Well you could have knocked me down with a feather last night. Turned on the television only to see a clip of film showing my little bit of “in-the-middle-of-nowhere-rural-France” – on the national news no less.
What could happen here I thought to myself, in the idyllic Seven Valleys in Pas de Calais that warrants TV film crews coming all the way from a big town? After all, it’s news here if someone gets a flat tyre and they are still talking about the day when the local café closed – 57 years ago.
A very strange story ensued of an unlikely crime in rural France.
In little villages like ours, people talk. In the village of Hucqueliers with its small supermarket and tabac, someone mentioned that their lovely pink hydrangea flowers had been cut off… someone else said so had theirs.
Word spread and in villages all around the mystery deepened as more and more people confirmed that they too had lost their hydrangea flowers. In the beautiful hilltop ville fleurie Montreuil-sur-Mer, in tiny villages like Sempy (population 89), the story was the same – someone had been nicking their hydrangea flowers.
Some people reported the theft to the gendarmes and at first their concerns were ignored but… eventually the police decided that this must be looked into and what was revealed is a very weird tale. My friend Madame M who lives 3 villages away said “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Monsieur Lafont, Mayor of Aix en Issart interviewed on the national news having had flowers pinched from his garden”. Everyone where I live is agog at what the police are claiming as a result of their investigations into the “Hydrangea Gang”.
It’s a story that is being picked up by the international press, for it seems that the “Gang des Hortensias” (The Hydrangea Gang) as the thieves have been named, may be using the pink, white and blue petals of the large flower heads as a form of narcotic. Incredibly, according to the Telegraph, the petals when dried and mixed with tobacco can be smoked as a cheap alternative to cannabis. It could be a short-lived thrill for the rather desperate gang since the fumes of the flowers also produce hydrogen cyanide if in big enough quantities.
Some French newspapers claim that the news has caused widespread panic at the plunder of gardens here in my part of France – I can’t say that I’ve seen any evidence of that. Incredulity maybe!
I leave the last words to my elderly neighbour M-T a wise old sage if ever I met one “I’ll be growing roses this year”…