I was working in the garden the other afternoon when Jean-Claude, one of our neighbours, wandered in and said he needed to “borrow” the husband, OH) “Cinque minutes” said he and mentioned something about a barrel. I didn’t really understand (he has a very strong Ch’tis accent).
I got the OH out of the workshop where he was constructing a dresser for my pantry and off he went on the back of Jean-Claude’s tractor .
An hour later the OH returned, he was pale and looked quite unwell.
He said he’d gone with Jean-Claude to his “longère” – a long barn not far from his house where his ugly horse lives and he stores food for his numerous rabbits, chickens, geese, pigeons and ducks. In all I think he keeps around 250 animals of one sort or another, it may be much more as they’re in different places around the village, his garden, his mother’s garden and various fields so its hard to tell and he has no idea himself!
They arrived at the longère and as the OH doesn’t speak much French that’s of any use and Jean-Claude is his equivalent in English, Jean-Claude proceeded by a series of gestures and face pulling to ask the OH to fill a big barrel with water via the hose pipe lying next to it.
The OH says he had no idea why he was being asked to do this but when he picked up the hose pipe and popped it into the barrel his eye caught movement inside. When he looked – the barrel had a dozen or so rats running around in the bottom. Jean-Claude explained that he had a serious rat problem in the barn, it had to be controlled as it could be dangerous for him and his animals. They apparently attack baby chickens, carry diseases and can bite humans if scared. He didn’t like to put poison down because it would likely harm his animals so he’d run a wooden ramp up to the barrel, filling it with rat tempting goodies and of course once in, they couldn’t climb out. He said that he couldn’t stand the thought of touching the rats or killing them so he needed help. The OH thought the idea of drowning a load of rats in a barrel seemed a bit harsh, certainly unsporting and he didn’t want to do it either. If we ever find a mouse,which is rare thanks to our cats, he takes the little creature off to a field and releases it. There was apparently some discussion accompanied by a bit of shuddering, more gestures and more face pulling, resulting, I am told, in a shared job.
Afterwards, Jean-Claude bought the OH back pale and shocked.
It’s not always fun converting from townies to country folk but I suppose we have to try.