Firstly the place was teeming with escaped capybaras. We were sitting drinking horrible coffee as the children tried to push each other off wooden structures when the first capybara wandered by. For those not brought up on the zoo tales of Johnny Morris, the capybara is the world's largest rodent. Esoteric fact fans will enjoy this gem courtesy of the Belette Rouge: apparently in the sixteenth century, the Catholic church declared that the capybara was a fish and could therefore be eaten during Lent.
The capybara looked around the playground, thoroughly unimpressed. Then it hopped over a surprisingly high fence, swam across a pond and went over to a small island to tease the flamingos. Shortly thereafter a small herd of them wandered over with a studied casualness, like a gang of self conscious adolescents.
"That's a lot of free range capybaras. Capybari?"
"Should we say something?"
And thus, I found myself having a conversation I never thought I would have. French phrase books are totally lacking in the vocabulary for these situations I find.
Excusez moi, Monsieur?
Vos capybaras se sont evadés. Ils se promenent partout.
Your capybaras have escaped. They are wandering around everywhere.
Alors, c'est normal, que les capybaras soient en liberté comme ça?
So the capybaras are supposed to be wandering around free range?
Non. Mais ça arrive souvent. Ce sont d'excellents grimpeurs.
No, but it happens quite often. They are very good climbers.
Suitably reassured, Fingers and I went off to find the giant tortoises, leaving the CFO and Lashes lazing in a field of conkers. The giant tortoises were awesome, and several of them were rutting with great concentration and lots of noise. Paris Girl, you will doubtless be delighted to hear that I thought instantly of you. Others among them were fighting, so close to us we could touch their shells to cheer them on. On our return, having crossed paths with what appeared to be dozens of small capybaras frolicking around a hot dog stand, the CFO's eyes appeared to have shrunken to the size of pin pricks. This is rarely a good sign - when his eyes shrink dramatically I know I am in for a bollocking, though in fact this was not the case in this instance.
"It was great!" I said happily. "They were having sex and fighting and I touched a leg AND Fingers got pecked by a large blue pheasanty thing but he didn't mind. What did you get up to?"
"Lashes chased butterflies" said the CFO wearily "With sticks."
Visions of visiting my eldest son in Broadmoor flashed in front of my eyes. We need to talk about Lashes.
"Lashes! It's horrible to try and kill things!"
"I didn't manage to get any"
We continued this conversation in the car, when the sight of a group of hunters awoke his boyish blood lust again.
"I want to hunt things"
"Yeah, hunt them to look at them. But not with guns, right?"
"Yes. With guns. And to kill them."
"But Lashes! I thought you wanted to save animals, not kill them?"
"I have to eat!"
"Hunters don't usually shoot cows, or sheep, or pigs, or chickens you know. They shoot stuff you don't like eating."
"But what about moths?"
"We don't eat moths and they would be very hard to shoot, I should imagine. Oh! You mean, why do I kill them when I say we mustn't kill animals?"
"Well ... they eat my clothes. Which isn't very nice. And hide in the cupboards waiting to jump out at me. And I can't find any other way to get rid of them. But you're right. It's bad, I shouldn't kill them. I just don't know what else to do".
Fingers, silent up until this point, had obviously been thinking deeply on the subject: "We could strangle them!"
"You what? Strangle MOTHS? You do know how small they are?"
"Not with our HANDS" he said scornfully. "With string!"
Moth crime - apparently hereditary.