The Tour de France came to an end in Paris yesterday with the traditional finish at the Arc de Triumphe. Three weeks of hard racing concluded with a great victory for Welshman Geraint Thomas. The only thing for the French to cheer about was that Alaphillipe won the King of the Mountain polka dot jersey. During the race points are awarded on mountain stages for the rider who reaches certain check points first. Frenchman Alaphillipe was the highest scorer and thus won the jersey.

So, the Tour is now over and I will have to find something else to watch when I am doing the ironing. Until next year I can leave you with some interesting facts about the Tour: The average cyclist burns between 4,000 and 5,000 calories during each stage of the race. That’s a whopping 123,900 calories for the entire race. In the 1920s, riders used to share cigarettes while riding because they were believed to ‘open up’ the lungs before climbs. The Tour de France gathers over 12 million spectators who line the route, making it the largest sporting event in the world…and 3,5 billion people watch the Tour de France on television each year.
In 1919, only 10 cyclists finished the race, the least of all time. Strangely fascinating: over the course of the race, riders will sweat enough water to flush the toilet 39 times! The entire peloton uses around 790 tyres over the three-week long race

The first winner of the Tour de France was Maurice Garin. He won again in 1904 but was then disqualified for cheating. He was caught taking a train to the Alps for the last stage!

In 2013, riders climbed the equivalent of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Snowdon, Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro and Everest. Each team comes to the Tour de France with supplies that include 3,900 nutrition bars, 3,000 water bottles, 80kg of nuts, raisins, apricots and figs and…20 jars of jam! Around 13,000 gendarmes are mobilized for the duration of the race and 1,200 hotel rooms are booked for teams, staff, press and Tour personnel.

Fascinating stuff but for me a touch of danger this week as I came face to beak with Korky the killer cockatoo. Korky belongs to our friends Ian and Sarah and he has a fearsome reputation for enticing people to put their fingers through the bars of his cage to stroke his feathers. Korky, then pounces and bites a huge lump of flesh out of the intruding finger and jams his beak over the finger thus causing the victim to have to pull the finger out of the cage and causing more damage as skin is torn by extracting the finger from Korky’s beak

Only our French friend Emile can get away with stroking Korky’s feathers and putting his fingers into the cage. Never once has Korky bitten Emile. It may be his hands have hardened after a lifetime working on the land. It may be that his veins flow with calvados and so his skin is calvados protected and Cockatoos cannot break the skin. Who knows! But Emile is the only one to get away with it.

Our friends are away visiting the UK for a couple of days and so we are feeding the two cats Bumble and Maisie as well as Korky. I have been identified to feed Korky. I think this is on the basis that I am the lowest skilled compared with Mrs. Parish and therefore if I lose a finger it will have the least consequence! To prepare for this highly dangerous task I have had to undergo intensive training and lengthy Health & Safety briefings.

The first task is to feed Korky at breakfast when he has a pringle (a sort of crisp). Normally he would be having toast and marmalade, so I was warned that he might be a bit grumpy first thing. Therefore, I have to be ultra-cautious in putting the pringle through the bars. The first morning was yesterday and I approached the cage with a pringle. Korky looked a bit grumpy and ignored my attempt at conversation. He can say “hello” but I have been trying, without any success, to teach him to say “vive la France”.

I managed to give Korky the pringle without endangering my fingers only for Korky to immediately throw the pringle into his water bowl. This was clearly a cunning plan to get me to attempt to remove the water bowl (and wet pringle). This would expose my hands to attack. Not so fast Monsieur Korky, I said and created a diversion by placing a dry pringle in his food bowl. While he was examining this, I had time to remove and refill the water bowl. Round 1 to me. I know, it is a bit pathetic boasting about outsmarting a caged bird but if you had met Korky you would understand.

Korky and Pringle

I return to combat at tea time when I have to provide tea which is a quantity of seeds and nuts. There is a long spoon provided to allow you to spoon the food into Korky’s bowl. There is an old English expression “he who sups with the devil should have a long spoon”.  Korky could well be the devil’s cockatoo. I was warned that Korky has a trick of grabbing hold of the spoon and pulling it (and the hand) into the cage. Apparently, he is very quick and very strong. If such happens there is a back up spoon. On no account should one open the cage to retrieve the lost spoon.

So, I was ready for any Korky tricks and quickly spooned the seeds into the bowl. Korky watched me from the back of the cage and you could see him thinking and considering how to lull me into a state of over confidence. It seems he was content to play the long game and I think that tonight will be the crunch. I am now off to give Korky his last feed from me before Ian and Sarah return late tonight. 

2-0 to me I think. Korky tried the empty water bowl ruse and the quiet and subservient look to entice me close to the bars. No chance I would fall for that, He resorted to moving to the bottom of the cage where he deposits some of his food. He selected a few choice items to throw at me but it was all a bit half-hearted as if he knew I would be keeping well away from his beak. There will be a next time and a rematch no doubt.

Mrs. Parish was responsible for feeding the cats. On the first day Bumble was sat out in the grass looking down a mouse hole and steadfastly refused to recognise that we were there. The second day Bumble came into be fed and Maisie disappeared. The cats clearly wanted to make life as difficult as possible for us. Anyway, cats and cockatoos have been looked after and Ian and Sarah return this evening to restore order and normality,

We are back to just having our own cats to look after and they have been taking advantage of the warm and sunny weather to relax. Of course, they are taking every opportunity to take over the house and let us know who is the boss. How dare we go off and look after other cats, it is really not on. Early mornings and they manage to drape themselves over the kitchen table!

Petit and Archie have developed the knack of ultimate relaxation by sleeping upside down and stretched out on the sofas. The cats have firmly re-established themselves in the pecking order.

Mrs. Parish and I have just returned from our English neighbours, John and Lis, who return to England tomorrow. We have been helping them tidy up some bread and cheese and some wine. As good neighbours it was the least we could do. John and I also tested a couple bottles of Bow more malt whisky as a trial run for when they return in August. We are planning a full Bowmore experience as between us we have 5 different Bowmores and may have more by the end of August. It will be a scientific test of course!

As I keep saying, it is a tough life here in France!

Bonne sante