It hasn't stopped raining all day. This is payback time for the long dry summer. Something like 4cms of rain has fallen in the last few hours. I have seen photos on the internet of flooded roads not far from here, but when I drove this afternoon to visit a friend (on a mission to sort out her laptop) there was no sign of flooding. The road side drains were full of fast flowing water, but it was still contained. All this rainfall means the end of walking up to any of the higher peaks in the Pyrenees until the snow melts next spring. We have snow shoes, but when you cannot see the path, route finding is impossible. (Quietly happy about this, I won't be expected to trudge up big mountains to keep Philip company). I would love to use this time trapped inside to do some serious housework, but feel I cannot frighten the cats with the vacuum cleaner.
The cats have changed the way we live, we had never considered having cats in France, but a stray kitten we left food out for occasionally suddenly turned into a pregnant cat and brought her litter of four kittens into the house at the end of last summer. I think she had calculated they would stand a better chance of survival in our care. We trapped all five and took them to vet to be neutered. Then a few months later word must have got out that Blanquette was a safe haven because another stray cat had a litter of 4 kittens in the barn. We managed to trap the kittens but not the mother, then negotiated a discount with the vet for the neutering of four more kittens. For a while we were feeding 10 cats, the mothers have since moved on, in the way that mother cats do, to encourage their offspring to be independent. I found a home for two of the second batch, so we are down to six cats and since the installation of the cat door they are becoming increasingly fearless and friendly. They eat huge quantities of food but there have been benefits; in our first year here we had so many animals living in the loft, beech martens, edible dormice, rats, owls and bats, all of which romped or fluttered across the bedroom ceiling in the early hours. To try and persuade them to move out we used traps, sonic alarms, the radio, nothing worked, but since giving the cats a free run of the house they have all moved on and the loft has fallen silent.
The problem with having resident cats is that whereas we used to go away for months a time, now Philip and I feel we should take it in turns to go back to England, not because we don't have willing neighbours to feed them, but, pathetically, we have an irrational concern that the cats will miss us or move away. We were novice cat owners when they moved in and didn't realise they would all develop such individual personalities and voices. Now it has reached the stage where if don't seen all six at feeding time we wander round the garden and along the lane looking for them.