Did you hear the one about the two Englishmen and an otter in a bar in France?
One of the fixtures of our daily walk into town to get bread and pastries has been watching the gradual decomposition of a large badger. It started out a beautiful specimen lying dead by the side of the road. we watched it go through rigor mortis, bloating and then today deflating into a extraordinarily smelly mass. Ugly but educational along the way.
Today we also found a snake, the victim of another passing car. We think it’s a Montpellier snake. It’s a member of the black-fang viper family – a name which sounds like a criminal gang in Sherlock Holmes story. Thankfully the other wildlife we saw today was alive – tons of butterflies, moths and bees. Also, somewhat strangely, a huge number of snails which seem to be attracted to the reflective bollards on the roadside.
Anyway, to return to the Englishmen in the bar. Last night we had dinner in a lovely bar by the Canal du Midi with the Taylors, our friends from home. At one point the kids shouted out that they’d seen an otter. This slightly portly and shiny Englishman strolled up and informed us that it was not, in fact, an otter. It was vermin, a member of the rat family, imported from some far-off clime for its pelt, and hated by the locals. It also ate ducklings. He regaled us with this while casually throwing stones at it.
We were all a little disappointed to find our otter turned into a large rat. Then another Englishman came over from another table; puffing on a huge cigar he told us that it was in fact a local animal called a copyu, a friendly vegetarian and much-loved by the locals. That cheered us up no end.
I have no idea who was right, but the second opinion made us happier.