Our friends Sandy and Kathy have returned to England after a week with us. As I reported last week we have a tradition of tidying up half empty whisky bottles (whisky bottles are always half empty and never half full!). We had a good week of tidying and the week was full of sunny weather so we managed to get out and do some sight-seeing. For the first time we visited the town of Mortain in Normandy, about half an hour away from us.

Sandy and Kathy with Mrs, Parish in our garden

We had been attracted by the fact that the town is on a hill and there are some fine walks around the Town and neighbouring hills. The walk around the town takes in two waterfalls, the petite cascade and the grande cascade as well as fine views over the surrounding countryside. The walk was signed with little plaques showing the route and each one had a picture of a goblin to identify it. So, great fun was had in spotting the goblin signs.

The goblins were there to emphasise that this is a walk through places frequented by fairies and the devil. According to the guide book the little waterfall should not be crossed at the top as this is the devils bridge. Next to it is a rock known as the needle rock and in a place where the fairies spun linen in secret. A man named Leonix came to watch the fairies. The queen of the fairies (in a bit of an over-reaction) pierced his heart with a needle which immediately turned into the needle rock! Leonix’s heart is supposed to beat beneath the rock even today.

The needle rock at Mortain

A bit further along the walk there is supposed to be a devil’s footprint in a rock although there is no information as to how to find it. So, our first walk was full of devils and fairies. The next day we went further along the hills to King Arthur’s ditch. This is apparently where King Arthur and Guinevere ended up according to French legend. On either side of a pool which is said to be bottomless are two rock caves. One where Arthur lived and one for Guinevere. It would seem that the fairies were at it again and that Arthur could only visit his queen at sunset. He broke the rule and was thrown in the pool for his troubles. Guinevere then threw herself into the pool.

It appears that there are no nice fairies in this part of France. Anyway, the walks were great with spectacular views. It is amazing how often in this part of France that there are local legends pertaining to King Arthur, Merlin etc. They keep popping up. There is even a Lancelot of the Lake walk from nearby Lassay-les-Chateaux. We managed to avoid being cursed or changed into anything unpleasant and on one day had a nice lunch in a local Mortain restaurant and then a picnic the next day.

Joining us on our second walk was Oz, a dog who we were looking after for 24 hours. As we have cats we decided to take Oz for a long walk but kept him firmly on a lead. We did not want to lose him or have to chase after him as none of us would have the pace or stamina to keep up with him. Back at home the cats kept out of his way but not before one of the cats (most likely Archie) peed in his bed as a pre-emptive act of revenge!

It has been a bit like an episode of Animal Hospital here this week. We have had three cats all with some form of ailment. Archie has been suffering for a week or so with a badly battered nose where he has clearly been involved in a fight and been scratched on the nose which has then formed into a scab. We have some special animal anti-sceptic cream which head vet, Mrs. Parish tries to administer. Keeping the patient still can be a problem but Archie is an old soldier and knows the drill. He does then lick off the cream but his nose is slowly improving, although he seems to keep getting it bashed!

Moggie arrived for breakfast one morning limping heavily and not using his front left paw. It looked a little swollen and was probably the result of sticking his paw down a hole while hunting for mice. He of course laid it on and struggled with his breakfast and demanded some indoor time to help him recover. So, we have him in a temporary rehab ward for the rest of the day. He quickly recovered and made sure he was at the front of the queue for the next meal.

Moggie and Petit in rehab

Petit was the next to turn up wounded with what looked like a small cat on his cheek. There was a streak of blood but he did not seem too bothered. He had not yet learned of the rehab ward. Mrs. Parish got out the magic cream and tried to put it on the wound. Petit is not used to this and was at the time eating so decided that he would resist this intrusion by swinging his claws into Mrs. Parish’s hand. She decided to fetch our own anti-septic cream for her hand. Rather bravely she refused the rehab ward as Moggie was using it!

Emmeline, one of the suffragette hens is not well and has been poorly all week. She is very lethargic and off her food. I was discussing her with Daniel, our French neighbour, who suggested giving her white vinegar. Kind of the equivalent of a dose of Epsom salts! It doesn’t seem to have made much difference and we fear for the worse. It may be that Mrs. Parish will have to take Emmeline “to see Giselle.” A euphemism for an appointment with Giselle’s knife for a speedy end. We have her in the hen intensive care ward also known as the woodshed. We can keep her away from the other hens and treat her where she is safe.

The ants all seem well and very busy building up the new nest. The sheep are OK as well!

Our hay has been got in. The hayfield has seen the grass grow very quickly to such an extent that Andy and Julie who manage the hay field decided that the weather was so good and would stay sunny. It was opportune to cut, turn and bale the hay early this year. We are about a month earlier than last year. On Wednesday they came and cut it and after three days on which it was turned to help dry the grass it was all baled up and taken away yesterday and we have a nice pile of Euros to spend. It is literally being paid to watch the grass grow. Cutting it early may allow the grass to grow again and allowing a second cut.

We now have a completely bare field. I am sat in the sun writing the blog and I can hear and see buzzards and kestrels hunting over the field looking for carrion where animals did not manage to get out of the way of the cutter and baler. It is also good hunting as the mice which came up expecting to be hidden in the tall grass get two surprises. Firstly, they can see the sky and secondly, they are pounced upon by a bird of prey or by one of our cats taking advantage. Moggie has just brought back a mouse and is playing with it. Unfortunately, there is no rehab ward or anti septic cream for the mice!

It is a public holiday today and so we have been out for a traditional morning visiting a village “Vide-Grenier” literally an empty attic. It is a French car boot sale in nearby Ceauce. There is usually nothing worth buying and today despite a large number of stalls we found nothing at all tempting. You sometimes wonder why they put all this stuff in the attic in the first place. The compensation is that it is necessary to get a “Casse-Croute” a French barbecued sausage in a baguette with some “frites” and of course washed down with a nice glass of cold beer.

I am now sat in the garden with the blog but I am currently contemplating ways to murder our occasional English neighbours who live down the lane. They have just returned to find their garden like a jungle and have spent all afternoon with the strimmer. In France the law says you should not use noisy equipment on a Sunday or public holiday. In France there is still a defence that the murder is an act of passion. I think I would get off the charge! Mrs. Parish, ever practical suggests I get out the ear defenders and a large bottle of wine. That’s why I married her!

Bon courage