A quieter week and no bad thing. I managed to survive until Mrs. Parish returned from her visit to England for a school reunion. By all accounts she had a great time with 40 years worth of catching up with her old friends. Apparently after 40 years they all look exactly the same!! Mrs. Parish arrived back at midnight on Tuesday via the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. It is then a 2 hour drive to our house. That of course had the advantage that I had all day on Tuesday to clean up the house and return it to a state fit for human habitation. Frantic hovering, dusting, polishing, ironing and stern action with some Monsieur Propre had the job done in next to no time. Any way it passed inspection and Mrs. Parish was impressed.

It seems as if the moles have not all gone to England. Or if they did they have realised the extent of the recession there and have returned pretty quickly to France. Maybe they were put off by the nutters from UKIP! Well they seem to be back with a vengeance in the lower part of the orchard where they have established a new front line just next to one of our trees. One of the workmen, Gary suggested that they did not like a lot of noise. So Mrs. Parish and I had a council of war and developed attack plan 72 combining an aerial bombardment by use of the tractor mower, followed up by an infantry assault across no man’s land, taking advantage of the confusion in the mole ranks. This was the first combined ops that we had attempted and the assault by tractor took place just after lunch based upon a strict and carefully calculated timetable. The traditional dawn assault was rejected by me as Commander in Chief as I would never get the tractor to start at dawn due to damp affecting the starter. So after lunch I rumbled out with the tractor mower and bombarded the moles lines with several passes during which I increased the engine to maximum revs to increase the sound volume and vibration.

At zero hour plus 10 minutes, Mrs. Parish led the infantry assault by going over the top and charging full pelt across no man’s land. She over ran the mole trenches and dug up the tunnels leading to the front line. Attack their lines of communication! Mrs. Parish then laid a series of cunningly mapped out mole traps across the mole position. This having been done, we strategically withdrew and awaited the results of the assault. Initial intelligence reported a quiet front line but this morning revealed that the moles had regrouped and moved their position 10 yards to the left where two new molehills appeared. Mrs. Parish attacked these mounds with some vigour using a mattock. My judgement is that the battle is finely balanced and that a further combined operation may be necessary.

Interestingly Peter next door introduced us to the Mayenne online archives and we found that in 1901 there was a”Taupier” (mole hunter) living in our hamlet. Where are today’s Taupiers when you need them. This could be a potential career move for some enterprising young French people and I am going to suggest to the local Mayor that they set up an apprenticeship scheme.

I seem to be turning into Dr. Doolittle as I appear to be spending more and more time talking to the animals here at La Godefrere. I used to spend time with the cows when they were in the next field and got to know several quite well. Now they have gone and so I have turned my attention to the sheep in our paddock. We have three ewes and 4 lambs. They must be the most ugly sheep I have come across but they appear friendly and don’t try hide like the Portland sheep we had last year. When I went to count the three of them they would often hide behind the little sheep hut or at the bottom of the field. They were not at all communicative and would generally run away. The current sheep come over when I walk down the lane so we can have a bit of a chat (also makes counting them much easier, particularly as there are 7 of them). Every morning when I let Henny Penny out of her house and in the evening when I lock her up we have a conversation. Usually about the weather and if she had a good night’s sleep and such mundane matters. I think I may need to get on to politics soon.

Of course there is almost a constant dialogue with the cats. In Moggie’s case it seems to be expressions of despair as he is a constant bundle of energy adventure and mischief. The phrase “oh Moggie or Moggie, no” are frequently heard. Mrs. Parish believes he has ADHD from her experience of hyper-active children when she worked in a school. Today for example Moggie has been on the go all day. After having breakfast he spent the morning helping Mrs. Parish with the gardening. Leaping all over the allotment, helping to dig holes and chasing leaves. Then he came indoors to try to wake up Archie and Minou so they would come out and play. Archie and Minou were behaving like normal cats by sleeping the morning away on our bed (they have still not mastered the concept of being outside cats). Moggie rushed upstairs and jumped on the bed and then leapt on Minou and tried to bite her neck to start a play fight. When she refused to rise to the bait he started poking Archie with his paw and when he got no response he jumped on Archie. Unsurprisingly Archie was not too pleased and emitted a rather loud hissing noise. Moggie retreated back to the garden.

This afternoon Moggie has climbed to the top of our lean to shed next to the house and has then been climbing up trees and right to the top of some rather tall ones for the rest of the time. At 5-30 he has just come back indoors and having been to help Mrs. Parish with the Sunday dinner and received a rather rude response he seems finally to have settled down for a sleep. I have just checked and he is spread-eagled like a dead cat across our bed!

It has been just like a child with ADHD but what do you do with a cat. Critterlin perhaps!!!!! Sorry.

Archie received extra bonus points this week as he managed to catch a mouse (actually I think it was a vole). The dead vole was placed outside the front door for our appreciation and of course Moggie had to play with it until we could dispose of it. I have tried explaining to the cats that catching mice is their job but not with much success so far.

It’s been dull and a bit rainy today so I have spent a happy day completing my French Tax forms. I mentioned last week that the forms were not available but thankfully they have now appeared and I have spent all day trying to work out what information goes where and on which form should it be listed and whether I can claim the cats as a legitimate expense to offset against any tax liability. I think I can avoid Monsieur Hollande’s new wealth tax and probably as we have only been here for part of the year won’t have to pay very much French tax.

Well the landscape around us has changed dramatically this week. After a few days of really sunny weather all of a sudden the fields around us have become hives of activity. The other side of our neighbour, Peter is a really huge field and has been left to grass for the winter. On Monday they started to cut the grass and then on Tuesday a huge tractor hoovered up the grass and threw it into huge containers pulled in convoy by very large tractors so that as soon as one container was full the next one moved into place. This meant that the grass was all collected up in less than a day. They then arrived with great big truckloads of fresh steaming manure which they dumped all over the field in huge steaming piles. Looked like giant mutant molehills which was a bit scary. Then along came tractors to spread the manure and at the same time tankers were pulled across the field spraying some sort of manure product onto the ground. Fortunately the wind was blowing the smell away from us!! Once the manure was spread further tractors with ploughs attached in tandem worked the fields by ploughing all the manure into the earth and turning it all over. Finally they planted maize seed which must have been pre germinated as it is already starting to grow. Within a week the field was transformed from a grassy expanse to a ploughed earth with maize growing. This was repeated in a large number of fields around us. The maize is grown as a winter feed for all the cattle that are in the other fields. Industrial farming with masses of equipment but all geared around the production of beef cattle and milking herds. They were going from dawn til dusk and sometimes into the night you can see the lights of tractors still working the fields. Quite amazing.

Finally this week we have had the first provender from the vegetable garden. Mrs. Parish proudly brought in some radishes she had just picked from her garden. So we had them with some salad and very nice they were too. We have also been able to pick some parsley. The first of much good produce I am hoping. The veg garden is certainly looking good with stuff growing everywhere. The apple trees in our orchard are also coming into blossom which looks really lovely. Also we have had further sights of the Hoopoe this week and it was in the garden yesterday and I managed to get a picture. The Little Owl has been sat on his tree several times over the last few days.

It’s nearly time for dinner and so I must just go over to my wine cave to select a nice bottle for this evening. That sounds so great doesn’t it!! I may have to talk to several animals on my way and tuck up Henny Penny for the night. Ah, eccentricity is one of Britain’s best exports!! And on this topic I must report that Mrs. Parish brought me back a cricket set when she returned (also a nice bottle of Jura whisky). This will assist my mission to teach the French how to play cricket. I will outline my plans for this next week 

Au prochaine semaine