Well, I’m delighted. This blog won an award this week – the Expat Focus Recommended Website Award. It’s given to “outstanding expat websites” which meet Expat Focus’s four criteria:

Usefulness: it provides helpful information for others moving to or living in a foreign country

Integrity: it’s an honest, responsible site

Activity: updated frequently or with active forums

Free: doesn’t require a subscription.

If you’re an expat, you should defintitely check out Expat Focus . It’s a site crammed full of advice and experience.

So that’s my second award. I got my Stylish Blogger award back in February, courtesy of Vanessa Couchman.

But France hasn’t got an award this week – in fact, the country is facing a fine of 17 million euro from the European Court of Justice for not adequately protecting the Giant Hamster of Alsace. No I’m not making this up. Cricetus cricetus, the European or Black-Bellied Hamster, is native to parts of Western Europe including northern France and extending across to Russia and Kazakhstan. It’s now endangered in Europe, although globally there are plenty of them left. They were trapped for fur in the past which is why numbers declined.

They certainly are giant as hamsters go, being up to 35 cm long. That’s a foot of hamster! And unlike pet hamsters, this one has a furry tail up to 6 cm long. It’s nocturnal but at least this species doesn’t keep you awake playing in its squeaky wheel all night. It lives in a complex burrow system, with a generous storage area. It’s said this can hold up to 65 kg of food. That’s more than I have in my kitchen by miles. In typical hamster fashion, the animal transports this ‘food for later’ in its stretchy cheeks.

Giant Hamsters hibernate from October to March, a bit like my daughter. To make up for lost time, they begin breeding in April, provided they’re at least 43 days old, and produce a new litter of anything up to 15 babies every 3 weeks. And yet they’re endangered! France really must do something about the urbanisation and agricultural policies that are making life so tough for this interesting little creature.