One of the things I hate about France is barking dogs. It seems that wherever you go, even somewhere as isolated as Sainte Cecile, you will hear some poor dog yapping in the distance. If you live in a village, you will probably hear a cacophony of dogs, desperate to be untied, fed, walked or whatever it is they are barking about.
Rupert hates barking dogs even more than I do and has always said that one of the great things about living in the Middle East is the lack of them. The Arabs have a strange relationship with dogs. Mostly they don’t seem to like them, so they are a rarity.
Then a few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. We were lying in bed one weekend and we heard a sound that catapulted is all the way back to the south of France. Yap, yap yap, yap, yap, yap yap yap.
“I don’t believe it,” said Rupes, leaping out of bed. “Where the hell is that coming from?”
We couldn’t quite work it out, but on and on the dog barked, not all day, but a few hours a day, enough to be irritating. Rupes kept shaking his head and cursing.
A few days ago we went for a walk behind our compound and there was the yapping, louder and clearer. We walked into a courtyard and sure enough, a lovely little collie was tied up, jumping around trying to release itself, barking like crazy.
We stood around for a few minutes and the dog seemed to calm down a little. Eventually an elegant man dressed in a dishdash walked out of the house. He greeted us like long-lost friends. We rather sheepishly (ha ha) explained why we were there.
“Oh,” he said raising his arms up to the heavens. “That’s not the dog barking. It’s the parrot.”
‘Yes, indeed, follow me.”
He led us into his kitchen where a large green parrot was sitting on a perch in a cage.
“He copies everything you say and he copies the dog. It’s the parrot barking, not the dog.”
We looked at the parrot and the parrot looked at us. “Chelsea is the best team in the world,” I said in an effort to teach it something useful. No sound. Rupert poked his finger at it, which it tried to bite off.
“You must come to my new Majlis,” said our host, ushering us out. “And I’m sorry for the parrot.”
We walked home, reflecting on what a strange and wonderful place we have ended up in. And behind us in the distance was the unmistakeable sound of a parrot, barking.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2013