Yesterday was a day packed, like a tin of Paimpol Sardines, full of rendezvous. Being a wise old owl I master minded proceedings with the precision of a Napoleonic campaign, dashing about Brittany to ensure both boys were in the right place at the right time with all the necessary accouterments and dressed appropriately for each occasion, clean teeth for the Orthodontist, clean hands for the orthophonist, clean sports kit for Handball and , as always with any expedition involving diminutive Frenchmen , a suitable supply of goutes to keep the ever present loupe of hunger at bay, for as Napoleon famously said "an army marches on its stomach".
On the final leg of the journey , driving along in the pitch blackness of country lanes we were halted by the sight of an Barn owl sitting unperturbed by our headlights in the middle of the road and with no intention it seemed of stirring one feather in flight. Thus we ground to a sedate halt and waited.
"Look boys isn't it beautiful!"
"Is it a Chouette? ( French name for Barn Owl)" asked Middle .
"Yes" I said gleefully proud of his ornithological skills .
" Oh Chouette!( the French for "Oh Great! " ) said youngest.
The French language has a not so endearing trick of using the same word spelt and pronounced the same way to mean a variety of quite diverse things, which has no doubt led to some interesting misunderstandings in history . Any way back to the Owl...
"Someone close to us is going to die" .they both said with typical French resignation.
"Not true" I chirruped " its just a myth" . They gave me one of those slow steady stares reserved for demented elderly relatives who have uttered something particularly stupid.
The problem is that our Breton neighbours believe, and I mean seriously believe, that to see a Chouette and hear its call means someone you love will fall off their proverbial twig in the not to distant future if not before. Rather a fatalistic lot they are at times. Since we live surrounded by woodland and barns all of which are bustling with Chouettes it can make an evening excusion rather a tense event at times. No wonder the locals rarely go out after dark.
"Anyway" I prattled like the vielle chouette that I am ( and that means silly old bag in French, see I told you French vocab was a cunning beast!)
"We aren't Breton so it doesn't apply to us"
My passengers were not convinced and as if to emphasise the inevitability of a dear ones passing each devoured another Madelaine in resigned silence. I could feel their minds working on the list of family and friends crossing of those accounted for and pondering for whom the owl would screech.
After an age the Owl gave a rather Gaelic shrug and took off silently into the night having successfully put a damper on our evening. Not that I believe in those things but I did drive very carefully all the way home!