It has been a fantastic week of lovely clear skies, full on sunshine and really warm temperatures. It has almost been like summer. We were worried that only one swallow had been seen so it could not be summer properly. But by the end of the week two more swallows had arrived. Anyway, we were even able to get our shorts on (for me never before May but it was so hot it had to be done).

We were able to sit out in the garden, although it got so hot we had to find some shade. The good weather meant we were able to get out and do some outdoor jobs and get the grass cut. My keenness to cut the grass created the dramatic backdrop to the near catastrophe.

A Cat (astrophe) Petit falls asleep waiting for the Blue Tit to return!

As part of our lovely grounds we have a large hay field accessed through the bottom of the orchard. We have created a nature trail that goes right around the hay field. The field slopes down to a small winter stream and the path goes along beside the stream, through trees and open spaces. The stream is still flowing well as a result of all the rain we have had since Christmas. This has left some low-lying areas of the path as very wet and boggy. At the moment it is impossible to cut the grass in those spots with the tractor mower.

On Thursday it was a really nice day and so I decided that I would cut the grass on the nature trail path. As I was getting the tractor ready Mrs. Parish called to me saying “Be careful and avoid the boggy bits of the path”. I replied “yes, of course” and away I went singing some Bob Dylan songs to frighten off any moles that may be contemplating coming back to the garden.

I cut the path around the hay field and then went along the bottom next to the stream making sure I kept well clear of the boggy bits. I was just coming through the open area where we have the trail camera when I spotted a bit of grass that I had not cut and so spun the tractor around to catch the spot. Unfortunately, I turned the tractor too quickly and skidded onto a small slope and despite hitting the brakes the tractor just slid away down the slope and came to rest against a tree.

I jumped off to check if hitting the tree had caused any damage and was relieved to find everything intact. I got back on the tractor and tried to reverse back up the slope. But the tractor would not move the back wheels just spun around. I tried everything even pushing it but it would not shift at all. 

I was left with no alternative but to report back to Mrs. Parish and was met with some very colourful language of which imbecile is probably the only one I can repeat. I maintained my “it wasn’t my fault” defence but to no avail. Then armed with bits of wood, some hessian sacking and a door mat we returned to the scene. After trying all these aids, the tractor was not moving and the wheels were digging into the wet and now muddy slope. We were just about to give up and call for international rescue (my friend Ian) when I had a last idea. If Mrs. Parish took control of the tractor and I put all my weight on the back wheel we may get some traction.

It worked and back up the slope we came. I said to Mrs. Parish that it all came back to me, remembering watching motorbike and sidecars hill climb racing on BBC Grandstand on a Saturday afternoon in my youth. You see I said to Mrs. Parish all those hours watching TV pay off in the end. Her response has been censored!

I thought the bull in Xavier’s field behind our gite had a mean look but it is now official that he is a mechant taureau (a bull gone bad). We met Xavier’s mother Therese in the lane this morning when she was going to check the effectiveness of the electric fence. She told us that the bull had chased Xavier and that he had to run fast and jump over a barbed wire fence to get away from him. Therese reckoned that something was upsetting him and causing him to be aggressive. We said we had heard him over the past few days bellowing and grumbling, probably at another bull in a nearby field.

When good bulls go bad - Le mechant Taureau

I always thought he had a mean streak as he often gave me a hard stare across the fence. Fortunately, between us and the cattle field there is a barbed wire fence as well as the electric fence but I shall be keeping a careful eye on Monsieur Taureau in future!

This week I decided to try out my improving language skills by telling my neighbour Daniel a French joke (in French un blague). Daniel is forever telling jokes most of which involve some sort of wordplay or double meaning. The French seem to find these jokes very funny. Even when I can understand Daniel, I am not sure that the joke is that funny. I came across a joke in a French magazine in the word play style so I decided to have a go with Daniel and Giselle. The joke goes like this.

J’ai divorce dans le Sud de France (I was divorced in the South of France). Maintenant J’ai un Ex en Provence (Now I have an ex in Provence). The joke being that Aix en Provence is a town in the South of France. You see the wordplay and double meaning. Not riotously funny but amusing. Daniel and Giselle thought it a great blague and laughed a lot. I think they enjoyed the joke and were not just being kind to me!

A couple of days ago I was out in the courtyard when I heard the sound of a chicken. I looked around to see which of our hens was making the noise and then realised the sound was coming from the roof of the barn where we have the cat palace. I thought “there can’t be a chicken on the roof”, it is not possible even for our bolshie hens. I eventually tracked the chicken noise to a starling sat on the roof. This must be the mimic starling who can do a buzzard call and imitate the little owl. It is very confusing as the starling is very good and its impressions are quite accurate and convincing!

The little owls seem to be doing well and are often seen sitting on the TV aerial and out hunting in the garden in the evening. They also shout a lot, mostly at our cats and occasionally dive bomb them. They probably have some eggs in the nest and we may hear the sound of little, little owls very soon.

Little owl on TV aerial

So, all is well here at La Godefrere. My son and daughter in law with two friends arrive next Saturday for a week staying in our gite. It promises to be great fun and we already have plans for a great lamb feast when they arrive with the leg of lamb from last year. The visit will involve a lot of eating and drinking and it may result in some disruption to the writing of the blog. Hopefully it will be ready for next Monday. I must get in some practice so I had better have a glass of wine.

Bonne semaine