That’s what this post is, a jumbled, almost incoherent rambling, but the best I can do today.
Five days without telephone and Internet should have been stressful, but as they coincided with five days of constant socialising – every day we were either out dining with friends, or in entertaining friends, and on one day both, time passed quite swiftly and very pleasantly.
At Carole’s house, over a superb 5-course Italian meal, she mentioned this blog and how astonishingly interesting, fascinating, informed and well-written it is. It really is, and you should check it out if you don’t already do so. Currently, the talk is about dragons, of the maternal kind.
Piglet in France graciously accepted the Versatile Blogger Award, and revealed that she is a two-times British Junior Ice-Dance Champion.
A kind couple came to trim our goats’ hooves, and invited us to visit their home and meet their miniature horses and cuddly python. While we were having coffee we noticed a wall covered with photographs, trophies and medals. Our hostess, we learned, was an Olympic-class archer who represented Great Britain.
Why is it that I am always astonished when people reveal extraordinary accomplishments?
Anybody who is interested in reptiles might want to check out the new link on my blog, Snake Buddies, for some very beautiful photographs of snakes and lots of information about them. To celebrate Halloween, Snake Buddies features some seriously weird creatures
The morning when we took the car for its Contrôle Technique we were stopped on a roundabout by a group of picketers protesting at the proposed pension reform in France. It was bitterly cold, and they had a small fire going at the side of the road. One of them we knew, and he came to exchange “bisous“. His nose was quite frozen. The gendarmes stood by, thumping their hands against their sides to keep the blood moving. It was a good-humoured event; all the picketers asked was that drivers accepted a piece of paper outlining the reasons for the protest and the times and venues of future pickets. It was a rather poignant little scene, given the futility of it.
Oh, yes, there’s the pumpkin, all 25 golden pounds of it. Really, it’s so beautiful it seems sinful to destroy it, but why let it go to waste when there are still a few cracks and crevices to fill in the freezer? It’s going to die eventually, anyway.
Very encouraging feedback from the kind people who have read the manuscript that I have almost completed and which should be published in the early part of next year.
And finally, although the concept disgusts me, and I found this tale tragic, it did have a certain touch of comedy about it. It concerns an American impresario called Jeff Dickson, who promoted various sporting spectacles at the Vélodrome d’Hiver, the indoor cycling track in Paris, and one of his ideas that did not go at all to plan:
The Lion Hunt
His most spectacular venture was his greatest and most expensive flop. Dickson discovered from the newspaper “Paris-Midi”, that the Schneider circus in Naples was auctioning 100 lions. Dickson bought the animals that same day, along with their cages and trailers, for 80,000 francs. He constructed a stage set and acquired two sick camels abandoned by a circus at Maisons-Alfort; he hired fire-eaters and employed 20 actors to dress as African explorers – all to stage a spectacle called The Lion Hunt.
The lions, however, arrived from Naples feeling tired and limp. Dickson assured reporters they needed only a meal and began importing dead animals from local abattoirs. Things didn’t improve. On the first night of the show, all 100 lions were released into the arena but showed no signs of excitement, still less ferocity. Dickson ordered his “explorers” to fire into the air to wake them up. The air became bitter with cordite fumes but the lions did little more than stroll about and urinate on the scenery.
Now convinced the animals were harmless, stagehands began beating them, at which children began to cry and parents shouted angry protests. The organizers withdrew the animals and moved to the next act of the show. Things went little better. The camels refused to walk in a line, as in a desert caravan. And their attendants, who were unemployed black people recruited from the streets, stumbled in the sand under their unaccustomed stage clothing. The show’s run was abandoned.
Dickson now had two camels and 100 lions that he no longer needed. An assistant tied the camels behind a car, led them to the Seine and abandoned them. There they were found by the police. Eventually Dickson rented the camels and lions to another circus for 10,000 francs a week, only for the circus to fail and Dickson to be summoned to collect his animals. By now he was also being pursued by the Société de Protection des Animaux for cruelty in abandoning the camels. The animals were finally sent to a zoo near Hamburg.
You can read all about the history of Vélodrome d’Hiver, including the shameful role it played during WWII, here.