Taz had had finally decided to “go professional”, the demand for Nucky balls was unlimited and she would be the only supplier. How good a business plan is that? She had also taken a bit of legal advice. Yes growing cannabis is highly illegal young lady, but selling donkey shit? Excuse me officer? Come again! Instead of buying a small and practical white van complete with a sign-writer’s flourish of Allo Weed! or Dial M for Nucky Balls, but do not expect a garden, she had decided to invest in more productive livestock.
Two more donkeys, one a tiny little runt with a squint and crooked green teeth, given to them by its previous long suffering and badly bitten proprietor. When a human of any shape or size approached she would roar and grumble for a full five minutes and finish it off mournfully with a gargling that sounded a hell of a lot like Van Morrison singing Rave On John Donne, whilst being strangled. On paper, her name was Modestine, but she is, was and always will be The Skank. The other, Sheena, a punk rocker with a startlingly preened Mohican mane stood twice Skanky’s height and weight could push over huge trees with her monstrous expansive backside and eat her way through dense thickets of spiky-assed vegetation. Collectively the four donkeys; Pingu, the special one and her famous little boy Nucky. Sheena and the skank, were to be known as the William S. Burros. One day a very short and rather overweight Shetland pony called Dave appeared out of the blue and wheedled his way into the pack, for less than obvious reasons she had renamed them “The Flying Burrito Brothers”.
To the great chagrin of this gang of five, three females a eunuch and weird Dave, Taz had insisted that they got themselves a horse in order to lead and discipline the “stubborn, lazy, pleasure seeking little bastards”. To be able to pose round Saint-Tropez on a stunningly beautiful Andalusian Bay could be a bit of fun too.
Even our two professionals were a little surprised at the sheer quantity of Cannabis sativa they found in the steep, dense and accessible only to those in the know woodlands. I could never hope to better Jean Aicard’s description of them in his 1912 book “Maurin (no relation) des Maures”:
“Glorious countryside, a small range of mountains which[..] is a perfectly self-contained orographic system separated from the surrounding mountains by the wide valleys of the Aille, the Argens and the Gapeau. The Maures are, as it were, a mountainous island in the plain, an island of gneiss and schist and granite in striking contrast to the surrounding chalky landscape. The railway from Marseilles to Nice winds round it to the north and a road crosses it from end to end, having a total length of not less than fifteen leagues[..] It has a main chain and subsidiary lateral ranges and its hydro-graphic system is an identical miniature of the valleys of the great rivers of the world[..] These mountains merit the interest of a wise man not only for for their geological formation and extraordinary variety of rare flora and fauna, they are equally worthy of a visit from the ordinary tourist and lover of the countryside. Though covering an area of only eight hundred square kilometres, and having a mean altitude of not more than 300 metres.”
That was then, but his was now, a hundred years ago these woods had been a prosperous hive of woodcutting, cork-stripping and charcoal making activity but are now stupidly more or less deserted, milking tourists is far more lucrative than tending a difficult and unrequiting forest. The water system too has been badly neglected, finding its way underground rather than of flowing steadily down to the rivers below. To Maurin it was his very own enormous and private Idaho, and what a splendid state it was. The guerilla weed plantations were always to be found close to a waterlogged strip of heavy clay and of course well away from any deciduous trees such as Castanea Sativa, the sweet chestnut; for cannabis in spring and autumn would stick out like Dean Moriarty’s sore thumb to the busy body trouble seeking army helicopters that frequently scoured the area. Hidden around cork oaks or a cunning plantation of Arundo donax, giant cane, is another type of camouflage that distorts heat and reflective signatures, if and when the French government save up enough cash to by infra-red equipment.
The brave burros could demolish and digest huge quantities of weed in half a day and be in no fit state to resent the humiliation of lugging heavy paniers of their own shit, slowly but steadily back to the ranch.
Back home though things had changed Steve, that unpredictable, unstable and forever unreliable friend of mine had cast aside his dressing gown and obscene shoes, set fire to his makeshift home and less successfully his bicycle before moving into the squankiest villa in Ramatuelle, complete with its own pools, golf course, velodrome and the worlds most loved francophone Country and Western singer.
Then Taz, where do think she was living? I’ll tell you in a minute, but first, what had changed in Taz? Had she found the love of her life? Yes !Yes! Money, money and more filthy money. She spent her days cutting, drying and flavouring the special donkey drops with vanilla, lemon, cinnamon and just about anything else she could lay her hands on, even I regret to say, catnip. Her evenings were passed around the bars restaurants and nightclubs, touting the stuff and touting it well and all that at very impressive prices.
Well where was she living? I thought you’d never ask, she was aboard the Turpitude. Yes, Lozzi was back, but no Lister. Loz had finally had enough and chucked him overboard in the straits of Gibralata (sic) then hired a scruffy looking chap to bring her back to Saint-Trop’ and those scrummy balls of donkey shit.
It was no surprise when Maurin showed up again at my door, no fake American accent this time, or moustache, just a little despondent, but lying through his teeth all the same.
“We’re worried about you Rodney.”
Were his first words as he came through the door.
“What do you mean, worried about me?”
“Well, that J Geils day thing with the mayor and that nonsense about Standard Collo time… You do know that she isn’t really called Birdy, or Namnam don’t you?”
Worried about me, theres a thing.
“And why Melvin? And why do you drink so much?”
“Melvin’s not here!”
“Cut it out Rodney, Steve and I are genuinely concerned about you, we’ve all read your crazy blogs you know. You live in a fantasy world mate, and me and Steve are going to drag you out of it, you shouldn’t get so involved in such trivial things as local politics. The Mayoress is a moron, everybody knows that and methinks she doesn’t protest half enough. So just forget it, we’re going on a road trip And that’s final!”
“Look Maurin” I said unbending, but offering a seat and a cold beer, which this time he didn’t refuse.
“Look at me” I said,
“there’s nowt wrong wi’ me, it’s you and Steve that’s got wimmin problems, that’s why you want out, come on admit it you crafty little creep!”
“No Rodney, Taz is really upset too, last week you spent the whole bloody evening singing ‘Her name is Birdy, she gotta head like a potato’, she really thinks you’re losing it mate.”
“Taz! Worried about me !”
Yes Rod, worried about you, we all are. Anyone can see that head looks much more like a turnip and who would wanna have a head like that!? “