Those of you who are regulars at our nid* here in Newstead, Brisbane, will be aware that the walls are not exactly perfectly soundproofed. You'll often hears bursts of laughter coming from neighbouring rooms and occasionally even your name being mentioned (which can be a bit disconcerting...).
This week, however, was especially interesting. Elsa and I were beavering away in one room, while another of our tutors, Charlotte, was taking a conversation class with two of our lovely students next door. The lesson started off conventionally enough, with Charlotte asking 'Est-ce que vous avez déjà trouvé de l'argent dans la rue?* Elsa and I smiled and then went back to our work, becoming engrossed in our respective tasks. About ten minutes later, however, both of our heads snapped up as we heard 'caca'*, 'crotte'*, 'chien'* and finally 'quoi?'* in rapid fire and then Charlotte's laughter as she was cornered into delivering Scatologie 101* to our curious students.
It appears the conversation had turned from finding money in the street, to finding chewing gum on the bottom of your shoe and then, perhaps inevitably, to finding les crottes de chien - dog poo.
We've all heard disparaging remarks about les crottes de chien on the streets of Paris but the veracity of such criticism is in debate. So what do we know?
- There are approximately 17 dogs for every hundred people in France, a figure significantly above the 10% worldwide average for dog ownership.
- Many hotels offer a separate rate for dogs (in the order of €10/night) and not only are dogs welcomed in many restaurants, in some they are even able to take a seat at the table.
- Approximately 600 Parisians are hospitalised every year from injuries sustained from slipping on les crottes.
- In 1982 Jacques Chirac brought in specialised vehicles called moto-crottes* in order to deal with the problem. These were phased out in 2002 in favour of a new law allowing fines of up to €500 for dog owners who fail to clean up after le meilleur ami de l'homme*
- There's an app for it! Bye Bye Crottoir* allows users to put out alerts as to the location of fresh crottes in the hope that authorities will then come along and clean them up.
It is said that the difference between tourists and true Parisians is that while tourists spend their time looking around them at the beauty as they traverse the streets of the city, locals have their eyes fixed firmly on the trottoir*, ever vigilant for an errant crotte.
However, the last word on this belongs to Charlotte, our tutor, who was heard telling her students the upside to this whole story. "In France it is actually considered good luck to step in a crotte with your left foot". So there you go, a porte-bonheur* with a difference.
PS This is why I love my job: in order to write this entry, I turned to wordreference.com to get to grips with the exact meaning of the word crotte. I literally laughed out loud when I got to crotte d'œil*. I may have an infantile sense of humour but it made my day.
*nest (our office) | *Have you ever found money in the street?" | *poo | *turd | *dog | *what? | *Scatology 101 | *dog poo | *lucky charm | *but why? | *poo buggies | *man's best friend | *a porte-manteau word mixing crotte (dog poo) and trottoir (pavement) | *pavement | *lucky charm | *eye booger