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Posts from the ‘Animals’ Category

A sword and a pistol by his side

I’ve been absent for several weeks whilst we deftly orchestrated and executed a somewhat major and moderately emotional move.  I will write of that on Friday, but in the meantime, lest you have missed me even the teeniest smidge, here, as a trifling placeholder, is a picture of a rather cute couple snapped by my husband a few days ago.  It seems to fit rather snugly with the Photo Challenge of the Week titled Liquid of which you can find a veritable treasure trove of other entries here .  It was only when ambling through my recent photos to find something pertinent to the theme that I noticed the tiny turtle.  I have a propensity for the romantic, for which I make no apology.  Therefore, I see her gazing longingly at a suitor positively transfixed by her petite loveliness.  For the avoidance of doubt, my fanciful leanings didn’t lead me to intervene and give him a peck on his wide froggy mouth to test for Princeliness.

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PS:  The title is a line from a song I have sung gustily and quite possibly tunelessly since childhood: Froggie Went a Courtin‘.  Here as your bonus is Bruce Springsteen with my favourite of all favourite versions of the shenanagans of the amorous amphibian.  I sincerely hope this little croaker is armed with neither sword nor pistol.

By the by, I don’t know if this is a green frog or a bull frog – perhaps a herpetologist  could help me out ….

Meditation and water

I have twice delved into the murky or magical, depending on result, waters of internet dating.  So successful was I that, for several weeks I was ‘Times Encounters’ most popular woman.  I tell you this not to brag (though, let’s face facts it is entirely braggable) but because I remember clearly stating in my profile that I loved water.  The ocean, lakes, rivers and streams, I am happiest when near them or in clear sight at least.  Puddles possibly not so much though jumping in them has it’s own delight with the strong caveat of the correct footwear.  I would challenge anyone to enjoy a long walk home in squelchy shoes with soggy socks on a dank chill day.  Correct me if I’m wrong, I dare you.

In my last post I told those who cared to work it out from the clue I gave that I was bought up by the river Thames in Berkshire  and it is fair to say that most of my life has been lived by the Old Father.  So maybe that is the explanation.  Or maybe it is hardwired into my DNA.  I come from a long line of Naval servers.  My Grandfather, for example,  was a giddyingly senior Admiral – as a young Lieutenant aged younger than my second daughter is now,  he was aboard HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland, the last face to face naval battle in history before the equipment got so clever that these days you don’t really  need to be in the same water to score a direct hit if you feel so inclined.    He remembered dinner immediately after the battle when the blood that had soaked the decks was barely washed away, the Stewards brought in tureens of tomato soup.  Even the Captain declined.

Whatever the reason, I find that being near water rests my spirit and enables clear thinking and so I was delighted recently to go to Gloucester MA, made famous by ‘The Perfect Storm’ and step onto a safe ship in glassy calm waters to go whale watching with HB2 and youngest daughter.  Whales are guaranteed because of the location, a marine natural reserve 12 miles offshore.  If you don’t see any they invite you back again until you do.   You are, however,  reminded that these are wild animals, not  a circus show and that what you  see depends on many factors, not least how diva-ish the whales may be feeling on the day.  It turned out that the Whales were in positively symbiotic spirits for reasons we shall never fathom because we don’t speak Whale.  They advertised virtually all their major surface behaviors – they breached, they blew spouts, they lay in a trance-like state on the surface, they flapped their fins and they dived showing off their immense barnacle bejewelled tails to glorious effect.   It was an astonishing show which might have been choreographed by Busby Berkeley himself.    The company we went out with educate as well as facilitate sitings so we learned much along the way about these wonderful and historically maligned creatures.  You can find out more by going to their blog right here and if you ever get the chance, grab it.  It is a truly unforgettable experience.

We have SO many photographs from the outing but this is my perfect picture, or more accurately Two Brains’ since, peglegged as I have been of late, I couldn’t balance self and camera securely enough as the boat bobbed and curtsied, to take a decent picture.  I submit it here as my entry in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge titled H2O (which I misread initially and thought it was a tribute to The Brains).  Here are the rest of the wonderful entries for your delectation, should you feel inclined.

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PS:  Last night, we had dinner with two of HB2’s team .  They work in his lab two days a week.  They are rising 89 and 91 and the older of the two served in the US Navy.  He can’t swim.

My quote, as you might expect, is from ‘Moby Dick’.  In Chapter One our narrator, Ishmael remarks to us ‘Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded together’.  I have never faulted him that assertion.

Truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land

Those of you familiar with my nonsense will know that I refer to my spouse as The Husband with Two Brains or HB². But he has another moniker, one that arose when he wasn’t even in the same country as the protagonist, let alone the same room.

Some while ago, probably 6 months after I moved to France, I was taking coffee with Raymond (adopt French accent, for he is indeed a proud Frenchman). Raymond came into world of HB² quite by chance some 20 years ago. A knock on his office door, a frantic colleague needing help with someone he suspected to be a Frenchman who had appeared uninvited in the lab. Under gentle interrogation it transpired that Raymond had spent all his savings on a single air fare to New York in pursuit of an Astronomy Professor that he particularly admired. He being, at the time, a student and general helper at the Astronomy faculty in Nice. Picked up by the Police wandering aimlessly, he somehow persuaded them to put him on the Amtrak to Boston from where he found his way to Harvard and there the story brought him into my husband’s orbit. Struck by his tenacity, his extraordinary affinity with the night-sky, which is akin to the ancient astronomers who first mapped and tried to understand the world beyond our globe, and touched by his desire to learn, my husband took him in and found him work in his lab. Eighteen months later he returned to France to complete a degree having finally accepted that to be taken seriously in the world of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Cosmology and all the attendent highbrow orbits he fancied dabbling in, he must have a degree. Since that time, Raymond remains devoted to Two Brains and I would suggest with some reason.

Back to the café where I had enjoyed a coffee and a chat with the same Raymond and asked his advice. I was concerned about my husband at the time for reasons I now fail to remember – living lives separated by 3,000 miles nurtures anxiety, or at least that has been my experience. As we stood to say our au revoirs, Raymond clasped me by the shoulders and, as he faire les emphatic bises (the air-kiss-kiss we do in France but with supplementary vigour to impart fortitude), declared that my husband is really un cochon rouge – a red pig. I queried this with a smile intended to make me the fool and a gentle ‘quoi?’ and he repeated ‘il est un petit cochon rouge’ – so in fact not just any red pig , but a small red pig. My husband stands almost 6′ and though of light and lean frame is not one to ever be described as little, particularly in France where most men are of, let’s say more concise hauteur. Including Raymond. To be doubly belt and braces sure that I understood him Raymond then announced in English ‘he is a red pig, a small red pig’.

Later that evening on the phone to The Brains I asked him, having Googled colloquial, slang and vernacular French all afternoon in vain. I enquired in a roundabout Winnie the Pooh sort of casual way what calling someone un cochon rouge or indeed un petit cochon rouge might mean. The answer came back ‘red pig or little red pig’. So not helpful at all. Accordingly spurred by what had now become an obsessive need to understand, I made a full confession, including sharing my troubled mind over he who owns both brains and was subjected to a stunned and complete silence. The identical stunned silence it turned out that Raymond employed a few weeks later when asked what he had meant by calling The Brains a red pig. He claimed he had said ‘un petit cochon rose’ and meant that my husband is more sensitive than he lets on. Less macho, less girder-built. I can firmly report that he did NOT. No sir. Not. At. All. I heard him entirely distinctly and he called my husband a little RED pig. Of course it has stuck. It begged to and would have been dreadfully rude to ignore it.

Therefore, when staying in Boothbay Harbor, Maine as recommended by my blogging friend ‘The Weird Guy with a Dog’ whom I wholeheartedly urge you to check out, and confronted with this wingèd porcine outside a pretty store selling eccentric ironwork, I was minded to abduct it but made do with a photograph for now. I perfectly intend to own it when we have a house to put it on – after all who can resist such a wondrous hog, seemingly dancing in the air, gleeful cheeks a-puffing, perky ears a-flapping and that tail uplifted with such blithe abandon. Nothing at all like my husband but portraying perfectly the joie de vivre I suspect we all aspire to and with the added advantage of telling you which way the wind blows. It is a rapturous porker, a piggy I will dream of until I return to make it my very own. I was inclined to share this story by the Weekly Photo Challenge prompt this week ‘Rare’ – if it piques your interest, you can see a sensational selection of entries here.

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PS: The quote is Martin Luther, Priest, Scolar, questioner and reformer ‘A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land’. Raymond has been a good and faithful servant to The Brains these more than twenty years and as you will discover when I write more of him is surely one of the rarest of birds you will encounter in a lifetime. Actually Luther was uncommonly fond of his rare birds giving the accolade to wise princes and even more to upright ones. That would probably apply today though to politicians rather than princes, I would suggest.

A Frozen Bean

As I kiss au revoir to The Bean who is flying back to Boston with Two Brains whilst I fly to the UK to spend time with family and friends, it seemed only polite to re-post an early blog from her. Rest assured she is working hard on her transatlantic flying blog. After all when you are a jet-setting Bean it is your duty to share your wisdom with the masses ….

Half Baked In Paradise

I am a dog.  My needs are simple.  Food (not necessarily dog-specific food), a bed (actually three beds – one up, one down and one in the car) and exercise.  In return I give total devotion and protection from the evil cat next door.  Serious  … it might look harmless but it’s actually extremely dangerous which is why I must attack it.

Today I want to tell you about snow.  I did not ask to come to this place (which took what felt like my whole life to get to and, even though I am small, I was squishelled in the car so tightly that to move risked the whole thing bursting on the peage) but I really do like it here.  I get to run around loads, I have discovered that I don’t mind getting wet and I rather like the snow.

Snow is white and it is…

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I’ve got nobody to hug – I’m such an ugly bug

I’m not an ugly bug. I am a really really ridiculously GOOD-looking dog.  A dog with a serious message to share.   I am The Bean.

I may look like a handbag dweller (I am Metrically less than 4 kilos which makes me Imperially 8 and a half pounds) but I am feisty and fit.

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In order to keep my sleek appearance  I take a lot of exercise.  I walk many miles a week with my humans – mostly my mummy (because he is busy doing something called ‘bringing home the bacon’ although in truth I have not seen any evidence of this bacon, to which I am very partial) but bestly with both of them.  We walk and hike on trails here in the USA just like we do in Europe.

The winter here in New England has been unusually mild.  I am grateful for this fact.  I like snow but I am told that sometimes it falls in metres rather than inches and being quite economic in the leg I would soon be unable to walk at all.  We had some of the deep stuff but mostly it was the sort of snow I am used to and I had plenty of fun diggering and snuffling on my walks.

But now it is really quite Springy here and this is the point of me hijacking my mummy’s blog.  I got a tick.  I didn’t feel it.  It just sat on my back which is black.  Then it started to grow – at first my mother thought I had some sort of blemish.  She can be exceptionally stupid.    Obviously a dog as beauteous as I has NO blemishes.  These little blighters sit on leaves and blades of grass and wait for a likely victim (they call it a host but surely a host invites people to the party and I did not invite any ticks to mine).  They can crawl but they cannot leap or fly.

By the time my retarded people realised what it was, several days had passed and it was Sunday with no vets except emergency ones  open.  So they did what all humans do and they Googled.  I don’t really know what Googling is but it seems to be regarded as a fast track to wisdom.  Personally,  I prefer to use my nose.  I’m a dog – it’s what we do.   My daddy was satisfied to discover that his method is the right one.   You take tweezers and make sure you pull it hard and straight without pinching the skin.  But mummy was insistently maverick.  She had found an article written by someone who suggested something unbelievable.  My daddy was mistrustful.  But he agreed to try it.  Probably in the interests of shutting her up.   When he was deciding on a career many aeons ago, he considered being a surgeon.  He did a very passable impersonation of having trained thus as he got ready for the operation.  Sterilised tweezers were laid on the table for the inevitable moment when she was proved wrong and he was proven right and he had to operate with pincers as he had first suggested.  He donned blue surgical gloves and I was taken upon mummy’s knee (which I like very much) and stroked tenderly whilst she held my head in a vice like grip lest my teeth got the better of me and decided to nip.  Which I have to own up, they occasionally do.  Under stress, you understand.  Like the time when someone tried to sit on me when I was a puppy – I was under a cushion and they forgot to check – I was extremely small and the posterior bearing down on me was extremely large.  I had no choice.  Anyway, he  started to rotate the critter quite rapidly with his pointy finger.  His face had incredulity virtually tatooed on it and he was clearly just going through the motions to keep her quiet, so imagine his amazement when after about a minute the tick leapt off me.  Maybe it was dizzy with all the whirling although I don’t think ticks have ears so that can’t be right.  Or maybe it just didn’t like the sensation of being whirled but whatever it was, it jumped leaving no bits of itself in me although it had made a crater in my skin to sup my sanguine fluid out.  Which is extremely rude for an uninvited guest.

And to prove the point that we weren’t fantasizing, two days later I got another one (purely in the interests of research you will understand) and the people did the same trick again and after about a minute it simply flung itself off me.

Daddy put the  tick  into a pot full of something called Gin and covered it with clingfilm.  Mummy says Gin is  also called mothers ruin – well it ruined this mother.  After several days it was very definitely a dead tick.  I don’t know if it was helplessly drunk before it’s demise – I am not that well acquainted with tick habits and I don’t intend to enlighten myself further.

The day after the first tick was removed my daddy rang my mummy and said he was going to the hospital.  He had removed a tick from himself after a run and left it wrapped in paper in a freezer bag in the kitchen.  His work people told him not to take any chances.  He asked mummy to take a picture and send it to him so the hospital could identify it.  I don’t really understand how they do these things – I just know how to pose for pictures and I know it makes them smile so I have become something of an expert at it because it usually generates pats and treats.

Daddy’s tick was a Deer Tick.  My tick was a North American Dog Tick.  I think this is a bad name because clearly no North American dog actually wants to be associated with these vile beasties.  They steal our blood.   Deer ticks carry Lyme Disease.  This is a very bad disease and it can kill people.  It can also affect dogs.   My daddy is fine because the hospital gave him antibiotics but he did have the start of a bullseye blemish where it had started to bite him.  This is a sign that the tick is infectious.

 

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Deer Tick

My people now spray themselves with DEET and their clothes too.  They went to the hunting store to get some.  The hunting store is full of stuffed animals.  I did not go with them.  I do not want to be stuffed.  They also annointed me with anti-tick drops which last a month.  I despise these.  I have them inflicted on me in France where my Vet refuses to believe that they hurt me very badly.  Because I can’t talk human (though I bark very eloquently if you speak dog) I can’t explain what the problem is and they say that my skin doesn’t have any signs of anything bad.  But I really really NO like.  I try extremely hard to rub the stuff off.  Therefore, they used trickery by getting me in the car (which I love), taking me to the running trail (which I love) and with my guard down they squoze it on me and then took me for a long, reasonably fast, run.  Each time I tried to roll they distracted me and by the time I got back I was so tired I had forgotten it.  Until next month.  Sometimes being a dog is very very hard.  This is why I have to have a cupboard full of snacks.  Because my life is tough.  It’s a dogs life ….

PS:  The title is from one of my mummy’s favourite childhood songs – Burl Ives ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’.  Interestingly even the bugs seem not to have invited ticks to the party ….

 

Whether they had one or not, upon thars

These cows are blended cows.  Not cows that have been put in a blender – that would be grisly and hopefully illegal.  These are half and halfs and the palest are known as jaunes (yellows).  The ancient cow of Cantal is the Salers.  They were originally black and you still find blacks amongst them.  They are celebrated and fêted and look as though they have migrated from Spain to avoid being Matador fodder.  The more familiar Salers these days is a ruddy red – deep auburn and hardy.  And pronged with splendid Harley Davidson handlebar horns.  They are emblematic of their place.  Their rich creamy milk goes to make the many cheeses for which the region is renowned – most commonly Salers itself, the ubiquitous Cantal, St Nectaire and  Bleu d’Auvergne.  Their meat is prized in the region and in Paris too – in fact if you visit the Cinquieme Arrondissment you will find that in addition to being the Latin quarter it is also a veritable hive of restaurants specialising in produce from Cantal including wonderful dishes based on Salers beef and veal.  These cows are bovine A-listers in our locale.  But some farmers,  breed them with the great white  Charolais, themselves beef royalty the world over.  This breeding produces the yellows.  They too are prized – their meat is sublime and the price is good.  It is called progress by some, meanwhile the purists  frown.   I stand neutral.  I’m not a farmer, not a native of Cantal and have no right whatsoever to judge.  I just  love cows.  I find them to be rather harmonious creatures.  So they seem appropriate sitting in their stunning landscape under a rudely blue sky on December 28th last year as my illustration of Harmony the word named as prompt this week for the Weekly Photo Challenge.   I think you will agree that the panarama too is pretty easy on the eye – the grassy Plateau de Limon looking  across to the Cèzallier mountains beyond and in between the snail like crater of one of the numerous volcanoes that gave the region it’s personality all those aeons ago.

But wait!  There is one thing  – if you look at the foreground you will see diggings.  Not the minings of moles but mole rat shovellings  … these pesky rodents have multiplied alarmingly in Cantal in the very recent past and they have become a tremendous nuisance.  The question is can we live harmoniously with these critters or should steps be taken to eradicate them?  I’ll leave you to ponder the damage they do to this wholly agricultural territory versus their right to peaceful occupation.

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PS:  The title is from The Sneetches by Dr Seuss, a story of creatures identical in every way to one another except for the stars on the bellies of the entitled ones … the moral is elementary – after all what hope have we of saving the planet if we can’t co-exist with our own without dwelling on what they have or have not upon thars!

Won’t you join the dance?

Out walking on Saturday after a fresh tumble of damp sticky snow, we came across this ravishing creature.  It has the look  of a crustacean feeling its way across the sand and brought to mind instantly the creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen  who creates fantastical kinetic sculptures which echo the most outlandish elements of beast, bird and bug.   Life imitating art as the photo challenge requests this week …

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PS:  As for me, I was in Wonderland with  Alice, listening intently and trying not to put a foot in the soup as the Mock Turtle tells the story of the beauteous Lobster Quadrille.  But try as I did, I couldn’t find a partner for this shrimp – perhaps I should join the dance – after all, it is what gave me the title.

 

Joie de vivre

Here is The Bean in a bag.  A Bean bag if you will.  She looks so full of life, so vibrant.  Which she is.  A positive ball of energy madly running around nose to the ground sucking up whatever scents are assaulting her snout with a joie de vivre that leaves us breathless much of the time.  This particular day was excessively hot so we popped her in a handbag to save her overheated, fatigued legs.  We are careful of this Bean.

Last September we made the trip from home in the Cantal to Paris (about five and a half hours by car).  I had an appointment with the US Embassy and in deference to my tense disposition at the thought of the impending Green Card interview, my husband booked us into our favourite Hotel des Dames du Pantheon.  We have stayed before and The Bean is treated like royalty and always referred to by name by the excellent and delightful fully multi-lingual staff.  As ever we were given a room with a ‘vue impenetrable’ of the Pantheon in all it’s beauteous glory.  I had an appointment with an Embassy endorsed physician (there are two of them in Paris) for my medical.  I was nervous.  I’m not very good at medical for me.  During my morning away being examined by this charming Irishman, having chest X-rays and blood tests and vaccinations for things I have never heard of and am sure I certainly don’t want to be acquainted with, The Bean reclined regally in our room.  She had taken the air of the Cinquieme Arrondissement before breakfast, enjoyed a little smackerel of brekkie stashed in a napkin and smuggled back to the room for her delectation and was entirely happy to be fully relaxed and generally recumbant.  In the afternoon we walked.  She doesn’t get to run much off the lead in Paris but people are largely very dog-friendly and she is always happy to take a petit café an apero or better still, a meal with us because folk have a habit of slipping her a pat and a morcel of something nice.

The following day we made our way by car (which had hitherto been parked in the underground carpark nearest the hotel) to the Place de la Concorde.  We were a little late out of the starting gate and had to be at the Embassy promptly at One to get through security.  These were our emphatic and clear instructions and we did not want to put a foot wrong.  We had about 49 minutes to park the car,sneak a quick lunch, return to the car to deposit dog and get in line for the main event.  Lunch would need to be somewhere around Fauberg St Honoré which runs along the back of the Embassy and about 5 minutes walk from the car.  We hot-footed it, taking lengthy and rapid strides towards our goal of a likely lunchery.  The street is fairly narrow and we were stuck behind a posse of rather bulky people walking excessively slowly.  So I put my  foot on the imaginary throttle and powered past, The Bean (the Athletic Bean as she perceives herself) gambolled along behind me.  It must be noted that I was at this point in my life uptight to boil-over point.  We had been waiting for two years for this moment, jumping through a seemingly endless series of hoops and I had absolutely no idea what questions I was going to be asked.  It is rather akin to being asked to interview for a job but with no job description to guide the prep.  As I passed the entourage a woman’s voice rang and twang in my ears ‘oh that poor little thing being dragged and choked near to death’.  I snapped.  The world slowed down as I span round like Wonderwoman and eyes flashing squared up to the offender.  ‘She is neither dragged nor choked so I suggest you SHUT UP!’ I spat – my clipped, polished and perfectly enunciated English worthy of Maggie Smith at her most pithy.   The woman was clearly appalled at this deranged firebrand addressing her.  I imagine she had assumed I was French.  Assume as my youngest daughter reminds us makes an ASS out of U and Me.  For my own part I have only just recovered my equilibrium, so livid was I at the unjustness of the flung accusation.  It was only as I glided on my way, sure in the knowledge that I had put that wench squarely in her place, that it occurred to me. She being American and in the street that runs down one side of the Embassy building that she might, might easily be the same person who would interview me for the fabled Green Card that very afternoon …. mercifully this was not to be an occasion to add to my overstuffed portfolio of ‘oh bugger’ moments.  If she is on the Embassy staff she at least wasn’t confronted by me twice that day.  But not for the first time, I wished I was that person who has the ability to just waft by situations.  Lunch did not slip down easily as the lump in my throat expanded.  The Bean, yet again was the winner …. she rather likes saumon fumé au fromage frais de chêvre though I believe she was less than enamoured of the salade.

Bean Bag!

Bean Bag!

PS:  I post this in response to the Daily Press Weekly Photo Challenge entitled Vibrant.  For me vibrancy is about a state of being not simply about vivid colour (though that is a reasonable interpretation of the word and many have quite brilliantly here) and The Cruelly Treated Bean is vibrancy incarnate.

I will sit on this style and continue to smile

I live in an area where the standard quip is that we have three cows to every human.  Most recognisable and the symbol of the Cantal are the Salers with their Harley Davidson horns and rich reddish brown coats.  In fact the original Salers were black and you do occasionally see a raven coated throwback still.  They are prized and revered and considered to be lucky.  And indeed they are fortunate since you won’t find them going to slaughter in a hurry.

But this beauty is actually a Ferrondaise.  There used to be far more of them but for reasons that they have so far failed to divulge to me (remember I speak like a Spanish cow not a French one) they dwindled.  Now the great and good of the Auvergne are encouraging farmers to restock them.  In our village we have an enchanting  farmer who sings lilting songs to his Ferrondaise as he walks them between fields.   The fact that he is missing several teeth does not make him self-conscious and he is happy to stop and pass the lisping time of day and share pearls of wisdom as his cattle casually amble up the main highway through the village. For my part, I don’t sing well though it doesn’t stop me from chirping, warbling and in particularly uninhibited moments positively yodelling which perhaps accounts for the look of disgust in this disgruntled beauty’s rolling eyes as we stopped to snap her.  I offer her to you in response to the Daily Press prompt Eye Spy.  Here are all the other fine offerings laid out for you to enjoy

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PS: The title is Edward Lear.  My mother-in-law lived in his house in Seymour St. London W1 for several years and he became ever more a part of the family tapestry as a result.  His whimsy nonsense, delight in bending and stretching words to his pleasure and seemingly simple illustrations never fail to cheer me.  This one goes thus:

There was an Old Man who said, ‘How
Shall I flee from that horrible cow?
I will sit on this stile,
And continue to smile,
Which may soften the heart of that cow.’

I did not sit on a style, nor did I try to soften her heart – I think she was a lost cause that afternoon though I don’t for a moment think she is horrible.  But then I am not an Old Man ….

Foll de Roll

It was The Venomous Bead who unwittingly reminded me of my father stalking his small children and afterwards his grandchildren and terrifying them as he growled ‘I’m a Troll, Foll de roll’.  This might seem a peculiar introduction to a story but I promise you, it has relevance.  Possibly tenuous.  But a relevance.  The picture was taken on Thursday … Two Brains and I were on our way to a light walk near St Etienne de Chomeil of which more in a later post, and this beauty happened to be in the road wondering slightly desparately  which way to scamper.   We noted that in two days it would probably be a gun rather than a camera  it faced since the hunting season opened here yesterday and we wished it winged feet and guile to avoid the orange and camo-clad hunters who will stalk it til the end of February.  As you can see it fleetly rehearsed its escape across he fields to the nearby woods.

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I’m a Troll?  Folldy Woll?  What the … ?  It’s the story of the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ for the uninitiated.  The Troll that terrifies the goats lives under the bridge and the relevance is this … I have three Billy Goats of my own to tell.

Early summer and The Bean and I walked up on les Orgues de Bort.  We do this more than occasionally and it is a lovely walk.  We see the massifs in the distance and the Dordogne snakes below.

We have passed a field of pygmy goats often and in fact my youngest daughter has insisted that we need stunted goats when we find our forever house.  This day in May I turned a hair-pin bend and came across a baby pygmy in the road.  He didn’t want to be there and was bleating loud, plaintiff and continuous.  All his field mates were helpfully and gustily returning  bleats.  There was a fair amount of traffic on the plateau and I didn’t want a squishered goat so I set about finding his owner.  Simples – there are only a couple of houses.  Cars were bearing down on me so I turned on my hazards (the car was across the road where I had jammed the anchors and leaped out with goat-like agility and it is yellow so frankly unmissable) and walked purposefully to the nearest house.  The goat bleats.  I shout.  In vain as it turns out.  The goat bleats.  I turn tail and walk down the hill aware of the hostile drivers blocked by my car.  They can be forgiven for clearly believing the goatlette is mine.  The Bean leaps out of the car.  I call her manfully to heal and surprisingly she obeys.  The Goat is less obedient so I nip back to the car and grab Bean’s lead thereby reinforcing the illusion that the goat is mine to the increasingly hostile queue of cars.  I noose the goat … the goat continues to bleat.  The Bean trots purposefully at my side clearly cast in her perfect role and I can’t shake Julie Andrews warbling ‘High on a Hill lives a lonely goatherd Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo’ – my obsession with the songs of the Sound of Music is well rehearsed with my children  – in fact it was an effective torture when I wanted to get them swiftly to school as smalls but it proves less effective with actual goats.  Lesson learned.  I knock at the door of the only other house in the vicinity.  A young man answers.  ‘Is this be your Goat?’  I demand in my traditional Spanish Cow French  ‘Mon Dieu –  yes’ he replies (in actual French)  … he grabs it, does not say thank you but is clearly overwhelmingly grateful and rushes off to find out how the devil it managed to break free.  Though not  exactly feted I feel puffed with pride that I have saved this tiny goats life.

That is my first goatee  story.

This Friday my husband took me out for dinner.  We rarely do this – partly because we are rarely together which is not as we wish it to be.  I dressed up.  So did he.  We looked damned fine to be fair.  The Salle de Fete (I have told you this before) is in my garden (actually the garden and the building belong to the village but in my mind they are be mine) …. there was a party brewing.  We stood aside as my young neighbour screeched up the drive in his pick-up … he is young, this is his normal modus.  As he stepped out of the truck complete with kennels on the back, I said ‘the hunting season starts, no?’ and he responded automatically ‘demain’ (tomorrow)  and then I heard it … bleating!  From the kennel on the back of his pick-up there clearly emitted a bleating.  He noted my noting and said ‘it’s my brothers birthday – that’s the party’ (it was his 25th it turns out) …. a strange explanation for what he showed me … two sweet little black and white pygmy goats in luminous orange collars with bells on.  He rushed off wihout further commentary.  We drove out for dinner delicious.  Today I ran into his girlfriend and asked how the party went (the last men were still just about standing and shouting amiably at 7 a.m incidentally) She rolled her eyes magnificently as she told me it was a triumph – apparently the young birthday boy had been led to believe he was getting a pair of hunting dogs for his birthday.  The pygmy goats dressed in their hunting attire were presented to his chagrin and the delight of the assembled gathering.

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So there you have it …. three Billy Goats.  Though none of them Gruff I would give them all a home any day and the deer can have my sanctuary though I fear I have nothing more than wishes and prayers (though I’m not a praying woman) as we embark on the next six months of hunty mayhem across France.

DSCF3616PS:  I took The Bean for a walk in the village today (the first weekend of the season is NOT the time to be out and about walking in the wilds) and a chap bearded me for a chat … down from the Somme he told me he has an Irish Setter with which he hunts.  I asked him why he was not out on this important weekend … it turned out that in the North they started the season last weekend and he had come down to join the frollics at the Salle de Fete – his cousin’s son’s birthday … guess what, he said – they promised him two good hunting dogs and gave him a pair of goats – how hilarious is that? … I didn’t disappoint him by telling him I already knew.