TS Eliot says each cat should have three names. We are having enough trouble finding one name each for the kittens. We have decided on Minou for the little female cat because she is so small and makes a definite minou noise. The male cat is currently being called Moggie but I’m not sure it is quite right. No doubt we shall be inspired but if not our two daughters are coming to stay at Christmas and I suspect they will be able to come up with the right name.

The kittens are settling in and establishing their needs into the house routine. They are still dashing about the place and playing with everything including our older cat Archie. We were hoping that Uncle Archie would adopt a senior role and set a good example. I think he may be taking advantage of the situation as he seems to need to be fed at the same time as the kittens although he has had trouble as the kittens seem far more interested in his food than their own. Archie is a very big cat but has proved very gentle with the kittens most of the time. Every now and then he gives them a biff with a very big paw, especially when he wants to play with the cardboard box. More often he and the two kittens are all curled up together on the sofa in one big ball of fur. At the moment Mrs Parish is trying to write Christmas cards with some difficulty as Moggie is sat on the table and is trying to catch the pen as it is writing! If you get a card from us and there lots of squiggles you will know why.

We got our bat poo report back this week. As you might recall, Etienne the Moleslayer and my friend Alan smuggled the bat poo back to England at great risk to themselves (have you seen the size of French customs officers!). We have now had the analysis from the Somerset Bat Group and a thorough job they have done in checking the degree of crumbliness, the length, texture and diameter of the poo. Here is an extract from the report “For the record: They were an average of about 7.3 mm long and 1.9 mm wide and very fine grained. They could belong to Lesser Horseshoe Bats but there is no evidence of them having broken up into small ovoid shapes which LHB poo tends to do.  (According to one posting on the internet: "The lesser horseshoe bat is rare in Normandy , except in the Pays d’Auge, an area of limestone hills and river valleys similar to the Cotswolds." So LHB looks unlikely.) The final verdict is that they are Pippistrelle bats. So now you know! I’m hoping for a bat detector for Christmas so I will be able to verify the identification by listening to the frequency of their echo location noises. I never knew how much fun could be had with bats. Maybe I should get out more?

We did get out yesterday as we were invited round to see Emile and Yvette and to view the making of cider. I think Emile is keen to secure the position of French cider and Calvados following his great victory over the Somerset Cider Brandy. Cider making at Emile’s is an experience. We went off to one of Emile’s old barns (and I mean old). Backed up to the door was a tractor with a trailer full of apples. Emile’s neighbour was dispatched onto the trailer to shovel the apples into an ancient apple mincer powered by an even older motorised fan belt. Emile said it was not old, he’d only had it for 50 or 60 years. In order to stop it shaking too much it was weighted down with breeze blocks and scale weights. Still it somehow achieved its purpose and chopped up the apples into a mush. Emile then transferred the mush into the equally old cider press with the most enormous shovel. The mush was a ground level so Emile had to shovel the apple up and into the press which was at least at head height. I tried lifting the shovel and it was incredibly heavy.  Emile kept going till the press was full. Quite remarkable as Emile is 80! I will be pleased to be able to lift the glass of cider to my lips when I am 80. Emile reckoned there would be enough cider to fill a couple of large barrels.

Fascinating look at French rural life. It seems as if the French have some sort of inalienable right to make cider and calvados for their own consumption. There is even a man who travels around from farm to farm with the still to brew the calvados. Mind you the end product is certainly worthwhile as after the cider making demonstration we went into the kitchen for coffee laced with calvados, perfect for a cold French afternoon and thankfully it always seems that it is Mrs Parish’s turn to drive when we visit Emile.

By the way Mrs Parish has now taken herself off to the office to lock herself away from the cats while she does the cards. This means of course that Moggie is now helping me by standing on the keyboard and trying to catch the cursor!   

An interesting turn in the mole wars. Our neighbour and ally Peter reports that he has managed to catch 4 moles. On this sort of performance he could well replace Etienne the moleslayer as official hero to the Parish household. Our detailed mapping of the warzone led us to plant extra mole traps in strategic locations but so far no success in getting a mole. It may be of course that our tactics are forcing the moles to move into Peter’s territory where has been capturing the moles with great success. There has been no recent mole activity or incursions in our orchard, so we will wait and see.

Finally this week saw the great sheep round up. The sheep’s owners Alex and John came to collect the sheep and to take them to the abattoir. This of course meant first catching the sheep. No easy matter, apparently as these were old breed sheep they don’t flock and tend to scatter when frightened. A sheep pen was constructed and temporary fencing set up. We then had to go into the field to try to get the sheep to go along the fence to the pen. This proved more difficult than it first appeared. The sheep seemed in no mood to cooperate and just when we had nudged them to the gate when they decided to all run in different directions with crazy people chasing them. All this of course in the pouring rain making it slippery. Eventually we corralled them and then led them one by one up the lane to their van and lifted them in, while making sure they did not jump out. A new skill for me to add to the skill set I am developing alongside horseshit scraping and mole hunting! Just rewards came yesterday with the arrival of Alex with a rather lovely looking leg of lamb which is now nestling in our freezer. I do like this form of French bartering which ends up with us getting calvados and legs of lamb.

Finally finally we had a letter from the finance department re our car registration. They need me to certify that I live here!! Oh well nearly there, I think!!

Moggie has now decided to curl up on my arm and go to sleep. It doesn’t make typing any easier but at least he is not trying to leap on the cursor anymore. I think he is thinking of the third name that cats have which only they know:

His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Archie is now trying to sit on my lap so it is time to go!!!

Bon weekend