5 kilo ducks and chicken massacres.

Deux canards, avec foie!

So I wake up early Sunday morning, my first full day, of many, in France. Still physically shattered from the last two days’ travelling. Mum comes down and we share a nice conversation over our morning tea. She told me about the lotto – also known as bingo – that was happening in the village hall in the afternoon and asked if I wanted to go. Well, what else did I have to do? Nothing at all. So that was a pretty easy decision.

At half past two we turned up to the village hall. The car park was completely full to the brim. Surely this can’t be everyone at the lotto? I thought. Sure enough it was. The village hall, which is surprisingly quite large for the size of the village, was absolutely packed. Long rows of tables lined the hall, with only three or four seats empty. Two men sat at the far end of the room on a stage with a big round cage full of white numbered balls. We edged our way in quietly as most people had already settled in and quickly bought our bingo cards, 12 for €10 (just in case anyone is thinking of joining us next time) and we found two seats opposite a friendly looking old couple.

The rules were quickly explained to us: There are three prizes for every round. Twelve rounds are played – 4 continuous hours of bingo is truly exhilarating – and then at the end, if you win you stay behind to collect your prize. When you have one row, you shout “kin!” and you get a prize. When you have two rows, you shout “double kin!” and you get a prize. And when you have a full house, you shout “carton!” and you get a prize. Sounds simple enough, right?

Before every round, one of the men would announce the prizes available to win. For eleven of the rounds, the prizes were exactly the same, so you got to know what was available to win pretty quickly;

Kin = A box of assorted meats.

Double kin = one duck without its liver.

Carton = “Deux canards, avec foie” <<Two ducks with their livers>>. 

They were pretty odd prizes if you ask me. My mum and I had a standing joke going that whenever the prize for the carton came up, we would childishly imitate the man by mouthing ‘deux canards, avec foie’. Also every time that someone wins, they come and check the cards to see if they have heard all of the numbers right. So you have one lady shouting the numbers to one of the men on the stage, and then he’d check it and shout back “oui!”. After hearing a few carton‘s worth of ‘oui‘s (15 in a row) it started to become funny to imitate him, too. Personally I thought it was hilarious. The French people thought we were a bit strange.

So, it gets to the 5th round. We’re starting to get quite bored of all of these French numbers and staring at lots of old wrinkly faces when all of a sudden I realise that I’m down to my last two numbers. “Mum! Mum! I only have two numbers left to get!“. Bearing in mind that we were now playing for the carton. Soon came one of my numbers and I was left with only one to get. I have to admit, even though it’s only bingo, I was actually really excited. Then I prayed on the next number to be the number one. Then I’d win the carton prize.

UN!” shouted the man on the stage.

This was my moment to shine. “YES!” I screamed. Not very French, I know. I think I received a whole room’s worth of dirty racist looks. Oops. The thing is, it was genuinely one of the most exciting moments of my recent past. Is that sad? I probably shouldn’t have written about this – you’re all going to think I have no life. Not that it wouldn’t have come out at some point anyway.

So anyway, there I am; English, new to bingo and probably the youngest person in there by 40 years. And I won the carton prize. The only problem is that duck is just about the only meat that I don’t actually like eating (apart from chicken now that I will try to never eat again – I shall explain why later). There I was, chuffed to bits for winning but totally confused and unappreciative of the prize. I started asking the couples around us about the ducks. It was explained that these ducks are in season from October to February in this region and are a very common bingo prize at this time of year. I think it would be hilarious to hand a 5 kilo duck to an eighty year old woman as a top prize for bingo. There you go, Nan. Apparently their livers are a top delicacy in France and are very expensive to buy. We thought we would give it a try. When in Rome…

When we had finished this French bingo marathon we queued up in the pissing rain to collect these ducks. I was not prepared for what was handed to me: I was given a bald, yellow (fed on corn) duck, with its head still attached with the eyes poked out. It was disgusting. And I am not joking, these things were absolutely huge. These French people were clearly confused – it was definitely more of a goose than a duck. This thing would have had to have been a duck on steroids for the size of the thing. Hybrid monster duck. Anyway, because I’m such a nice person we ended up giving one of the ducks to the old couple that were sitting in front of us (the ones who had been kind enough to explain the rules to us). They were absolutely thrilled to bits.

Getting home with this thing, we decided to take a look. Except, we couldn’t look, because both my mother and myself were way too disgusted to even look. The head was honestly one of the most revolting things I had ever seen (until the next day, which I will get to I promise..) and I cringed touching it. We asked one of our other English friends to come round and cook it for us, but on arrival she had a quick look and we realised that the duck hadn’t been gutted at all. It had everything still inside it. Apparently it’s no good to eat an animal after it’s had its organs inside it for more than 12 hours dead, so we’ve put it in the freezer. For times when we feel braver.

So, this brings me on to the next day. I woke up Monday morning, pretty happy and content with the last night’s achievement. I skyped a very good friend who I’m going to visit in New Zealand, and then my mother and I went to the local door shop, as you do, to go and ask about putting a dog flap into our front door. However, after our 10 minute visit they told us that they needed to ask their managers some questions and that they would call us back, so we went to the local village council type thing to ask for some permission to cut down some trees. Isn’t my life exciting. It was then that I saw a strange phone in my mother’s hand. “Mother..” I said “…whose phone is that?“. My mum looked at me strangely and said “..Yours..“. It definitely wasn’t my phone. I produced my phone from my pocket and my mum’s face went into shock. She had stolen one of the salesperson’s phones from the door shop. Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

I raced back to the door shop and the man met me at the door, pointing straight at me, “Ah ben c’était vous! C’est pas grave t’inquiètes pas” <<Ah, it was you! It doesn’t matter, don’t worry>> He chuckled. I handed back the phone and apologised, explaining that my phone was also a Samsung and that my mum was a dirty thief. (She’s not really, just to clear that up).

It was then that the real drama unfolded. When we got home, we ate some beans on toast, chilled out and watched some TV. We popped over to the neighbour’s house and we chatted for ages about everything. I also mentioned that the dogs had started to notice the chickens and I joked that I was pretty sure that there was going to be a few murders soon. When we got home, a good friend turned up for a chat and we sat for an hour or so catching up on each other’s lives. It was then that my life was about to change forever. I jest, it didn’t really change forever. But it was very sad.

My mother rushed over and started screaming “Zeus has escaped! He’s in next door’s chicken pen!!” Sure enough, there he was. My little Tibetan Terrier. Mouth and beard covered in blood. My stomach dropped. “ZEEEUUSSS” I screamed! I jumped over the fence and ran over to him. What I saw next I think I shall remember forever. Three chickens lay sprawled out on the floor. The first relatively cleanly killed, the second’s back had been removed and the third was still moving its poor little head. Eyes wide and obviously in shock. I was furious. “ZEUS HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?!” I screamed. I practically threw him back over the fence at my mother and I went back to look for more of the chickens. Four of them huddled standing in a corner of the pen, seemly unharmed. Two more were in the inside concrete egg house, perched like budgies on top of the railings, shaking wildly, but again, unharmed. Then I found the chicken that was to stop me eating meat forever. Under a metal shelter, huddled up, again, breathing but shaking profusely. I was relieved that another chicken was safe.

I ran to my other neighbour’s house that I had visited earlier as fast as I could and managed to wheeze “Monsieur, s’il vous plait, j’ai besoin de votre aide: Il y a eu un massacre, mon chien.. Il a tué les poulets! Trois!” <<Sir, please, I need your help: There’s been a massacre, my dog.. He’s killed the chickens! Three!>>. He grabbed his coat and hat and came back to the pen with me.

Qu’est ce qu’on doit faire?!” <<What shall we do?!>> I asked him desperately. “Ben, il faut téléphoner les propriétaires et puis mettre les poulets morts dans des sacs en plastiques.” <<Well, you have to call the owners and then put the chickens in plastic bags>>. We tried to call the owners but we didn’t have their numbers. They only go to that house on the weekends as they’re super rich and we don’t see them often. Although at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning, the man who looks after the chickens is coming as usual and I think we’re going to go over in the morning before he arrives to try and clear up some of the feathers.

The worst part? Is that when I got back with the neighbour, I realised that the chicken underneath the metal shelter was actually quite badly injured. Not enough to have died instantly but enough to maybe not make it through the night. My only regret is not being brave enough to kill it. I couldn’t kill any animal, let alone a poor chicken that my senseless dog had tried to pointlessly murder. Once, I was cleaning my house with heavy duty bleach and I realised that there was a eensy teensy little greenfly on the end of my glove, writhing in pain. I knew that the kindest thing would be to kill it, but it honestly took me about 30 seconds to get the courage to end its little life. I think if there were a pansy award it would definitely go to me.

So, tonight, I go to bed feeling quite sad. Obviously it’s just nature and I can promise you all that my dog is actually the sweetest, kindest dog (not that you might believe me after what has happened) but when they see another animal and their own animal instinct takes over, it teaches them to kill. I’m sure that most dogs faced with chickens, rabbits, birds, squirrels and most other small animals would chase and eventually kill them. I am just dreading having to explain this all to the chicken man and our next door neighbours! Holy shit. My life can be dramatic.

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