After last week’s somewhat esoteric blog, we are back to normal (or what passes for normal here). Moggie has excelled himself this week by catching a mole. He did have one a couple of weeks ago but we were suspicious, that he may have just found it. This week no doubts as he proudly brought back the mole from the allotment and proceeded to play with it. I am told that moles taste revolting and therefore cats won’t eat them. I’m not sure who tries out mole tasting to find this out. Moggie showed no signs of wanting to eat his mole but he did growl if anyone tried to take it away from him. He is the week’s champion hunter and thus entitled to some extra cheese rind. As proper French cats all three of ours like cheese and suddenly appear when we get to the cheese course at dinner and put on their very hungry looks and plead for a bit of cheese.

Having excelled himself as a hunter he then got into my bad books by inventing a new game. I have reported before how Moggie likes to “help” when I am picking up fallen apples and pears in our orchard. He usually races around after me and then rushes up a tree, sometimes dislodging apples as he goes. This week he decided it was a good idea to chase the apples. I have discovered a new technique to try to avoid so much bending to pick up fruit. I started off by using my still magical football skills to kick the apples into a pile and then pick them up. This works fine with the larger apples but is not so good with the small poire pears and small cider apples. I found in Mrs. Parish’s shed an ancient sort of French hoe which I found is excellent for gathering fruit on the ground and moving into a pile. Of course this means that when I am moving the apples and pears, this gives Moggie a target to chase and he started pouncing on the fruit as I moved it. After a while he got bored with this game and decided to catch his own fruit by climbing up the tree and them trying to bite the fruit in the tree or hook it up with his claw. This resulted in lots of fruit falling to the ground. Usually just after I had cleared that bit of ground. Moggie seemed to think this was great fun. I begged to differ and have now taken to sneaking off to do my fruit clearing when Moggie is curled up on our bed in the mornings.

Today was poetic justice as he followed me out and I started collecting from a pear tree which on which the pears are nearly ripe so lots fall down every day and I have been hit several times when picking up fruit. A falling pear does actually hurt if it hits you. Anyway this morning one fell on Moggie and suddenly he was not quite so keen on playing games with fruit trees!!

Autumn has arrived it seems and this week the weather has turned to being colder in the mornings and evenings which already seem to be drawing in. The swallows are gathering in flocks and preparing to migrate. At least the change in weather has brought some rain for the first time in a couple of months. The grass has gone brown as it has dried out and while this has meant less grass cutting the orchard grass does look a mess. The grass in the fields around is poor for our sheep and Loic has already been supplementing the feed for his new cattle as the grass is so poor. Mrs. Parish has been complaining that the soil is too hard to dig and that the stuff she has planted for winter is not growing. I have noticed that gardeners, like farmers are never happy whatever the weather. Over the summer we have had an absolutely bumper crop of tomatoes and potatoes and no signs of any mildew or blight which sometimes affects these crops in this part of France. So we have spent the summer eating plenty of salads. The bumper crops have had the unusual by product of producing produce in a variety of odd shapes. Mrs. Parish and I have been having much infantile fun identifying what the shapes look like. So far we have had tomatoes with unusual protuberances and one that looked just like Pikachu and a potato that looked like a rubber duck! This has led to much giggling and a degree of smirking at one or two rather rude ones.

The onset of this change in the weather has led to an unforeseen dilemma. What to wear? For the past three months it has been very easy. Each morning I put on shorts and a polo shirt and wear sandals (not the same ones I hasten to add!). Now I have to decide whether to wear shorts or long trousers. Do I wear a long or short sleeved shirt? Do I need a jumper and should I wear socks and shoes rather than sandals. It now makes the morning quite stressful and complicated. Once we get into winter it becomes easy again as it is a question of getting on as many layers of clothes as possible!! For the moment I stand next the bed dithering while considering the various options open to me, fearful that I will make the wrong choice and be either too hot or too cold. This is quite unusual for me as when we lived in Britain my shorts wearing was confined to a very short season indeed and even in the height of summer there would be many days when shorts wearing would be madness. One result of my marathon shorts wearing experience is that my arms, legs and feet have got suntanned. Suntanned is not usually a word associated with me and those that have seen bits of my body can attest to its usual extreme whiteness.

This has been an interesting week with our French neighbours Giselle and Daniel. On Friday Mrs. Parish took round some food for their rabbits and also some pears to ask Giselle’s advice. The upshot was that we were invited round for coffee with her and Daniel who is on a three week holiday from his work. We had an interesting time in deep conversation with Daniel in particular and the conversation (all in French) ranged widely from gay marriage, Napoleon Bonaparte, the priesthood and English people who won’t learn French. Daniel speaks so fast that it is difficult for me to follow what he saying and even Mrs. Parish finds it difficult. Giselle tells him to slow down using the French word  - “doucement” meaning calmly or gently. Anyway an interesting conversation and good practice for speaking French. We obviously managed to impress our hosts as later during the day Giselle called at our house to invite us to a birthday party on Saturday night for their friend Gerard. Gerard was one of the people we met when we joined up with a party at Giselle’s a month or two ago when we also met Jean the accordion player. Gerard was celebrating his 65th birthday and was keen for us to come as well.

The party was due to be held at the village “salles des fetes” a sort of village hall in Couesmes Vauce. We felt quite honoured to have been invited to a family gathering and duly turned up on Saturday night, to this typical municipal hall which usually house the school kids for lunch and the elderly persons lunch club, so you know what I mean!. Jean the accordion player and his wife Solange were there along with another 14 friends and family including Gerard’s mother in law (Marie-Jaure) a rather formidable but jolly woman of 89. Well the wine flowed, we had very nice food and Jean played his accordion and there was lots of singing. Mrs. Parish got to dance with a rather tipsy Frenchman and Daniel got to tell some more of his rather risqué jokes about willies and had Marie-Jaure wag her finger at him. It was a really great evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and felt privileged to share in this family and friends celebration. My evening was made when Marie-Jaure was asked if she was safe to drive home after a few drinks. She said it was fine as she had a “pilot automatique” which would get her home, this is just an automatic gearbox! This morning at 9am there is a knock on our door and I am just dressed but Mrs. Parish is still in pyjamas. There is Giselle with a couple of battles of wine left over from the night before and Gerard had particularly wanted us to have them. This is what we came to France for!!

So a great week and no philosophical dramas to trouble me other than my clothes dilemma. Time for a pre dinner drink and we have some rather nice “Cremant d’Alsace” a rather good sparkling wine from last night which will make a very excellent kir. Good news as Mrs. Parish is duty chef tonight and is promising chicken cooked in cider with dauphinoise potatoes followed by pear and blackberry crumble. The food miles on the potatoes, blackberries and pears are less than 100 yards!!

Bon appétit,