I thought as I sat down to write up the blog that it had been a quiet week with not much happening but surprisingly when I look back it has been another interesting and exciting week.

I started out by deciding it was time to get the tractor mower out as the grass had grown quite long. Since Christmas we have had nothing but rain and it would have been impossible to cut the grass. As we had a dry spell it was time to get the tractor out from its winter quarters at the back of the lean to shed next to our house. Getting to it and creating enough space to get it out was of course a challenge. I had to move the chicken and her food out of the way. She sat on the side watching me with that piercing look she has and clucked a few times. I swear she was laughing at me. Well, I tried the ignition but the battery was dead, so while I recharged the battery I managed to push the tractor out to our courtyard and decided to give it a treat by cleaning it. Our car (with its shiny new French number plate!!!!) was a bit jealous as I have still not got round to cleaning it so it shines like the number plate.

Anyway, cleaning the tractor was not as easy as it looks, particularly as it was very dirty. The difficult bit is trying to get underneath to clean off the cutting blades. After an hour of seating and cursing I was beginning to think that maybe the grass wasn’t as long as I thought. Next I put back in the battery and connected it up, turned the key and after a lot of whirring and spluttering, nothing happened. I did my impression of a mechanic and opened the bonnet. I poked lots of things, got some sort of starter spray and sprayed things that looked important, checked the diesel, wiggled the fan belt and finally for good measure gave it a resounding kick. Once again I turned the key, to be met by more whirring and spluttering. Fortunately our neighbour Peter was at home so I borrowed his jump leads and his expertise and finally got the engine to start and was met by clouds of black smoke, but it was working. So off I went into the setting sun, one man and his tractor on a lonely mission to bring order and straight lines to the universe (well at least my bit of it). The lines were fairly straight and it does look a lot better.

I had hoped that the sound of the tractor mowing the grass would have felt like a group of tanks to the moles. I have been pretty tolerant over the winter truce but the moles have taken advantage and there is now much evidence of mole incursions into our orchard. The dry weather created the conditions for an early spring offensive. Envoys have been sent to our allies and a council of war was held on the border with our neighbour Peter. He was able to report a serious flanking movement by the moles which he had tried to counter but his mole traps have been unsuccessful. This is disastrous news as during the last campaign season Peter had been our star mole fighter, with at least 4 captures. Were the moles becoming more cunning, did we now face super moles or was Peter losing his touch. Either way this was not good for morale. There was only one option a full frontal assault. Accordingly Mrs Parish was sent to the front on Thursday. We loaded up the wheel barrow with mole traps, spades and markers. To the sound of “pack up your troubles and it’s a long way to Tipperary” Mrs Parish set off for the big push. I reckoned that we could substitute the tractor for the artillery barrage, I don’t think the moles would recognise the subtle difference.

So far there have been no successes but Mrs Parish has repositioned the traps to meet changes in direction by the moles. We continue to keep vigil and await results. We have however been buoyed by help from an unexpected source. Our nightly patrols have coincided with our fitness activities for Archie. He has entered into the spirit of the concept of total war and has been weeing on the mole hills. It could well be that cat wee turns out to be the secret weapon we need. Our friend Emile had recommended mothballs as a way of deterring moles but maybe cat wee will be even more effective. It is early days but I will keep you up to date (our only worry is whether under the Geneva Convention cat wee may be regarded as an outlawed chemical weapon).

I mentioned last week that having sorted out our French number plates we were now feeling strong enough to get ourselves registered for healthcare in France. We went some time ago to the office in Mayenne where we were told we needed to find a Doctor willing to take us on and sign to say so, for some bizarre reason to get our birth certificates translated into French and to fill in a rather large form! We managed to get some advice from the British Council who supplied a form in the correct format. Of course most of the birth certificate is people’s names. The only thing to actually translate is father’s occupation, so we had to use google translate to find the French for capstan lathe operator! We were recommended a local Doctor in a nearby village of St Fraimbault, so we went there on Friday. I was expecting a nice shiny surgery and getting the receptionist to sort the forms out for us. I was therefore surprised to find a very small building on the edge of the village.

Inside the front door was a door to the Doctor on the left and a waiting room on the right. No reception staff so we had to sit in the waiting room and wait our turn to see the Doctor. Those of you who remember single GP practices and open surgeries where you just turn up and wait will know what I mean. I had forgotten how depressing it is sat for over an hour waiting to see a doctor with nothing but out of date or uninteresting magazines (in this case all in French). There were half a dozen patients in front of us and some with dreadful coughs. Eventually it was our turn and the Doctor came to call us in. I was convinced that after waiting for over an hour he would tell us his list was closed! Thankfully he was a very nice man who spoke quite good English or Franglish as he described it. We got our form signed and now we are planning a trip to Mayenne tomorrow to get our “Carte Vitale” which will entitle us to aces the French Healthcare system. All we have heard from friends and neighbours is that French Healthcare is first class even if the GP system is a bit old fashioned.

After a few days of really cold windy weather the sun returned today. This afternoon we had a lovely blue sky and the sun was surprisingly warm if you could get out of the wind. We are in the process of setting up an outside area just the other side of the large hedge on the side of the courtyard. I decided this afternoon that the space needed a trail so got out the reclining chair and sat enjoying the sun while watching Mrs Parish who was taking advantage of the sun to get on the veg garden. I was joined by the three cats and the chicken who is convinced that if you are sat in the sun, then you must be having cake which she would like to share. The cats loved the sun and took the chance to play around before curling up for a sleep.  I thought that this was almost perfection to be sat enjoying the sun for a couple of hours, while watching someone else at work.

To end the perfect day I have now come inside to try out Emile’s cider which he let us have a week ago. This is the stuff he made after our visit to watch him crush the apples. Of course the cider now has a happy home in my new wine cave, where it can stay at a regular low temperature. The cider is lovely and as well as drinking it now Mrs Parish has used some of it to cook the pork we are having for our dinner. The only thing to do now is to choose the wine. It’s been a tough day but I will need all my strength tomorrow when we visit the French Bureaucrats again!!

Bon appetite