Sorry the blog is a couple of days late this week but we have visitors who need lots of feeding and entertaining. My daughter Jo and her partner Nicky have come over for a week to chill out, even though it’s very hot. They have already had a week walking the Cornish coastal path so need a bit of rest. This however includes challenging the La Godefrere team to games of Petanque, darts and pool. So far La Godefrere (myself and Mrs. Parish) have maintained our 100% home record at Petanque. I think playing it in the orchard gives us a slight advantage as we know where all the bumps are. We got horribly hammered at darts and we are left to wonder whether all those hours spent in Exeter pubs playing darts were time well spent as we were pretty hopeless. Much better at pool and at the time of writing the blog we are honours even after 2 rounds of pool tournaments. So it’s all to play for the rest of the week. I should also mention that I won the game of contract whist last night!

Jo and I have also been attacking the weekend Killer Sudoku downloaded from the Observer. Killer Sudoku is a fiendish adaptation of Sudoku in which the same rules apply of putting the numbers 1-9 in each of 9 squares, making sure the same numbers are not in a line or a square. Hard enough but then you add the equation that you must put the numbers in so that they add up to numbers printed in the corner of a block of squares. Confused? Well it is exceptionally difficult and Jo and I by the third day of effort almost gave up. I had been doing them in the Guardian with some success but the Sunday one is much more difficult. Jo, being a maths teacher refused to give in and eventually cracked it, to save my sanity.

So you can see we have been pretty busy with all this stuff and so the blog has taken a back seat until today. Jo and Nicky are relaxing and reading Mrs. Parish is pottering in the garden so I have the house to myself and can catch up on emails and blogging. Well it is 1 year and 1 week now since we moved and Mrs. Parish and I had a great meal at La Marjolane in Mayenne to celebrate. It was a gloriously sunny day, so we sat on the terrace with a lovely Kir aperitif followed by a superb meal (with amuse bouche and petit fours thrown in) as well as an excellent bottle of Vin d’Anjou a white Loire Valley wine. After all this alcohol we strolled along the banks of the Mayenne River until it was safe to drive home. This was what we came to France for.

What I did not expect when planning this retirement idyll was the seemingly constant battle with the forces of nature. This week it has been war on the hornet front. As reported earlier Mrs. Parish has been putting in great service on the air defence systems and shooting down invading hornets with the water hose. Despite her valiant efforts some have got through and have been trying to establish forward bases. We had one site in a hole in the tree which holds the washing line for the gite. Having our guests attacked by hornets did not seem like a good marketing strategy so we decided to launch a full out chemical missile assault with a rather large and fearsome spray can.  I am pleased to report that the mission was a complete success and the hornets have been neutralised. It is sad to report that some innocent woodlice bystanders became collateral damage in the action. A spokesperson for La Godefrere said that they deeply regretted this but these things were unfortunate but a consequence of the “fog of war” and the woodlice were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A few days later our radar defence system detected an incursion by a group of renegade hornets in a hole in the roof of our house. Their very loud buzzing was picked up by our detectors and as a result units were deployed to deal with this problem. This involved a commando style assault using an attack ladder together with the aforementioned spray can. For some reason it seems that the volunteer for this deadly mission turned out to be me. I don’t actually remember volunteering but it was explained to me that I had coped so well in Giselle’s cherry tree that I was the “right man for the job”. The mission was planned for late evening when the hornets would be sleeping (at least that is what I was told). Very carefully and very quietly I ascended the ladder armed only with my trusty spray can. Reaching the top of the ladder I was disconcerted to hear buzzing, they are only snoring shouts Mrs. Parish by way of encouragement. But then they must be sleep flying I reply as I spot a couple of hornets circling round the hole. Mrs Parish advises firing the spray can quickly and then retreating rapidly. It will be fine as the spray has an immediate effect in dispatching the hornets, she says.  So I fire the spray can a couple of times and come down the ladder at breakneck speed and retreat as commanded. There seems to be a lot of buzzing and the two hornets seem to still be flying around and looking a bit annoyed.  The consensus of opinion seems to be that another couple of blasts might be required despite the element of surprise now being lost. Up the ladder I go again, this time as quickly as possible, fire the spray and get off the ladder in world record speed and retreat inside. I conclude that we should monitor the effectiveness of the mission in the cold light of day. So far today no sign of the hornets!!

At least the moles seem quiet at the moment. A long loud burst of “Sad eyed lady of the lowlands” appears to have sent them away for now. The apples keep falling down and what is worse after I had gone round and picked up all the apples and was sat down having a cup of tea, another apple fell off the tree right in front of me. That is taking the Mickey!

Anyway, I don’t seem to be the only one involved in battles. We have a number of swallows nesting around us and also other swallows coming to us to get ready for migration in September. So we had lots of swallows flying around over us, feeding on the flies when one day last week there was a furious lot of tweeting (that is the birds making a noise, not Mrs. Parish and I on our mobile phones). I looked up to see the swallows mobbing a Hobby a very fast bird of prey. The next day the Hobby returned and this time with amazing aerial dexterity flipped over and grabbed one of the swallows. Hobbies do follow flocks of swallows and swifts when they migrate as a sort of mobile fast food store.

I am not sure whether Barbie has actually climbed the real Mont Blanc but we have seen the representation of this momentous event. Just over the border into Normandy is a little village called St. Fraimbault and it is what is called in France a “Village Fleuri”, a floral village. In St. Fraimbault they excel and nearly all the villagers create magnificent garden displays or set up hanging baskets. The whole village is covered in flowers and it looks fantastic. In addition, on the village playing fields they plant an area of maize and cut spaces in it to form garden display areas for an annual competition. Clubs, schools and families plan and display a themed garden. A bit like a very amateur version of the Chelsea Flower Show. Mrs. Parish and I went and had a look recently and were impressed at the displays. Bizarrely one of the displays was on a theme of adventure and featured a rather large rock, surrounded by mountain flowers and the top of the rock was painted white to signify the snow capped peak of Mont Blanc. This all seemed very reasonable until you looked and saw that the creators had placed a Barbie doll accompanied by climbing ropes half way up the mountain. Hopefully I will have managed to incorporate a photograph of this. If not you can see it on the La Godefrere facebook page. Quite unreal, but does go to show that the French do have a sense of humour.

Great excitement this week as Mrs. Parish brought home the much promised the Ouest France (our local newspaper) guide to the 2013 – 2014 French football season. This has an analysis of all the teams in Ligue 1 and 2 of the French football league. I have decided that I need another football team to support to add to Exeter City, my home town team and Liverpool. I now need a French team to support and it’s a toss up between Laval who are in Mayenne but in Ligue 2 and according to the guide never likely to make Ligue 1 and Rennes who are in Ligue 1 but have never won the league. There are probably better teams but these are the nearest and I plan to go and watch my new team. In the end I choose Rennes as although their ground is an hour and a half away they are at least in the top league and will get to play the top clubs including Paris SG who have some world class players. You can look forward to some erudite match reports in the future. Rennes have at least had a good start to the season winning two out the first three games.

Hopefully the blog will be on time next week as our son Ian and Emma along with three legged Tommo do not arrive for their visit until Monday. So more mayhem next week. I am now being called for an afternoon of competitive games and am trying to think of an excuse to not play darts. The old war wound ploy should do it, tendonitis in my throwing arm exacerbated during my night time mission against the hornets, pressing the spray can.

A prochaine semaine