Back to a normal quiet Sunday here at La Godefrere after two weeks of constant entertaining and eating and drinking. It actually has been quite quiet as we have been cooped up indoors on a rainy and a cold day. The sun is coming the manic weather lady on French TV has promised. The weather lady is always immaculately dressed as if she is off to some posh restaurant as soon as the weather forecast is done. She also speaks incredibly quickly and in about two minutes covers the weather for all of France and its islands for today and the next week. I just occasionally catch words for sun and rain and try to make sense of the diagrams. Anyway she is promising sun all day on Thursday and Friday.

At the beginning of the fortnight our friends Sandy and Kathy were here for a week. This required drinking rather a lot of wine and also rather a lot of whisky. Fortunately Sandy brought two rather large bottles of whisky with him. On May Day we went to the nearby village of Le pas which was having a May Day car boot sale (called vide grenier in France which literally means empty attic. Judging by some of the stalls, this is exactly what had happened and there were some strange and eclectic stuff on sale. We decided to go to Chez Fanfy, the local bar for a drink. This is a proper French bar tabac and we joined a few local elderly men having their morning drink and chat. It is a French tradition to give Lily of the Valley sprigs on May Day (Muguet in French). One dear old Frenchman went out and came back with Muguet sprigs for all of us and told us in remarkably good English that they would bring us luck. May Day is workers day (and a public holiday) in France and so he said we were already lucky today as we did not have to work!

Sandy has an unfortunate habit of picking up on words in a conversation and then singing the first line of a song using that word. It endears him to his grand children but it can be a bit bizarre. It also has the effect of putting dreadful tunes into your head until he sings the next song. At least it is brief as Sandy only seems to know the first line of the songs he sings! By the end of the week madness had descended as we were all doing it and had to resort to drinking to forget!!

We have also had some people in the gite, one of whom was wedded to his ipad computer and logged into our wifi system. There is a password about 50 characters long so it takes a while to get it right. The signal is not strong enough to go through the walls of the gite so guests have to sit at the top of the stairs to get a signal. For some reason this was not strong enough so our guest wandered about the courtyard seeking a spot for the strongest signal. This included first thing in the morning while he was dressed in a long but spotted dressing gown. A bit unnerving when this apparition passes by the window.

May is also tax return time in France. I have just had the forms delivered and so yesterday and today have been going through them and trying to make sense of them. I opted to be taxed in France as this makes things slightly easier. However filling in a French tax form means first of all understanding what goes where and unreasonably the form and the accompanying 36 page guidance notes are all in French thus requiring some translation. So I am sat with forms, guidance notes, bank statements and lots of other bits of paper, a computer and a large French English dictionary. I did remember to shut the cats outside as they would have been no help at all, quite the reverse. I have more or less completed the task and now need the assistance of reinforcements in the shape of Mrs. Parish when we attempt to log the details on line!!

I have been wondering whether it is possible to claim the cost of our animals against tax. As they are guard cats and perform a function of keeping the house and buildings free of mice there should be some way of offsetting the cost against tax. Moggie is certainly improving his hunting skills and disappears for an hour or two and is more often coming home with a mouse. Of course he then plays with it before eating it. I wonder if I should keep the tails as evidence.

I could maybe also include the costs of keeping two paddocks and a sheep shed for the sheep and lambs. Maybe there is some form of European Union grant or subsidy that I could apply for. Patrick who owns the sheep has been over and has been building an extension to the sheep house by adding a few sheets of corrugated iron to protect the open fronted house from the wind and rain. It is great watching him work as all the materials he uses are rescued and reused. The bits of corrugated iron are all rusty as are the nails he uses to fix them. Indeed some of them have to be straightened before use. This seems to be a feature of the rural French and they come up with novel and ingenious ways to make do and mend.

The past week has been tough as we have been hard at work preparing for the visit of the Red Ramblers at the end of May. The Red Ramblers are a group of walkers from Weymouth that we used to walk with when we lived in England. 9 of them are coming over and we need to sort out potential walks and places to eat. Our map reader and unofficial leader Jim and his wife Liz came over for a few days so we could sort this out. We found a great walk from a village called Brece. It is a lovely walk along a local river and the woods. Even better is that there is a restaurant in the village so we had to have lunch and test it out. The restaurant was pretty full as it serves an “ouvriers” menu. This is a fixed price meal aimed at workers so it was obviously very popular. We had a great 3 course meal with a bottle of wine and cider on the table and a cup of coffee all for just over 11 Euros (about £9.50). Great value and we also established that they would also do a vegetarian option for some of the ramblers of that persuasion. Vegetarian food is often difficult to come by in France. We are now all organised for the visit.

We are also getting ready for the arrival tomorrow, of my brother and his girl friend who are visiting from their home in the USA. They are currently in Paris and arrive with us tomorrow evening. We have been invited round to meet Emile and Yvette and this should be an interesting meeting of cultures!

No sightings of moles at all in the past fortnight. Our patrols report no activity. I am not sure who they are more afraid of me and my singing or Mrs. Parish. On second thoughts there is no competition! As an aside I was in the dentist a couple of weeks ago and was reading a magazine in which there was an article about moles. Apparently there are no moles in Ireland. Maybe St Patrick chased them out at the same time he got rid of the snakes. France has loads of saints and you would think that they could find one to sort out our moles!

On Friday, Mrs. Parish was washing up when suddenly she called out that there was a hare in the garden. She had done a double take and I came over and there sat right outside the kitchen window was a very large hare. When we looked the three cats were all around but studiously ignoring the fact that there was a hare in the garden. I don’t think they fancied taking him on. The hare managed to stay still long enough for me to get a photograph.

We ended the week with the Eurovision Song Contest and it lived up to its usual craziness. The winner from Austria was a woman with a beard (or it could have been a man with a beard dressed as a woman). The French seemed to have gone completely mad and entered a song about moustaches which managed to gain only 2 points and came last. It has been something of a tradition to watch and there is a strange mix of bizarre acts together with some serious singers. It is often the bizarre which wins, which of course is why we watch it. 

I now have three cats who have appeared at the window and are looking in demanding their tea. They are looking quite intimidating so I had better go and feed them. Mrs. Parish is looking quite intimidating as well so I had better go and pour her a drink.

Bonne soiree