Goosey, Goosey...... - Poem by Margaret Kollmer
I went to France to start a war. But I needn't have bothered as, in a nuclear manner of speaking, the French were managing very well without me. But the geese! Ah, yes, the geese.
In my dreams, I have fantasised about my visit to France so often that I almost know it off by heart. Sadly, as in many dreams, there are parts which cause sadness. For myself, I always wake up. For others, there could perhaps be no such respite.
The magnificent Gerard Depardieu is my beau. He takes me everywhere and anywhere I wish. He is my escort, my chaffeur, my.....mais non! That is for me to know and for you to guess.
My dream always starts with a hug. He is so …oh so very.....well, large. Wonderful, wonderful man. Our mutual hugs strengthen. 'You are a Star! ' he whispers. 'Oui, ' says I, never one to question a compliment. Reluctantly we pull apart and, magically, he Concords me off to England. I ask no questions. It is enough that we are together.
Soon, hanging on desperately to the handrail of the distinctive London bus, the Great Depardieu scampers close behind me to click, snapple and pop. Alors! It is I who is the subject of his zoom lens. Deeply flattered and intoxicated by the wonders of the English capital I realise that here, in the sunset of my boulevard, I am indeed the star of my own life's dreams...and far enough away from Deppy's ‘garlic constellation' to inhale large gulps of pollution with a rather different smell. Plus ça change.
Suddenly, before I'm aware of something untoward happening, Deppy has hopped off the bus with a wave and a shout that he will join me at Heathrow four hours later. Always, a trifle bewildered by the suddenness of some of his decisions, I am quite desolated as I, too, dismount and find myself having to window-shop alone but, true to his word, he arrives back on time.
Observing my puzzled expression as we once again board Concorde, he bursts out laughing to explain the reason for our visit. I was to be used in a TV commercial for plump geese. What? Deppy produces the photograph he took of me on the bus and I smile ruefully. Indeed, I did rather resemble a plump goose ready for the pot! Deppy shows me a well filled Order Book for paté de foie gras and explains that in the opinion of the London gourmets, if this is what foie gras had done for me then that is just what they wanted done for them!
I protest that I have never eaten foie gras in my life nor am I ever likely to do so; Deppy being very well aware that I abhor the French system of force-feeding geese to pander to the hedonists of the world nor did I have any desire to further the dreadful practice.
I wanted to run from him but the garlic was beginning to get to me. More, I whispered, more! What was happening to me?
Suddenly, we are in the magnificent, medieval village of Rocamadour. But is this not where reality takes over from fantasy? In the vast, sweeping panorama around us, Rocamadour is the gateau of the area. A breathtakingly beautiful layered village built upwards and into the side of a steep hill. Schools upon houses, churches upon schools. A Monastery at the summit is the cherry on the top. Legend has it that miscreant monks were dropped, taken, bungee'd? down to the bottom whereafter they had to crawl back up again as penance for their sins.
A quick hop and skip and we are on the banks of the River Lot where we board a bateau mouche to drift lazily across the waterways of the Dordogne. Then a stop at the famous Cahors indoor market.
Ha! Food, baby, food! La gastronomie spectaculaire! The rest of the world eats. In France they savour. Ah, zees is where moi belongs. Fish with skin like silk and eyes reminiscent of Gary Glitter in his hey-day. The whitest poultry and Tripe Lyonnaise. Du vin... full bodied, rounded and smooth. Baguettes, croissants, olives and oh, the cheese! 264 Varieties - a sign proclaims. I fall in love with Cabecou and Chevre - creamy white pats of goatsmilk cheese - made fresh each day from the first morning's milking. Frogs legs (what do they do with the other bits?) and again the ubiquitous pate de fois gras. I almost choke.
Certainly at times I may voluntarily force-feed myself but these poor birds have no choice but to spend the greater part of their lives weighed down by gravity. My heart aches for their grossly distended livers, solidly packed to yield more and yet more of the priceless delicacy.
'Not fair! ' I cry out aloud and walk away but my dream becomes a nightmare when Deppy steps across my path. 'Non! ' he admonishes, 'one Revolution is enough! 'Reluctantly, I move away and follow his eyes to the myriad variety of mushrooms on display.
They're called ceps, he tells me and if I hadn't seen them on TV cookery programmes, I'd never have believed them to be edible. Gnarled and twisted, black, brown and white monsters seemingly from outer space but no self-respecting French cook would be without them.
Deppy ambles around the market buying a little of this and a little of that until our satchels are filled with irresistable bucolic delights, after which we climb a nearby grassy knoll to eat, drink and be merry. So merry, in fact, that we nearly roll right down again.
'Stand up! ' Deppy commands suddenly. There's something of Napoleon in every Frenchman, I conclude. Oooo-er! He helps me up as we gaze at little outcrops of buildings dotted across the rolling Renoiresque fields around us. 'Communes, ' he explains. 'A church, perhaps, and anything from three to eight homes makes a commune. Built of natural stone and very old.' A couple of miles distant in all directions are other similar communes. Clean woodsmoke filters lazily to the sky; evidence of wonderful homey kitchens filled with fresh, homemade food.
Sometimes, in my dream, we are invited to share in the 'repas' and camaraderie of the hospitable country folk. Generous, warm people, Madame is always cooking or baking. Bayonne ham, cassoulet, market-day fresh linefish.
Quite suddenly we are in Toulouse, or Toulouse-a, as the locals call it. Immediately one senses the City as being one of great love and warmth. Wonderful pink slate roofs and pink stone walls. How the imagination runs wild thinking about some of the not so romantic reasons for many of the enchanting turrets and towers.
I don't need to wake up from my dream to know that I am not an inveterate culture-vulture. Churches, museums, chateaux and statues of dead people are interesting when it rains but the living are my main attraction. Real, live people with generations of history, culture and customs behind them which they are happy to share. Above all, it is their very 'peopleness' I love.
Deppy's understanding of my feelings is touching and warm. My command of the French language is not strong but a persistence born of the love of its glorious and romantic expression finds me pummelling away towards more effective communication between the people of two very distant Continents. As always, I am in my element.
Initially, the locals stare at me with suspicion then hesitantly ask if I am 'Anglais.' 'Moi? ' I reply with mock horror. 'Non! ' says I proudly: 'Je suis Sud Africaine.'
In hushed voices they whisper, 'Mandela? '
‘Oui, ' I smile warmly. I scratch around in my handbag and pull out a photograph of Madiba and myself taken at Madame Tussauds. They are always impressed. I am always amused. Sometimes I tell them I am my country’s Ambassadress for Montmartre … or somewhere. They know I fib but we all laugh.
'And ze rugby? ’
'Ah, oui, le rugby.' My eyes become misty. Champions of the world. La vie en rose!
Deppy cups my elbow in his hand and leads me away to the Malls where he leaves me as he has other matters to attend to.
Les Galeries de Lafayette, de St. Georges and others; these commercial palaces being to the female species what mayo is to hard-boiled eggs.
I 'do' Toulouse in a few hours and return to our pre-arranged rendezvous where Deppy is waiting to relieve me of my haute couture, haute cuisine and haute Woolworths, or equivalent.
Back in our hotel room, I recognise the signs that my dream is about to end. An exquisite black negligée lies draped across the bed. For some unrequited reason, Deppy never gets to see me in it as by then he has already faded away into a soft, swirling mist.
When I awake in the morning my pillow is always damp. No, not for Deppy. He always returns for yet another dream. No, my tears are for the force-fed geese who, sadly, have no options at all.
Where shall I start my war?
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