Now, after a couple of years of practice I can swing an axe with the best of them. In fact, I was asked to appear on the documentary currently showing called 'Axe Men' but I thought it wouldn't be fair on the nutters, sorry, lumberjacks to show them up in front of their wives.
But I would challenge them to achieve what I managed today.
I brought up some old wood from the field to split for the woodburner. It's from an old elm tree that came down a few years ago. On closer inspection it was obvious why. It was covered in large oval shaped holes.
I placed my log in position, took a swing, nearly missed but managed to shave off a small sliver of wood. Sticking out from the very thin piece of wood was the biggest, yukkiest looking white grub I've ever had the misfortune to see.
Meet Hylotrupes Bajulus, otherwise known as the House Longhorn Beetle (not in my house mate!) or in France, a Capricorne (or he will be when he grows up, which of course he won't now)
Handsome fella or what? 'What', I'd say! He grows to a whopping 30cms and I'd say he was every bit of that, probably bigger, nearly a metre even (OK, so I exaggerate).
But what was really clever was that he was completely unmarked by his narrow shave with my axe. I mean, how brilliant is that. What an undiscovered talent! I'm like Annie Oakley with an axe!
(Sadly he fared less well when I fed him to M. Javel, one of our cockerels, who thought him a very tasty morsel indeed.)
Anyway, I've been on at the CH all day to let me try and 'chop' a cigarette out of his mouth but he won't let me. What a spoilsport but never mind, DD is currently strapped upside down to an old cartwheel and I'm going to 'chop' matches from beneath her toes blindfolded - me that is, not her toes. She's such an amenable child!
We have a lovely array of bugs here in the Southwest of France. There's Ammophila
Then there's lots of these
The Praying Mantis (no-one's told him that France is now a secular country)
There's the very pretty Potosia Cuprea
otherwise known as the Rose Chafer, who flies drunkenly around, often crashing and landing upside down.
Our weekly shop was not complete without several large cans of Raid Cockroach Killer. But did you know a cockroach can live for 2 weeks without it's head? What chance a mere can of noxious chemicals?
I remember a particular occasion, which I related to Cassoulet, when I went into my bathroom to see a pair of antennae emerging from the sink. I recoiled in horror and watched the biggest cockroach in the Orient climb out. He definitely was nearly a metre long.
I screamed for my flatmate. She recognised the 'Cockroach Cry' and came bearing Raid. We sprayed the beast liberally. He shrugged it off, mooned at us with his little cockroach behind, and shot across the floor and up the door jamb until he was hanging upside down over the top, effectively trapping us in the bathroom. We both screamed!
There was NO way I was going underneath him. I just knew he was waiting to drop down my neck the minute I ran past.
Bravely standing on the toilet, we sprayed him again. He laughed, stuck up two fingers and ran into the bedroom. We charged out of the bathroom and jumped onto the bed. We sprayed him again and he tried to climb onto the bed. We jumped up and down and screamed some more, until he gave up and headed for the hallway.
We cornered him by the front door and finished off the can of Raid, screaming as he ran round and round in circles. My flatmate ran for backup. More Raid appeared and we emptied a second can on to him. 20 minutes after our first meeting he was finally lying on the carpet, legs turned up, dead, most likely drowned rather than killed by the Raid.
Bang, Bang, Bang on the door.
We opened it to find the Police on the doorstep. Our neighbour had reported a 'domestic disturbance'! We showed them the corpse, hoping that we wouldn't now be heading for the Island Prison of the coast of Bahrain, where murderers often accidentally fall from the helicopter en route.
'He was trying to escape when he fell Sir'
'Really, that's the third this week. Wouldn't you think they'd learn?'
But my best cockroach story came from our neighbours, Drunken Eddie, the lovely Nick and Jerry of the Pink Pimpmobile. They really were the best neighbours. If I ever have time, I'll tell you about them.
Jerry found a cockroach in his bathroom. He sprayed it with Raid then, when it was looking faint, he picked it up and threw it down the toilet. Just to make sure, he sprayed more Raid down the pan. Now Jerry was an architect, but years of expat life (for that read alcohol abuse) had rendered him a little 'vague'. Relieved to have safely despatched the cockroach, he lit up a cigarette, chucked the match into the bowl and promptly blew up the toilet!
What a boy!