Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Meet Alfred !

During our first real annual stay in the Loire Valley in 1999, we stayed at the Château de Belmont in Tours. Over the eight following years the restaurant owner and his wife have become our friends. Unfortunately, in February 2008 they sold the château and the grounds to a real estate developer, who’s turning the place into a four star residence for affluent senior citizens. Only if I were to win the lottery, I could consider taking up residence there when my dream about retiring in the Loire Valley eventually turns into reality!

On our first evening at Belmont we were sitting on the terrace sipping our aperitif when the Maître d’hôtel came out with a plate with on it a slice of cake that had been cut in 1 cm cubes. Instead of offering it to the guests, he put it on a little side table. Five minutes later a fair-haired lady in a posh frock appeared at the door. She picked up the plate, took a few pieces of cake and scattered them on the lawn whilst shouting ‘Venez mes petits cherries, venez!’ (Come here, my little darlings, come here!). She repeated this several times until, from the undergrowth near the duck pond, appeared two quacking and squeaking brown ducks. They ran over the lawn and gobbled up the pieces of cake.

We, as well as the other patrons sitting on the terrace, were charmed by this amusing spectacle. However, the best and most astonishing part was yet to come.

The lady kept feeding cake to the two ducks, but seemed worried. ‘Alfred, où es tu?’ (Alfred, where are you?), she called out again and again. Finally, there was a ruffle in the undergrowth where the two brown ducks had appeared earlier. To everybody’s surprise a white duck poked his head out of the bushes. Slowly and self-consciously, it made his appearance. How to describe what we saw? Alfred, because that’s who it was, was a very unusual duck indeed. Unlike the common specimen, that move with their body held horizontally, Alfred kept his body very erect, almost vertical while he limped – not wobbled – towards the lawn. What was wrong with this duck?

Alfred and his two companions

The explanation was a very simple, yet rather distressing. It turned out that Alfred had a wooden ‘leg’. Apparently he had been run over by a car when crossing the main drive on the château grounds. The hotel proprietor loved Alfred so much that she had refused to have him put asleep. So the vet had given Alfred a wooden leg.

Alfred lived for another two or three years after our first meeting, until he finally died of old age. I bet he’s the only duck limping around on a wooden leg in duck heaven !


chm said...

Lovely story about "Alfred"!

ladybird said...

chm: Alfred was quite a caracter indeed.