I find myself living in the prime holiday destination for escapees from the bansturbator Hell of the US and the UK.
Bergerac was the centre of the French tobacco growing area. We have the Tobacco museum for you to while away an hour or so. We have proper tobacconists that sell all manner of cherry flavoured, steeped in 100 year old brandies, leaf of the tobacco plant for you to try out. Visitors are pleased to find that it is warm enough to sit out all year round when dinning, and thus can enjoy a pleasant after-dinner or even inter-course cigarette as and when they please. It is a refreshing atmosphere for those used to the nicotine purgatory that the UK has become.
Just six years ago, our local airport was pleased to receive 10,000 English speaking tourists a year in a second hand marquee on the edge of the airfield. This year we will be welcoming ten times that number in a purpose built airport with proper signs saying ‘departure lounge’ directing you to the same tired old plastic chairs that used to sit in the tent…we’ll get there, no rush.
This morning I was alerted to the fact that we are confidently expecting a new breed of tourist. Bookings are up already. The Californian twang will soon be heard asking if every Goddamn thing is closed on a Monday.
Wouldn’t you know our luck? Not only are we the centre of the Tobacco industry, but just as a new ban bites aficionados on the backside – we are also the centre of the French Fois Gras industry. As from tomorrow it will be illegal to consume Fois Gras in California on pain of a $1,000 fine. Bergerac beckons you Californians. Why risk a $1,000 fine to eat canned Fois Gras when for the same price you can come here and eat fresh Fois Gras three times a day? AND have a cigarette after your meal?
The Californian Legislators have bought into the whole ‘cruel force feeding of ducks’ myth wholesale. Not that their new law will actually change anything in the way the ducks are fed here, but it makes them feel good to penalise their diners.
There are some essential differences between French Farmers and certainly the UK variety. UK Farmers drive their animals in front of them when they want them to move. Some even use sticks to persuade them on their way. You will never see a French farmer doing that. French farmers only move their animals when they are going to feed them – they walk in front. The animals follow them at a gallop – hey! it’s feeding time! Such simple logic.
We are surrounded by Fois Gras farms. When the farmer appears at the gate, the ducks can’t waddle there fast enough. He opens the gate and they race after him to the so called ‘instruments of torture’ – the gavage sheds. The ducks main aim is to eat as much as possible in as short a time as possible. (I do keep ducks myself!) To this end, evolution has denuded a duck of the ‘swallow’ mechanism. It wastes time. Ducks open their mouths and gorge. Nothing makes them happier than someone pouring a steady stream of grain, preferably maize, into their beaks. The plastic funnels that the local farmers use to oblige thus, have been described as ‘akin to water boarding’, and the question is often posed ‘How would you like to have a funnel thrust down your throat and food poured down it’. Well, of course, the answer is – ‘you wouldn’t like it very much at all’. That my friend is because you are not a Duck, you have a swallow mechanism which would be rudely interrupted by such a process. Dingbats. The Duck wouldn’t take very kindly to being forced to sit at a table and wait whilst someone served three minuscule portions of food on a plate either.
Still, silver linings and all that, we are happy to welcome an influx of Californians. Could somebody let PETRA know that we have a thriving market on a Wednesday where you can buy all manner of Fur coats, too? No harm in welcoming a few Fur coat ban refugees as well.
Whilst we are on the subject of feeding ducks, I used to run a riverside tea rooms on the border of Norfolk/Suffolk. When I first moved there, there was only one resident duck. I used to charge 10p for charity for a little pot of duck food since everyone wanted to feed him. Eventually we had a couple of hundred ducks resident and I was buying duck food by the sack load. We raised several thousand pounds for the RNIB over the years. The British love feeding ducks. It is one of the essential components of childhood memories. Not in Ely.
One of my competitors, the Peacocks tearoom in Ely had the same idea. Feed the Ducks. 20 years too late, my friends. The UK has changed. Before they knew what had hit them, a sign appeared on the Riverbank.
You can still feed the ducks in Bergerac too…