I continue to make progress in recovering from my operation. Yesterday for the first time in a month I had some cheese and a glass of wine. My initial low fat strict diet has come to an end and so I can start to eat things like cheese which were on the banned list. To be in France and not to be able to have some cheese is very difficult. So yesterday I made a start and am pleased to say that my new digestive arrangements seemed to cope very well. 

We went to have a meal with our English neighbours Jon and Lis who have been in there house next door for a year. We were joined by Giselle and Daniel and a couple of English friends who live close by. We had a nice coq au vin washed down with some nice wine and some good conversation in a mixture of French and English. And I had some more cheese!

Part of my recuperation has been to take a walk each morning to build up my fitness and to help the recovery process. This morning I had just set off when I bumped into Daniel and his dog Pepito off for their daily walk. So I agreed to follow their route which took me a bit further than usual and for a total of about 5km. It was about an hour walking round the lanes near us and taking in the farmland views. Of course this also meant an hour’s French lesson for me as Daniel speaks no English at all and talks French very rapidly. So it was a good test for my improving French and we managed to sustain our conversation all the way round the walk. Daniel had his gall bladder removed about 1 year ago, so we had to compare experiences as well as covering a range of other subjects.

Anyway I managed to understand most of what Daniel was saying and to talk to him in French so that he at least understood what I was talking about! We spent a pleasant hour which was about twice as far as I intended to go and so was quite worn out when we got back home. I have to go this week, on Thursday for my final appointment with the surgeon.

The bird flu problem seems to be persisting and is a typical example of the somewhat strange attitudes of the rural French. At the start of the outbreak we followed the advice and kept our chickens confined to the hen house and a small fenced run. We then discovered that all the local French people with just a few hens were all ignoring the advice. Ignoring Government advice is a French pastime. But they all said the restrictions don’t apply unless you have hens for commercial purposes. Our friend Emile believes that no laws apply to him as he is over 80!

So we followed suit and let the hens out into the orchard. This week the French Government reinforced the need for all hens to be enclosed and would enforce this with a 600 Euro fine. We heard from a friend that there would be helicopters flying around as a means of checking that the restrictions would be applied. So now the hens are back in their cage and they are not happy at all and spend a lot of time moaning about how terrible it all is. They hear us coming out of the house and immediately start up with their grumbling squawks. 

Three unhappy hens with Moggie rubbing his freedom in!

So Mrs. Parish has been trying to appease them by collecting worms while digging the allotment and to keep them amused she puts them in a tray covered in earth so the hens can have the amusement of digging them up! At least by being locked up they are not escaping over the fence!

The cats meanwhile have been having an easy time with no hens to interfere with their eating. Somehow they have managed to sneak in a couple of new custom and practise arrangements. Archie is a past master at taking opportunities. One morning Mrs.Parish made the mistake of feeling sorry for him and gave him a bit of milk in his bowl. Of course then Moggie turns up and demands the same treatment. So now the routine in the morning is that I come down to feed the cats and make a cup of tea. The cats down their breakfast in seconds and then appear at the door to the fridge as if by magic. As soon as the bottle of milk is removed to make the tea that cats start meowing and almost leaping up to take the milk from the bottle. It is now firmly established as a normal feature of the day.

The same is true of yoghurts. Once you allow the cats a chance to lick out the remains of the pot a clear and unalienable right is established in the cats mind and this then entitles them to try to lick the pot as you are eating from it and even trying to take the yoghurt off the spoon as it passes from pot to mouth!

Archie has now taken to the moral high ground and has usurped Moggie’s position on the top of the grandfather clock. He has never in the four years that we have been here tried to get up to the top of the clock and has left it to Moggie. All of a sudden he has decided that this is a good place to sit. I think that both Moggie and Archie are missing the calming influence of a female cat since Minou disappeared. There is a bit more rivalry and the scratches on both their noses is testament to this. Although when it is a bit cold they are happy to snuggle up together on their duvet in the cat palace.

Archie taking the moral high ground

We are definitely seeing the signs of spring and the official start is less than a month away. Over the past week the weather has improved and it has been dry and warm even with some strong winds. There are birds prospecting for nests and beginning to sing to define territory. Soon the first migrant birds will start to arrive. The first is usually the chiffchaff with its distinct call which matches its name. It is also a helpful bird as it sits out on the outer branches of trees so it is easy to see.

So on Friday I decided that it was time to get out the tractor mower and give the grass its first cut of the year. The grass had started to grow and was looking quite untidy so a first cut on a high setting seemed a good idea to tidy up the garden. It also chops up the leaves that still lying around. Of course it is not so simple to just go out and cut. Firstly I needed to go round and pick up the sticks that had been blown down in the wind. That takes some time and effort as everything falls to the ground which is a long way down, especially when I am not yet fully fit.

The garden and orchard grass has its first cut

The next task is to knock down the mole hills where there has been an incursion over winter. This involves a lot of swearing and cursing of the moles alongside dire threats to them if they don’t go away. Of course when I start mowing I make a lot of noise and start up with some singing to frighten them away.

The tractor mower was serviced before Christmas and so started up with no problem and it takes a couple of hours of skilled work to get all the grass cut. The grass has now been cut and the whole garden and orchard looks so much better. Over the next couple of month we can cut the grass a lot lower and make it look a bit more like a lawn. The next task when we get some more fine weather is to go round the nature trail and cut the grass on the path and also where we have cleared the brambles.

At the same time Mrs.Parish has been working away in her allotment digging over the soil and preparing the ground to start planting the fruit and vegetables for the summer. The allotment (potager in French) is very much Mrs. Parish’s domain and all sorts of complex things take place in there. I keep well away.

So today I have been on the long march and then had a superb but very large meal with our neighbours washed down with an assortment of wine including an aperitif, a nice white wine with the starter and a lovely red with the main meal and cheese. With dessert a nice sweet white wine. So this evening, once I have finished the blog I am proposing to have a little doze in front of the fire and let the food digest. Hopefully over the next week I can get back to something approaching normal.

Tomorrow we are out to lunch again at a local restaurant for our friend Ian’s birthday (the man with the cormorants). Life is tough here in France but you need a fully fit constitution to survive!

Bonne semaine