French Air Force - like lambs to the slaughter

Speaking the lingo is a definite plus sometimes. Visiting friends in Apt, an hour's drive away, pre-Sunday lunch aperitifs were taken in the PMU bistrot. Pastis got tongues wagging furiously, and as usual the local Provencaux were trying to outdo each other in superlatives and exaggerations...

Jules used to keep a flock of sheep up on the Monts de Vaucluse plateau, once home to a base for the the Mirage IVs of the 1st Strategic Missile Wing of the French Air Force, and some twenty silos housing the nuclear weapons.

The Patrouille de France (based near Orange)... no match for Jules. (Click for bigger pic)

As the aircraft practiced manoeuvres above the plateau, occasionally breaking the sound barrier, Jules' sheep suffered increasingly from stress. A particularly loud series of sonic booms early one spring day... claimed an apoplectic Jules as if it had happened just yesterday... resulted in four of his sheep spontaneously aborting.

Furious (then and now), Jules wrote to the base to claim compensation. When an answer eventually turned up, on beautifully embossed official Air Force paper (raged Jules), the official concerned had the "culot" (cheek) to request the markings and registration numbers of the aircraft allegedly involved!?!

Jules may have called a halt to his limited education to start work at 14 - he continued with barely a pause for breath - but he'd been to a tougher school since, and he knew just what to do. No hanging about. The next morning the Wing Commander's lawn was closely cropped and fertilised at the same time. By several dozen of Jules' sheep. The sheep however had a few problems discriminating between the W.C.'s lawn and the contents of his flower beds.

Get off my flowers! (Click for bigger pic)

Not one for half measures, Jules immediately followed up with a preemptive strike, sending a letter of his own. "If you're not happy", wrote Jules, "I will consider compensation. All you need to do is supply the names of the sheep concerned"...

A substantial Air Force payment was soon forthcoming...

The airbase was closed down in 1996. A Foreign Legion battalion arrived in its place. Jules, on another Pastis-lubricated Sunday morning, could probably be found in the Apt PMU bar regaling anyone prepared to listen with stories of how the Air Force was obliged to retreat under assault from legions of sheep and their valiant shepherds. Any suggestions that the closure resulted from the redundancy of these dated weapons in the new strategic scenario that followed the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the fall of the Iron Curtain would no doubt be met a cynical Mediterranean sniff and a "what would you foreigners and Parisians know, eh?"

If you know what's good for you, you'll keep mum. Top him up with another Pastis, and keep listening. There are many more stories where that one came from...

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2 comments:

Martyn said...

If exploding grenades and gunshots rekindle Jules landscape gardening skills with an urge to "mow" the foreign legion lawns, I fear a very different result. Legionnaires dressed in wooly hats and scarves will be feasting on the biggest pot of lamb casserole France has ever seen.

The FrogBlogger said...

And I'm not sure if the legionnaires would discriminate between sheep and shepherd, if they were feeling particularly hungry...