At the End of the Day

One of my neighbours here (we shall call him Monsieur Groslard) has what you might call an eclectic business model. He sells land, he keeps animals, he rents bulls out to stud, he trains dogs, he distributes cheese, and he imports women.

I’m willing to bet that the last item there was the one that got your attention. Mali is a francophone African country with which Groslard is (for reasons I don’t really want to know about) quite familiar. The woman-importing thing has stopped now, because the Sons of Allah are busy improving that country in the manner to which we’ve all become accustomed, but must not mention for fear of being accused by London Mayor Khan of being bloodthirsty Crusaders.

He’s not a slave-trader (Groslard, not Khan) as far as I know (Khan, not Groslard); rather, he marries these ladies, brings them home and then – when they tire of him or vice-versa – they leave. This seems not to bother him unduly.

Every commune in France has its fly-boy – and where I abide, Groslard is it. One is warned not to do business with him: he is pas sur, un peu méchant, un coquin – an unreliable, shifty rascal.

And yet somehow, over twenty years, we have scratched together a sort of understanding. Twelve years ago, two of his dogs escaped and got stuck down a badger hole. My then wife ( a dog-mad person) insisted I become a human JCB and dig them out. This act of press-ganged valour earned me Christian Groslard’s eternal respect.

The problem is, all of Groslard’s animals escape at one time or another. His fences would not have passed muster in the Third Reich: British officers interned by Christian would have had no need of tunnels, as they could quite simply have pushed at the rotten wood, and – armed only with gloves – gripped the flimsy barbed wire in order to gain freedom.

Every year, I get invaded by his escapees – goats mainly, and the odd independent sheep. Every year, my neighbour and I have the same conversation about these gluttons eating my mirabelles, plums, apples and pears. Every year, he sends the latest African import up to the far end of his field to mend the fences. It’s become a sort of traditional ritual, like Maypole dancing or rolling Easter Eggs….August is here, time for the sound of goat-bells in my garden: a reassurance that everything is normal, and there is no New about it.

That said, it is less than reassuring when one takes to the hammock of a boiling afternoon, only to be woken later by the chomping of bovine teeth on the leaves of a nearby fig tree.

I’m sort of OK with goats (they can turn nasty, but not often) but I do draw the line at your bull. I am not, and have never wanted to be, a matador. This has nothing to do with principles, and everything to do with cowardice: these mothers have horns that can rearrange your internal organs fatally, and they enjoy an outlook on life which insists that, if they’re in a field, it’s theirs until something bigger than them suggests otherwise.

So today, Monsieur Groslard was summoned, and turned up in the Nissan stretched transporter with a view to recapturing his prize bovine ejaculator. It says a lot about the truculence of bulls that he turned up with two burly locals.

It’s 7.50 pm CET, and already the kitchen-garden side of the house is in shade. Autumn is coming. Within weeks the Covid19 Second Wave screeching will be at fever pitch.

In the context of natural science’s reality, the 3%’s New Normal is a limp joke. This gives me hope.

Sleep well.