I finished last week’s blog before we knew the results of the Elections for the European Parliament and they turned out to be a mixed blessing. The Lutte Ouvriere (Workers Struggle) did not do terribly well. In the Department of Mayenne there were 98,025 votes cast around 45% of the electorate. In this area the Lutte Ouvriere got 1167 votes a quite respectable 1.26% while their left wing rivals the Communistes got 2 votes (interestingly the same as in 2009!) and the Mouvement socialiste alternatif were obviously far too alternative as they got no votes at all! The Front de Gauche. Mrs. Parish’s second favourite the Feministes pour une Europe solidaire did scarcely better only getting 38 votes. In the smaller area of our commune of Couesmes there were 97 votes cats and the Lutte Ouvriere got 1 the front gauche got 7 votes and the Parti Socialistes got 14. So in total the left got 22 out of the 97 votes cast which was more than the Front national received which is some comfort that we are not totally surrounded by a bunch of fascists!

In Britain much better news as in the South West there was a great success for my friend Clare Moody who was elected as a Labour Party Member of the European Parliament which was a terrific achievement and reward for some incredible hard work. Even better was that this last weekend we were able to congratulate Clare in person as she came to stay for the weekend with the Red Ramblers a group of walkers we were part of before we moved to France. This is the second time they have visited and this time we were able to bring Clare along which was great. It also gave Clare a chance to relax after a pretty gruelling few months of campaigning.

The visit of such a celebrity proved to be the perfect opportunity for a formal opening of the new La Godefrere visitor attraction – The Ant Experience. While we were clearing brambles and weeds away from the bottom of the big field we came upon a rather large Wood Ant nest. Not only was there a large pile of earth and twigs full of millions of ants all running around and building or repairing the nest but also a trail of ants carrying bits of twig far too big for them in long line going back and forward to the nest. This seemed to me to present an opportunity to create a new visitor attraction and so I cut back the undergrowth around the nest and cleared the ant paths so that both could be clearly seen. Mrs Parish was detailed to write “ant experience” neatly on a piece of slate as a sign indicating the existence of the new site. Mrs. Parish’s writing is far better than mine which would be almost unreadable.

So with the site prepared and the signs nicely written the arrival of Clare was too good an opportunity to miss so we tied some red ribbon across the path and arranged for Clare to declare the Ant Experience open. I also took the opportunity to talk to her about the prospect of some grant aid from European Union. I figure that something which enhances tourism, is environmental and promotes local wildlife must be good for a subsidy or grant. I explain my ideas for a visitor centre and maybe CCTV into the heart of the nest. I impress on Clare that this should now be a major priority for her first few months in office. The ants seemed very impressed to have such an important guest. The Red Ramblers came along as not only the admiring crowd but also as the first official visitors. We finish the opening with some sparkling Vouvray and orange juice.

Although the Red Ramblers are a walking group they do like walking with style and good food as part of the package. Well 9 of them duly arrived for a long weekend and had a really great time. On Thursday a walk with a picnic at Lassay Les Chateaux and then a barbecue here at La Godefrere in the evening with of course an obligatory game of petanque and explanations of my petanque related head injury. On Friday a short walk along the Mayenne to our favourite restaurant, La Marjolaine. We had three vegetarians in the party and had warned the restaurant when we booked. The French are not really in tune with vegetarians and we asked the waiter what was available. He went off to consult the chef and came back and said they would have a surprise. They had a lovely surprise with some of the best vegetarian food they had experienced in France. After a 2 hour  lunch we went back to sleep it off. On Saturday we went for a much longer walk of about 15 kilometres. We started off the walk at its half way point so we arrived at the restaurant in Brece at lunch time. We got there at 1pm and left just after 4pm. We had a marvellous meal for 23 Euros which included an aperitif, amuse bouche, starter, main course, cheese and then dessert with a different wine for each course and coffee all included in the price. Amazing value and quality. At the same time there was a party of 40 in the other half of the restaurant celebrating a French couple’s 60th wedding anniversary, with family of all ages. The French at occasions like this tend to sing a lot and at one point the husband sang a solo song to his wife which was very touching. My suggestion to Mrs. Parish that I start learning a song for our next wedding anniversary so I can sing it to her was met with a look of some horror. Mrs. Parish has seen what my singing can do to moles.

Incidentally there have been no sightings of moles for some months. (Touche bois – touch wood).

We still await word from the overseas health section to enable us to get a new health card. Mrs. Parish also phoned the British Government’s International Pension Centre to check on the date she would receive her old age pension. This of course sends me into fits of giggles  as I equate this with the International Rescue Centre in the puppet TV series Thunderbirds. I have an impression that the International Pension Centre is on some sort of Tracy Island with palm trees that flatten to enable Thunderbird like rockets to take off and to proceed to deliver up our pensions in the nick of time. Mrs. Parish has one of her exasperated looks when this happens.

Also of great amusement this weekend has been the subject of potatoes in bed. One of the Ramblers, Elaine has restless feet syndrome. This not some sort of walker’s affliction which doesn’t enable her to sit still and causes her to be constantly walking. Although actually she is rather active. It is the fact that her legs become twitchy usually late at night. We were sat up one night round a makeshift fire in the garden discussing this when Elaine said she had heard from a friend that taking a potato to bed with you can cure the problem! She decided to goggle this and to our amazement came up with a long list of references to this. Apparently the potato should be scrubbed but not peeled. It should be placed near to the area of pain or irritation and be changed at least once a week. The used potato must not then be eaten for some unknown reason but disposed of. We were unable to carry out an experiment as we had no potatoes. I helpfully suggested that Elaine should try a packet of crisps as we did have have them in the cupboard. It all sounds crazy but some people swear by their bed potato. I will try to establish if this works and report back.

The red ramblers have now gone home and we await the arrival of my son Ian and his partner Emma who are due to arrive on Thursday for a birthday weekend. It seems we will be in for more eating and drinking. A days rest and then my youngest daughter Amy and a couple of friends arrive for a week. We have become incredibly popular since we came to live in France. Must be the cats that attract the visitors. They are all fine by the way and outside as is fit and proper for outside cats.

Time for a drink.