A Country Story, Or Two (And Vaccines)
They say nothing ever happens in the countryside, but of course that’s most often said by city folk who’ve never lived here. And the concept of rural peace and tranquility are in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps the crow of a rooster if the now-famous (and sadly deceased) Maurice is to be believed.
If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, you’ve clearly missed the news.
This week saw the end of a case that started back in 2017 and gripped the entire nation for years. It’s a captivating story that inflamed passions, rocked the French countryside, and ended with a piece of legislation that could only happen here.
It’s not the only news that happened this week of course.
Dad got a rather important stab, and we had a lovely visit from our new Maire and his 1ère adjointe, who brought freshly-made artisanal chocolates and info on all the work they plan to do in the area over next year. Darn impressive for a commune of only 61 people.
All this is the essence of living in rural France, a place with more pride, community and passion than you could ever imagine from the outside. It’s a wonderful spot to be and it all starts with the story of Maurice.
Don’t Mess With Rural France
Maurice was a most handsome fowl.
He was a picture-perfect rooster with a crown of fiery red and eyes that pierced your soul. He lived on the Island of Oléron, just off the coast of SW France and he was dedicated to his ladies, crowing religiously at the break of dawn every morning to rouse and establish his territory. His owner was justifiably proud of the hard-working young bird, but one set of neighbors were apparently not so enthused.
Jean-Louis and Joelle Biron were vacationers, retired city-dwellers that came to the island to pass the hot summer months, and they claimed that Maurice was making an “abnormal racket”, disturbing the very peace they came to the countryside to enjoy. A dispute started that eventually escalated to court. And what ensued was a monumental fight that would immortalize the young rooster forever more.
Over the following two years the two sides clashed and Maurice became became an icon of French rural pride. He was not just a rooster, but an emblem of the ever-increasing tension between rural folk who keep the heartbeat of traditional France alive, and city folk who clearly have no clue and want to ruin it all. How dare they come to the countryside and tell us how to live!
As you can imagine the populous splintered into hardline opposing factions, and the debate became passionate. Petitions were signed, “Team Maurice” T-shirts were printed with the words “Let me sing” and “Je suis Maurice”, speeches were made, mayors got involved and the whole country became enthralled with the story. Finally in Sept 2019, Maurice was vindicated and the plaintiffs forced to pay €1,000 in damages. He would be be allowed to crow in freedom forever more.
It was a brilliant victory, but Maurice’s story was far from over!
His plight had ignited a torch of French rural pride, and that flame was taken to the L’Assemblée Nationale, where a bill was introduced to protect the “sensory heritage of the countryside” (“le patrimoine sensoriel des campagnes françaises”). In January of last year it was unanimously voted through and this week it was finally, definitively adopted into law by Le Parlement. Maurice, now sadly departed to the rainbow land of roosters that were, had been immortalized in history forever more.
So yes, thanks to a rooster and a complaint from a city dweller, the sounds and smells of the countryside are now an official part of French National Heritage. That includes church bells, roosters crowing, agricultural machines, the bleating of sheep, the singing of crickets, the smell of straw and even the odor of cow dung. Anyone who lives here should expect it and any “néo-ruraux”, or city tourists who decide to vacation out here, better darn well be prepared for it.
Ah oui, a story as wonderfully French as it gets, and with the most wonderfully French of outcomes. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we were always Team Maurice. Naturellement…
Dad Got Vaccinated!
The other thing we got to celebrate this week was dad’s first coronavirus jab. Wheeee!
It was a bit of a project to get it all done.
As you probably know, France has been rather slow in ramping up their vaccination program, launching in phases from older folks to the young. Last week they announced eligibility for over 75’s, albeit with a far-too-small quantity of vaccines (~1 million). So I hovered on doctorlib like a hawk and managed to nab one of the very first slots that popped up. Mere hours later the whole month was booked out, and the next day the site crashed with no more appointments available (it’s since come back online).
A lucky break!
Tuesday 19th was the big day. We motored ~1/2 hour to the hospital and their brand-new vaccination center, which turned out to be a garage that looked like it had been very rapidly set-up. There was a check-in desk, a line of chairs, a questionnaire desk (where a doc asks you about your medical history), and a “vaccination room” boarded off by plastic drapes.
A rather chaotic process followed, and we waited more than an hour and a half past our appt time to get the shot, plus an extra 15 mins to check for any post-jab reactions. Not exactly pretty, but it was done and dad was superbly happy after. He had zero side-effects too.
For those curious dad got the Pfizer vaccine, so according to the trail data around 2 weeks from now he should have around 50% immunity. Once he gets his 2nd shot (currently scheduled ~4 weeks from now) he’ll slowly ramp that up over 90%. Outstanding!
As for us, it may be a while. The government claims that everyone who wants it will be vaccinated by Sept, but here are already rumors of vaccine shortages, and plans to delay the 2nd jab up to 6 weeks to get more people in.
Even the doctors themselves are skeptical. When I asked at the hospital about dad’s 2nd jab, the response was rather unreassuring; “S’il y en a” (“if there are any”). Yikes! All a bit concerning, especially since the tested vaccine protocol is much less than this (3 weeks between jabs for Pfizer, 4 weeks for Moderna), but hey, what can you do?
In the meantime we’ll just cross our fingers dads’ 2nd jab goes ahead as scheduled, and we’ll keep going as we have. I’ve upgraded all our masks to N95’s (extra protection against the new more-virulent strains running around) and we’ll stick to our bubble friends and local area until the nationwide numbers get under control. One down, five to go.
Keep on swimming, keep on swimming…..
A Visit From the Maire
The final thing we got to celebrate this week was our wonderful, rural (yes!) community.
As of last year have a new Maire, together with a young group of motivated folks in the conseil municipal, and they have serious plans. We know all of them of course, as one does in a small village and they’re all perfectly lovely peeps.
This week he came around with his 1ère adjointe (a lovely gal that lives on the hill opposite to us) to greet all his constituents in person, and deliver a care package. Such a cool gesture.
I have to admit it’s taken time to integrate into our little community, but I really, truly appreciate it now. We were darn lucky to end up here, a couple of ex-city folks who happened to fall into a really nice, rural French area.
We may not be natural-born country folk, or even French, but we are totally Maurice and here for all the local stuff, that is one victory I’m very happy to be part of. Vive Maurice, Vive the countryside!
How are you all this week? Did any of you get your 1st jab of vaccine? How did it go? And what do you think of Maurice? I know many of you are country folk and can appreciate the win. DO share you thoughts and feelings below.