before diesel” and that I have to give way to her if she decides to cross in front of the tractor, even when she veers across at the last minute. The bullocks who had all lined up to watch thought this hilarious. I’ve just had a dreadful thought and must immediately destroy all my copies of Animal Farm.

Talking of revolution, this week is the inaugural meeting of the Revolutionary Front of Mayenne. We have arranged to meet up with Citizen Keith and his wife (fellow left wingers) who we met at a Euro Mayenne outing a few weeks ago. We are due to meet and put the world to right on Wednesday at a bar in Lassay. I think Lassay les Chateaux is an appropriate place to start the revolution. It has two chateaux so a flavour of the aristocracy. I noted when we went there recently to a Spring fayre in a hall where there was a plaque on the wall indicating that it had been used as a Revolutionary Tribunal during the terror of the French Revolution. So it seems appropriate for us to start here. We may have to storm one of the Chateaux but only after we have had a glass or two. I’m reminded of Alex Glasgow’s song “As soon as this pub closes the revolution starts”!! Watch this space for revolutionary updates.

It has been a week now since I set up my facebook page – La Godefrere. You will recall that I was persuaded by a new friend from the States – Shuriu to set up the page. Always keen to be at the cutting edge of technology and style I duly set up the page and after a week I have 35 likes. This seems good to me and because I have exceeded 30 likes Facebook kindly provide me with detailed analysis of my site. Apparently my “reach” is 55 people which is up by 113.11%. I have 8 engaged users and incredibly my virality is at 7.27%. 64% of my likes are female but I have no one in the 18-24 age range so my street cred with the young is pretty nonexistent. I do have 3 USA likes and 1 from France so I can claim that I have gone global. If I could make sense of any of this information, I could probably do something incredibly clever and increase my virality even further. Would this be a good thing? Can anyone out there be my Facebook technical adviser? I probably need someone under 30 who understands these things.

Great excitement this week as we have our first paying guests arriving at the Gite tomorrow. Two couples are coming and we have been cleaning and polishing like mad to try to impress our guests. Everything seems to be organised and we just hope that they enjoy themselves. The cats having been showing interest and I think they are planning to take advantage of them. It seems like the weather is going to be warmer this week with a greater chance of rain showers early in the week. If it rains we have board games in the gite and wine is cheap around here so what more do you need!! We have also bought a set to play petanque and we are looking at how we can set up an appropriate playing area.

Later in the week we will be honoured to greet Map Master Jim and his wife Liz. They are the advance recce party for our former walking colleagues from Weymouth. 12 of them are due to come over at the end of May for walking, eating, drinking and talking. Jim is the walk leader by overwhelming acclaim from the rest of us. Jim has planned and led all our weekend away walks for the past few years and is legendary concerning his map reading skills (well at least amongst our group). Jim and Liz are sacrificing a lot to come over in advance and take responsibility for planning walks, testing bars and restaurants. We will have to help in the restaurant testing, it’s the least we can do.

So an exciting week ahead and therefore an early night beckons. Maybe a Calvados to help me relax, yes that seems like a good idea. Mrs Parish is indicating that after a week of Rolf Harris and Inspector Clouseau that she is in desperate need of a rather large Calvados!

Bon courage