Sunday 13 March 2016

Dirty Roger's pencils

    This month I write to you from a land far-far away across the sea called France. Remember it? It is a place that the Brits spent 500 years trying to invade, mostly unsuccessfully, and are now equally trying to break away from. Quizzically the locals in these parts enquire: 'What is this Brexit of which you speak?' The standard reply is that it is 'Les Rosbif waving the forks at you guys across the channel, again,' which tends to get the conditioned response of a Gallic shrug. And quite right too? If Britain wants to revert back to being a standalone entity, with its meat and two veg, let zem get on with eet, we never liked each other anyway. Of course, to us ex-pats, the issue appears a little more serious. While Britain aspires to cleanse itself of an unsalvageable immigrant problem, the migrants who left its shores may be cut off without so much as a return ferry ticket. This will inevitably inspire each and every one of them to flock to the postal polls out of shameless self interest. Of course, we won't have the slightest idea about what a non-Exit vote will mean to the country of our birth, nor even a pang of sympathy. Let's face it, in times of threat, it is every beard for himself, right? What may surprise you to know is that, for once, I don’t really have an opinion on the issue, for the simple reason is that I, nor anyone else as far as I can tell, can really get any clarity on the subject through the smoke and mirror deception of EU politics. However, my 'ce que sera sera' cavalier attitude seems to spark outrage from everyone around me, insisting that I register my vote right this very minute and that, in a democratic society, 'sitting on the fence will only get a spike up my bottom!' My actual opinion is that we ex-pats chose to leave the mothership for personal reasons, and thus possibly don’t even warrant a vote on the matter at all. And that one got me into hot water faster that a Parisian lobster, again.  
    Moving swiftly on, but not very far, I would like once again to quote from that Sunday Times best-seller: '1000 Years of annoying the French,' by Stephen Clarke. This time it is to underpin the notion that, along with their other conquests, America really should have belonged to the French. It tells a tale of a defrocked priest, Rene La Salle, who in 1682, having set up home in new-found Canada near Montreal, decided to embark on a search for a river that would lead him to China. Yes, obviously this was before the Tom-Tom was invented and was, of course, a notion that would undeniably declare him barking mad. No matter, along with the son of an Italian banker and a couple of dozen French soldiers, he wrapped up warm and trudged off through the snow until he found the Mississippi. There he built a couple of rafts and jumped on board in the hope of turning up in Bejing in time for spring. En route he passed through some rather nice fertile land until he arrived, some 1000 miles later, in the Gulf of Mexico! Eventually realising, due to the lack of Buddhists temples and noodles, that this was not his preferred destination, he decided to claim the lands anyway in the name of King Louis, famously naming its southern state, Louisiana. Due to the lack of phones at the time, La Salle then travelled back up the river to coldest Canada, to send a message back home to Louis Quatorze that he had claimed pretty much most of America as a French colony. Somehow though, and there are various conspiracy theories here, due to a religious cock-up involving some Canadian Jesuit priests, the King considered the message as a prank and replied that La Salle was to stop this pointless exploration of anything south of Lake Ontario if he wished to retain his head. Unlucky? Even our Louis (the pointless pointer) isn’t that stupid!
    Bringing the subject of exploitation of China a little more up to date, I recently read an article about a British entrepreneur who surely has to be knighted for his ingenuity. Discovering that some of China's biggest cities are grossly polluted, he decided to send them some air, in a bottle. Yes, for no less than £80 a time, he is selling jars of fresh air from the English South West and Home Counties and people are actually buying it. When interviewed - and this is the best bit - he said: 'Why not? A few years ago, people thought buying bottled water was madness, and now look at the size of that industry.' You have to admit, there is some logic in there somewhere. And so, here it is, my latest brain-child. Instead of all those town-folk cluttering up the local lanes in a bid to get near some greenery every weekend, they will soon be able to buy some countryside smells online to save them the trip. My catalogue of fresh aromas will start with a basic wild flora and fauna, made from a couple of crushed daffs and a few stale mushrooms, stepping up to 'inspiration of spring' - lamb droppings & grass cuttings - to the top-of-the-range: 'that full farm feeling.' The latter will include a mélange of 'cleaning out the cow shed', 'flooded crop-store' and 'bag of deceased lambs',  and will be accompanied by an 'Archers-like' farmer's soundtrack, complete with swearing!
    Meanwhile, back on the homestead, lambing is now underway here at Chauffour, something that we are quite pleased about if only to prove the fertility of Dirty Roger. Some of you may recall that back in October the immaturity of our new young ram was of a slight concern. Well, to open the batting, Lilly had a triplet which she seems to be managing to rear well enough herself without the intervention of Wendy as a wet nurse. Next up, Edith has, er, another set of triplets and my worry now is that a trend is appearing. So, it turns out, not only did Roger have lead in his pencil after all, but seemingly a whole box of crayons in his satchel as well! Careful what you wish for!

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