Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pigs and posterity

This chap (these chaps?) were in the local news recently. The man on the left is 83.  His name is Yvan Blaise. The other chap is called Bambi.

M. Blaise found Bambi wondering about his village when he was little, a marcassin, as wild boar piglets are called. He took Bambi home, gave him food, shelter, somewhere to grub about. And a name, of course. In due course Bambi grew to full size, and M. Blaise's troubles began. It's illegal in France to keep undomesticated animals as household pets. The local police and social services made arrangements to have Bambi captured and put down.

M. Blaise reacted strongly. Bambi was causing no harm to anyone. He was docile and friendly. M. Blaise had no one else to share his life with. He threatened hunger strike if Bambi was taken away.

The authorities relented. M. Blaise could keep Bambi on condition that he registered his smallholding as a stockbreeding farm. (It's not hard, apparently.) He would have to provide adequate fencing, pasture, water supply and shelter in accordance with the number of animals he proposed to raise. Which was one. All this was in place anyway. So now M. Blaise and Bambi are legal, and the moral the local paper draws is that not all local government officers are jobsworths.

But what about this? This chap was in the village the other day, with a folk band of drum, primitive oboes and bagpipe - or should that be pigpipe? They played horribly out of tune, but then the Mediterranean sense of tuning isn't like ours from the North. The man playing the bagpipe is called Daniel Loddo. He is one of those earnest people trying desperately hard to keep the local sub-language, Languedocien, and its culture alive. It's a very ancient language, descended from the Latin the people in the south of France spoke under and after the Roman Empire. It's a linguistic cousin of Provençal and Catalan. Once it was universal. Now only elderly people in remote villages speak it as their everyday tongue. I can manage a few words, but not much.

M. Loddo writes songs. Here is one called La croquinhòta. Nobody I have ever spoken to knows exactly what this means. We think it might mean 'sweetheart'.

Una tortugota me diguet un jorn
'Veni ma croquinhòta, anam faire un torn,
Aqui tot lo monde dormis, tot lo monde se languis,
Anam vistalhar lo paìs'. Aquí çò qu'avem vist:

Al cap d'uná pibola un cocut ernhòs
Picava una nivola a còps de bec furiòs:
La trumada se levèt e la branqueta petèt
Lo paure cocut tombèt dins l'aigueta d'un rec

Here's the translation:

A little tortoise said to me one day
'Come, my sweetheart (?), let's go for a walk,
Here everyone's asleep, everyone is quiet,
Let's have a look round'. Here is what we saw:

At the top of a poplar tree an angry cuckoo
Was pecking a cloud furiously with its beak.
A thunderstorm got up and the branch broke
And the cuckoo fell into the water of a stream.

There are more verses in the same vein, but I'm sorry, I really can't find the energy to copy them out. This time last year my little choir took this song and others from the same Languedoc culture to Scotland. They went down a bomb in Ullapool. Only one member of my choir actually comes from the south of France, and she doesn't speak Languedocien. Sharing the Ullapool concert with us was a Gaelic choir. Only the conductor was a native Gaelic speaker. All the rest were incomers. Is there any point in artificially trying to keep these languages alive?

And then there's this. No connection with the above. When my daughter was about 6 she wanted a bike. At the time, in the 1970s, I was headmaster of a smallish country school in NE Scotland. I asked round to see if any of the kids had a small bike they'd grown out of. A girl called Julie Minty said, via her parents, that her first bike was now too small for her, so £5 changed hands and Julie's old bike came into school for me to take home. It was pink and the make was shown on a nameplate on the frame. It said PUKY. I thought this was terribly funny, but being - at that time - a respectable pillar of the community I felt obliged to suppress any tendency to giggle. Besides, I'm not certain that my kids at that age, although sophisticated in many ways, were familiar with the term 'puke'. I'm open to correction, of course.

A couple of weeks ago the family spent a long weekend in Spain in a rather grand parador. J. and I took the ancient second-plus-hand tricycle my granddaughter E. rides about on when she comes here. As you see, parking isn't a problem, even in the grandest hotels, tho' if you asked for valet parking I daresay the staff would raise an eyebrow. I noticed for the first time that this vehicle too has a nameplate on the saddle support. It says PUKY too.

It's a wonderful thing to keep family tradition alive. I'm not so sure about dying languages.


Mike and Ann said...

Just checked Puky bikes on google. They're still being made. I think I'm beginning to think computer - it's taken me seven years.

Vicus Scurra said...

I am probably, and thankfully, alone, in waiting for the boar story to end with the animal severely injuring Yvan.
Further, (and please do not let this spoil a beautiful friendship) the bagpipes never sound good, in or out of tune, and all Scots are in on this. Bagpipes are only played to torment tourists, aren't they?

Z said...

What was Bambi wondering about while wandering in the village, dear heart?

Rog said...

Goo to see the spirit of George Wither living on in France

Sir Bruin said...

Didn't Bambi have a leading role in Hannibal? I'm glad to hear that he's not for the chop.
Bagpipes (or their equivalent) rate somwhere between a school recorder ensemble and a small child learning the violin on the scale of ear-offending noises.
No offence, but I'd take the BMW over the trike every time.

Christopher said...

Well done, Mike (and Ann). I would hate people to think I was just making this stuff up.

Vicus, dear friend, I don't think we'll fall out, as one Montgolfier brother said to the other.

Z: I blush with wander at such a crass error. Clearly my mind was wondering. Thank you.

Rog: Watch out - you'll have Z after you. Unless 'goo' refers to pig slurry?

Christopher said...

An informed choice of personal transport, Sir B. I remember you as quite a large man (sorry I won't be able to confirm this impression on the 26th) and clearly my grand-daughter's trike wouldn't be ideal.

But can you identify the car on the left? It was an American V12 something-or-other taking part in a car club rally over the eastern Pyrenees, following the footsreps of Hannibal. (I thought Hannibal had elephants?)

Z said...

I know, of course, that it was a most subtle courtesy, intended to give me the opportunity to correct your spelling after you did mine the other day. Thank you.

Christopher said...

Pogs might fly, Z

Lionel said...

Help Yvan Blaise and save Bamby, by signing this petition :

Thank you :))

Christopher said...

Thank you, Lionel. I see the report in Midi Libre (from which I took my information) is not quite the same as the information given on the petition.

mig bardsley said...

Isn't it good for the brain to speak lots of languages? And how could you bear to lose a language in which cuckoos fall into streams and tortoises have musical sweethearts (?)
Some of those primitive oboe things, on the other hand, should probably be allowed to die. The Bombarde for instance. and the thing that needs the player to go purple in the face and makes a noise like an amplified, strangled duck.

Christopher said...

Hello Mig. I'm speechless (in any language) with admiration for one who recognises a Bombarde on sight.

mig bardsley said...

It's the sound I might recognise Christopher : ) Or am I confusing it with the strangled duck?