I mentioned last week that we were approaching International Women’s day which was on Tuesday March 8th. Our local newspaper always has some interesting reflexions on equality on this day. I noticed in the paper that there had been a recent survey of French people on whether they thought history was important and then who were the most important men and women in French history.

80% of those asked thought history very important, which is pretty high. Of these some 60% put Charles De Gaulle as their most important French man, with only 45% putting Napoleon second. In third place with only 30% came King Louis XIV. An interesting selection and all French national leaders who ran the Country. When asked about important women the selections were more surprising. In first place with 60% came a French politician, Simone Veil whose claim to fame was that she was the Minister for Health who in 1975 was instrumental in getting legislation through the National Assembly making abortion legal. The French recognise the importance of this legislation for women.

In second place with almost 60% came Marie Curie, a Nobel Prize winner but a naturalised French woman who was born in Poland. Joan of Arc only got 48% which is perhaps a bit surprising. But it is encouraging that the French recognise the significance of women who contribute to society in developing women’s rights and for their role in Science. I suspect the results might be somewhat different in Britain. A cartoon in the Guardian newspaper shows a teacher with a picture of Marie Curie telling a group of children what a great scientist she was. One of the children asks, “but what did she wear”!! The cartoon makes the point that the British media trivialise women and rate them by how they look and what they wear. There is still a long road to tread to achieve equality. It is encouraging to think that the French are a bit more thoughtful.

From the Guardian newspaper

On a lighter note the weather has turned sunnier and the last couple of days have been clear and sunny, although it is still a bit chilly in the shade. Mrs. Parish has a smile on her face and purpose in her actions as she can get outside and get some gardening done, especially in the vegetable garden. This week I got the chance at last to get the tractor out and to get the grass cut. I managed to do the orchard and the nature walk around the big field. It is good to get out on the tractor and the combination of the noise of the engine and my singing seems to have sent the moles into full scale retreat and to leave the exclusion zone completely.

The better weather has also encouraged me to do some spring cleaning down at our major visitor attraction “The Ant Experience”. In the corner of the big field is the impressive wood ant nest. Since last year it has got a bit overgrown with brambles and weeds. This of course will inhibit visitor satisfaction and be a bad thing. So I went down armed with various garden implements and have cleared the debris away to ensure that our visitors have the best view of these interesting creatures. When I went down at the beginning of the week the ants were still hibernating. 

The queen and a few of her worker ants (all female I’m afraid. Not sure they have an international women ants day) hibernate over winter and when it starts to warm up they get sent out to see what the weather is like and if warm enough they get going on breeding more ants (the male ant’s sole purpose) and rebuilding the nest and the colony. Well, when I went to look yesterday there were thousands of ants milling around. They seemed to be having a committee meeting as they were all bundled together. I expect they will sort out a plan soon and start to rebuild the nest.

The Ant nest rebuilding committee

I have to report that Moggie seems a lot better and less stressed despite the fact that he had a major fight with Archie last Monday. I had to rush in with the broom to separate them. There was fur flying everywhere and Archie had managed to get his ear in the way of Moggie’s claws and was bleeding all over the patio. Apart from that little fracas all has been peace and quiet on the cat front. With the warmer sunny weather the cats are generally a bit happier as they can go exploring and hunting without getting wet and they can find sheltered spots to bask in the warm sun.

Also occurring this week, Friday 11th March was International Graham’s Day, otherwise known as my birthday and this year I reached the significant age of 65. I know you will all say that I cannot possibly be that old but there it is. At least I can now look forward to the pension cheque coming through every 4 weeks. Should be enough to keep the wine cellar looking healthy. So my favourite birthday present was a large model bird for the garden. It is a crane a bit like a heron. Anyway I have put it up in the garden and it now looks very realistic. You catch it out of your eye and wonder, what the hell is that, before remembering! This is a present for Mrs. Parish who knows how to keep me amused. She suggests that maybe I can create a crane experience. We do get cranes coming over La Godefrere, but only on migration. I don’t expect they will stop off to chat with my crane. However I am contemplating some more garden bird ornaments.

New garden Crane

I also had a rather nice Exeter City football club scarf from Nigel, my brother in law and fellow fan. I can now sit down on Saturday afternoons to watch the results [programme and wave my scarf. It will also be a useful addition as it is a nice warm scarf and will keep out the cold wind. 

Thursday was a bit chaotic! Mrs.Parish and our friend Sarah were away for the day and so Sarah’s husband Ian and I were instructed to deliver birthday cards and present to Yvette. Now Ian speaks very little French so I was in charge of the delegation and responsible for the translation as Yvette and Emile speak no English. A visit to Yvette is not simple as we have to stop for a coffee and a calvados and make conversation. We kind of hoped they might be out, so we could leave the presents on the doorstep. No such luck. We arrived just after lunch and had the compulsory coffee and calva. I was quite good with speaking French and managed to have a decent conversation with Yvette and Emile without any embarrassing errors.

We decided on our way home to call round to see some English friends who live close by at the end of a narrow lane next to some farm buildings. When we got there chaos reigned as they had some visitors whose car was in the lane. Next the car was a very big lorry delivering wood for their log fire. However the tail lift had broken down and the lorry could not be moved. So we had to park Ian’s car behind the lorry. The driver was in the lane and I knew him as he delivers to us. So we find out that he is waiting for an electrician to come to fix his lorry. When the electrician arrives there are now 4 vehicles in a line. But this is France so rather than sort out the problem everyone descends upon Sandra’s kitchen for coffee, the driver included.

At this point the farmer arrives in his tractor with two great big bales of hay. So now a traffic jam of 5 vehicles and another for coffee in the best French style we all shrug our shoulders and reckon it will all sort itself out. The electrician decides he cannot wait and reverses in French style (very fast) his van over the verge at the side of the road, narrowly missing going into the ditch. After this there is plenty of manoeuvring to enable us to clear the lane. 

So a week that suggest that spring is arriving. The ants are awake and we have the last of our bird boxes up in the garden. Within 5 minutes a great tit arrived to investigate. The sun is still out; it may be time for an aperitif outside in the sun!

Bon soir