Opinion

Paul McNamee: Bravo Maurice, you’ve given us something to crow about

Clearly, we are living through remarkable times

chicken

In France last week they were obsessed with a big cock.

Stop it. Really. I know you’ll insert your own Brexit/Boris punchline.

I shouldn’t have said insert… This is all going terribly Frankie Howerd.

As it happens, the story is about Maurice, a four-year-old cockerel with a penchant for very loud early-morning calls. Maurice saw his future – with or without a head – become a driving concern. It’s a story that went beyond France and picked up heat internationally.

Maurice lives on the Île d’Oléron, a nice-looking place just off the western coast, a little south of La Rochelle. Every morning at 6.30am Maurice, as cockerels are wont to, sounds a dawn greeting. But this was too much for a couple who had a holiday home nearby. Retired farmers, the pair said Maurice was a nuisance and should be removed from his home, maybe permanently.

It went to court and last week the court found for Maurice. It took two years to resolve. It was seen as a battle between city and country, between the desires of holiday-homer blow-ins and local residents, between nature and control of nature. There are similar actions rippling around France over loud frogs and cicadas.

More pertinently it illustrates something wider. While we here, locked in our own circular Brexit conversation/crisis, see that as the story of our time, and that no doubt the rest of Europe are equally caught up in our psychodrama, clearly they’re not. While they may be paying some attention, they like to be diverted by stories about cockerels facing the death penalty. There is Maurice merchandising – there are T-shirts!

We used to have similar interests here. The back-to-school period has been going on for a couple of weeks in the UK, first in Scotland then in England. That used to be marked with a slew of stories about kids being sent home for having inappropriate versions of uniform or hair, accompanied by pictures of angry parents pointing at the inappropriate uniform or hair and raging at the authorities. It’s a time-honoured tradition, an indicator that the seasons are turning and thoughts would soon move to Christmas. Now Brexit has taken that from us.

A good way to let a little air out is to step back and allow baloney to amuse

Even poultry-related light stories have been co-opted (see the Corbyn/chicken/election fandango).

It’s a dangerous slide.

Clearly, we are living through remarkable times. There is an endless volume of things that can be said about the ever-changing moods of British politics and that inexorable trudge towards October 31. We can get angry or aggrieved or constantly, perpetually perplexed.  But that focus just keeps air going into the balloon.

And the only way to keep the balloon from bursting is to let some  air out. A good way to let a little air out is to step back and allow baloney to amuse. Let nobody stop you! Become diverted by French cocks. Become mildly obsessed about giant eels in Loch Ness. Let it all roll in.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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