Just outside our village, we have what is known as La Dechetterie Verte – The Green Tip. It is a place where you can leave all your garden rubbish. In reality its just a large pile of steaming, decomposing greenery. It is located at the top of a steep hill, on a local farmer’s land. When it gets too piled up, the council workers come and shove it down the hillside…nothing too technical.
At this time of year there is always a goodly assortment of greenery which comes in handy for decorating the plant pots and containers dotted around the village.
Yesterday, there I was, on official business searching for suitable foliage for Christmas Decorations. I took Faithless Hound Zouzou with me. He lolled in the front seat of the jalopy all ready to defend me against any irate hunters who might be out and about searching for their Christmas dinner. I’ve met them before. They have an extraordinary ability to pop up from behind a bush and shout and wave at me. At first, I thought they were just being friendly…then I learned a few French swear words. But I digress.
So we rumbled up to the green tip, the old car belching and burping like a cow with belly ache. Frosty morning, sun shining, blue sky, just the day for a trip to the tip.
We arrived. Faithless Hound zoomed off in search of who knows what and, me, bravely squidging through the mud in leaky boots, I found what I was looking for. Conifer branches, glossy green laurel, bits of cedar all thoughtfully dumped under a load of tree branches.
I set to with a will, a song in my heart, squidging, squelching, pulling and tugging until I got to the good stuff. Carefully I arranged these in piles by the old jalopy. I was just retrieving a particularly good branch of conifer when a peculiar aroma tickled my nostrils. A sort of fusty, dusty, I hesitate to be blunt…but… it was a stink. I turned around and there was this large, well largish, horned Beast chomping away at my neat piles of foliage. Outraged I waved my conifer branch at it.
‘Yah, shoo, get off that.’ I cried.
The Beast looked at me, yellow eyes glowing. Its jaw worked steadily from side to side. It gave a snort, scornful, I thought and resumed its munching.
‘Hey that’s mine and don’t you know it’s poisonous to the likes of you?’
Another snort and a rather impatient stamp of a hoof. My goodness it was in need of a pedicure. Its hooves were so long they had curled up at the front like a pair of Chinaman’s slippers.
Of course I realised my mistake – it is one many of Les Anglais who visit these shores make – that of supposing all the natives speak English if only one shouts loud enough. Its unresponsiveness showed me clearly that it was a French Beast.
Waving my conifer branch I took, yes I admit it, a very hesitant step towards it. I have had some experience of Beasts like this and still have the scars to prove it. I bawled:
‘Casses-toi, bete, fiches le camp.’
It looked up at me and took a couple of steps forward. It then occurred to me that perhaps this was a Spanish Beast. Perhaps it had spent a happy hour duty-free shopping in Andorra and taken a wrong turn on the way home. Unfortunately ‘no hablo Espanol’ was the only phrase I remembered from my rain-sodden honeymoon in sunny Majorca.
By now the Beast was tossing my branches around, making a right bordel of my neat heaps. I advanced again, waving my branch, The Beast stamped and snorted. This was looking dangerous. Where was Faithless Hound when I needed him?
As if on cue, FH appeared with what looked like a mammoth’s femur in his jaws. He looked at me and then at the Beast, dropped to the ground and calmly began gnawing away.
Something had to be done. Pulling together my two thin threads of courage I advanced, conifer branch at the ready. When under stress my linguistic skills (such as they are) desert me and I resort to the language of God’s Own County…Yorkshire.
‘Yah shoo, yer girt lump o’nowt. Bugger off. I’m not laikin’ wi’ likes o’thoo.’
I shook my conifer at him. Shook it real good and proper I did. The Beast abandoned its purloined branches and stalked towards me. I retreated, cut off from the safety of the jalopy. It padded forward, head lowered. One, two, three paces. I could see the steam puffing out from its nostrils
At this point, FH took over. Deserting his treasure to rescue his beloved mistress he rose, a bit leisurely though and emitted a polite woof followed by a series of rumbling growls. Clearly FH spoke the lingo. The Beast tossed its head and scarpered up the hillside. Well satisfied, FH returned to his bone.
‘Come on, we’re off’ I muttered, stuffing the greenery into the jalopy. I had a nasty feeling there might be a whole battalion of Beasts hiding in the bushes waiting to launch a full-on assault. FH was not very gruntled at being hustled into the car, minus mammoth bone, but what was an admonishing nip compared to a possible attack by slavering Beasts.
After all that, I did manage to put a few pots together but I think the incessant rain is going to spoil them.
So please, if any of you know someone, somewhere, who might like a brown, hairy, crinkly-horned, smelly billy goat for Christmas will you please let them know. It is terrorising our green tip. They are welcome to come and get it…no ifs and hopefully no butts.