Well, we are getting back to normal this week and that means the blog is back to its Sunday spot and will be full of exciting news. Our guests have all gone and we have the chance to catch up on the many jobs we have to do here. 

At the same time the weather has gone crazy and we have a heat wave with full on sun and temperatures up to 25 degrees C today. I even have my shorts on!! This is unheard of; my legs do not usually appear in public until June at the earliest. We have had to search for the sun cream and sun hats. The cats however are very happy. They have been rediscovering all the sunny spots in the garden and have been generally lolling about all over the garden. It does mean a rapid loss of fur and the birds are very happy as the cat fur is being recycled into nest material.

Moggie in a sunny spot

The little owls are firmly ensconced in their nest at the end of the gite and we have seen both male and female birds this week. There seems to be a hierarchy of birds with starlings building nests in the gite roof but lower down by the guttering and with as much distance from the owls as possible.

Now that we are guest free we can complete all the outstanding jobs. The building work on the gite is all finished with the new internal stairs being fully tested firstly by my son, daughter in law and 2 dogs. Then last week by three of my work colleagues. It has meant that some work was needed to restore one or two chips in the varnish on the stairs. That has now been done and it will be over a week until our first paying guests arrive so will have time to harden off. In France, the varnish is called “vitrification” and is a tough varnish for use on stairs. One slight problem is that I did not notice a spider had come out onto the steps and so painted over it. So, we now have a vitrified spider incorporated into the stairs.

In order to prepare for the letting season we had our tree man, Paul around to sort out some damaged trees after the winter storms. This involves cutting off branches that were damaged and making them safe. It also meant cutting down a couple of cherry trees next to the gite. These were found to be rotten inside the trunk and therefore liable to falling over. It is a shame as they are currently in blossom. However, they had to be made safe and one has been cut down. The second was given a last minute reprieve, of sorts. This tree next to the fence could I realised serve as a bird sitting point for the little owl and possibly for the buzzard. You may recall a dead tree stump serving this purpose fell down in the winter.

The cherry trees, before and after - note owl perch

So now we have an improved view out onto the fields around us but also, we now have a great vantage post for the little owls and last night one of the owls flew round and sat there looking for hunting opportunities. It may be a bit too close to the gite for the buzzard to use but we will see. So far Moggie has not climbed up to sit on it as he does like climbing trees.

Moggie did help with the clearing up as we sorted the logs for keeping to eventually burn. We collected lots of small bits of branch to use for kindling and the thin branches with flowers were transported to the bottom of the big field for eventual burning on a bonfire. All this gave me a chance to get out the tractor and trailer and ponce about a lot. At least that is how Mrs. Parish describes it!

Important tractor work

So, all is prepared for our first guests of the season who arrive next Saturday. We are quite excited as these will be our first French guests. We have had Australians, Americans, Canadians as well as English visitors but these will be our first from France. A family with 2 children aged 6 and 2 so it should be fun and a chance for me to practice my developing skills at speaking French, although it seems they speak good English. In a couple of weeks’ time we have another lot of French people staying so that is good. We have quite a few bookings but not in June and July so if you want to come and stay let me know.

Sheep have also arrived and our friend, Patrique has brought round 2 ewes each with two lambs. So, we now have 6 sheep in our paddocks that I have to go and check over and count to make sure they are all there. They are the same breed as usual. The ugly sheep, but they do taste nice and I have already been sizing up the likely quality of their legs! 

All our animals are now getting ready to entertain the visitors and we still have the cows in the field behind the gite. There are plenty of birds around the grounds and on our nature walk. This morning I heard black caps and willow warblers. There are increasing numbers of swallows and our friends who live in Ambrieres have seen a hoopoe in their garden so we expect them to arrive here any day now.

The ant experience is in full active mode and the ants are all out now rebuilding the nest and establishing supply lines. Moggie and Archie who last week honed their cuteness skills with Auntie Debi have expressed themselves match fit and ready to welcome the guests.

The grounds are looking lovely and the grass is very green and now in need of cutting at least once a week. Yesterday I was out working in the garden and was struck by how quiet it is here yet full of bird song. I listened under a tree to the most delightful bird song, yet couldn’t spot the bird. I remembered from last year that it was a melodious warbler, a summer visitor to this part of French but rare in Britain. It truly was a well named bird as the song is, well, melodious! It is at times like this that it is great to be retired and great to live here at La Godefrere.

I mentioned that this week things have cometh or goeth (I am not sure that there is such a word as goeth but I can’t see why not). Anyway, not everything that should have goethed actually did. My friend Alan and I have a great rivalry at Backgammon and play a series of games when we meet. We used to play for a small trophy in the shape of a ceramic pirate (for reasons far too complicated to describe here). Suffice to say that no-one wants to give it house room so when Alan retired I cleverly awarded him the trophy in perpetuity. He keeps bringing it with him in the forlorn hope that on the rare occasions that I win I will want to keep it. Dream on! This time Alan conveniently forgot to take the trophy away with him. He may have genuinely been distraught as I had won a magnificent victory. It is waiting for you, Al!

So, now we are back to the full blog and I am sure you wonder that you have survived on the meagre offerings of the past 2 weeks. Look out for next week’s blog when I plan to update you on the fun and games of the French Presidential race. There are 11 candidates and the first round of voting is on 23rd April.

Well, now that the blog is done I think it is time I went outside in the sun and expose my legs to the world. I think that it may also be time for an aperitif and maybe it would be right to toast to my absent work colleagues with a kir royale sat in the sun!

Bonne santé