Well it has been another busy and exciting week. We said goodbye last weekend to our mad friends who I used to work with. Mrs. Parish and I were looking forward to a quiet Monday and a chance to catch up with tidying and clearing up the gite, doing laundry and the ironing.
No such luck as we had a call from some old friends from Wiltshire who we had not seen for many years. They were in their campervan and touring around France and thought they would call in to see us and would arrive on the Monday!

Barrie and Angela duly turned up and filled up our courtyard with their very large campervan. We had a great afternoon chatting and drinking and catching up on old times. We were all in the local Labour Party and so talked about the old days but also had a good moan about the current Government. We then had a very nice meal washed down with several glasses of wine and generally put the world to rights.

The cats were fascinated by this new concept of the campervan as they had not seen one before. The cats always investigate cars or vans which arrive as they think there is always the chance of some food. They went through their usual ritual of walking around the vehicle and then peeing on it. Usually they then climb up on top but the campervan was a bit more of a challenge as it is quite high up and on this model there were no ladders. However our cats like a challenge and when we saw Barrie and Angela in the morning they said they had been woken in the night and been surprised to see three cats peering in through their skylight on the roof of the van!

In the past week Archie has been in a strange mood and seems to have discovered a whole load of energy. Archie is quite a big cat and tends to plod around. Occasionally he gets excited and chases a ball around the house or the other two cats, but it has been quite unusual. This week Archie has brought home three moles which he has clearly caught somewhere in the garden. It is possible that these are moles which committed suicide rather than listen to my singing but I think it more likely that Archie has tracked them down on a hunting expedition. We have had therefore to give Archie the official title of Moleslayer an exalted position at La Godefrere, previously held by a friend from Britain, Etienne and then of course by Mrs. Parish who had much success last year in trapping moles. For now Archie is the Moleslayer.

Archie has been in fine form this week and on Friday evening excelled himself. We were sat out at the table on our patio having an evening meal with our next set of visitors, Mrs. Parish’s brother, John; his wife Ann and two of their kids Rob and Maria. They had arrived on Wednesday for a week’s holiday with us. Now when we or guests use the outside table the cats arrive as soon as they here the rattle of cutlery they arrive and take up a seat ready for a meal. We warn guests that they have to leave someone on guard duty at the table when they bring out food as the cats will help themselves if given a chance. We were having a barbeque and of course this gives additional opportunities for the cats if stuff is dropped on the way from the fire to the table.

(There is a tap at the window as it is 4pm and three cats are sat there reminding me that it is tea time. So a slight pause while I give them some food).

All fed. We had managed to get through the meal without incident when all of a sudden Archie took two steps and launched himself into the air about three feet high and caught a poor baby sparrow in his mouth. It was sad for the sparrow but a magnificent effort done with incredible speed and agility rather in the manner of an exocet missile! Most unlike Archie but amazing to watch. We were all gobsmacked. Moggie has also been hunting this week and has brought back several mice which he proceeds to eat. We tend to move away to avoid the sound of crunching bones. Minou on the other hand doesn’t bother with hunting. She gets fed here and why should she go out in a cold and wet field and sit for hours waiting for mice. She tends to stay in the warm and doesn’t really like get her feet wet.

Anyway our visitors this week are here to see us and to coincide with the 7th day of the Tour de France which is coming very close to us, along the road between Ambrieres and the town of Gorron. We decided to go to Gorron where there would be other things happening with entertainment and the official Tour shop. Rob is a keen cyclist and came with his cycling gear in the name of Bristol University and he decided to cycle to Ambrieres and then back to Gorron. In his kit he looked like one of the racers and at least one French woman came over to take his photograph.

Nephew Rob, star of the Tour de France!

We all met up at Gorron and got our souvenirs from the Tour shop. I bought a Tour de France flag. We then got into position ready for the caravan to come through. The caravan is a crazy affair where all the Tour sponsors drive past the crowds in a strange array of vehicles all decorated like a carnival. In the back of the vehicles are people who throw little advertising give aways to the crowds. The gifts ranged from key rings; shopping bags; little cakes; hats; fridge magnets etc. 

The Tour caravan professionals!!

What I wasn’t prepared for was the intensity and aggression with which people scrambled to collect the gifts as they were thrown from the vehicles. The streets were lined with people and next to us was a heavily pregnant woman with a young child and with her husband and another woman. They were obviously professionals. The woman picked up her son and stood out in the road so that people in the vehicles put stuff into her hands.  While the others picked up stuff thrown to the ground. When a bag fell to the floor a woman the other side of me grabbed it at the same time the pregnant woman slammed her foot down on it and a tussle ensued with the pregnant woman ripping the prize away. It was all cut throat stuff and when the caravan had gone they picked up their bags full of booty and went off. Not even waiting for the actual Tour de France to come past. Between us we managed to collect quite a few souvenirs.

About an hour after the caravan the cyclists in the Tour came through accompanied by motorcycles galore. There was a breakaway group of 5 riders that went past and the followed a minute later by the rest of the riders. They were going about 40kmh so rushed past our position in no time. It was all very exciting.

Tour de France at Gorron

Yesterday was a rest day for Mrs. Parish and I as our visitors went out for the day and we had a chance to catch up with some domestic chores. Today we all went to a place called Evron which is south of Mayenne and which has a very large Catholic church. Built in the 11th Century. This allowed Ann to attend the mass and for the rest of us to find the very large vide grenier, literally empty attic which is what the French call a car boot sale. There were over 300 stalls which contained a large amount of junk as do all car boots. After the church service we all went back to the car boot sale for a good look around and for a barbequed sausage in a baguette. All French markets always have an open air barbeque which is cooking French sausages and the smell is distinctive. We found a lovely stall selling carved wooden animals and necklaces made from seeds from Martinique. But Ann was keen to find an Icon. A religious picture painted on wood and in a French car boot sale you can usually find anything you want and so we found an Icon although John reckoned it was one stolen from the local church!

So now we are back at home and getting ready for an evening meal and so it seems only right after a long day that it is time for a little something in the aperitif line.