Animal Antics

Our route through France started, as usual from Calais and went via Rouen, the outskirts of Poitiers, then Montauban before our final destination of Aurignac, an hour south of Toulouse. We’re housesitting the home of a young family for three weeks and caring for their dog, some chickens and – for the first time – some sheep. Apparently, all you have to do for sheep is make sure they have water, simple! Another task is to keep the plants in the poly-tunnel alive, again, just add water.

Chickens are probably the most stupid of creatures that we’ve looked after yet. They run up to you when you approach, clucking, ‘Got any food? Gimme some food’ then run away when you try to stroke them. You give them food and they all dive in, a second later they’re running after you clucking, ‘Got any food? Gimme some food!’ ‘Yeah! It’s over there, you just ran away from it!’ As you walk away they continue to protest, ‘Hey! Come back! We need food over here’. They may be demanding when it comes to their stomachs but as for their ovaries, they just keep on giving. There’s little more pleasing than discovering a hand-full of warm eggs just in time for breakfast.

The nearby town of Aurignac.

The nearby town of Aurignac.

We’ve had our first tragedy today. One of our charges has died. How on earth are we going to tell the owner – a ten-year-old boy – that he’ll never see his favourite pets again? What’s worse is the manner of their demise – cooked to death by the hot sun – surely a slow and grueling end to such young lives. My last words to the lad before he departed for his holiday were, ‘don’t worry I’ll look after them’ and now, was I responsible for mentally scaring him for the rest of his life? His younger brother had made us watch ‘Despicable Me 2’ while his parents finished packing. Was I despicable too?

Talking of despicable, they were a very recent addition to the family so could I just switch in a new batch or would such a deception be rumbled? I’d have to act fast. Luckily, there’s a stream at the bottom of the valley, perhaps I could find some frogspawn there, then relocate the tank to avoid another amphibian atrocity (oh, good name for a punk band). Hopefully, the tadpoles would metamorphosis into frogs before our family return from vacation and nobody would notice the difference.

The view from the garden across the valley, Pyrenees in the distance.

The view from the garden across the valley, Pyrenees in the distance.

“Dial 999 – no don’t, it’s 17 for the local gendarme!”

“Bonjour officer, c’est une robbery dans le hen house!”

“Oui, someone’s had it away with les oeufs”

There are seven hens in total – the only brown one we named Honey – between them they lay on average six eggs per day but, for some reason, today we’ve only collected two. Is there a thief amongst us?

A siren can be heard in the distance, five minutes later there’s a screech, a crash and then it stops. The dog begins to bark as someone approaches the house. The moustached man is dressed in a beige mack and hat, I meet him at the gate.

“Does your derg bite?” he enquires.

“No” I reply.

He stretches out to stroke Blue, the Australian sheepdog, who immediately snaps at his hand.

“You said your derg doesn’t bite!”

“This is not my derg”, I respond and explain that we are housesitting in Aurignac for three weeks while the owners are on holiday in South Africa.

The inspector would like to interrogate the suspects so I send out Blue to round up the sheep and hens, he’s a sheepdog after all! Minutes later and like a scene from Roger Rabbit, five cartoon sheep strut in dressed in Lyle & Scott roll-necks, Tacchini pull-overs and Farah slacks – very casual. They’d just caused chaos in the chicken run looking for left-over scraps that we’d previously given the hens and trashed the food dispenser while they were at it. Don’t be fooled, lambs may look soft and fluffy but these little hooligans are well tasty with or without mint sauce!

Signs at the end of the road.

Signs at the end of the road.

Next, six hens bustled through the door excitedly clucking and squawking. Dressed in pink jackets, they walked with arms crossed pushing up their excessively large bosom. Bright lipstick complimented their saggy, wrinkled and red faces.

“Where’s Honey?” I ask.

Then she appeared standing in the doorway. She was tall and slender, wearing red high-heel shoes with matching nail polish and black skin-tight trousers that she’d just been sown into. Her off-the-shoulder top revealed her tanned skin that was the colour of honey being poured from a hot silver spoon. I got chills and they’re multiplying!

A cold wet nose woke me from my slumber – I’d nodded off in the warm afternoon sun – I sat up with a start to see Blue. At my feet was his favourite orange football; he wanted me to play. In the fur around his mouth I could see small, pale-coloured pieces.

“What you been eating, Blue?”

Turns out that Blue had previous. He’d made off with twenty duck eggs from a neighbour’s pond just months before and now he was helping himself to the chicken’s eggs. Mystery solved.

Unfortunately, the weather isn’t great for the next few weeks and we don’t get to play tourists so miss out on visiting local places of interest. However, Carole discovers how versatile eggs can be and rustles up various quiches, pancakes and, best of all, cakes.