The owls are not what they seem is a line from the cult US TV series “Twin Peaks” which was first shown in the early 90’s. It is a weird programme by David Lynch and is about the investigation into a murder in a remote US town hear the Canadian border. All sorts of weird things happen and the quote is said to the FBI agent in a dream by a giant who visits his bedroom. I said it was weird, there is also a dancing dwarf and of course the log lady. This is a bit of a weird link in itself as I was given the boxed set of all 27 episodes as a Christmas present from my youngest daughter Amy. It is something of a tradition now as I watch DVDs while doing the ironing.

Mrs. Parish thinks I do more watching than ironing and it seems to take forever. I explain patiently that it is not an ironing race and that I am expanding my horizons by watching Twin Peaks. Last year it was the original series of Star Trek. Mrs. Parish tends to sigh at this point. Anyway the link is to the owls and this has been a bit of an owl week here at La Godefrere. Last weekend I happened to say that I had not heard any owls and that there was as yet no sign of the little owl that roosts on a dead tree on the other side of the cattle field. On Tuesday it rained all day but in the evening the skies cleared and it was a very moonlit night. Lo and behold there was a cacophony of owl hooting and calling. Looking out of our bedroom window there were noises from all around. I placed them as tawny owls calling and hooting and then one flew in and landed in the cherry tree next to the gite. With the moonlit sky we had a perfect view as the owl sat in the tree for some time calling to another tawny owl a bit further away.

Today the sun has finally returned and I have spent most of the day wandering around our grounds looking to see what was about. I looked across the cattle field towards the dead tree where I have previously seen the little owls. There has been no sign of them for several months but today I noticed a small lump where none had been before and once I got out my spotting scope I was able to confirm that the little owl was back in his favourite tree. Hopefully they will nest again this year and we will have little, little owls flying about the place.

The ants have disappeared back underground as it has been so wet and cold. Despite the sun coming out it was cold today because of the wind coming from the north so no ants. We should have sunny weather all week so hopefully they will get back to work rebuilding their nest. First thing this morning we heard for the first time this year the distinctive call of the hoopoe (the call is a repeated hoop pooh, and hence the name of the bird). This is the earliest we have heard it and hopefully this year they will stay around. Last year, they arrived and the weather got very cold and they obviously did not like this and went back south. Also today I saw our first swallow flying in across the cattle field. Soon the skies around here will be full of them as they nest in the woodshed of our neighbour, Peter.

Also walking around the grounds I could see all the flowers coming out and there are loads of daffodils and in all the banks around there are clumps of beautiful primroses. There are catkins on the willow trees and everything is starting to grow and to flower. We will soon have blossom on our fruit trees. It is just a lovely time of year and so nice to be able to have a leisurely day wandering around. A chance also to take stock of the work we have done developing our nature walk. We now have trees and shrubs planted and some bird boxes put up and a bench in place so people can sit in a quiet spot and enjoy the plants and wildlife. Hopefully we can get on and finish the last of the clearance work we have scheduled for this year. The forecast for the week is good, so a chance to get out the tractor and trailer again this week!

Daffodils in our garden

On Tuesday we had the visit from a group of French students from the college in Mayenne. We had a visit from about 19 students (aged 16/17) who wanted to know about running a holiday gite as part of their studies. We didn’t quite know what to expect but had been asked by their teacher, Isabelle to show them around and to answer their questions. It turned out to be a delightful afternoon as the students were very motivated and interested in what we showed them. They even laughed at my poor attempts at humour and showed great interest as I showed them the ant experience and explained lots of amazing information about wood ants. They were very polite and very well behaved and asked lots of questions in English, so it was a good experience for them and for us.

Our neighbour, Giselle was a bit surprised to see a coach full of students arrive and back its way down our very narrow lane to park outside our house. When we talked to her later she said she thought I had a job as a coach driver after all my experience on the tractor! Giselle is a nice neighbour and very friendly and quite typical of rural french farmers. She used to run a farm until she retired although now she has all sorts of animals for food and grows vegetables as well as flowers in her garden. She is almost self-sufficient for food and of course from time to time we get some fruit or a rabbit. Like most older rural French she can turn her hand to most things and can cope with whatever life chucks at her. Emile refers to her as being “solide” which is typically French as you can read different meanings to it. She is built like a rugby prop forward low and wide and is therefore pretty solid! It also means well grounded, capable and tough. Solide is a good word for Giselle! Mrs. Parish is also very well grounded, capable and tough but I don’t think I would use the word “solide” to describe her!!

I have mentioned before that the French like to stand up for themselves and as a result there are quite a lot of industrial disputes and strikes. Doctors are in dispute and refusing to do emergency cover and also some administrative tasks. French radio has been involved in a major dispute and journalists and presenters are on strike. This has been going on for the past 14 days and is becoming a bit trying. In the morning it is our practice for the radio to come on to wake us up and we hear some music, the news and weather forecasts. For the past 2 weeks the strike has meant that we get a continuous stream of dreadful music and now news or weather. The songs seem to have come from some sort of inane background music you hear in lifts or shops. It is truly awful but does have the advantage of making us get up earlier than we might otherwise do.

This is of course good news for the cats who get an early breakfast, something they never refuse. They have been a bit miserable all week as the weather has been pretty awful with rain on most days, so when they are outside they are all cooped up together in their bijoux apartment and don’t get so much exercise. The cats are getting their fair share of fuss though. We have our first gite guests of the season. A nice young couple with two small children (5 and 3 I think) who are giving the cats lots of attention. Kids are great as they don’t seem to worry about the weather they just put on coats and willies and run amok! Moggie had a bit of an unfortunate experience yesterday as he met our neighbours dog in the lane and got a nip on his back leg as he ran away. So he has been limping about today and feeling sorry for himself. He tells us he needs lots of pampering and extra food. The other cats have had tea and gone out in the sun. Moggie is laid up under the table keeping out of trouble for once. Archie on the other hand is inside the carpet, while Minou sits on a box.

Moggie keeping a low profile

So, it has gone 5pm so it must be time for a little aperitif while Mrs. Parish does wonders preparing a nice roast chicken with lovely new potatoes from Brittany.

Bonne soiree