It has been a lovely quiet Sunday here at La Godefrere. The sun has been out and I have spent time sitting in the garden watching two blue tits going backwards and forwards from a nest in one of our oak trees feeding their young. Fortunately they are high up in the tree and the cats have not seen them. Mind you they have also been enjoying the sunny day and they are stretched out in various places around the garden. They show no sign of moving for a few hours until tea time this afternoon.

Archie hedging his bets, sleeping and in the right place if we eat outside.

A quiet Sunday also means that normality has returned to La Godefrere and I am able to spend the late afternoon writing up the blog which has returned to its normal slot of Sunday evening. So all is well and things are as normal as you might expect for us here. Well as normal as is possible in all the circumstances! A quiet day in rural France is of course really quiet on a Sunday and this morning I can only hear the sound of birdsong. No traffic and no garden machinery. Sunday in France is a day for the family and big shops are all shut. I say quiet but Pepito next door has been barking as he has been left alone as Daniel and Giselle went out to have lunch with their family! Nothing is perfect.

Mind you the French have a very perfect approach to the principles of the French Republic, those of liberty, equality and fraternity and are prepared to take strike action to defend them. This week the College (secondary schools) teachers have been on strike. Not over money or working conditions but in protest at Government proposals to stop schools in poorer areas from offering Greek and Latin. They argue that it is unequal to deprive students of the right to learn Greek and Latin. I’m not sure what the students think about this. I suspect that many would be quite relieved not to have to learn the classics! Anyway it is refreshing to see workers have the right to defend the education system against cuts in spending.

The moles appeared to be having a quiet time and we have had no intrusions into the La Godefrere exclusion zone. There have been some sightings in our neighbour’s garden but no activity on our side. Obviously my singing and Mrs. Parish’s rapid response approach has kept them away. However I think that the moles have adopted a retaliatory approach involving sabotage and clandestine operations. I have reported in the blog the incident with the molehill when trying to pick up earth from a molehill which resulted in a stubbed finger which has still not recovered. 

This week I was trying to prise open a small hook without much success. Mrs. Parish suggested that I use an instrument she uses for opening the spring on mole traps. This is like a set of pliers but opens outwards. I was applying significant pressure to open up the hook when the hook slipped off and the instrument closed extremely quickly and caught one of my fingers. This resulted in a very big blood blister and bruise on the finger next to the one I damaged on the molehill. So now two of my fingers on my right hand (the second and third fingers) have mole inflicted damage. You can almost hear the moles laughing.

The ants are building their nest like anything and the nest is now almost twice as big as it was when the ants came out from hibernation in March. There is massive activity and as well as ants moving twigs and positioning them on the nest there are ant trails going to and fro collecting food and more twigs. The ants are also making holes in the nest to regulate the temperature. They have their own air conditioning system. Anyway I have been down to doing some tidying and clipping of grass to improve access and viewing of the ant experience. We have lots of visitors booked into our gite in July, August and September so it will serve us well to keep the ants happy to ensure we can deliver a quality visitor experience!

The ant experience May 2015

This week has also seen us completing and putting in our French tax return. We decided that we should pay taxes in France as we live here and so for the past two years have submitted tax returns. Originally this involved filling in very large forms and submitting them. Now we do the return online. This still involves following an involved process made more complicated because the website is in the French language and we have to follow a different set of rules. So it requires some concentration and assembling details of our earnings. So this week we chose a rainy afternoon to sit down and work through the job. About three hours later the tax return was completed and submitted. In France Mrs. Parish and I are taxed as a household and not individually. This means we get the full benefit of the tax allowances and consequently pay less tax than if we paid in Britain.

This week has also seen the finishing paint work on the new storage barn where we have had the new stone steps built. As well as using this for extra storage it is of course the new deluxe apartment for the cats and their new sleeping arrangements have been put into what has now been renamed as the “palais des chats” or cat’s Palace. It does indeed equate to a palatial arrangement for the cats and a bit less draughty that the lean too shed where they previously had their beds. This of course will lead to further arguments as the cats will feel that they have been upgraded to an interim housing solution pending full assimilation into the house. Mrs. Parish thinks I am pandering to them and that I should remind them of their outside status and that they need to up their efficiency at catching mice as there are mouse holes appearing on her garden lawn. 

At the moment they are struggling to come to grips with the cat flap hole and still can’t work out that they need to push instead of pull the flap. Some further intensive training is required. In the mean time the flap is still elegantly propped open by a stick. The barn is an old hay barn and there is still a residue of hay up there as well as a few bats. What is fascinating is looking at the way in which the wooden structure of the barn has been put together using great big bits of timber and arched and jointed using pegs rather than nails. Quite amazingly skilled and very impressive to look at. 

Palais des chats with cat beds in right corner and showing amazing wooden structure

It is now 6-30 and the cats have roused themselves to come in for their tea and have now gone back out again to find somewhere to sleep in the evening sun. It is now a quiet Sunday evening and even Pepito is silent as our neighbours have returned. Mrs. Parish is in the kitchen doing something amazing with paupiettes de veau. This is veal stuffed with minced veal and tied together with string in a very clever way by our local butcher. We have some very nice new potatoes from Brittany. So all is well for a nice evening meal to celebrate a quiet Sunday and a return to normality here at La Godefrere. I think it is time for a little aperitif after which I will go over to the wine cave and choose a nice wine for the meal.

Bon appétit