Friday, 5 November 2010

Petits Salés

It's very quiet around here, which apparently hasn't assisted me in putting content on my weblog, sorry. I have heard from the children, who are diving in Egypt, once, a message that read:

Lashes: j ai vu un puffer fish geant, je suis sur qu Il a bu du petreol I'll y avait aussi un poisson lion tres grand. Om a fait du snorkeling et c etait incroyable. (sic)

Fingers: le puffer fish etait geant, on a fait du snorkeling et on a vu enorment de poissons. On a rate hallowen mais c est pas grave. (sic)

Non French speakers - actually, you can probably guess, can't you, from the helpful way they use lots of English words. They saw a puffer fish. Lashes thought he had been drinking oil. I have no idea why. This is very much the way my kids speak, French sentence structure peppered with English nouns. Whilst they are obviously having the most brilliant time, I don't much like them being quite so far away AND going on an iron bird of death without me. I'm lighting tiny, irrational candles in my head for their safe return, tomorrow night.

I don't really know what I've been doing this week. "Pieces and pieces" as my Italian neighbour used to say. It was definitely an improvement on last week's weeping/watching House-until-all-the-sick-people-blend-into-one-giant-case-of-paraneoplastic syndrome - marathon, anyway, and I certainly did a great deal of cooking, most of it with lentils and various little, fidgety bits of work, each earning me about 14 pence. Oh! I went to London for the day on Monday to interview the magnificent India Knight about her new book which is creasingly funny, particularly on the topic of pigeons, and which I recommend hugely. That was fun. We talked about spots, pigeons, Knokke La Zoute and the psychological scars inflicted by growing up in the sinister shadow of Père Fouettard. That led me to investigate a St Nicolas song she described to me, and wish very fervently I hadn't.

Seriously, only watch this if you are psychologically robust and don't find quavery old lady voices indescribably creepy. Everything about it is horrifying, the featureless, bent, St Nicolas with his ghostly, rhomboid mitre, the children, the music... Awful. Halloween plus plus. A specially nasty episode of Cracker.

The story, for those unfamiliar with it, is that three children get lost in a forest - this is never a good start to a story, is it? Do pleasant things happen to children who get lost in forests? Do they fuck, and this is one of the many reasons I reject country walks as a Terrible Idea. Anyway. Three children get lost in a forest, they go and knock on a butcher's door. Again, does this sound like a good plan? No. The butcher lures them in, feeds them and puts them to bed, then, with wearying inevitability, chops them up into little pieces and places them in a barrel of salt.

Seven years later, St Nicolas is mooching around the forest, as third century Greek bishops are liable to do, and decides to knock on the butcher's door. The butcher offers him dinner, and St Nicolas says "No, give me some 'petits salés'", which is a sort of pork dish, but also means "little salty things". The butcher brings him some pork, and St Nicolas says "no, I want some of the petit salés you made SEVEN YEARS AGO" with a special, significant, saintly look (I made that bit up). Then he sticks his fingers in the barrel and brings them back to life. In one version of the story, the butcher then becomes the Père Fouettard, and follows St Nicolas round, presumably menacing children with his big old knife and economy sized packet of gros sel. Even without this sinister postscript, the whole thing is pretty dark.

If anyone can point me to a darker festive children's story/legend, I would be fascinated. Scared witless too, probably.


Lisa-Marie said...

That is horrific! Euuugh!

Also, I a V impatient for the release of India Knight's book. I want one now.

cruella said...

Incroyable, I can't stop laughing. This is way more hilarious than Tne Family Man, which is currently showing on Swedish public television. And that is one funny movie.

Anonymous said...

This story scared the crap out of me as a child, but most of Hans Christian Andersen's tales did.


the queen said...

I point you toward David Sedaris' "Six to Eight Black Men."

suzanneingalicia said...

Mm, that is certainly a lot creepier (more creepy?) than the Galician "Apalpador": an old man who is supposed to come down from the mountains (well, hills, actually) around Christmastime with a sack full of chestnuts, expressly to pat children's tummies (to see if they're well-fed & to feed them chestnuts if too thin). That's what his name means: someone who pats/fondles. Eurgh.

Anonymous said...

the little match girl struck terror into my heart as a child. and yet my parents insisted on reading it to me almost bi-nightly round the festive period. why? i still to this day, have NO idea.

Margaret said...

Sometimes I really, really like being an American without a long history of disturbing children's fiction. Santa Claus--yay! Presents! Candy canes! Tiny reindeer! No serial killer child molesters. Mother of God, no wonder we left your disturbed psycho countries for the New World. (And murdered hundreds of thousands of Native Peoples. And then enslaved tens of thousands of Africans. OK, so maybe all of our choices weren't so good, but at least we weren't enticing small children with revolting roasted chesnuts and then chopping them up.)

Anonymous said...

The old lady singing has made the children hide under their beds, all whimpering quietly. I shall bring her out on occasion. Thankyou for the clip.

Betty M said...

Too too scary for me. Strumpfelpeter always scared me rigid too.

pinolona said...

I used to be afraid of Bananaman. I didn't eat bananas for years. I could never last beyond the sinister opening sequence, where it goes 'This is 59 Acacia Lane, home of Little Eric...' Now I realise that it was all littered with adult innuendo, and I wonder whether this struck some Freudian chord deep in my young subconscious...

Madame DeFarge said...

I find all fairy tales rather creepy in truth. Especially the red shoes one. Put me off red shoes for life.

Unknown said...

great post - thanks for sharing xxxx

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ghada said...

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ghada said...

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