It’s been a little over six months since we moved to France. The actual anniversary day of us moving into our new home went by without us noticing. We were probably absorbed by the multitude of things we need to do on a daily basis. The pleasant winter activities of feeding the chickens and letting them out for the day and feeding the five goats have been taken over by worries about cutting the grass that is not far from being knee-high, getting rid of the brambles, clearing the path towards the river, finishing the renovations at the gite, decking the concrete base that we inherited from the previous owners outside the cottage, organising a wedding (which is not until September, but the space needs some planning), getting a temporary above the ground swimming pool, weeding the entrance, not to mention basic things like doing the laundry or working late into the night (as I luckily have a contract that will generate the much-needed money to finish the renovations to the gite and get it ready for the season ahead). I mean, it’s getting serious around here.
And what do we do to keep focused and carry on with the plan? We bring a trickster into our midst!
A couple of weeks ago, my husband has been emotionally blackmailed into getting another goat from Jeff. He didn’t have enough pasture, he said. Could we take one more? OK, said my husband, and the next day we went to his farm where we discovered that the said goat had twin babies and they came as a package. But who can say no to tiny baby goats especially as you’ve held them in your arms whilst they got their tiny little balls ringed by skilled Jeff. So we agreed to take the three goats. Jeff tried to flog us more fauna, such as geese, peacocks and furry hens, but we stood our ground.
‘We’ll only take the goats’, we said.
‘Maybe just a kitten?’ insisted Jeff. ‘Nice grey kitten from my friend Sylvie.’
‘I like grey kittens,’ I said and it appears that Jeff took that as a yes. ‘Come next week to take them,’ he said, as we left his farm.
When we got home, Alistair regretted the whole thing. ‘What are we doing?’ he said. ‘We don’t need more goats. We have plenty of them and not enough space for three more. Why did I agree to take more goats when all I ever wanted was a dog?’
We planned to get a dog at some point, when we could afford the 800 euros a Labrador or a Retriever entailed. Or even a Patou (also known as Grand Pyrenees). Plus, we were perfectly happy with Heatchliff, the cat, and he was more than happy to be left alone, be fed and sleep to his heart’s content in a variety of places of his choosing.
In the meantime, we kept accumulating other farm animals. But it had to stop!
The next day, Alistair woke up feeling ill, but insisted we kept with our plan to go to the vide-greniere in Salies de Bearn in the hope of finding some antique bargains. After half an hour of looking around for the place we finally got there (we noticed the French don’t spend much effort in signposting the vide-greniers so we always end up asking a local for directions – this time we went inside the Thermes and asked at the reception for the much-needed guidance). When we got to the vide-greniere it was slim pickings. Which was a shame, as perusing antique markets is one of our most favourite activities. We found a couple of bottles of Ricard to add to our growing collection, but nothing else. However, as we were leaving, we noticed a family with a little girl and four puppies by the exit door. I asked what were they doing with the puppies and the man said they were looking to give them away.
‘How much?’ I asked.
‘However much you would like to contribute.’
I opened my purse and gave the man a 50 euros note. ‘That’s all I have,’ I said and then turning to Alistair: ‘We’re taking a puppy.’
He wanted to protest but was hardly able to, shaking and feeble as he was. So we got back to the car, the dog fast asleep in Alistair’s arms, as I drove us back home.
His name is Filou, which in French means Trickster. Needless to say he is a Trickster by name and by nature, being often found in plant pots, chasing the mop, eating grass and moss, chewing sticks and the next-door neighbour’s dog tail and smelling shoes. But he’s made his dad one happy boy.
It’s only been six months since we moved to France and we now have one cat, one dog, five goats and ten chickens. We are also expecting Murray’s two horses and one TBC donkey to join us. Sometimes I have to stop and wonder how did we end up from a flat in Streatham with a miniature garden and one cat to ten acres of land, two houses and an animal farm? Everything is moving at interstellar speed.
I know that getting the dog was a bit of an impulse purchase. Like getting a lipgloss by the till because it’s there and it’s only 50p. But I like to think it was Fate that crossed our paths when Alistair declared his deep desire for a dog. He was waiting for us by the door at the arguably most hard to find vide-greniere and this is the Year of Dog after all. If you believe in that sort of stuff!
The Trickster may not be of help much with the chores (in fact, we have to lock him away to do any hoovering or mopping around the house) but he has brought us much joy. Heathcliff is underwhelmed by this intruder’s presence and it does break my heart to see him hardly ever leaving the bedroom, but I hope him and Filou will come to a natural mutual understanding of ignoring each other, in a not very distant future. We do have ten acres of land after all.
But we really must stop acquiring any further live stock until existing ones pass away.
(PS: If you’re wondering what happened to the three goats and the kitten, well, we managed to wiggle our way out of it. Jeff didn’t mind us not taking the goats as there were plenty of other people he could give them to and, as Fate would have it, a friend who overheard my conversation with Jeff happened to know someone in search for a kitten. All is well when it ends well :))