Rural dwellers in France are feeling threatened by city slickers moving into the countryside. 

Indeed, a series of court cases lately have pitted the traditional way of life in rural France against modern values which, country-dwellers say, are creeping in from the city.

It all started with Maurice. 

Maurice was a loud, strutting rooster who was so cocky that he was the pride and joy of his owner Monsieur Louis Gaspard who extolled its virtues to all and sundry. 

But Monsieur Sundry did not like the cacophonous cock. He had newly moved in from Paris, a civilised place where roosters did not frighten the daylights out of neighbours at daybreak. 

A civilised city such as Paris would know what to do with the raucous rooster, thought the much maligned neighbour vengefully. Render it into a mouth-watering marsala perhaps?

Some hot fowl curry on a cold winter’s day is always nice, thought Monsieur Sundry wistfully. This shocked the prudish Monsieur Gaspard: he knew that fowl was a four letter bird. 

And that was how it ended up in court. 

According to Reuters, the case was heard in Soustons, 700 km south-west of Paris, which just showed how far Monsieur Sundry had fled to obtain some peace and quiet. 

His lawyer said the piercing noise emitted by the cacophonous cockerel each morning exceeded the permissible levels permitted any rooster holding French citizenship. The ensuing bedlam, argued the lawyer, prevented the Sundrys from sleeping with their house-windows open. 

In short, he wanted damages for his anguish and suffering.

The judge thought the barrister was talking cock and he said so. He ruled that the consequential cockerel was free to do what it did best which was to cock-a-doodle-do until the cows came home or the buffalo roamed.  

He was not known as Monsieur Cliche for nothing. 

Meanwhile, the legal cases have spread. Case in point: the ducks and geese on a small French smallholding may carry on quacking, a French court ruled on Tuesday, rejecting a neighbour’s complaint that the birds’ racket was making their life a misery.

About 60 ducks and geese had been kept by retired farmer Dominique Douthe in the foothills of the Pyrenees and the daily commotion they made had driven the neighbour, newly moved from Paris, to distraction, not to mention drink.

Madame Douthe felt compelled to defend her flock lest her goose be cooked. Her lawyer rose to heights of eloquence in court arguing that her newly moved-in neighbour was on a wild-goose-chase and Madame Douthe’s flock was no less than nature’s bounty.

Even their occasional trips to town were a treat, he argued. It  was sheer “poultry in motion.”  

The disgruntled neighbour is planning to appeal on the grounds that the judge was biased. 

The judge was well known in his rural neighbourhood for his unrelenting dandruff. During the trial, he was only seen to perk up when a witness for the defendant – an expert on shampoo – testified. 

The expert testified that his company only obtained its dandruff-resistant shampoo after a study on the dietary habits of geese. It showed that the addition of gluten to the final formula worked wonders on the scalp.Bread was good for the birds and so, what’s good for the goose was good for the dander.

It’s The Smell, Stupid

Talk about a clash of civilisations! 

A recent tweet that went viral recalled an incident where a Malaysian housewife living in Paris and excited about receiving some belacan (shrimp paste) from home, decided to toast it prior to making a curry. 

Her French neighbour called the police. He thought there might be a dead body next door.

The French should understand all about weird food. I mean, take the neighbour in question. Only the other day, she cooked Pancakes for breakfast. 

OK, she was thrilled but you couldn’t say the same for her children. I mean, they were miserable and you couldn’t blame them.

Pancakes was their favourite rabbit.  

The French loved defenceless animals especially in a creamy mushroom sauce. Interesting statistic: the French eat 500 million snails every year.

And they like things like rabbit and all parts of the cow including the brain, the udders and the tongue. In fairness, it must be pointed out that French cuisine is considered one of the best in the world.  

More intriguingly, there is the French paradox. This was a famous 1980s observation that noted that the French people had a very low incidence of cardiovascular heart disease despite having a diet relatively high in butter and saturated fat. 

The observation still holds true although the advent of fast food may have begun ruining a much-envied national trait. 

But we were talking about strange smells. There are many things associated with smell. One wakes up and smells the coffee, for instance. And there are odours that you indelibly associate with freshness and all things nice. Like rain on parched earth, newly mowed grass, the sea: a childhood memory of a sudden scent of jasmine walking past the neighbour’s at night in Seremban. 

And then, of course, there is the odour of belacan.

There is no getting around it. It is grim and very stern.  What do you expect? It’s shrimp paste and as writer and humourist P J O’ Rourke once observed: “Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is.” 

And even O’ Rourke could not have known that belacan is made from small shrimp that is crushed and salted and left to dry for several weeks until it stinks to high heaven. 

Now you know the French neighbour was at least half right. 

It’s like durian. Like Limburger or Stilton cheese, it’s an acquired taste if ever there was one. 

While discussing the Paris incident on WhatsApp the other day, my friend Radzuan mentioned that some Malaysian students had to evacuate their apartment in Cumberland in a hurry after the Fire Brigade turned up just as they were about to have a feast of durian.

The neighbours thought there was a gas leak.  

Thankfully, my daughter has never liked durian so it isn’t a staple in my house for which I am devoutly grateful. Food writer Adam Sterling once famously described the fruit’s odour as “turpentine and onions garnished with a gym sock.” 

I agree. 

I confess that I am not quite Malaysian in my tastes. My wife is a Eurasian from Malacca and both she and my daughter love all food associated with belacan. 

As for me, I love mankind: it’s prawns I can’t stand.