Wednesday, May 22, 2013


This is Clémentine l'Oie, a gosling, at four days old.  When I went round last week to see C, who is fourteen and who I help with her English, Clémentine was nesting in a plastic bowl lined with a towel on the kitchen floor.

'A duck!' I said
'A goose,' C corrected me.
'Where did you get her?' I asked.
'From a neighbour,' C answered.
'Um, is she for food or for company?' (it's as well not to make assumptions...)
'Company! And eggs...' she added.
'Ah, big eggs. Is it a girl or a boy?'
'It's too soon to know.'

Clémentine thinks that C is her mother.  You can understand this because C is very beautiful and very kind. Clémentine spent our English lesson snuggled on C's lap making happy little cheeping noises, but C was very good and always concentrated on her work.

I asked her to send me a photo to show to Tom, because he especially loves geese (which is an irregular plural, of course).  I asked if I could put the photo on my blog.

'C'est quoi votre blog?' came the reply.

When I explained what manner of truc my blog was, C was more than happy for Clémentine to appear.  She has grown already, I'm told, so when I see them next week she'll probably be flying around the kitchen.


Zhoen said...

Well, love a goose!

Oh, wait.

christopher said...

All manner of creatures great and small... It is very difficult to refrain from falling in love with the young who are generally instantly recognized no matter who they are... The imprinting of goose to human is especially dear if not always wise.

Roderick Robinson said...

What a tolerant teacher you are -
allowing C to nurse a gosling while learning English. This would not have been allowed at a certain educational establishment you have often heard me refer to; what's more the punishment would have been condign. Approaching the front of the erring pupil's desk the teacher (most likely Mr Iolo Jones who had learned this technique in his homeland) would have reached out with both hands, grabbed fingerfuls of flesh from both cheeks, and tugged the pupil out of his seat and forwards over the desk. The first time I saw this punishment I dismissed it as all talk and no trousers: ie, pain-free and chosen mainly for its spectacularity. When, as surely as day follows night, I became a sufferer it turned out to be excruciating, drawing its pain from sources as remote as the roots of my toe-nails.

Condign in that the gosling would have been put at risk too.

May I use Box Elder to issue a curse? Very, verily, Mr IJ, I trust you are warmly accommodated in purgatory and are presently looking at an LED display predicting the date of your release - showing that well-known mathematical symbol consisting of the figure eight lying on its side.

Purged and in a normal frame of mind, I can now think more happily and more constructively about the role of a gosling in the classroom. Ask C. whether she's aware of worry beads and/or executive toys. I imagine a warm, living and compliant entity resting in one's hands would be the perfect aid to thought: an exemplar of the desirability and fragility of knowledge.

My apologies for coming all this way to, as it were, split an infinitive and spit in the corner of your blog. You have my permission to exercise the ultimate editorial sanction. On the way to Tesco, in an hour or so, I shall be uplifted by your more positive view of supermarkets and be keeping an eye open from lepers whose feet I might wash, al fresco.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

If Clémentine l'Oie turns out to be a boy, and therefore not useful as an egg-producer, shall he be kept as a guard-dog... geese make very fine and noisy guard-dogs... or shall he be dinner? Oh dear! I hope not the latter.

Lucy said...


Z - hmm, the alliteration of 'lord love a duck!' might become 'gawd gimme a goose!'perhaps...

Christopher - lovely to see you. There is something special about geese isn't there; ducks are cute, swans are elegant, hens are useful and busy and cockerels are impressive, but geese are somehow closer to us. But yes, not always wise. The people who raise geese and do those microlight migration flights with them go to great lengths to disguise their shape, wearing large square garments etc, when dealing with them, so the birds don't imprint on the human figure. At C's house the animals, dog, cats, a large flock of chickens, come and go very freely between the garden and the field and veg patch opposite, and are all very tame and welcoming, without any cooping or separating from one another. I hope Clémentine is a girl and learns to go and live peaceably outside with the chickens! A full sized, possessive gander in that setting won't really work; we've had more than one experience of over-grown, over-protective male fowls like that and they really become a bit of a menace. C is of French country stock and knows the score, but she's also tender-hearted and has clearly taken to the creature, so it could mean heartbreak... I hope not.

RR - oh dear, feel free to retro-actively curse Mr IJ here, he clearly deserved it. C is a very serene child who concentrates well and doesn't fidget and get distracted. I think I was more inclined to find Clémentine a distraction than she was!

Clive - indeed, see my reply to Christopher above. They have a lovely set-up there, I do hope Clémentine manages to find a comfortable place in it. They were recently burgled during the day, which left their dear old soppy Labrador miserable and rather traumatised, as the burglars shut him away behind some furniture, so perhaps they don't mind having a slightly scary goose or gander looking after the place. They certainly wouldn't make dinner of him just for not being productive; he might just have to go and live elsewhere I suppose. And be renamed Clément.

Anyway, fingers crossed it'll work out!

Anonymous said...

How beautiful!

Jean said...

What a sweetie. Took me right back to when my uncle had some land and kept chickens, ducks and noisy geese when I was a kid. Long, long ago. Uncle in question went bankrupt (not entirely undeserved -greedy builder in 1960s housing boom, but sad. My parents were very condemnatory, but in retrospect I don't think he was a bad man), lost big house and land in the country, had heart attacks and died when he was about the age I am now.

I hope I will live somewhere again one day with such creatures in the vicinity. That would make me happy.

It would also no doubt force me to resolve my ambivalence about eating meat. As a kid, I managed both to pet and name my uncle's birds and watch him kill and pluck them - don't think I could now.

Zhoen said...

zephyr said...

Clementine sounds like such a sweetheart.

i do love geese. And ducks. It's one of the reasons i love working at Greenwood.

Unknown said...

Birds mature and fledge so quickly. I hope that this one when it grows up will look kindly on her foster mother and her foster mother's teacher, who imortalised her in her blog.

the polish chick said...

adorble! a co-worker bought 40 chicks (for food, alas) and i have been pestering her to have a "bring your chicken to work day" but so far she is resistant. it's just as well - they're growing feathers and leaving that cuddly fluffy stage (as we all must do).

Ellena said...

We lived in town, in a duplex. Us on second floor, a pastor on ground floor and a rooster in the basement. Don't know what we were thinking of when we bought this cute little yellow bundle as an Easter gift for our daughter. Pastor complained because cocorico woke him up in the morning. No choice but to take a trip into the country side. We threw the musician over a fence into a farmer's back yard.
I wish I had been your neighbour at that time. Rooster would have had a good life in our yard.
We also bought her a bird. She took it out of it's cage into her bed. Birdy suffered Crib-death.
Her father did not like the cat I bought for her. It 'ran away' during her 4th birthday party. I knew better than to question him about it.
Now she lives happily with one dog and three cats.

Anonymous said...

I do like Clive's guard-dog idea. I've been poked by a few geese in my day. Not that I was burgling or anything.

Rouchswalwe said...

Once, I happened to be standing silently as several geese approached, flapping overhead, coming in low for a landing on the lake close by. I still remember the strength of their wing pump, the sound of the air, the awe in my heart.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Too cute for words! But I'm baffled by this:

"...The people who raise geese and do those microlight migration flights with them go to great lengths to disguise their shape, wearing large square garments etc, when dealing with them, so the birds don't imprint on the human figure...."

What?? There are people who migrate with geese? And wear large square garments? And birds can imprint on humans?

Lise said...

Tout petits , les canetons, comme tous les autres volatiles sont adorables . dommage ils grandissent trop vite
PS: Bonne fête à vous pour la fête des mamans

Lucy said...

Chloë, yes she is! And the photo doesn't show it but she's almost green, her yellow down mixing with grey underneath.

Jean - children can be harder about that kind of thing than adults, it can have kind of fascination. This is a betwixt and between family; they love their pets very tenderly, keep pretty bantams for eggs and fun, there was once a fluffy lop-eared bunny in a hutch in the house and a dozen or so of big old brown rabbits over the way for the pot, with no apparent difficulty, though the latter may be more grandad's preserve.

Zhoen - that's funny, because the dog in the video is Ruby and their old Labrador is also Rubi. He's a real softy and slightly nervous of Clémentine.

Zephr - they are dear creatures. Have you mentioned the geese at Greenwood?

Joe - I hope so too, and that (s)he's not chasing me down the drive in a few weeks...

PC - speak for yourself, I consider myself still at the cute fluffy stage...

Ellena - oh dear, what a sad litany! We also had a cute yellow fluffball that turned into a monster cockerel, no pastors though. Glad she's happy with her beasts now!

Peter - wasn't there some founding myth about Rome being saved by guardian geese or something?

Rouchswalwe - there's a moving bit in the French film 'La Peuple Migrateur' where the wild geese fly overhead and the farmyard geese cry out to them. Gulp...

Natalie - yes yes and yes! I read about the people who raised the geese wearing weird square overcoats (the people not the geese) in a French magazine, Terre Sauvage, years ago, then there's the 1996 film 'Fly Away Home' which is a bit mawkish and romanticised but still a real tear-jerking, heart-lifting watch. And surely you know about Konrad Lorenz imprinting geese? We in fact had a cockerel whom we found as a day old fluffball in the middle of the road who grew into a monster with the build and complexion of Henry VIII and the temperament of Vlad the Impaler who was extremely devoted to Tom. He went by the misleadingly cute name of Chick Pea since he was quite cute and not much bigger than a chick pea when we found him - our neighbours know him, accurately enough, as Pois Chiche. I might dig out the photos some time.

Lise - Les volatiles! Je ne connaissais pas cette terme. Je ne suis pas maman, en fait, mais bonne fête à vous de même!

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Lucy, I've now looked it all up and realise how shamefully ignorant I was about these matters. And of course I remember the spectacularly wonderful 'Le Peuple Migrateur' - I think I have the video and must watch it again forthwith.