In last week’s blog I introduced Monsieur Propre, the French cleaning fluid which cleans everything. I mentioned the picture of Mr. P on the bottle and his skinhead appearance but with an earring. Was he hard or gay or both! Well I can now reveal in an exclusive report the latest. We discovered an advert in our local weekly publicity magazines for Monsieur Propre which also gave his Spanish name which is Don Limpio!! Well with a name like that he is obviously not hard! In Italy he is Maestro Lindo and in Germany Meister Proper clearly a man of many parts. Apparently for some strange reason he is known as Romauld Diego in the Philippines (in Britain it is boring old Flash with no picture). For even more obscure facts about Monsieur Propre see his Wikipedia site. This tells us that in the US, Procter & Gamble call him Mr Clean and in 1974 launched pre-emptive advert entitled two-fisted Mr. Clean!!

Well, this week when not researching Monsieur Propre I have been getting very excited. Firstly on Monday we received at long last our “Carte Grise” the immatriculation (French registration) for our car. Clearly the French Prefecture had exhausted all its list of additional items for us to provide or documents to produce. We now have an official document which gives us the number for our French number plates and in the next few days we will be able to actually get these made up and fixed to the car. Mrs Parish and I celebrated by opening a very nice bottle of wine and drinking to the good health of all French bureaucrats. Can at least now unbait my breath.

The second exciting thing has been the completion of the wine cave. It’s not actually a cave in the literal sense but the term for a French wine store. The last of the renovated and reconditioned oak planks was fitted. This has required great efforts and much removing various animal excrement and other dirt and debris from planks that were originally part of the stable and then sanding them down and restaining them. Being oak they are pretty solid and require some lifting and securing in place. However this week the last plank was fixed and we were able to go to the local garden/DIY store and purchase the first of our wine racks which will house 100 bottles. This has now been fixed to the cave wall and I have started to fill it with bottles of wine and bottles of cider. To celebrate Mrs Parish and I opened a rather nice bottle of wine, which I retrieved with great ceremony from the wine cave.

The third exciting event this week has been the appearance of a round yellow thing in the sky. Yes, it has finally stopped raining and the sun has come out. Yesterday and today have been lovely sunny days and this afternoon it was so warm sheltered from the wind that Mrs Parish and I were able to sit outside and lounge in the sun. In fact Mrs Parish and I decided we should open a bottle of wine to celebrate.

Actually the sun has arrived in the nick of time. Mrs Parish has been going stir crazy being cooped up inside and not able to get out on to the garden. She has lots of plans for the vegetable garden and also plans to create a sitting out area. What we discovered the Scots call a “sitootery” (i.e. somewhere you sit out!!). Anyway with all the rain she has hardly been able to get near the garden and has been pacing about the house with that brooding look. With the arrival of the sun Mrs Parish has been out attacking the garden with gusto, marching around with spade in one hand and a tape measure in the other while operating the mower with her feet.

Onto more mundane matters and we were visited late on Friday night by Jen one of our neighbours who had been visited again by the stray cat I mentioned last week. She had found the cat in her barn and couldn’t let him stay there because of her dog so she brought him round to us, offering profuse apologies as it was quite late. Strange for us to receive a knock at the door at around 10pm. We didn’t mind and were keen to assist, so we put the cat into the chicken shed with some food. By morning the cat was gone. Later in the day Jen arrived again with the cat who seems to like her house but not ours. As soon as we put him down he bolted and has not been seen since. The cat’s protection league in the title of the blog does not refer to this incident but to a new tactic developed by Archie and copied by the kittens. During anything up to an hour before cat feeding time they start to find ways to draw our attention to their hunger and find ways to try to annoy us, with the aim of bringing forward dinner time. Archie has now fine tuned this approach and jumps up on to our side board and sits amongst various glassware occasionally tapping one with his paw. The message is obvious, get the tins of cat food out now or your best vase gets it. A kind of cat protection racket. The problem is that the kittens idolise Archie and unfortunately copy his actions, sadly they seem to copy his bad habits. Thus Minou got up onto the sideboard and sat amongst the glassware and was a bit too aggressive with the tapping on a rather nice vase which fell onto the floor. The floor being covered with floor tiles creates a problem for falling glassware and the result was a smashed vase into 100s of bits. A further reorganisation of our lounge has now left it looking a bit empty!!

We have tried to tackle the cat’s bad behaviour by using a water spray to let them know which things are not allowed. This week Archie was doing his rounds of the kitchen worktops looking for minute scraps of food we may have left. I shouted at him which he totally ignored so I leapt for water spray and grabbed what I found to my dismay was only the plastic tube as the top had been unscrewed. So there I was threatening a cat with a piece of plastic tube. My only recourse was to make water spraying noises in the hope that this would convince Archie to move. So there I was jumping about, with a piece of plastic, making squishing noises to frighten the cat. Mrs Parish raised questions about whether too much calvados had affected my brain.

The final bit of excitement this week was a preliminary visit to the Euro Mayenne Camera Club. As I explained last week my neighbour Peter had persuaded me to do a presentation on birds in March. He suggested that Mrs Parish and I might like to go with him to see what a night at the camera club was like as preparation for my visit. So last Tuesday Mrs Parish and I went with Peter to Mayenne. The camera club are a delightful bunch of people, both English and French who meet monthly and they have a competition for photographs taken and then a presentation. The club meet in the classroom of a secondary school in Mayenne. Bizarrely the classroom we visited was full of pictures of the English royal family and family trees showing the parents and children of all sorts of royals. Obviously a class project but a bit of a shock when the royal family and royal babies etc was one of the things we came to France to get away from. The evening was fine but the presentation was a bit of a disaster as the powerpoint would not work so after waiting for about half an hour while people fiddled with the equipment we then had to all crowd around the laptop to try to see what was happening. Hopefully this will be sorted before my attempt next month but will have to have a backup plan.

So it has been an eventful and exciting week and now it is Sunday evening and time to relax a little. The cats have been outside all day and are now crashed out on the sofa, so I have been able to write my blog without interference. Of course one amazing benefit of all the work I have been doing in the stable is that I have lost weight since I have been in France. I am almost a stone lighter. Mrs Parish agrees with me that the only thing to do is to open a bottle of wine to celebrate!

Bon soiree,