I proudly present to you ‘My Family and Other Animals’ *

Seriously……don’t even ask !!!!

I would dearly love an impossibly cute, little, yappy dog, preferably a gorgeous fluffy little Pomeranian that I would, of course, insist on calling Pom-Pom, in fact, one just like this…….

 

This is Boo and he is ‘The World’s Cutest Dog’ and quite possibly the most famous, with in excess of 17 million fans! Isn’t he just adorable!

 

If I had a Pom-Pom of my very own, I would religiously take him (or her) to one of our three local pooch parlours for regular ‘teddy bear’ cuts despite that I, personally, have not stepped foot in a hair or beauty salon for more than two years. I now tend to do my own hairdressing, there really is no end to my talents.

Sadly, with us being away so frequently it just would not be practical or possible for us to have a dog at this point and so I will probably have to wait until we are finally settled in Spain to adopt a little four legged friend, one that we would be able to take for evening strolls along the many fashionable promenades and who would sit obediently with us on his own chair, whilst we all stopped at a café for some light refreshments. I might even buy one of those fancy Louis Vuitton bags, made especially for carrying your furry baby in, though having just Googled LV Dog carrier and noted that they are €1870 (gulp!) I think Pom-Pom too, would have to have his very own Facebook page and income!

Also there is the on-going issue of actually talking my husband into us owning said dog, because he of course fully realises that he will undoubtedly end up being the one to house train it and take it for walks if it is raining or even if there is the merest hint of the possibility of rain. He will be the one scooping up its poo, wiping its bum and basically doing anything mildly unsavoury so that I can then enjoy having a lovely clean, cute, little dog to sit on the sofa with and take endless pictures of and say things like “who’s a pretty boy, aboo-boo-boo. Yes you are….yes you are” ad nauseam.

So for now, we do not have any actual living pets, unless you count the small lizard that seems to have moved in and installed itself under the base of our shower but he’s quite the independent lodger and comes and goes as he pleases, keeping himself very much to himself.  We are, however, very fond of our little menagerie of impeccably well behaved animals that are exceptionally easy to look after, just a light dusting every now and again. We found them all in French trocs and brocantes on various excursions whilst searching for furniture to fill our home and we fell in love with each of them and just could not bare to leave them where they were; unloved and uncherished, abandoned amongst the collections of chairs and bric-a-brac.

I know taxidermied animals are not everyone’s cup of tea and I certainly do not support the hunting of animals for sport, trophies or the fur trade, I would never actively condone such activities but once you find such an animal in a second hand shop, trust me, it is very difficult to leave them there.  We like to think that we have honoured their lives by giving them a loving and sympathetic home, a home in which they have become part of our family and a family who will never take their beauty for granted.

This is René, he was our first animal purchase and has been with us since Christmas 2011.

He is such a handsome chap.  I have not personally seen a better example of a taxidermied fox, though I have seen lots of very poorly executed ones, and when I say ‘executed’ I don’t mean that they were killed by death dealers or assassins, I mean that they are badly posed or the facial expressions make them look a little demented somewhat like the hyenas out of Disney’s Lion King, but not our René, he is quite the magnificent example.

 

Here is Deirdre our pretty little European roe deer and quite possibly the world’s very first LGBTQIA deer on account that we had already named her Deirdre and put flowers in her ‘hair’  before realising of course that when she had indeed been full bodied, she was almost certainly a male (buck) given that she has a fine set of antlers; a thought that hadn’t really occurred to either of us until after we had gotten used to calling her dear sweet Deirdre. So, Deirdre she is staying because I really can not even begin to contemplate the emotional trauma involved to us, if she were to become a Derek or a Dave, I think one gender change is quite enough.  Deirdre has such a kind and gentle face and it makes me wonder how anyone could shoot such a beautiful creature simply for sport, but sadly ‘La Chase’ is still a very popular past time in rural France and the crack of shotguns commonly reverberate early on the weekend mornings from Autumn onwards . Thankfully, we do often still see little families of deer bobbing about in the wild in the fields near us and then with a startled little dog-like bark and a flash of white rump they will bound effortlessly and almost silently into the surrounding woods. I like to think that most of them will have long, happy, carefree lives before they find themselves squared up in the sights of a French mans firearm.

 

This is Pépé, he (though quite possibly she? It matters not, we are very liberal minded in this household) is a European polecat. He looks very pleased with himself, probably because he was one of the few that did not end up squashed on a main road under the wheels of a 16 tonne lorry. He looks positively adorable here in his Christmas hat.

We also have a Kingfisher, some mounted butterflies and no doubt our collection will continue to grow if we will insist on continuing to frequent second hand shops.

 

My husband is still trying to retrace his footsteps within the many narrow, cobbled streets in Rouen, whenever he has occasion to visit, in the hopes of rediscovering an Antique shop where he previously spotted a taxidermied Badger that was posed on his hind legs and was acting as an umbrella and walking stick ‘monitor’. He has always regretted not buying him, or should I say that he has always regretted that he allowed me to talk him out of buying him on account that I thought he was rather too tatty and well used and it was just far too sad that he was in such a sorry state. I said that I would feel inclined to give him a full burial and sing Ave Maria at the ceremony, if indeed we had ended up procuring him. I would, however, have been happy to have given a home to a rather beautiful Peacock that we saw, but at €1300, I decided it required a little more consideration, after all, that’s only €570 short of a Louis Vuitton dog carrier!

I know this must seem like a bizarre collection and some may even find it rather macabre or offensive but perhaps it was my extraordinary upbringing that has led me to see such things as quite normal or common place, you see I didn’t so much grow up in a ‘home’ as a ‘museum’. My parents were avid collectors of, well……almost everything. From cameras, clocks, corkscrews and cress dishes to anything Art Nouveau, Art deco and Victorian Oriental art. Nude ladies whether they be in painting or ornament form were literally everywhere. William Morris fabrics and John William Waterhouse paintings, Sanderson wallpapers and every conceivable trinket, knick knack and objet d’art including a variety of taxidermied birds, mounted butterflies and even a cheetah pelt rug which was sadly very moth-eaten and had seen far better days, that they came by at a little junk shop.

I was also lucky enough to grow up in Kent, not far from Quex Park, home to the Powell-Cotton Museum which houses the extraordinary personal collection of the hunter and explorer Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton. I know of no other museum with a more incredible or diverse collection of mounted animals in the dioramas at Powell-Cotton Museum. I must add that these ‘collections’ were achieved in the late nineteenth century, long before todays wildlife conservation and protection laws existed and now the museum is rightly so, a foundation for Animal protection and Wildlife Conservation .

It really is a most fascinating place if one can get over the sheer enormity of what seems like whole herds of elephants, primates of all shapes and sizes, Giraffes, Zebra, Buffalo, Tigers, Leopards, Hyenas, and even a huge handsome Lion, indeed all manner of safari animals killed, collected, catalogued and showcased in room sized glass cases, however, it represents a very important and wonderful piece of history that I am fairly certain is pretty unique to the UK, if not perhaps even worldwide.  Quex house is also well worth the visit with some beautiful ornate examples of Victorian Oriental art and just a wonderfully lavish home that is still used today.

I will include a link because it really is one of my favourite places and I’d love to hear if any of you have ever visited it.

http://www.quexpark.co.uk

Thank you for allowing me to introduce you to even more of my world.

The Virtual Recluse

*My Family and Other Animals – Author: Gerald Durrell, Published: 1956 Rupert Hart-Davis