It has been a mostly damp and misty week so although we have been out to buy the guttering for the cat’s palace we haven’t got very far with putting it up. It has been too wet and dismal and so we will probably now wait until after Christmas. Although this year we will only be having one Christmas instead of last year’s 4. Still I am sure we will have a good time. We have ordered some guinea fowl from our butcher for Christmas Day and also some wild boar for New Year. There are still plenty of good wines in the cave left over from our purchases in the “Foire aux vins”. So all is looking good at the moment.

The chickens are not so content. The bird flu outbreak still continues and so we are subject to the health restrictions and have to keep the chickens in their run and covered. There is a lot of grumbling from down at the chicken run. Mrs. Parish reckons that they may get bored and that we must give them things to take their mind off their captivity. I offer to go down and do my song and dance routine but am told this could be fatal for the chickens. I did suggest the birdie song but got a withering look, so decided it was time to keep quiet.

So, it has become amuse a chicken week. First of all we have to find a box to fill with earth and leaves so that the hens have something to sort through. This idea reached its peak today when Mrs. Parish went out to catch some worms to put in the box so that the chickens could peck around and find them. Mrs. Parish then decides that the hens might be feeling the cold and so warms up the mashed potato and cauliflower left over from dinner, so they have something warm to eat before going to bed.

Apparently the hens are not amused enough and we have to go to the next stage and this involves creating the new sport of chickenball. We have a small yellow plastic ball into which you can put grains of wheat or barley for the chickens to peck at. This is just like a game of football as the hens move the ball around their run as they peck. Thus we now have the game of chickenball. I think the game needs to be refined a bit as at the moment it is a bit of a midfield stalemate and there are not many goals (a bit like watching Manchester United at the moment!!). 

Chickenball, the new sport for hens!

So we have been working on how to develop the game and so far have come up with some team names: KFC Bournemouth or Arshenal. Apparently Chicken Inn United play in the Zimbabwe Premier League. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

You would think that with them being enclosed and all these diversions that the hens would not even think of escaping. Think again. Mrs. Parish went out to clean out their house and to keep them in their run tried to put a wire fence over the open end of the run. While doing this Sylvia managed to spot a gap and was out of the run in a flash. Fortunately she got distracted by some food and did not get very far away. Mrs. Parish came rushing to get me shouting “chicken break” and so between us we managed to recover her before she got away.

On the other hand the cats are pretty fed up with all the attention (not to mention warm food) that the hens are getting. They are also a bit miffed that we have had the chimney removed from the cat palace. We needed to remove the chimney for safety reasons but the cats have protested that this is right before Christmas and how will Santa deliver their presents if they have no chimney! So already aggrieved the cats are now complaining that they are not treated as well as the hens. They have taken to arriving outside the window earlier and earlier before feeding time and have adopted differing techniques. Minou attempts hypnosis by glaring through the windows and trying to mesmerise you into opening the door. If that fails she just  sticks her tongue out. Archie hides just outside the door and hopes to sneak in when you go out.

Minou makes a rude gesture

Archie hiding just outside the door

Moggie just tries the straight on approach of trying to dig his way through the window and then crying “let me in, I’m starving”.  This approach generally gets them in before feeding time but not as early as they would like. Of course once in they continue the harassment until they actually get fed. And they have little ground for complaint about food. Last week they were given the leftover cottage pie and tonight will be having some veal in a nice gravy. They have to have the last word and remind us that we warmed up the leftovers for the hens!! They have threatened to make an Equal value claim!!

Moggie "please let me in"

Last week I introduced the sign announcing chicken nests in the road. While looking for a picture I came across another sign which grabbed my interest. The sign says in English “Do not climb on the Eiffel tower, it is an unsafe activity”. It is repeated in Spanish. Strangely it is not in French. I am not sure why they think the English and Spanish are so stupid they need a special warning. Why it is not in French maybe to do with the cautionary tale of the Flying Tailor!

François Reichelt  was an Austrian-born,  French tailor, inventor and parachuting pioneer, now sometimes referred to as the Flying Tailor, who is remembered for jumping from the Eiffel Tower while testing a wearable parachute of his own design. Reichelt had become fixated on developing a suit for aviators that would convert into a parachute and allow them to survive a fall should they be forced to leave their aircraft. Initial experiments conducted with dummies dropped from the fifth floor of his apartment building had been successful, but he was unable to replicate those early successes with any of his subsequent designs.

Believing that the lack of a suitably high test platform was partially to blame for his failures, Reichelt repeatedly petitioned the Parisian Prefecture of Police for permission to conduct a test from the Eiffel Tower. He was finally granted permission in early 1912, but when he arrived at the tower on February 4 he made it clear that he intended to jump himself rather than conduct an experiment with dummies. Despite attempts by his friends and spectators to dissuade him, he jumped from the first platform of the tower wearing his invention. The parachute failed to deploy and he crashed into the icy ground at the foot of the tower to his instant death. There is a British Pathe News film of the attempt (which is available on YouTube for those with a macabre interest). It includes his fatal jump and shows footage of the onlookers measuring the depth of the hole created by his impact (15 centimetres; 5.9 in)!

 Not a very sensible plan and as there was such wide coverage in the French newspapers maybe they think that the message did not need to be repeated in French!

So, Christmas looms and this will be our fifth Christmas here in France. The decorations are up and the cats have their lights around the cat flap to the palace. I have pointed out to them that the chickens are not so spoilt and have no decorations on their run (it is probably just a matter of time and will done to stop them getting bored).

As Christmas is next Sunday there will be no blog as I will be recovering from a large lunch and plenty of wine. The blog will resume on New Year’s Day with a bit of luck and I’m sure there will be much to report.

Well, I had better get into practice for the Christmas festivities, so time I think for a glass of wine.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and an even better New Year.

Bonnes fetes and bonne fin d’annee