My French dentist will be very happy this week. He reckons he has an indicator which tells him when the Pound is strong against the Euro as he gets loads of his English patients coming in for dental repairs. He tells me that he has quite a lot of English patients and most have fixed incomes based upon a pension transferred from Britain. When they get more Euros for their pounds in currency transfers they are flush with Euros and come in for treatment. This week the exchange rate reached an 11 year high going over 1.3 Euros to the pound. It may of course even be worth considering having gold fillings as a hedge against future currency fluctuations. You could then sell the gold at a later date!

The internet is a wonderful thing and I have been doing some work looking for information about wood ants as part of the developing visitor attraction – The Ant Experience. I have discovered that the study of ants is called “Myrmecology”, so I shall now have to refer to myself as a myrmecologist. I even found on the net details of the “Wood Ant steering group” who were drawing together information to create a wood ant strategy in Britain. I decided that this was a step too far for me and that I would stick to the tourist end of myrmecology and keep to the basics. For example, did you know that a wood ant can lift 100 times its own weight? The equivalent of an adult human lifting a double decker bus! Some more ant facts:

There are more ants roaming around the world than any other creature on the planet.
The combined weight of all the ants on earth would total more than the combined weight of all the humans. 
Relative to their size, ants have the largest brain of any insect.
A human brain has 10,000 million cells. An ant brain has 25,000. So a colony that has 40,000 ants is equal to one human brain.
It has been calculated that an ant's brain has more processing power than the computer that controlled the first Apollo space missions.

Apparently ants are right handed, although, how they found this out is beyond me. Maybe there is a subcommittee of the wood ant steering group that studies this. Interestingly the French equivalent “le groupe pilotage de fourmis” has so far only concluded that ants are not very edible and do little to enhance French cooking. So no wood ant feasts here then and no chance of offering tourists a special ant menu. 

We had a lovely day here on Tuesday as the wind dropped and while it was cold we were able to get out and do some more work. Mrs. Parish decided the weather was OK to have a bonfire and as we had loads of stuff we had cut off trees and brambles at the bottom of the big field it was a good opportunity to burn it and get rid of the several piles of cuttings. Mrs. Parish is a great one for bonfires and keeps bottles of lighting fluid and paper to start off the bonfire. She soon had a roaring fire going and this then required more to keep it burning. This meant carrying all the branches and brambles from around the big field to the single bonfire site. So Mrs. Parish and I disappeared behind a camouflage of brambles and branches and it looked just like the scene out of Macbeth where birnam wood is seen moving to Dunsinane. So of course this is my opportunity to do my very bad Scottish accent and wander about the field quoting bits of Macbeth.

Anyway the end result is that we got rid of all the cuttings and had a bonfire going all day. So a good job done really and we managed to clear more of the path at the bottom of the big field and are now well on our way to developing our La Godefrere walk, featuring the ant experience.

Of course the fact that it has been very cold is lost on me as a result of wearing the magic 10 Euro coat. This is a very French coat used by lots of French people working outside. It is made of thick synthetic fibre with a fetching chequered look but inside has a very woolly lining. This makes it incredibly warm. Mrs. Parish who has a great eye for a bargain found these in our local street market on sale for only 10 Euros (about £8). I am not sure I have ever had a warmer coat. I think it must be made by elves. A bit like the 7 league boots that are in loads of fairy tales. The boots that enable you to run much faster. I was never sure why they were specifically 7 league boots. 

Me with the magic 10 Euro coat

However the internet tells me a league (roughly 3 miles or 4.4 km) was considered to represent the distance walked in an hour by an average man. If a man were to walk 7 hours per day, he would then walk 7 leagues, or just under 30 km. So one step in these boots equated to 30 kms!

Also a little known fact is that seven-league boots' originally arose as a translation from the French 'bottes de sept lieues', in a particularly violent and morally dubious fairy tale by Charles Perrault in which Hop o' my Thumb (le petit poucet) and his brothers encounter an ogre. The brothers are lost in the wood. They come at last to a house, and learn that it belongs to an ogre. Hop-o' my Thumb, fearing the wolves, decides to take the risk of staying in the monster's residence.

The ogre allows the boys to sleep for the night, and provides a bed for them in his daughters' room!! But the ogre wakes up not too long after, and prepares to kill them in their slumber. Hop-o'-My-Thumb, who anticipated this, already planned ahead and replaced the daughters' gold crowns with the bonnets worn by him and his brothers. As a result, the ogre kills his daughters instead, and goes back to bed. Once he is snoring, Hop-o'-My-Thumb and the brothers escape.

The ogre wakes up in the morning to discover his grave mistake, puts on his seven-league boots, and races after the boys. They spot the ogre and Hop-o'-My-Thumb once again thinks fast and hides in a small nearby cave. The ogre, who is tired, falls asleep close to their hiding spot. Hop-o'-My-Thumb removes the boots from the sleeping ogre. He puts them on, and the boots, being magical, resize to fit him. Hop-o'-My-Thumb uses the boots to make a fortune, before the mandatory living happily ever after. I am hoping that now I have the 10 Euro coat of eternal warmness will also make me a fortune and that I too will live happily ever after.

Moggie came to help us while we were working outside. Help is perhaps not the right word here. Moggie’s idea of helping is to run around wildly leaping on the cuttings that we were trying to carry and then conspiring to be under your feet so he could trip us up. He also endeavoured to steal our biscuits when we had a refreshment break. He was however impressed with the 10 Euro coat and decided that all the work was too much for him and so he curled up on the coat in the wheel barrow. This meant that not only could he sleep but would avoid the long walk back up to the house. Already the coat is working for Moggie!

Today we have had a quieter day. Both Mrs. Parish and I have gone down with cold symptoms so we are huddled in front of a lovely wood fire and whiling the afternoon away. I am concerned that this may develop into “le grippe” (French flu). And especially bad when it becomes “grippe de l’homme”. My good friend Emile recommends Calvados as the best treatment for the flu so I think I will need to dose myself up with a large calva for medicinal purposes.

To cheer us up Mrs.Parish is making a lovely “Boeuf Bourguignon” for dinner. We went to see Monsieur Rebuffe yesterday and asked for beef suitable for making bourguignon for two. He obviously works to a French definition of enough for two as there is enough beef for at least two meals. I mention to Mrs. Parish that you are supposed to feed a cold. If it doesn’t cure the cold the combination with a large bottle of red wine will at least make us feel better!!

Bon appétit