Here in France it is a national hobby from spring to summer to go to a brocante – a flea market. In my region of Nord-Pas de Calais there are more than 3000 brocantes each year ranging from tiny rural village affairs to the massive Braderie de Lille with 10,000 stalls.
Going to a French flea market is a great way to get a feel for the nature of a place, a chance for a cultural dip into real life France, to meet the locals and get out and about. You might find an antique or a bargain. Or you might, like me, find a chicken to take home.
At the village of Contes, thirty or so stalls lined the road; a lot of tat was on offer. At the last stall, however was a cage with a very colourful cockerel and a sign that read “Cockerel Nagasaki €5.00”.
The Other Half screeched to a halt.
“No” I said “We can’t… we’ve got more than enough animals and we don’t do well with cockerels”.
“Nagasaki though… and just five Euros” wheedled the Other Half, he does love a bargain.
The lady behind the stall became very animated “he is a lovely little fellow, friendly but a bit nervous, take him” she urged.
I told him that we were thinking of getting a cockerel for our younger chickens, nine white birds who are very docile and sweet natured but who have never seen a cockerel.
By now everyone else in the road who was near enough to hear us talk, those who were selling or browsing, had stopped to watch.
No problem says the lady selling the Nagasaki cockerel, keep him in a separate bit of the pen where they can get to know each other but only through the fence, after a week let them be together and they’ll sort it out.
A crowd had gathered round by now.
After a bit more chat and advice we agreed to take the Nagasaki cockerel home. So we handed over our five Euros and the woman procured a carry box. As she bent to pick the bird up I heard her husband say “be careful, this bird is a right bastard”. The woman grabbed him robustly not the husband, the bird) and thrust him squawking, screaming, pecking, flapping and head-butting into the box. She and her husband held the lid down while they wrapped it tight with yards of sticky tape.I looked at the OH sideways – he hadn’t heard the man’s comment perhaps I was mistaken?
As we walked down the road, past the tat stalls to our car, the box was lurching with the bird’s antics. People stared in silence but I felt sure they were on the verge of breaking into a round of applause.
“Do you get the feeling that everyone here is watching the gullible English pair who have just relieved them of the most vicious, troublesome cockerel that ever lived?” I asked the Other Half.
On the way home I could feel the bird pecking the side of the box and trying to get out. We’ve never had that before with any bird we’ve bought, they’re always really quiet in the dark box and I talk to them to keep them calm. Not this one.
We got him home and put him in a small pen on his own with some food and water.
Within two minutes he managed to wriggle through the fence into the old chicken girl’s pen – the bullies.
It seems he was a lot younger and smaller than we’d realised.
The bullies were on him straight away, indignant and disgusted to have a man in their midst. While the OH was running round to go into their pen to catch him, they cornered the cockerel and started to be mean. He then escaped into the field at the bottom of the garden.
The Other Half leaped over the fence in hot pursuit of his bargain bird. Unusually there were no cows grazing, however they had left plenty of reminders which the Other Half trod in as he ran around clutching a butterfly net trying to catch the nimble Nagasaki.
I am sorry to say that I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t take any photos for you or be of any help.
Eventually the cockerel ran into the little alley at the side of the field which leads to the road to the village one way and into hundreds of acres of fields the other way. The Other Half yelled for me to run round to the front of the alley so we could corner him.
Off I went, running as fast as I could, down the garden, through the house, down the road, into the alley, they were nowhere to be seen. The bird had legged it down the alley and into another field. As I stood there trying to get my breath back and sure we would never see the cockerel again, the Other Half appeared – a small dot in the distance, way across the field. He was holding something…
We took the bird back to our garden and this time erected a cage with smaller mesh next to the young chickens. Here they completely ignored each other though he crowed for all he is worth and sounds more like a screaming pig than a cockerel.
We called him Kendo Nagasaki, after the British champion wrestler who was very famous in the 1970s. He has become the Houdini of the chicken pen but he alway comes home when he’s hungry.