Little mice with clogs on

I’ve not been well for the last couple of weeks, coughing like an old 60-a-day smoker. The days were bad, but the nights worse, waking coughing after an hour or two’s sleep and having to sit up for the remainder of the night. I read a lot and designed a quilt for our baby granddaughter, but sleep remained elusive.

When I finally admitted defeat and saw the doctor, she diagnosed sinusitis; I left the pharmacy with a huge bagful of goodies, which started to help within a couple of days. By Wednesday night, I was sure I’d be able to catch up on some much-needed kip.

It started well enough, but at 3am I suddenly found myself wide awake. Why? I wasn’t coughing. Then I heard it; a scratching, scrabbling, chewing type of sound, coming from the corner. I woke Nick, who, not hearing anything for 10 seconds or so, went back to sleep. While he snored, the other occupant of the room remained silent, but as soon as Nick was quiet, our visitor started again, performing what sounded to me like a clog dance under the bed. Then it seemed to get its claws caught in the rug; what sort of a mouse has claws big enough to do that!? As the noise continued, the creature morphed into some monstrous, man-eating, morris-dancing rodent in my over-active imagination. Eventually, by 5am, the noise woke Nick; he searched the room with a torch, but found nothing. He put out a mouse trap and went back to sleep; the noises continued, including what sounded to me like something sucking the raisin off the mousetrap…….. Sometime after 6, I dropped off to sleep, only to wake at 7, coughing.

Nothing in the mousetrap, its raisin still intact. In fact nothing to suggest that this wasn’t all a figment of our imagination.

Nick set up his special mouse trap; a plank leading up to a bucket of water, across which is a length of dowel, smeared with Nutella at the far end. The mouse goes up the plank and onto the dowel, which spins, landing it in the water. Within a few hours we’d caught two mice, little ones, totally not what I was dreading.

And last night I slept like the dead.

Nick’s special mousetrap, now rehoused in the chaufferie for the start of winter.

A long, hot summer

After three holidays in three months, it felt like time to get back to work, to make some progress on the gîte and its garden; apart from anything else, with the current weakness of the pound, we could do with opening the gîte and earning some euros. So on our return from Yorkshire, we started work again.

We expect to be uncomfortably hot in August and sometimes in July too, but we don’t normally experience heatwaves in June; however this year was different. With temperatures frequently hovering around the 40°C mark, it was impossible to work outdoors beyond 11am, even in the shade – and there’s very little shade in the gite garden yet. Of course, we should have got up at 6am to start in the cool, but I’ve never been a morning person…….

Our other excuse for slow progress was a far more welcome one – visitors.

Maddy and Dom came to break their journey to the Pyrenees in July, delivering some geotextile fleece for the gite garden en route. A few days later we joined them at their campsite in the Basque country. We took our bikes and headed off to do a few cols; they felt every bit as hard as the hills in Yorkshire, not helped by the heat which sat heavy on us as we plodded our way ever upwards. At some points, Maddy and I had to resort to walking, pushing our bikes and even that was very strenuous. We caught a couple of stages of the Tour de France on the TV in a bar in the nearby village and bought some delicious local cheeses, so it wasn’t all hard cycling.

When Maddy and Dom left, it wasn’t long till Nick’s cycling friend Glyn arrived for 12 days. The two men went off on their bikes most days as I tried to keep on top of household chores and the veg plot, where the weeds were growing at an almost perceptible rate. Nick took Glyn down to the Pyrenees for a few days, to stay at Ian’s and cycle some cols, along with another friend who turned up. By the time they got back, Glyn was exhausted and in need of a few days rest.

The day we took Glyn back to the airport, we also picked up our 14 year old granddaughter, Izzy, who’d flown from Leeds/Bradford to Heathrow, and from there on to Toulouse, entirely on her own! As we approached the airport (only just allowing enough time as Nick hates paying parking charges), there was a traffic jam. There was no way we’d be there in time. Alex was on the phone, checking that we’d be at the gate and panicked when I had to tell her we were stuck in traffic. I took over the driving while Nick ran the rest of the way to the airport terminus; we needn’t have worried, it was another half hour before she came through, cool, calm and collected, blissfully unaware of the panic that had ensued. I’d been having kittens about her solo journey for weeks, and was so relieved and not a little proud of her, when she finally appeared at the arrivals gate.

The next 9 days passsed in a whirl; she spent a few days at Kieran and Alice’s, meeting her new cousin, Emily, for the first time, we went out for pizza, had trips to the seaside, where she spent hours jumping the waves with Nick and we visited neighbours who have a 14 year old daughter with whom she got on really well. One of the highlights was a day in the Pyrenees, gorge walking; There’s a 2km stretch of gorge by Luz St Sauveur, equipped wih 4 Nepalese bridges, lots of voies ferées and 16 zip wires. Izzy was hesitant about the bridges and coped by closing her eyes to cross them! By the finish, she was shattered, but happy.

On her arrival, Izzy showed me a soft toy character she’d drawn; “he’s called Ryan; do you think we could make him for real?” I’d never made a soft toy before, but she was determined; fortunately, I had all the required bits of fabric in all the right colours, so we spent several afternoons in the relative cool of my workshop and she was pleased with the result, finished the night before she went home.

Nick was away for a week’s cycling around Bordeaux the week after Izzy left, while friends from Harrogate, Anne and Peter called in for a couple of days, helping me with advice and weeding in the garden.

Once the dust settled it was time to tackle the garden again, once again overgrown with weeeds, but that’s a tale for the next post……

Ryan, and photo of Izzy’s drawing on her tablet