The week got off to an exciting start as we were watching French TV on Sunday when we discovered that “Le plus grand cabaret du monde was on. Usually this is standard fare on New Year’s Eve and I have reported its weirdness before. For some reason, which we could not fathom, it was on, with a whole new range of best cabaret in the world. Presumably even better than New Year we concluded. There seemed to be a theme of magicians making things appear and disappear from odd shaped boxes and all involving scantily clad women. In one dogs were made to appear and disappear. This was eventually outdone by a magician who made lots of scantily clad women appear and disappear.

We then moved on to some pole dancers, who funnily enough were also women with not many clothes on. The theme was interrupted by a totally unfunny “comedy” act that involved a man doing an impression of circus animals. First of a sea lion and then of a big cat (either tiger or lion). He was accompanied by a rather small man in a suitcase who played the piano. The finale was a load of Korean acrobats with heavy makeup who seemed to be performing synchronised swimming in leotards (this may have been for the gay part of the audience). This was all compered by smarmy grey hair, who seems to be the French TV version of Terry Wogan. Amazingly weird stuff.

Mrs.Parish has a low boredom threshold and took herself off to bed. I cannot resist such weirdness and stayed to the bitter end.

On Monday I went down to the bottom of our big field to do some more work on clearing a path through the brambles. We now have a distinct path running all round the big field and over time we will develop this further to attract wildlife. It is already a very peaceful walk with just birdsong for accompaniment. Right in the corner of the field I discovered a large wood ant nest with millions of ants and loads going forward and back collecting little bits of stick for the nest. Wood ant nests are fascinating and for almost an hour I was glued to watching them. The ants carry stick 10 to 20 times bigger than themselves over all sorts of obstacles and the nest itself is a mass of tunnels with entrance holes that also serve as air conditioning. The ants open and close these holes to maintain a constant temperature inside. Amazing stuff and I have now created a pathway towards the ants nest so people can get to see it without fighting through brambles. Mrs. Parish says she is pleased that I now have some creatures to talk to other than the cows.

The Ant Hill Mob in our big field

Talking of cows we have had a worrying couple of weeks. We heard through our neighbour Giselle that the farmer Loic who owns the cattle and the two fields next to our property was in the process of selling them. He lives the other side of Ambrieres, about 25 minutes away and has managed to get some land closer to his farm. Our big worry was that someone would buy it and plant maize. There are lots of maize fields around and in summer it is a bit like being hemmed in by great walls of maize which is grown for winter cattle field. There was an awful film called “Signs” with Mel Gibson playing a maize farmer whose farm was surrounded by fields of maize into which Aliens landed and proceeded to attack the farm. If you have seen the film you will understand the brooding menace that is a field of maize. Anyway, we saw several prospective purchasers come to visit and measure up the gap between our barn and Giselle’s house. This was to see if there was enough room to get a combine harvester in to harvest a crop of maize. We thought of hastily extending the barn to make sure there was not! In the end there was not enough room and we heard this week that a local farmer had bought the land to graze his cattle. So great rejoicing here and also at Giselle’s as she already has a field of maize next to her on the other side from us. So now we await our new neighbours. Will they be as friendly as Loci’s cattle?

This week we have our first paying guests in the gite. A couple with their son are staying for a week so we have been rushing around spring cleaning the gite and tidying up the grounds and it all looks very smart. Up until recently we did not have many bookings but over the past couple of weeks we have had a number of booking and are pretty much booked up over the summer in July and August which is all good news. We even have some people from Canada coming to stay. Last year we had Australians and in the spring we may get some American visitors when my brother comes over. We are now becoming a centre for the international jet set. For anyone out there wanting to come and experience firsthand the weird and wonderful life at La Godefrere and grab a bit of the international atmosphere, we do have three weeks in June and one week in July when the gite is free and all of September and October. You can also meet the cats, the bats, the salamander, the cows, lambs and of course the wood ants.

And another bit of good news is that there are now two little owls on the dead tree across the other side of Loic’s field. I had seen one a few weeks ago which then disappeared. Yesterday I spotted it sat on the tree and when it flew off there was another sat behind it. We had a pair who nested last year so hopefully they are going to nest again this year. The weather has gone a bit colder this last week so we have not yet seen any swallows who were here by this time last year. They have been spotted a bit further south as have cuckoos and hoopoes, so we should get them as visitors over the next few weeks. 

Today we went over to Gorron for their Foire Fleuries, or flower festival. The town centre has lots of stalls selling flowers and plants. Plus there are other stalls selling food and drink and also a sort of funfair with rides etc. When we went there were many around as it was a bit wet and cold. Mrs. Parish managed to find some plants to buy and we managed to avoid entering a raffle for various items of livestock. There was a raffle for a pig which was on display in a wooden crate. There was also a raffle for a couple of rabbits (ones for the pot sort) and then one for a chicken. All you had to do was guess their names and they would come home as your companion. At least that was what the sign said. There did not seem to be any restriction on who entered and we had visions of small boys with goldfish in plastics bags! Still not as bad as the Puck Fair in Kilorglin in Ireland where we saw some Nuns who were raffling a very large donkey!

As part of the spring clean exercise Mrs. Parish has been planting flowers everywhere and this included putting a trough full of pansies (called pensees in French) on the window sill outside our new front door and windows. Our builder Mark had built a new low wall to the side of the door with a slate ledge. Mrs. Parish decided this would be a good place to put some flowers. They looked very nice. Unfortunately the cats have decided that this ledge is a good spot to sit and look cold, hungry and miserable as a plea to be let indoors. Even more unfortunately, the cats decided that the trough was interfering in their ability to demonstrate their pathos and so managed to knock it onto the floor. Apart from this the cats have been relatively well behaved. None of them have gone missing, they haven’t stolen any food. Moggie has been into make friends with the lambs who are also doing OK. The moles are keeping clear of the exclusion zone but with Peter being away for three weeks they have annexed his garden. I may be forced under our treaty obligations to deploy Mrs. Parish on an offensive raid into Peter’s garden.

This good week has also seen us win on the premium bonds (£25), which is taxable in France!! I have also been notified of an increase in my occupational pension which is also good. I think that I deserve a large drink to celebrate a good week, followed by Mrs. Parish’s roast pork, washed down with a nice Borgueil red wine and maybe then a nice digestif (whisky or calvados). Indeed it has been a good week!

Bonne semaine