It has been a week of cold but clear and sunny days. This has meant we have had time to get out and do more work in the garden and get some fresh air. The days are getting longer and it now I can at least get up in the light to feed the cats first thing in the morning. First thing is 7-30am. The cats are always gathered just outside the front door and as soon as the door is opened they flood in and immediately demand to be fed. They even get priority over Mrs. Parish’s cup of tea for which I also have responsibility. As part of the contract the cats are then allowed to stay in the house until after we have had breakfast.

Usually this means an immediate rush for a place sat on my lap (I have a nice warm dressing gown) while I try to drink my cup of tea. Sometimes with all three cats sat on me it is impossible to get to the tea until it has gone cold. While we have breakfast the cats curl up for a sleep on most days. Some days when the weather has been bad and the cats have spent all day asleep in the “palace” they decide to either chase each other around the house or play ball. Archie is very good at this and careers around the living room chasing and “killing” a plastic ball with a bell inside it. As he is quite a large cat it is best to keep out of the way when he is at full speed!

After breakfast the cats go outside for the day. When I say they go out it means they have to be bribed to leave with some treats. They don’t go willingly and the alternative to a food bribe is chasing cats around the house or finding their hideouts. Archie used to growl and complain bitterly at kicking out time but now that food has been introduced to the equation, they go willingly, albeit a bit hesitantly if it is raining outside but food wins out in the end.

Some excitement this week as we have new neighbours. The house next door to us had been up for sale for some time as our friend Peter decided to move back to England. I have been acting as the local estate agent and showing people around the house. Fortunately the people buying were a couple I showed round so that was Ok although I am still waiting for my commission! The sale was completed on Friday last and the couple Lis and John from Northamptonshire came round for a coffee so we could introduce ourselves and also we invited our French neighbours Giselle and Daniel. Fortunately Lis and John are doing French evening classes so they could join in a lively conversation (it always is when Daniel is with us!). Lis and John will still live in England and come regularly for visits.

A first for us also this week was to have an “artist in residence” in our gite. Our friend Jacqui booked in for a weekend retreat so she could have time and space to concentrate on her art. I of course created a “garret” effect in the gite. A garret is a habitable attic or small and often dismal or cramped living space at the top of a house. In the days before lifts this was the least prestigious position in a building, and often had sloping ceilings. It did often have the advantage of a large window which let in lots of light. They were also cheap to rent and therefore popular amongst artists. We have sloping roofs in the gite and a large roof window so we are half way to a garret. I thought to generate that suffering and tortured artist effect we could turn off the heating, only allow one burner on the cooker for some gruel.

Garret effect created in our gite

Much to my surprise the artist wanted heat and food, hot showers, sunlight and even ordered fine weather. She didn’t even want to cut her ear off or have a bottle of absinthe. Well what have we come to when impoverished artists have such need of luxuries.  Anyway Jacqui felt that she was suitably inspired to get some work done. We like to call it her La Godefrere period, so when she is famous we can claim some credit!

While our artist was hard at work we used the fine weather she had ordered to get our grass cut at last. The warm and wet weather we have had since the turn of the year has meant that we have not been able to cut the grass and also that the grass has continued to grow. We have also had a lot of windy weather so before I got out my trusty tractor for the first time I had to tour the grass to pick up branches and twigs that had been blown down from the trees. In the long grass they were difficult to find. While looking for twigs I also discovered some other menace lurking in the grass – molehills!!! The moles had obviously used the state of the grass to infiltrate and establish some forward bases in the exclusion zone. Mrs. Parish and I have had a council of war and are planning a spring offensive to repel the invaders. Mrs. Parish is cleaning and sharpening her mole traps and as soon as the ground is dry enough to dig some traps the moles will be in deep trouble. In the mean time once I had knocked down the molehills I went over the grass with the tractor and of course treated the moles to a verbal assault of my singing.

 While talking of grass our friend Patrique has just arrived with two pregnant ewes to go into our paddock. Now this is a challenge as I normally have to go to the paddocks and count the sheep. At the moment there are two but there could be new born lambs arriving. So there could be two, three or four when I go down to the field in the mornings. On the other hand there is of course the excitement of us having new born lambs in the paddock in the next few days...I have just been down to see the two prospective mums and they look OK. Call the midwife is on TV tonight so I will have to pay special attention. I am thinking of putting up a sign saying Maternity Ward.

Our pregnant ewes

So, to the subject of vegetables (legumes) and soup (potage). We have been buying soup form our local Supermarket for some time now. It is nice to have some hot soup (with lovely French bread) at lunch time when it is cold outside. One of the soups we like is one with 7 legumes (7 different vegetables). Then I noticed another brand of soup with 8 legumes and so we tried that one. Then last week we spotted a soup with not 9 but 10 legumes. How wonderful is that a soup with 10 different vegetables!!

Well of course that got me thinking and imagining the following conversation from a favourite 1984 film “This is Spinal Tap”:

Nigel Tufnel: The vegetables go to eleven. 
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most soups go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's tastier? Is it any tastier?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one tastier, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be eating soup at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your soup tin. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One tastier.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten tastier and make ten be the top number and make that a little tastier?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

10 legume soup, would 11 be tastier?

So, there we are another end to the week. We have just got back from another repas. This time “Poule au pot” chicken casserole. Lots of red wine and they even served homemade calva with the coffee. What could be better. I may need to get an early night in case midwife duties are required in the morning.

Bon nuit