Moge and Bols
Dan the Dog
Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier
The White Twins
MOGE AND BOLS
Madame Moge's Moineau
Madame greets me with a chirp of birdsong coming from the bakery. Her smile has not lost its bounce. She has been visiting her family in the foothills of Mont Blanc, and brought back a sparrow. I can't see the cage behind the curtain. All heaven and me are in a rage. What a terrible thing to do to a bird on the wing. But I merely remark, 'No wonder sparrows are disappearing from the streets'. As someone else enters, it begins to sing again.
Every morning the 'pi pi' bobs Madame out to get me my baguette. She is so cheerful it's impossible to unburden my mind. 'Did you find it in the snow?' I say, conciliatorily.
'Yes. The poor thing was frozen and we hung it behind the stove to defrost.'
Wild life is for the wild. I disapprove of domestic pets, dogs particularly. I want to cry havoc when I see a good hunting breed degraded to being only allowed out twice a day under supervision. Birds should be left free to fight it out with cats. I decide to go to another boulangerie.
At the Fourgas, I'm greeted by a bawling baby, and a sullen woman. The ceremony of the bread is without politesse, and the dough comes in a van from Perpignan. So I return to Moge's. The 'tweet, tweet' tells me the moineau is glad to see me. I think of saying I've been on a holiday, bird watching. But the smile in Madame's bounce tells me she knows everything.
A commando raid on the back of the bakery is a Greenpeace fantasy, and I reconcile myself to the bird's fate. Anyway, it is in good hands. Maybe it even prefers the warm friendly environment to the Alps with its icy mistral. Who's to know? I accustom myself to the greeting and forget about its ecological implications.
One morning I ask Madame if I might see the moineau, and she takes out a rubber duck from under the counter and says the ventriloquism works by magnetism.
Out in the street, the starlings mock me from the trees. I feel like throwing a stone.
Monsieur Bol's Cats
Every evening now at eight twenty
I miss the tap-stick of Monsieur Bols stop
at my wild garden to feed the ferals
with the leftovers of a hot dinner.
I am watching from my study window
and see his high head move the fence along
as he parades to deposit his sac
in the poubelle. Nothing better to do,
I intercept his return to hear about
the latest bibelots that have been dumped,
while the cats love up to his bad leg.
When I tell this to his bickering friend,
and master of Chaos (but not his wine),
he says 'tant pis' and gives the dog a kick.
Ohé! Mister Red-face-with-the-bad-back, what has happened to you? The hot sack that you put in our way on your nightly totters to the poubelle has spoilt us for scavengering. Titbits from your dinner have weaned us off old dry teats and reduced a generation of ferals into nitwit pets. Come back and give us our dindins.
Of course, you patronised us with your mou-mou coaxings, and we had to purr for you. But it was a small price to pay for that ragout of wild boar in black sauce. Unlike most people, you knew that cats in a fishing village don't crave fish. Though you were wrong about the octopus. Its name does not make it an exception. Your red meat has done wonder for our whiskers. When we lick them they spark.
Now it's back to snapping at gnats and killing the odd thrush. Thanks to you, we will never be up to rats or chickens. If it's your legs, there is a broken down wheelchair in the port you might wish to have reclaimed. If not, resentment will guarantee you won't be forgotten. Our litters will scratch your memory to feathers, like the wings of a singing bird.
The space for parking the car has bloomed into a garden.
A fence has sprung up, and the gravel softened to topsoil.
The hawthorne hedge behind sheds blossom in the tramontane,
so the scrub grass is flaky white. New shrubs begin to burdgeon -
jasmine and honeysuckle, transplanted from the mountains,
oleander and bougainville, gifted by concerned neighbours,
and the yellow broom which throws its kisses at passing poets.
The wild life is grateful for the return to nature. The hum
of bees by day, and midges as the sun goes down, augers
the gold and blood of banquets everybody can attend.
The wooden bench abandoned by the town council is in place
at an angle to Rue Waldeck Rousseau to deflect the street lights.
I sit there in the small hours sneezing out all the functions
of the soul (pace Pascal). And the sky is my oyster.