It is quite difficult to get started today as I am trying to write the blog and watch football at the same time. It is the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Aston Villa and unfortunately Liverpool are losing at the moment. The problem is that Liverpool don’t look like scoring and there are only 10 minutes left to play. I am watching on French TV as the game is not on main stream English TV.  The French commentators get very excited when the ball goes near the goal (which admittedly in this game is not that often). I like football on French TV. They don’t make all the fuss that there is in England and don’t have a stream of thick ex footballers all making inane comments at half time. In France they just show highlights of another game, which is a good idea. 3 minutes to go and no better. I think I need a drink.

They think it’s all over, it is now!! Oh well, there is always next year. The joy of being a football fan is the victory of optimism over experience!!

Now back to the blog, armed with drink I can now concentrate and update you with the news of a very sneaky mole attack. The last incursion was over a week ago and we dealt with that pretty effectively with the dual trap and tractor strategy. We were thinking we had finally this season, seen off the moles when news comes in that they have sneaked under the fence in Mrs. Parish’s Potager (the veg garden). This is hallowed ground and the arrival of a couple of small molehills was met with a very angry response from Mrs. Parish. The sort of “I haven’t spent the past 2 years digging and working the soil for a bunch of moles to come and ruin it all”. The moles will be feeling the full fury of Mrs. Parish and I almost feel sorry for them. Probably her shouting at them will be enough to send them packing but Mrs. Parish is sharpening up her traps in readiness. This might not be pretty!

The starling is back and this time it seems to have widened its repertoire. It has been a bit like an audition for France has got talent (which I have to say is just about equal in the awfulness stakes when compared with Britain’s got talent. Britain however doesn’t have our starling that has been going through its range of bird impressions and in the process driving me mad. The starling’s stock mimicry seems to be of a buzzard and it is so good that I have often been fooled and spend time looking around trying to spot the buzzard. Now it has widened the calls to include owl calls, chaffinches and a stab at the chiff chaff. This week I managed to get a photograph of the starling and now I am advertising it with a dead or alive price on its head before it develops the ultimate rip off and starts sounding like a Hoopoe. So if you see this starling please shoot it!

Wanted dead or alive, the dreaded buzzard starling
I have been keeping an eye on the ants over the past couple of weeks. With the warmer days the number of ants has increased incredibly and there are now hundreds of thousands and they have done a magnificent job of rebuilding the nest. They have filled in a huge hole that was there and are now foraging far and wide away from the nest all bringing back little bits of stick to help enlarge and protect the nest. Today I tried a little experiment by breaking up twigs and putting them into a sort of log pile next to the nest to see if the ants would pick them up. The ants stubbornly ignored my pile and I think that they were too proud to accept help. I will check tomorrow and see if they went for the twigs once I had gone. They seem amazingly well organised and all appear to know what they are doing. Mrs. Parish reckons that is because they are all female, otherwise she says nothing would ever get done. Anyway, the ant hill is now an ongoing project for me and I will have to devise some more experiments to try out on the ants to test their powers.

Cheese is big in France. And there are an incredible number of French cheeses. In fact Charles De Gaulle the famous war leader and eventual French President once said "How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” As a consequence buying cheese in France is a matter as serious as buying wine. Most good cheeses have an “AOC” like wine, an appellation controllee which is like an official seal of approval from the regional big cheeses. In our local supermarket there is one aisle devoted to cheeses and in addition a sort of cheese of the week counter where you can get all sorts of special offers and especially regional cheeses. Like with wine the supermarkets promote their local cheeses, so here we get lots of Normandy cheeses and lots from the Loire Valley. Of course the other thing with French cheese is when to eat it. With cheeses like camembert and brie it is not just a question of buying a cheese. No in France you have to squeeze it and smell it to see how ripe it is. When top but is a matter of personal taste and you may want your cheese very young and not so ripe or you may want it running off the plate. In this arrangement sell by dates are not very helpful and the only way is to be French about and pick up at least 10 different packets and do a lot of squeezing, sniffing, shrugging shoulders and mumbling before fixing on just the right level of ripeness.

We went to Laval in the week for a day off and to visit the chateau, museum and old town and found that there was a local market with a cheese pantechnicon with it would seem almost all 240 cheeses on it. There were lots of French people around the stall sniffing and squeezing. If you take into account ripeness in the equation there must actually be more like a 1000 cheese options. It would take a lifetime to work through them. I think that is what some French people do!!

The biggest cheese trailer in the world

“A silence fell at the mention of Gavard. They all looked at each other cautiously. As they were all rather short of breath by this time, it was the camembert they could smell. This cheese, with its gamy odour, had overpowered the milder smells of the marolles and the limbourg; its power was remarkable. Every now and then, however, a slight whiff, a flute-like note, came from the parmesan, while the bries came into play with their soft, musty smell, the gentle sound, so to speak, of a damp tambourine. The livarot launched into an overwhelming reprise, and the géromé kept up the symphony with a sustained high note.” 
― Émile Zola, The Belly of Paris

You see, how many other examples of great literature can you think of that concern cheese? There was a children’s’ book called the stinky cheese man based on the gingerbread man story but I don’t think that was by Zola. Only the French. Interestingly the French always have the cheese course before dessert. This is to ensure that ultimately when you go on to more sophisticated things your breath smells of fruit or chocolate rather than smelly cheese. Very clever, the French!!

With the very hot weather we have had the cats have been trying to find places to sleep. Archie in particular following I think the France has talent route has taken to collapsing on the gravel in the courtyard and pretending to be dead. He manages the art form with some style and rolls over on his back and then remains perfectly still as if rigor mortis had set in. It is a pretty impressive performance. Moggie can’t keep still for long enough to compete and Minou will have none of such nonsense and takes herself off to some quiet and secret place where those stupid boys can’t bother her.

On the news front the long running radio strike has been settled. The radio presenters strike has been going on for a month and this meant all we got in the morning was dreadful lift music and no time checks or information about the music played. Now the strike has been settled things are back to normal and we have to listen to the endless drivel between records but at least we get the time checks now, so I know when to get up.

The blog is a little later than usual because of the football and then we have had dinner. We had very lovely tournedos steaks from our local farmer supplier. Washed down with a very nice Buzet red wine. It is great living in France!!

Bonne soiree