Victor…A Word…

john-piper-mosnac-dordogne.jpgOn a wet afternoon in western France a gendarmerie van pulls into the farmyard…its sole occupant gets out shouting

Hoy, Victor! A word!

Hello Jean-Yves! What brings you here? I’m in the barn…just a minute while I shut the doors and we’ll have a drink…

No, don’t shut the doors, Victor….it’s about what you’ve got in that barn that I’ve come about.

On your own, I see.

Yes, I’m trying to do you a good turn….let me see what you’ve got there. Yes, just as I thought!
Victor, you’ll have to get rid of it…put it back where you found it…and quickly.
There’s all hell to pay.
Everyone’s out looking for it and they’ve even taken us off speed traps and breathalysers.

Must be serious then!

Yes, it is!
Apart from you having stolen property in your barn…what the blazes do you want with a bulldozer that size? You haven’t got enough land to make it worthwhile – and how did you get it here from the new bypass anyway?

Ah! Typical!
Us farmers are getting robbed all ways…..diesel syphoned off, animals killed in our own fields, tools stolen, irrigation pipes nicked – even whole crops gone!
Look at that poor guy who had his whole field of garlic nicked….and the forty hectares of grapes that went missing overnight….not to speak of combine harvesters vanishing into thin air!
And where are the Gendarmerie? Breathalysing some poor sod who’s been out drowning his sorrows!

Well it’s not my fault….only a few more years to the pension, thank goodness.
It’s not what I joined for I can tell you…

No, I know Jean-Yves.
When you started there were still bars in your stations – and you were a hell of a lot nicer for it! I reckon that the rot started when they closed down them down.
You turned nasty about then…applying the law to people you knew…
Still, what I mean is that us farmers can have our stuff nicked left, right and centre…but let some big roadworks contractor miss his bulldozer – you’d think he’d got enough, wouldn’t you? – you’re all on red alert!
No wonder we’ll all be voting Le Pen in the elections!

That’s as maybe…but I can tell you that a big firm like Crapule gets a lot more attention in high places than you lot. Might be different if you were cereal boys…in the big league…but you’re not!
The firm thought the ‘dozer had been whipped off to Germany….like a lot of other stuff. You boys are lucky you’re not nearer the frontier.

Clever buggers, the Germans.

What do you mean?

Well, they worked out they didn’t have to have a war to get what they wanted this time….they thought up the E.U.
See, in the war they had to go round requisitioning…this way government – our government – does it for them.
They get cheap veg and flog expensive cars.
Bit like Vichy, really, but more efficient. Very hot on efficiency the Germans…

Come off it Victor! You’re not telling me the Germans are using the E.U. to nick combine harvesters and fields of garlic…

No, but they run the show, don’t they! Remember when Hollande got in and what he was going to say to Merkel?
Turned out to be ‘Jawohl’, didn’t it…
No, the E.U. lets these crooks from Transylvania in and they nick the stuff, take it to Germany and the Germans get it on the cheap…
Clever buggers, like I said.

Never mind all that! You’ll have to get it back there…or dump it somewhere…and sharpish!

Well, we’ve finished with it now anyway, so I’ll get Laurent to run it into Ste. Conasse tonight, dump it round the back where it’s dark. Just make sure you’re not out breathalysing between here and there.

No, all right…but who is ‘we’? You and Laurent?

No! There’s me, of course, and Jean-Antoine and Popaul…here, you’re not taking notes!

No, just interested to know what’s going on. That’s what policing used to be about…
So what the blazes were you three geriatrics up to? Put together you don’t have enough land to make that ‘dozer worthwhile…

That’s where you’re wrong!
It’s the eco tax…you know, the one on lorries that comes in in January. Going to be taxed by the lorry…tollgates going up all over the main roads…
Gerard over at the roads department in Benitierville put us wise! There’s going to be one between us and the abattoir! It’s only down the road…but we’ll have to pay as if we’d been coming from Normandy!

Well you weren’t thinking of using the ‘dozer to knock the tollgate down, were you?

No! We might be old but we’re not stupid!
We had a word with Olivier down at the abattoir and he reckons that we can get in on the back road from St. Ragondin round by les Deux Biscouilles without any problem.

But how are you going to get to St. Ragondin? You’ve still got the main road to deal with.

Ah. that’s why we wanted the bulldozer.
We’ve made a road across our fields to link up with the footpath that brings us out just this side of the village….where the old railway line used to be. A bit of hardcore in bad weather and we’re sorted.
So they can stuff their tollgate…we won’t be paying!
Eco this, eco that….just another word for tax!
It’s bad enough with their blasted windmills…electricity bill up through the roof…but a tax on going a few kilometres is a step too far!

Well, just get rid of it Victor…tonight! You don’t want anyone else knowing you’ve got it…the adjutant is up the wall!

Hang on a minute, how did you know to come round here?

Well, it couldn’t have been the manouches….they were having a face off with our boys with chainsaws at the campsite that night…..so the only other alternative was a totally irresponsible idiot…and that’s when I thought of you!

That evening, at the gendarmerie station, the adjutant answers the ‘phone.

Here, says a voice, I reckon you should know….

Know what?

Well, that windfarm at the back of Ste. Conasse…someone’s driven a bulldozer in there and there’s a hell of a mess….metal all over the place and the gyppos are carting it off by the truckload…….

The illustration is ‘Mosnac, Dordogne’ by John Piper.

A Busy Night in Rural France

la Nouvelle Republique

Hello Victor! You’re an early bird today!

Well, I’ve been at the wine fair with Gerard so I thought I’d drop in for a glass…see who’s around…
Yes, a drop of Claude’s rose will do nicely….

No one here yet, Victor…probably still all at the wine fair! Claude didn’t enter anything, I see.

No…he doesn’t these days. Fed up with all these clever dicks making special vats for the judging from what he said last year when that filthy devil Patrick from Les Deux Biscouilles won a bronze for his Gamay….I reckon he bought that in from his wife’s brother over at Ste. Conasse.

Mark you, Victor, the whole wine world is going crazy….you know Zizi’s place?
Well, three young guys have taken it, split it up in plots under the limit to have to pay insurance to the Mutuelle Sociale Agricole and they’re producing all sorts of stuff the A.O.C. doesn’t allow and they’re doing well!
You wouldn’t believe the labels they put on their bottles….‘Les Cabernets sont au Fond du Couloir’….’L’Enfant Terrible’ but it sells like there’s no tomorrow!

Whole world’s going crazy if you ask me. Now the Post Office is going to deliver the post by drones…

Are you sure that’s not an April fool stunt?

It sounds like one but nothing would surprise me these days….
The drones will probably carry bombs to drop on those who haven’t paid their taxes….and talking of taxes, did you see Hollande on the box?

Did I not! I had it on in here and had to turn it off because the guys wanted to put a hammer through the screen! There he sits, like a turd on the pavement, telling us he’s going to see it through! All right for him stuffed to the gills on public money…let him try making it!

Oh, he knows how to do that all right! Years of double and triple payment as a politician…expenses galore….fiddling his tax returns…we’ll find out next he has a Swiss bank account!

Just like his minister for the budget…busy telling us all we had to make sacrifices and sitting on a pile in Switzerland…not to speak of some underhand contracts with the pharmaceutical firms.
And what’s the prime minister getting out of this project for a new Nantes airport?

It won’t be a camper van he’ll be using for his holidays in the future….probably a private jet on the new landing strip….
Here, give me another glass….

You sure? I’m not being funny but you must have had a few at the wine fair…and you know what the gendarmerie are like these days!

Not to worry; there’s no risk today. The police are getting pissed at the wine fair and there’ll be no gendarmerie out today.
Cheers!

Why won’t they be out? It stopped raining this morning….

Because they’re sleeping off being out all night at the supermarkets.
Didn’t you hear?
All the big supermarkets were targeted last night by the Young Farmers.
They blocked the entrances to the car parks and the doors with piles of stinking old straw…covered the trolleys too so you can imagine the state of it all after a night of rain.
Young Laurent was down there with my muckspreader…he said it was like the War of the Worlds…tractors, trailers, state of the art stuff out there working under the lights, dumping this filth…twenty or so farmers at each site, all starting at once….quite an experience for the lad.
He was too young to go when we blocked the petrol pumps a few years ago…

But what about the gendarmerie?

Oh, once the supermarket bosses saw what was happening on their security screens they went down there…and the gendarmerie turned up to protect the farmers from being attacked.

What…a couple of office slugs against twenty farmers….!

Very nasty these bosses….they can make very wounding remarks…
Anyway, that’s where the gendarmerie have been all night so we won’t be seeing them out and about for a while.

I suppose it was about prices?

Yes….the supermarkets are squeezing the producers until the pips squeak….especially the milk boys.
And not just them. Did you see that tanker that overturned last week? Full of Spanish goat milk!

Well, yes, but the cheese factory boss said it was a one off…the local guys’ production falls in the winter and he has contracts to fulfill…

I’m not so sure….I bet the Young Farmers would like a look at his books!
But anyway, this can’t go on, the supermarkets squeezing the suppliers like this….

Well yes, I suppose they’ve had to cut everything to the bone as it is.

Too right! And if they don’t get an increase in the milk price how’re they going to pay for those state of the art machines they’ve all been buying: that’s what I’d like to know!

Ah, Clement! Just up from the wine fair?
Let’s have a couple of Claude’s rose….

A Passing Moment in La France Profonde

http://savvysommelier.wordpress.com/
http://savvysommelier.wordpress.com/

On a wet winter afternoon in La France Profonde the van of the Office Nationale de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) with responsibility for hunting, fishing and wildlife in general turns in to the farm and pulls up at the farmhouse door, which opens immediately.

Jean-Yves! Come on in out of this….

And the garde chasse, armed representative of ONCFS, nothing loathe, follows his host into the kitchen where the television is muttering to itself on a shelf by the door and the newspaper is open on the table.

I was wanting to see you…..but it wasn’t urgent exactly. I told the office that….

Well I was coming out this way anyway Victor….no, I’d better not have a drink…oh well, all right then, but not eau de vie…

Oh, coming to have a go at Alain again, were you…that’s a bit much…it’s persecution, that’s what it is. The office should be ashamed of itself!

Well, you know what I think about it…but that’s the job. He doesn’t have enough land to entitle him to shoot wild boar, even if they are ripping up his fields….

Wild! They’re not wild! It’s that notaire, Plouc…breeds them up there at Montcul for his fancy friends to shoot…too mean to keep his fences in order and then he kicks up when Alain takes a gun to one of them.

Yes, but you know how it is. He’ll probably be the next depute so no one wants to tread on his toes…

I wouldn’t be so sure…this guy we’ve got now, he might be a Socialist but he’s all right.

All right counts for nothing as well you know….by the time this government’s finished licking the banks’ backsides and sending guys out to die in Africa to keep a bunch of crooks in power just because they’re our crooks it won’t matter how all right he is…he’ll be out on his ear, with the rest of the party. So Plouc has to be kept sweet, according to the office.

We had a Revolution to change all that…not being able to shoot animals that were destroying our crops….

Well it didn’t work did it! Then they were nobles…now they’re politicians, businessmen, notaires… and all we can do is shut up and pay up!

They want putting up against the wall, the whole crew….and that reminds me of what I wanted to see you about. It’s those English.

Now come off it, Victor….this gun is to finish off a wounded animal or to defend myself…and whatever you think about your English neighbours they’re not wild animals and they don’t come within the scope of my duties!
What’ve they done, anyway? Complained about your chemicals running into their stream?

No, no..well, yes they have, but that’s not it.

What is it then if you don’t want me to shoot them…?

Well, when they came over in the autumn they had a friend with them who spoke some French…apparently he’s in the wine trade in London..and I gave them a glass of Albert’s white and there was a misunderstanding and they thought it was mine and the man was all enthusiastic and said he could sell it…

Good news!

Well it would be if Albert hadn’t got esca in his vines and is having to pull a lot up…
Anyway, he wanted to see my vines, so I showed him my plot down behind the sheds and he got all enthusiastic and said he could see it was organic…which is what they’re all crazy for it seems…

How could he see it was organic?

Well, it was a bit overgrown…you know how it is, with the farm to run I can’t be everywhere…
And then he asked how I made the wine…did I use special yeast, or sugar.
Well, you know, I’ve always made wine the way the old dad did…no point buying expensive yeast when it’s there already on the grapes…and I don’t use sugar…what’s the point, it’s not worth pushing up the alcohol level for a bit of vin courant for everyday drinking.

Apparently these organic buggers are as tight as a duck’s arse…won’t cough up for sprays or yeast or sugar….

Don’t you spray, then?

Course I do…bit of Bordeaux mixture left over from the potatoes – but he says that’s all right…that’s allowed.
Anyway, he reckons I could make a bomb if I advertise for people to ‘own’ a row of vines…they can come over and join in the vendange, have special labels for their bottles – whatever they like. He can organise that.

But what about the wine! Yours is nowhere near as good as Albert’s white….

They won’t know that! I haven’t worked it out yet but either I can buy in some good stuff with what they’ll be paying me….or I can just say it’s a bad year…or that organic wine doesn’t travel…
Look, if they’ve been boasting to their friends about having their own vines they’re not going to admit it’s shit…are they?
And there’s a fair bit of shit sold as top chateau wine, come to that!

True enough! I reckon Depardieu’s leaving for Russia before all the people who bought his wine want their money back!

Then he came up with another idea…and this is where you come in…

Oh yes! What’ve I got to do?

Well, he reckons organic is out of date…old hat…and the coming thing is biodynamic wine!

What the hell is that?

I’m not sure I’ve understood it all….but there’s some Austrian nutcase…

Hitler?

No..another one, but I expect he’s vegetarian too….
Well, anyway he came up with all this stuff about the harmony of things…you know, the rythmns of the moon and whatnot.

We all know that. You get your lunar calendar from Rustica and from the first quarter to the full moon you plant above ground stuff and from the full moon to the last quarter you plant your root veg…so what’s new?

Well these bobos…these trendies… don’t know anything about Rustica, do they! They want something exotic so they can think they’re spiritual or superior or something…
Go for anything if it costs an arm and a leg…but turn their nose up at something ordinary…

Anyway, he says this Austrian has special preparations to add to the soil….or to compost heaps.
I’ve plenty of nettles…

Well who hasn’t!

And there’s a clump of horsetail to make sprays…

That stuff!

And I can dig up the old woman’s cat to ferment oak bark in its skull as long as she doesn’t find out…
No problem for cow’s horns either… or the manure to ferment in it, though the mesentery might give problems with the way things are at the abattoir these days….

What are you gibbering about?

Well, he gave me a list. You do all this stuff then stir it all up and spray it on the soil..or compost heap..or on the plants and it’s supposed to put the vineyard in harmony with the universe.

You must be stark staring bonkers!

Well I’m not going to do all that, am I…but I need to have the stuff to show the punters!

And that’s where you come in.
I’ve got to use yarrow…well, I’ve got that along the hedge…but I have to ferment the flowers in a stag’s bladder and I was just wondering if…you being with ONCFS and all…. whether you could get me one when they have a cull…..