One of the main reasons we moved to France was for the quiet life. We thought that living in deepest rural France, down a land with only a few neighbours would guarantee us a quiet a stress free life. Unfortunately life has a mind of its own and just refuses to cooperate. One of my favourite books is “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. I find it a great work of philosophy and it contains the great fact that the answer to the great question of “Life, the Universe and everything” is 42. It also has a paranoid and depressed robot called Marvin who often says “Life, don’t talk to me about life”. Well I begin to understand.

Take birds for example. I like to watch birds and so I feed them and encourage them into the garden. You would think they would be grateful, but no. The birds seem to have an uncanny knack of pooing in flight so that they manage either to hit the windows or the clothes on the washing line. We have crows descending upon poor Giselle’s cherries, being chased off and then doing an impression from the film “The Birds” by sitting on wires and looking threatening. Last week I was watching on the roof of our gite a row of baby starlings, waiting to be fed. I then realised that the parents were teaching the little ones how to sound like a buzzard. It was bad enough with one Starling doing impressions but now a whole family are at it. 

Since then we have had the annoying Chaffinch back doing his constant chirping rendition with the same two notes constantly repeated. Where is the sparrowhawk when you need him? All had finally gone quiet when Mrs. Parish comes rushing in and shouts to me to find the scissors as there is a great tit stuck in her strawberry net. We then have to undertake a delicate operation to cut the bird free, while avoiding damaging the bird and avoiding being pecked by the stupid tit! Finally to cap an interesting bird week I see reports that Vultures have been spotted on the coast of Brittany. Not quite what one would expect and I advised Mrs. Parish that we should not lie out in the garden this week just in case they came our way!

From birds to cats. They seem to be extra crazy this week. Firstly Minou failed to turn up for breakfast. She is the timid one and never strays very far and is always there ready for mealtimes. But not on that day. We walked around the grounds calling for her but no response. We concluded she must be stuck in our “neighbours down the lane” outbuildings. They don’t rise very early so about 10.30am I noticed they were up so went to ask. We went to their garage which is attached to an outbuilding opened the door and heard a plaintive mewing. It was Minou but she was up on top of a wooden beam crossing the building and was afraid to come down. So I had to climb up some rickety old stairs and lean across to grab hold of her risking life and limb in the process. Of course she was desperately hungry and I had to feed her which also meant giving the other two cats some extra breakfast to stop them stealing hers. 

Archie, ready for breakfast

Archie has had a good week as there have been guests in the gite to exploit. He managed to get into the gite on a couple of occasions and then was caught in the act trying to rip open the dustbin bag which the guests had left outside their door for a minute. Archie can move surprisingly quickly when there is a chance of food. Mind you he has also mastered the art of being very lazy and for a day last week he curled up asleep on the bird seed which had fallen from the bird feeder. He had clearly concluded that it was better to wait for the birds to come to him rather than all this chasing nonsense. Moggie tried the same trick but obviously missed a key factor by curling up in the same place but after sunset. I tried to explain to him that all the birds had gone to bed and that he would have a long wait till the morning! At least there he wasn’t doing much damage. Earlier in the week Mrs. Parish was planting leeks. To do this she made holes in the earth and then put in small leek plants. Moggie could not believe his luck when he came past as he assumed there must be mice down the hols and immediately set about sticking his paw down the hole and hooking out whatever was there. This did not make him popular with Mrs. Parish and the air became rather blue!

So little chance of sitting in the sun with a book to read with all this going on but surely it would at least be nice and quiet in rural France. Well this week we have had sounds of the crows squabbling over the cherries and Daniel or Giselle shouting at them. The starlings all trying to sound like buzzards, Mrs.Parish shouting and swearing at Moggie. Every morning we are woken by the sound of the birds singing as soon as it gets light. Then Giselle’s cockerel starts crowing. Daniel’s dog Pepito has regular barking fits. He has different barks for each occasion. He has a series of barks if anyone comes to the house; he has another series for use when they go out and leave him. His loudest barking is saved for when he sees any of our cats wandering across the front of his drive. Recently he has been working on a sort of wailing howl which sound like an air raid siren. It is surprising how much noise the sheep make with their baaing. Then of course there are tractors at work often to get crops in late at night and during the day on the hour we get the church bell tolling. On a sunny afternoon when all goes finally quiet and you think this is what we came to France for the Army of the air come flying over at low level! Mind you when all this racket ceases it is wonderfully quiet and peaceful here.

Anyway, we now have visitors. My good friend and backgammon nemesis Alan has arrived with Debi Potter another good friend who I used to work with in the union. Their arrival was not without incident. Al decided to get the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe as it was a lot cheaper. The ferry came overnight and they arrived at Dieppe at 4am. Al duly set his sat nav to “Graham’s” and set off planning to get to us for an early breakfast at 7-30am. Mrs. Parish and I were up bright and early to be prepared for this. 

Alan went speeding off along quiet French roads which are even quieter at 4am. After about an hour’s driving Alan became concerned as he saw signposts saying 50km to Calais. He also noticed that the English Channel was on his left hand side. Something was amiss. Had the French changed the layout of their roads, was his sat nav on the blink, was he suffering from travel exhaustion and hallucinations? His travelling companion Debi was not much help as she does not do geography and so could not advise. One thing was certain; they were approaching Calais which is totally the wrong direction. So they stopped to check and when they expanded the sat nav map it showed them being directed back to England via the tunnel. Alan then realised that the direction “Graham” led not to France but to my old address in Sherborne in Dorset!!!!!!! So eventually after a 7 hour drive around France our visitors arrived not at 7-30 am but at 11am. By this time Mrs. Parish and I were on our third breakfast. Alan was duly embarrassed by this so we promised not to mention it again. Some hope, this will be retold all this weekend and each time he comes!

To cheer Al up I did promise to say how well he played at pool. But I am not going to mention pool as we have just played backgammon for the trophy and while I always knew Alan was a lucky git, I have never seen so many lucky dice throws in one match. You may gather from this that I lost. My only consolation is that with Alan using his sat nav there is no chance the trophy will get back to Britain. He is now playing the lovely Debi so I’m sure his luck cannot last!!!

Lucky, lucky Al and the lovely Debi

At least the sun has been out today and we all had a great meal at La Marjolaine and I think it is now time for a drink. Then perhaps a few more games. I’m a bit worried that Mrs. Parish and Debi seem to be combining into a fearsome team at Articulate so more losses seem to be on the horizon. I think I had better make it a very large drink! And perhaps a game involving map reading?

Bonne semaine