As you will recall war was declared on the moles last week after they failed to respond to our strongly worded note. This week has seen a high degree of action. Mrs. Parish was sent out on a dawn offensive and has laid down a mole trap mine field on the front line across the orchard marking where we have had some mole incursions. Meanwhile I have been responsible for the heavy artillery bombardment, through the tractor mower, which was thrown at the advancing moles accompanied by singing of the Marseillaise. I'm not sure which brings the most terror to the moles: the revving of the tractor or my singing. Probably the latter which may contravene the Geneva Convention!

At the same time our ally, in the form of neighbour Peter, has opened up a second front and has been vigorously attacking a mole hill that appeared in his garden last week. The following photograph shows Peter in action, with a full frontal assault on the mole hill front line.

Peter can be seen here poised to strike. He is waiting for the mole to move in a newly created molehill. Peter has to remain absolutely motionless for as long as it takes. As soon as his highly developed senses detect the slightest movement he will strike, with cobra like speed and precision. On this occasion the mole managed to retreat just in time.

The mole in our orchard was not so fortunate. On Friday Mrs. Parish was able to report that an inspection of her cleverly sited mine field had revealed a mole casualty. The mole was buried with full military ceremony. Our patrols report no further evidence of mole incursions and an uneasy truce has resulted. We await further reports from our allies.

Other animal news coming in tells of a major pigeon break out from Giselle’s garden. She keeps pigeons for the pot along with ducks, geese and chickens and a few rabbits. It seems that Giselle had not effectively clipped the wings of her pigeons and when let out of their cage in the morning managed to flutter over the fence and out into the lane. Their desperate bid for freedom did not last long. Giselle had to chase them up and down the lane to get them back into their cage. This was accompanied by lots of French swearing and cursing and barking from Pepito. Fortunately our cats were not around at the time. They would have enjoyed the prospect of chasing and maybe catching some pigeons. Anyway we had a good laugh at Giselle’s expense and I spent the rest of the morning humming the theme tune from the Great Escape.

We are keeping an eye on Giselle’s birds and we have promised to let her know if we see any of them walking around the compound and depositing piles of earth as they go!

Giselle is also a great commentator on the weather. “Les temps bizarre” has been her recent comment on the rain and winds we have been having. She is much happier now that the sun has arrived and we have had over 10 days of sunshine and it has been quite warm. Anyway Giselle reckons that we will have a long and dry summer as the magpies are nesting high up in the trees. Not quite sure I follow the logic of this but I’m sure it will prove to be correct.

Our cats seem to have settled into a routine and are much happier to be thrown out as not only is it warmer outside during the day, but they usually get a few treats as a bribe to get them out of the front door. In the evenings as it is dry and clear, they are in and out almost constantly. There was almost a crab salad incident on Tuesday. It was my birthday on Tuesday so we went to the local butcher to buy a ready prepared meal. Every day the butcher cooks and sells a plat du jour (meal of the day) and it is amazingly cheap. On Tuesday we had a choice of roti du porc (roast pork) or a veal casserole. This was chunks of veal cooked slowly in a sauce, with some potatoes. We chose the veal and then also bought a couple of his crab salads as a starter. We then of course went round to the Boulanger and bought a couple of fruit tartes for dessert. Just as well we don’t live in the town or we might be tempted more often. Just before we sat down to eat I had to phone my mother in law to thank her for my birthday presents. The cats were in, so Mrs Parish was tasked with guarding the table. I was chatting away to mother in law when I looked round to see Moggie on the table advancing towards my crab, Mrs. Parish was on the wrong side of the table and there was a moment of crisis. I was shouting at Moggie (with telephone and a bemused mother in law) and Mrs.Parish lunged across the table and just managed to knock Moggie off course.

Last Monday we were treated to lunch by Emile and Yvette at their daughter’s restaurant at a small village called Brece. They wanted to treat us and two other English couples as a thank you for helping them get their apple harvest in. Although I think the regular supply of cider and cavados is thanks enough! They wanted to treat us so we went for lunch and had the “ouvrier’s menu”. Most restaurants in rural France serve a worker’s menu for a fixed price. It is always a three course lunch usually with wine and/or cider. At the restaurant in Brece for 11 Euros there were three courses and a choice of three plats du jour (main dishes). I had a cold meat salad to start followed by steak frites and finally a Mousse au chocolat. Brilliant value and really nicely cooked food. The French tradition for a proper lunch break with good cheap food available is one of the many nice things about France. We all had a great time and then went back to Emile’s for a glass or two. A really enjoyable day.

We also had a new experience this week as we visited the dentist for the first time since we came to France. We have been looking for some time for a dentist and eventually found one when our daughter Jo needed emergency treatment just before Christmas. So we took the opportunity to book for a check up. The dentist is in Lassay which is about 20 minutes away. Mrs. Parish is of course practically fluent in French so a visit to the dentist is no problem. While my French is improving I was a bit worried about how to explain that I had a slight problem with one tooth. So I swotted up on appropriate dental terms in French and was pleased to find that “ouch” is the same in French, although probably needs to be delivered with a Gallic shrug. Fortunately the dentist spoke some English and we managed to converse in a sort of Franglish although it is even more difficult to speak French when you have a mouthful of dentist fingers and equipment.

Of course yesterday was rugby fest day with three international matches, one after the other. I did manage to do the ironing while watching Wales and Scotland. England won in Italy but unfortunately the French narrowly lost to Ireland. Even better today as Liverpool walloped Manchester United three nil. It will round it off if Exeter City mange to get a win this afternoon.

With all this excitement it must be time for a little something I think. Perhaps a nice kir (white wine with cassis). It will soon be time to go to the wine cave and select a nice red for this evening as Mrs. Parish is duty chef today and we are having bouef bourguignon.

Bon appétit