Three bags full

I never saw many farm animals up close when I was young. We lived in suburbia, where you got your milk in bladders (it’s a Canadian thing) and wool only ever came in sweaters. Living for years in France and now in Switzerland, some of our closest neighbours are furred or feathered.

Our French bulldog, Humphrey, the one with the wonky ticker, is mildly obsessed by sheep. All farm animals really, but especially the ones closer to his own size. Humphrey stares fixedly at the sheep and goats we pass on our walks. How ridiculous he looks; I feel rather embarrassed for him. Even the cows just look back at him placidly as they chew their cud. Electric fencing means that their relationship will never get beyond a curious stare. Although on one occasion he was surprised when the massive pink tongue of a curious cow came and licked him over the fence.

Now the farm animals have all gone inside for the winter but in most seasons they graze happily outdoors. I wonder if they have shorter legs on one side to keep their balance on the steep slopes?

We had a bit of snow this week which made the dog walks a little tough on the Frenchies’ tootsies. Our boys are getting older and are less excited about going out in the cold and wet. The upside is that when they do their business, which I always pick up faithfully here in the land of civic duty, it is easier to grab in the snow. And even warms my hands! Like most modern dog walkers, I have perfected my technique for picking up dog-do: slipping the bag over my hand like a glove then grabbing the item and turning the bag inside out. Before knotting it, that is; here in Switzerland there is a protocol for everything and one must knot the bag, n’est-ce pas?

Thankfully the bags are thoughtfully provided by the Gemeinde (town council) at poop bins strategically located where people walk their dogs. So I have no excuse, really, and can even be seen after dark with my walking light scrabbling around on the ground to pick up after my pets.

Garbage bags are another story. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere but here in German-speaking Switzerland, you have to buy special pre-taxed bags. Any other kind will simply not be picked up.

“Müllsacks, bitte,” I venture to the woman behind the counter where they sell pricey, taxed items like garbage bags and cigarettes. Thankfully she understands me, even though I think it’s not the correct word. That might in fact be ‘Gebührenkehrichtsack’ (charged garbage bag) but I am far from able as yet to spit that one out.

I am, however, proud to be able to specify the size of bag: “Fünf und dreissig.” The 35-litre bags are the most popular format so perhaps she saw it coming. I fork out 20 francs to pay for my roll of ten red bags. At 2 CHF a pop, it’s a good thing they’re sturdy because you need to amortize each one by filling it to the max. Most weeks we manage three bags full.

It seems the philosophy of making the polluter pay for the costs of waste disposal is deeply ingrained in the Swiss psyche. I suppose it’s an incentive to create less waste and recycle more. Which is all very well and good unless you have a sensitive nose. Those bags start to stink after a few days.

But who wants to be a black sheep?

Ba-a-a-h!

Feature photo by Jared van der Molen on Unsplash

Le leader sheep

Leader sheepThe other day I heard someone on the radio talk about le leader sheep. While I have lived here long enough to be able to recognize when the French speak franglais, it nonetheless took me by surprise. And the rather strange image of the leader sheep popped into my mind.

It’s funny because we tend to think of sheep as followers. If we hear about people behaving ‘like a bunch of sheep’ we will imagine them blindly following. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s what leadership is all about?

There is something endearing about the French use of English words. It’s as if certain concepts must be expressed in the original version as they simply do not exist in French. Business French is strewn with such jargon, sometimes to the point where it is difficult to know which language is being spoken. Some very funny examples were immortalized by the French minister Annick Girardin in an open letter to the business world, shared here.

I remember once asking a colleague: Surely there must be a French word for leader? “Oui,” she said. “Un meneur d’hommes.”

“Hommes?” I asked. But what about women? My colleague explained that ‘hommes’ in this context is meant in the broad sense (sorry, bad pun) to also include les femmes. Ah oui, bien sûr.

One of the reasons I like living in France is that the cult of the politically correct is slower to catch on here. They may not have a word for leadership but they are also less like sheep. Come to think of it, getting the French to follow anybody is a challenge.

Care to share your experience of leadership or leader sheep?