Well, I would like to report that all is peace and quiet here at La Godefrere but the weather is not really cooperating. We thought that the nice young storm named Imogen had done her worst and finally faded away. On Friday we managed to get out into the garden and do some clearance work but by Saturday the wind and rain had returned. Not enough for a new storm name though.

A friend of ours, called Jacqui was hoping to have a storm named after her as J would be the next letter. She quite fancied seeing headlines about “Jacqui rages across Northern Europe causing chaos and confusion” or “Do not underestimate Jacqui’s powers”. However it seems that the names of storms have been fixed by a public vote (no-one told me) and they have decided that the next storm, when it arrives will be called Jake as the sequence goes girl/boy. So, very nearly Jacqui, but you will have to make do with Jake. Apparently at one time storms were only given girls names. In these more enlightened times boys have to share the blame.

The English Met Office says  - “The Met Office together with Met Eireann announced a pilot project to name wind storms that have the potential to affect the UK and/or Ireland. We received thousands of responses by email, through the Met Office Facebook pages and on Twitter and can now announce the list of storm names chosen by you for autumn and winter 2015/16. 

To ensure we are in line with the US National Hurricane Centre naming convention, we are not going to include names which begin with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z. This will maintain consistency for official storm naming in the North Atlantic. As the UK and Ireland's National Met Services, the Met Office and Met Éireann operate to maintain public safety through severe weather warnings and forecasts. Working together, it is hoped that naming storms will help raise awareness of severe weather and ensure greater safety of the public.

The Met Office and Met Éireann will continue to issue weather warnings in the normal way using the Met Office National Severe Weather Warning Service and Met Éireann Weather Warnings. A storm will then be named when it is deemed to have the potential to cause substantial impacts in the UK and/or Ireland. To avoid any confusion over naming, if a storm is the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane that has moved across the Atlantic, the already established method of referring to it as, e.g. 'Ex-hurricane X' will continue.”

I hope that is clear. So it seems that the Met Office believe that naming storms will increase public awareness and safety. So there you are sitting indoors with a howling gale outside and heavy rain lashing against the window and thinking if only this storm had a name I would notice it more!  With a nice name I would feel safer! Mrs. Parish reckons that since they started naming storms we have had a lot more and that in 6 months we are already up to the letter I. The French of course don’t bother to give storms a name. It’s a storm, why give it a name, then they shrug their shoulders and put on a waterproof coat. 

The French don’t have our obsession with naming things. We once visited a nearby farm to buy some cider and saw a delightful kitten come running out of a barn. So we asked what the kitten was called. The French woman looked at us with astonishment and said “it’s a cat, it doesn’t have a name”. In fact it was not a pet and had a job to do catching mice. I regale our cats with this story and they just shrug their shoulders and remind us we are English and therefore cannot avoid giving animals names.

We watched a TV programme this week about cats and dogs. One of the items showed a scientific experiment to show that cats reduce stress. The example showed that just having a cat in the room reduced people’s stress levels. Clearly the programme makers have not met our cats. My own scientific experiments reveal a different story. The other morning after the cats had breakfast. This is the first task of the day at 7-30am prompt, by the way. The cats are at the door waiting and tutting loudly if I am late. Then I make a cup of tea and sit in the lounge to wake up. The cats duly arrive to take advantage of my lap and I have all three cats sat on top of me pinning my arms so I get pins and needles and meaning that I can’t reach my stress reducing cup of tea or operate the computer to check emails. This might be tolerable if Archie and Moggie did not decide to have a fight on my lap. A lot of growling and flapping paws but I then have to get a cushion to put between them. 

Archie being cute and stress reducing but outside

It can be even worse when I am ironing. First one of them decides to sit in the ironing basket getting dirty paws on the clean clothes. Then you turn around and find a cat sat on the stuff I have just ironed. Having sorted that out I turn back and there is a cat sat on the ironing board or one trying to catch hold of the sheet that is draped over the ironing board. If it is not ironing, I am fishing Moggie out of the dish washer where he is licking the plates or stopping Archie ripping out the rubbish bag from the bin and collecting Minou who has sneaked off to the bedroom. My stress levels only go down when the cats are kicked outside for the rest of the day. I call after them “get outside and do your job, catch some mice” (and a few moles would be a bonus!).

Moggie in the dishwasher!

Anyway storm Imogen has moved on and Jake has not yet arrived and so we had a lull in the dreadful weather. This meant we could get out and do some work down at the bottom of our big field. Mrs. Parish had purchased a number of trees and shrubs to go along our developing nature trail. So we went down to plant some trees last week and this required digging some large holes to plant in. To our surprise Mrs. Parish dug up a couple of toads. It was rather fortunate that the spade just missed them or it might have been a rather messy affair! We assumed that they were a pair and had found a mouse hole to go down and keep out of the cold weather.

So, what to do with a couple of sleepy homeless toads? Fortunately we were digging not far from the Bug Hotel which has a number of vacant rooms and we have no animals booked in yet. So I transport the toads down to the bug hotel and leave them to get settled into a double room underneath a pile of logs. If we can persuade the toads to do a review on Tripadvisor we could be in for a bumper season.

The tree planting was a success and we even managed to put up some protective fencing around them to stop the deer from grazing or rubbing their antlers on the new trees.

The week ended on an exciting high with our first sighting of a red squirrel. We are lucky in France as we don’t get grey squirrels only the far more cute reds. We have seen them once or twice when out and about but never seen one yet at La Godefrere. Mrs. Parish was out getting rid of the ash from the wood fire when she came running back in to say she had seen an animal on one of the trees in the garden. We were able to see that it was indeed a red squirrel and fortunately it stayed sat in the tree long enough for me to get my camera and get a long distance shot.

After a few minutes the squirrel ran off down the garden. So I got some peanuts and walnuts and put them on a dead tree in the hope that it might return. We saw it on Thursday and the weather has not been great since then. The nuts have gone but this could have been birds or mice (probably not cats). I have now ordered a squirrel feeder to put up as it would be great if we could encourage regular visits from the squirrel. 

Red Squirrel on our garden tree

So I am about to settle down in a stress free environment as the cats are outside to watch England play Italy in the rugby 6 Nations. I may have to get a beer to help me relax as it will not be long before the cats get in to start their intimidation tactics to bring forward an early tea!
Bon courage