Monday 11 March 2013

Fireproof Pope

I have always been of the belief that whatever time of year I lambed the sheep, the weather would turn on me at that specific date. Be it November, Christmas or May, blizzards and tornadoes are always lying in wait to challenge the ovine newborn’s chance of survival to the very limit. And so it is that, on the day the first one hits the ground this year, we have that tornado, or hurricane, or whatever the French call the extremities of Le Vent, to contend with. Although I prefer the sheep to live and lamb outside, we do have the backstop of a 30x10 metre polytunnel for them to shelter out of the rain and snow, if required. Well, we did until last night. Now it is more like a climbing frame, as the entire ‘poly’ part of it departed north at 50 kph. At this moment, I have no idea where it has gone, and only hope it hasn’t reached the main road and gift-wrapped a lorry causing accidental deaths.
The irony of this freak 3 day storm is that we have just arrived back after a couple of months on the Scottish coast, where the wind off the North Sea would normally saw you in half faster that David Copperfield with a Husqvarna, but which was positively calm this year. Not only that, but this wind is coming from the South East which is very unusual for us down here – hence it made its way into the opening of the afore-mentioned polytunnel. The only thing it has in its favour is that it is quite warm, perhaps due to the fact it is arriving from the Sahara, and is very handy for drying the washing. Whoops, looks like that has gone north as well. Maybe my England rugby shirt will be in Paris for the weekend’s annual game, before me!
On the subject of sheep, I am happy to report that the famed Daisy-Deathwish is not only still alive – against some quite slim odds - but has this week produced a lamb of her very own. To begin with she was none too sure about it and kept running away from the poor thing every time it stood up, but now she has at least accepted responsibility for the gangly creature. Meanwhile, her mother has produced 2 lambs of which she is only able to rear one, the other one now relying on us with a milk-bottle. Hopefully we can someone locally to take pity on it and relieve us of the tiresome 4 times daily feeds.
In our few months absence we seem to have once again accumulated some more damn cats at Chauffour. Why two more grey stripy felines have rocked up here, I have no idea – maybe because it has been dog-free during that time - but I wish they would turn the noise down if they are going to stay around. One of them - definitely a tom – growls like a grisly-bear at all the others for hours, while another – I think female – sits in the rafters and swears profusely at the dogs. Occasionally, when they are done jibing at each other, they embark on a mass brawl in the attic, screaming blue murder while they hack lumps out of one-another with their scissor-hands. I am not sure if our own two get involved in this wrangle as well, or whether they just spectate from their seat in the stands. I would suggest it’s like a scene from Fight Club – except that the first rule of Fight Club is ‘you do not talk about Fight Club!’
Meanwhile, Louis (the pointless pointer) hasn’t quite worked out which ones to chase first. In fact a dog-with-two-cats is even more confused than the proverbial dog with two other appendages!  
I suppose at some stage these animals may all get around to living in harmony, and will diplomatically elect one of them as the top-cat in the conclave. Perhaps we should keep an eye out for white smoke appearing from the chimney in the next few months, before normal silence is resumed.
Coincidentally, isn’t it great to see that even the Pope isn’t above the laws of ridicule that are commonly referred to as Health and Safety. Yes, over the last few weeks, a little man with a hard-hat and highly important clipboard has instructed that, if Cardinals are to sit around playing with fire in the Sistine chapel, then they had better do it safely or they will damn well be reported to a higher authority. So it was that we saw a new chimney being fitted – by fire-fighters, according to the press -  to comply with the latest safety regulations. One assumes that, inside the highly secret conclave, they have all been kitted out with flame-retardant high-viz cassocks, fire-proof gloves and highly sensitive smoke detectors, as well as being rehearsed in fire-drills by him upstairs? There’s a thought? Who stands in as fire-monitor while there is no Pope in situ? Does he get secretly elected by 115 cardinals too?
This brings me neatly round to another absurd rule which is just about to be enforced here in France. Yes, with nothing better to do, our new leader has now instigated yet another law in order to protect ourselves from ourselves: that of having smoke detectors fitted in every household from 2015. The entirety of the new ruling is as yet unclear, with debates still raging about the number of devices required in each household. At present, it is thought that only one would be required, but the positioning of it will be determined by a fire-officer – in a hard-hat. A suggestion that it be fitted directly next to the open-fireplace has not been ruled out although other sources seem pretty sure it should be above the electric-toaster or over the barbeque. Inevitably, a further law prohibiting householders to smoke cigarettes in their own homes is just around the corner, for fear of it setting off the alarms. Apparently, 33 million of new ‘Joan-of-Arc’ devices will be supplied by French manufacturer – ‘Hollande & Hollande’ - over the next two years!
Yes, chivalry is a French word!

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