Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more.”                

The visitor turned out to be Henny Penny, our chicken tapping on the patio door with her beak. As I have mentioned in the past Henny has the run of La Godefrere and has quite an imposing personality. She sleeps in the chicken shed and takes herself off to her perch every evening when she decides she wants to go to sleep. One of us then locks her in to keep her safe. In the mornings it is usually one of my jobs to go and let her out. Normally it is either 8am or a bit before and she trots out and expects some corn and maize for breakfast. Woe to me if I am late! This morning it was around 5 minutes past eight and Henny was already at the shed door clucking and as soon as I opened the door she let me know her disapproval with a noisy fluttering of her wings while she “flew” out of the shed almost knocking me over.

Henny clearly knows that she is at the top of the pecking order and lets us all know. She clucks and pecks at the cats if they get in her way or most serious of crimes try to steal her treats. Henny has it firmly established that she should get special treats. She particularly likes pasta and rice and is also partial to red pepper and mashed or roast potato. So we have to save her some treats and give them to her during the day. Usually she comes and gives a very hard stare in at the patio doors to let you know it is time for a treat. This week I was working at the computer so she started tapping at the window to draw my attention. I was of course immediately reminded of the Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and thus the quote above. So getting into the spirit I went to the door and told the chicken.....

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked upstarting –
“Get thee back into the tempest and the night’s plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above the door!
Take thy beak from out my heart and take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the chicken “Nevermore”.

Needless to say the chicken was not impressed by my knowledge of Edgar Allen Poe and still insisted on her treat. In the end I gave in meekly!

My surprise at this encounter was soon forgotten by my second strange encounter of the week when I received a facebook message from across the Atlantic from a woman called Shuriu who tells me that she is a tango friend of my brother Mike who lives in Los Angeles. My brother is into tango dancing and he introduced Shuriu to my blog. Those who know me well will understand that dancing is not a Parish family trait! Obviously Mike inherited all the dancing genes, he is also into fencing (with swords not posts), we are not obvious brothers, Mike and I. Anyway, I get this very nice facebook message from Shuriu who is very complimentary about my blog although she thinks blogs a bit “old school” and suggests that I should set up a facebook page as well. So this is what I have done and if you want to see the result, go to La Godefrere on facebook. It is actually a really good idea and I have put on some up to date photos of the cats and also some photos of the next strange encounter of the week.

This encounter was with the statues and artwork of a French artist called Robert Tatin who has a museum where he used to live in a place called Cosse le Vivien in the Mayenne Department. We went there as part of a trip organised by Euro Mayenne (a group set up to facilitate understanding and friendship between French residents of Mayenne and people from England and Europe who come to live in Mayenne). The sculptures are heavily influenced by surrealism and the museum was a fascinating and strange experience. There were a series of statues representing figures who influenced Tatin as well as the centrepiece of the museum which was a building of sculpted art. If you look at the photos on my facebook site you will see what I mean.

As part of the visit we had lunch at a very nice restaurant in the town, four courses plus aperitif and wine. The French certainly know how to organise a day trip. This led to probably the most unexpected encounter of the week. I sat next to an Englishman called Keith who had a beard so I immediately thought of Keith from “Nuts in May” and was a bit worried. However we got chatting and it turns out that Keith is a fellow traveller (politically, not Nuts in May trip to Dorset, speaking). It also turns out that he travels several streets to the left of me. He was a union rep with the TGWU and his wife a rep with USDAW the shop workers union. So we had a great time at the meal talking about politics, a subject usually avoided at such events! It turns out he also has a great interest in birds so we also discus Hoopoes and other strange birds that may arrive in the spring.

Well, such excitement this week. I also received a dispatch from across the channel from my friend Alan with good tidings from our revered hero of La Godefrere, Etienne the Moleslayer. Al sent photographs that Etienne had recently taken on Exmoor of a Tawny Owl. It is quite rare to see Tawny Owls during the day but he had got some really good pictures. Mrs Parish and I were very impressed and have awarded Etienne a new status and henceforward he shall be known as Etienne, the Moleslayer and Owlsnapper. It’s the stuff of legends. We wait to greet Alan when he visits in April.

While reporting on excitements I must mention two other exciting things. The first is that our supermarket has organised a “Foire au Vin” lasting until the 30th March. This is a wine fair and usually this happens in the autumn at all the supermarkets to celebrate the wine harvest. It means that we get incredible offers of buy 3 bottles and get three free and buy wines at amazing prices. This could not have come at a better time. Here am I with a new and empty wine store and there is the supermarket almost willing to give me bottles of wine. A marriage made in heaven. So we have started the process by buying a couple of boxes of bottles with our normal shopping. 14 euros for 6 bottles of Cotes de Gascogne white wine. A good use of the birthday money I received. Tomorrow we go to Mayenne where there is a larger version of our supermarket with a view to buying lots more wine. By the way we go to  Mayenne to see the Carte Vitale man as we are now in possession of the required French translation of our birth certificates. We are in some trepidation but we think we may finally have all the right forms!!

The other exciting event has been the “Jour de folie” at Monsieur Bricolage the DIY shop. The French have a much better way of describing a sale as a “day of madness”. Well for me as a M. Bricolage cardholder the chance to get 20% off for one day seemed a bit like madness to me. Unfortunately there were only small things we needed.

I have almost managed to go the whole blog without mentioning the cats. You will be glad to hear that Moggie has made a full recovery after his little snip. He is back to full excitement mode and has been careering around the grounds with uncle Archie for most of the day. They are now poised behind the lap top plotting some mischief. It was poor Minou’s turn this week to undergo the knife as we had her done as well. As Mrs Parish explained to her this was a much better option than the constant attention of the local toms and much better than having to produce loads of kittens. There are quite enough kittens in France as it is. So she had the operation and is now recuperating although it has been a struggle to keep the exuberant Moggie away from playing with her. The exuberant Moggie has now decided to play with me as Archie is fed up with him and has been kissing at him. I try this but it has no effect and doesn’t stop him climbing up me.

Final exciting thing was the arrival of a birthday present from my daughter Jo. A suitably big package arrived in the post, which is always a good thing. Inside was a time lapse camera. Wow, what fun this is. It takes pictures at a range of timed intervals and then you can play it back speeded up. You’ve seen all those nature programmes with plants growing and blooming at record speeds. Well now I can do this. As you might imagine this week has been like a child at Christmas for me with a new gadget to play with. I have had the camera set up to look at the bird feeders in the orchard and taken pictures at 1 minute intervals. Looking back at them is fascinating seeing a series of birds arriving and discovering birds that visit that I had not spotted. Also the light and background changes over the length of the day.

There were several other subjects that I was going to cover but I think they will have to wait until next week. In the meantime please take the time to visit the La Godefrere facebook page and press the like button. I’m up to 24 likes so far and apparently if I get 30 this gives me access to insights about my activity, whatever that means. Old school, me, quoth the chicken “nevermore”.

A prochaine