Last weekend saw a kind of donkey festival in our commune of Plémy that of the next but one, Quessoy.
This was given the waggishly punning name of Les Chic'ânes, which, rather ungrammatically, means both 'Chic Donkeys' and, well, chicanes, as in, chicanes, on a sporting track, or I suppose as in chicanery, funny goings-on... well, anyway, not to worry, a pun is a pun, it needs no real point.
I only attended the local one, which really was very local, some five minutes walk away, at a farming hamlet I sometimes drive past, often on purpose to look at their growing collection of pet donkeys, as well as a small herd of miniature black sheep, a couple of ponies, and a pleasant potager. I don't tend to walk there much, so I've never spoken to the people there, and don't quite know what belongs to who, whether the whole settlement belongs to one family, or whatever, but when I've seen people there they always look quite cheerful and friendly. I ended up going there two days running, as my camera battery ran out quickly on the Saturday afternoon.
There was a small bar, a tent offering crêpes, and a sawdust toilet,
with information and displays (not of an overtly practical nature I hasten to add, just samples of sawdust and some posters and leaflets...) run by a lively and attractive hippyish woman of a certain age, the kind I instinctively warm to. Oh, and a strangely-dressed man on the Sunday telling unintelligible (to me) stories and singing unintelligible songs in a laughably awful voice. There were the usual local suspects, such as our neighbour Victor with a group of fellow ancients, and other familiar faces, and some I'd not seen before,
such as this chap whose facial furniture was so impressive I had a paparazzi moment with the zoom, taking in a donkey's ears into the bargain. And there were a few dogs, as well as Mol, on the scene.
Really though, the occasion centred entirely on donkeys, which pleased me greatly because I love donkeys. I think they have the most beautiful faces,
the most gentle, wise eyes,
and the loveliest, softest ears.
To me they are among the noblest and sweetest of beasts, and I believe our species' abuse and slandering of them is one of our many sources of great shame.
Happily, the people running this show were very keen to redress this; the commentary over the PA was a paean of praise to donkeys: they are not stubborn, it was said, though they can be mistrustful; they are never vicious, unless they have been subject to ill-treatment at our hands, they are especially gentle towards children. They also seemed favourably disposed towards dogs,
though one or two people, not the donkey experts themselves, on seeing me approach the penned-up ones with Mol, asserted that dogs and donkeys didn't get on at all.
Nevertheless, she and they touched noses amiably, all ears were pointing in the right directions, and though they seemed curious and a little cautious, there was no sign of distress on the donkeys' part.
There were donkeys of many sizes and colours,
There were of course donkey rides,
and endless circuits of the field were made by donkey-drawn conveyances,
I think this man must have walked a fair number of kilometres by the end of the weekend, but he kept on smiling.
On the first day, five of the resident group from the farm were all roped together, held by one older chap, meeting the public.
They skipped and danced and jostled a bit, but they were only wearing head collars, not bridles and bits, so that with their combined strength they could very easily have hauled their keeper anywhere they wanted, but they were very well behaved and good humoured.
On the second day, the same group was loose in a fenced off area - no serious wire or electric fence mind, just coloured tape - and were preparing themselves for one of the main events of the day:
There's a young Asian girl I've seen around there, presumably an adoptee, she's often in miniature blue overalls, a busy, managing, energetic child, and she was very much in evidence on this occasion, in red jacket and hard hat, involved with every aspect of the proceedings.
The donkey received their pep talk from their boss, then they were off.
He only waved the stick at them and just touched them occasionally with it to keep them on course, there was no hitting involved.
It all happened quite quickly so I had to catch the action as best I could.
but there was always the ringmaster's assistant to run behind.
After the show, everyone gathered amicably together at the fence for a chat and a fuss,
hooves and hands were shaken,
and affectionate gestures exchanged.
It was altogether a fun and friendly event, and good to see people so kindly and enthusiastically working with and promoting these lovely animals. I hope they do it again.