If Chatte the cat, (I decided to keep the lady-like name despite the shocking revelation of a few weeks ago) will come to visit us tomorrow morning, as he has been doing of late, he will better be ready for a not entirely welcome surprise:
Let me explain.
Since Mark and I belong to the holy order of the "F**k all to doers", we decided to make ourselves somehow useful to the community: if there is something we can offer, this is the time we have available.
The first idea was to post on the local Facebook page a notice in which we offered a language exchange either English/French or French/Italian. I don't know: maybe half an hour conversation in one language and half an hour in the other and everybody is happy.
A total fiasco!
I have a doubt though, I think something was wrong with that page usually very generous with its reactions: not that I was necessarily expecting a stream of responses, but at least that someone gave it a tiny little bit of s*it with a "LIKE" yes! (Is that Ok to say…?)
Not happy, a few hours later I also published another byproduct of the aforementioned "f**k all to doism", see image, and once again ... nothing.
Oh well, I'm not one who gets easily discouraged.
On Wednesday I tried again with: - byproduct number two -.
We also had another idea for making ourselves useful to the community...
Of course we would like our volunteering to reach higher peaks, but with the level of French we have gained so far the chances of climbing them would be very little: imagine us trying to communicate ... let's say ... with an elderly person whose local accent is as thick as the woods around us ... impossible. So we decided to switch to the dogs, these at least require a minimum level of verbal communication.
And so the idea was born: free dog sitting, perhaps for elderly people or for those with little time available.
As you will have understood from the previous chapters we like to walk, a lot.
Dog sitter + walks in the woods + F**k all to do= us.
And that is how, within a few minutes, I was vindicated: the "LIKEs" began to hit like snowflakes in a storm*.
But not just the "LIKEs": they were in fact followed by messages with sincere requests for help.
One of these came from a nurse who works in the hospital's emergency department . Véronique, as we later discovered, will turn out to be a modern-day Noah whose ark shelters three dogs, two donkeys and a cat.
One of these dogs is Nitro, a good natured two-year-old colossus. A cross between a giant Schnauzer and another breed whose name I forgot, but apparently similar to the Doberman. We call him a ponydoodle. Nitro is the one who needs our help although I suspect it will be him taking us around rather than the opposite.
Yesterday we got to meet him. He sniffed around our flat, probably smelling Chatte, the neighbors' cat who had aptly thought of keeping himself busy somewhere else. With his tail as big as an arm, swaying at the rhythm of his good humor, he sent the cup of coffee we had offered Véronique, flying over the table like a weightless feather. Then he looked at us with eyes full of innocence ...
Later we got into Véroniques car. She drove us to her house so that we could know how to get to Nitro in the future.
Before arriving at the house she warned us: "Now you will hear the donkey, he always greets me ..."
She hadn't yet finished, when an impressive chain of "hee oh, hee oh, hee oh" began to echo in the narrow valley overlooked by her house.
Although Nitro run to greet Tim, the donkey, with a charge of barks inviting him to the play along, the donkey treated him to the same level of indifference offered by Ciao, one of the other two small dogs that live in the house, both equally unimpressed by his statuesque dimensions.
Looking at the donkey and the dog from a distance one could think that they belonged to the same species!
This morning, Véronique brought us Nitro before going to work. Within the first five minutes of our walk, we managed to lose him in the woods. Luckily we found him again near the starting point where he had decided to go and greet another dog. Panic over!
From then on he showed a model behavior, obeying our calls and willingly accepting the lead when we crossed one of the few carriageways on our path.
I hope no one heard me while I was trying to teach him some tricks: after 20 years in the UK, where one says "you" to everybody, studying French I had to reprogram my brain in order to use the polite second person plural: vous. Now I vous everything: people, animals and things...
Who knows what they would have thought if they heard someone addressing a dog sounding like that!
* Yesterday the first snow fell on the highest peaks of the Vosges. The ski attendants have removed the wooden posts that prevent cars from going over the pistes during the summer months. Other poles, tall ones, red and white, that show the way in case of snow accumulations, have instead appeared by the roads further uphill that lead to the slopes. This morning, to our surprise, we also saw them in the town center. It is the first time I live in a place where it is necessary to have poles like this, in a sense they give Gerardmer the air of a frontier place, where sometimes it is perhaps wiser to slow down or stop altogether rather than fight against what nature throws at you. We'll see.
If you wish, you can find the previous chapters here https://www.intertwine.it/it/magazine/6x5HVUR/un-anno-a-gerardmer-a-year-in-gerardme
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