Mrs. Parish has returned to Blighty for her well earned R&R and victory tour. Medals have been mentioned for gallantry. The moles are in full retreat and the daily mole patrol has reported no sightings of moles in the past week. Admittedly, our orchard looks a bit like the Somme at the moment with lots of craters where Mrs.Parish has dug up turf to lay out the minefields. Still our strategy of fortress La Godefrere and strict enforcement of the mole exclusion zone has paid dividends. Mrs. Parish now has three scalps through skilful deployment of the mines. We are in the process of redesigning the garden so we will be able to return the battlefield to productive use. A useful suggestion that we cure the mole skins and that Mrs. Parish, utilising her other talents, turns them into a nice waist coat for me. The idea has merit and of course me walking around the estate wearing moleskin could act as a deterrent to other moles who might have designs on a further invasion. On balance it could be seen to be a bit triumphalist. 

I have discovered that there is a great blues track by someone called Magic Sam playing an instrumental “Mole’s Blues”. It’s actually good and I may consider recording it so I can play it back if we get any more Mole trouble!! Check it out on YouTube. (Alan, he could be related to the guy who plays blues at Chaplin's in Boscombe. You could ask him to play it next time you are there!)

So I am here Home Alone again and in charge. When I say in charge, I of course mean that I am in charge after the three cats and two sheep, so a sort of 6th place in charge really. The cats have been taking advantage of the fact that it’s three against one and that it has been raining all day. So I at least have had some peace because all three cats have found indoor places to sleep and haven’t moved all day. Well up until tea time when all three cats suddenly appeared and demanded food. I did just about manage to impose some discipline after tea by getting all the cats outside. I did have to chase them round the house as they weren’t convinced that going out was a good idea. Archie did a lot of growling and spitting as usual which given he had been on the bed for about 6 hours was a bit rich.

The weather has been awful for the past couple of days and I have been trapped indoors. Today I was desperate for bread so had to venture out for a foraging trip to the village bar which sells bread. There was a massive thunder storm first thing so things were looking very bad. Yesterday I was eking out what bread rations I had left and was reduced to toasting stale bread to go with some pate I found in the fridge. Being in France and going without bread is a terrible thing. So now I was absolutely desperate as no bread for breakfast. Fortunately the storm died down and there was a window of opportunity for me to walk into the village. So on my foraging trip I got enough bread to last for several days and just to make up for yesterday I bought myself a pain au chocolate to have with my morning coffee.

However just when you think that you have achieved perfection in the bread supply someone just has to go and mention hot buttered crumpets. Mmmmmmm, hot buttered crumpets. Must get a message to Mrs. Parish. Forget everything else you were going to return with and bring crumpets. It’s funny how soon you start talking to yourself when alone. I haven’t even been able to get out and talk to the neighbouring cows. It has either been too wet or they were at the other end of the field. I have tried talking to the sheep but they just tend to ignore me and talking to the cats is fruitless. Either they want food before they will talk or else they want to reopen negotiations about their outdoor cat status!

The land around here is farmed almost exclusively for cattle. There are loads of cows grazing either milking herds or mostly beef cattle overwintering, like the ones next door. The remaining fields are used to grow winter food for the cows. Some fields are used for hay as our big field but most of the fields are sown with maize to produce winter food. So there are fields everywhere full of maize which grows quite tall so the view of the surrounding countryside is restricted by great big fields of maize. Them all of a sudden it’s time to harvest the crop and giant harvesting machines appear as if from nowhere. It is fascinating watching the process. The giant harvester travels through the field and cuts the maize and then chucks it out from a tube that sticks up in the air. Beside the harvester is a tractor with a huge trailer and the maize is shot through the air and into the trailer. Coming up behind is another tractor and trailer and this then comes alongside trailer no 1 so there three vehicles abreast. The harvester then adjusts the tube and shoots the maize over trailer 1 into trailer 2. Meanwhile trailer 1 slows down and extracts itself to take the maize off to the farmyard. Meanwhile trailer no 3 is on its way to be ready to take over when no 2 is full. This goes on for hours until the huge fields of maize are cut down. Of course given the bad weather the tractors, trailers and harvesters dump an unbelievable amount of mud on the roads. Now is not a good time to clean the car!! But it is an amazing sight to watch.

I have of course been speculating whether one of these harvesters could get in all the apples and pears from my orchard. I have spent another week going round and picking up fruit. Of course to add insult to injury we now have chestnuts and walnuts falling like confetti off our trees. Building on our plans for world domination, code named “La Godefrere orchard replanting scheme”, we have had a tree surgeon around to look at our trees. I had totally the wrong concept of surgeon here. I was expecting some smart bloke in a suit but this battered old white van turns up and out jumps Paul a wiry little chap with a flat cap and a roll your own fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Paul had been recommended by our builder, Mark. Mind you what this bloke did not know about trees was not worth knowing. He had a really incredible knowledge and we have commissioned him to do a week’s work cutting down some trees (especially those with dropping fruit and nuts) and to make others safe and to tidy up the whole orchard area ready for our grand scheme.

We plan to have a flower garden area, a lawned area for games, to replant with trees that produce fruit for eating and some shrubs and bushes with a walk through the gardens. If you have been to Versailles you will know the sort of thing we mean! It is all very exciting so watch this space for more details as we swing into action over the winter.

I have just spoken to Mrs. Parish on the phone and organise the relief column to bring tea bags and crumpets from England. I have enough bread and prepared meals to last until Tuesday evening so should manage to survive until then. The cats have now appeared at the window looking very sad and starting the pressure for supper. I have waved my watch at them and explained that they have over an hour to wait but the pressure will be relentless for the next hour. I must hold my nerve and leave them outside. I am about to get myself a meal so it would be madness to let them in as they would distract me while one of them sneaks off with my bit of fish. I have promised them some cheese to garnish their supper if they behave.

All the stress of being in command is getting to me so I will have to have a drink.

A prochaine semaine