Rural French life has a way of presenting new comic situations to Ian Moore, who finds an unexpected opportunity for a unique publicity shot
Nobody spoke. There was a definite tension in the air as even the animals in this rural French vet’s waiting room seemed to sense that – no pun intended – there was an elephant in the room.
There was a mixture of farming folk with their elderly working dogs, a young family with two kittens and an old lady, strangely without an animal, but who had a look on her face, and strong hands to match, that spoke of a lifetime spent very much not needing the input of a vet when swifter, cheaper options were available.
She couldn’t take her eyes off me. Neither could every other living creature in the surgery waiting room. It could be argued that I was being provocative, but I wasn’t. I had limited time before an early afternoon Zoom comedy gig and a sick hen; there was just no choice but to visit the vet dressed in working finery. So there I sat in my fitted, mid-1960s, charcoal grey, three button, black velour collar suit and two-tone loafers, paisley shirt and tie, impeccable and with a hen on my lap in a box.
The old people looked at me like I was Doctor Who, their country uniforms of blue working overalls showing a life of proper toil over my foppish ways. Even the poor hen, Tallulah, looked embarrassed and kept coughing gently, as she had been for weeks now. Her crest lay limply on her head; a sorry sight on a hen, like seeing pictures of a young Elvis without his quiff. Monsieur Papin, the vet, didn’t break stride as he walked briskly into his surgery and saw Tallulah and me waiting for him. “Monsieur Moore, ca va?”
We had met for the first time just the week before when he’d come out to investigate a case of suspected mange among our three goats. I’d locked the goats in the stable, with some considerable difficulty I might add, but hadn’t then expected to be roped into cornering each goat in turn and wrestling them into a corner while Papin administered the jabs. I wasn’t, unsurprisingly, dressed for that occasion either. Trying to trap a goat in the confines of a closed stable is like trying to stop a motorbike on a wall of death, and my clothing took the brunt of the ordeal.
The vet gently examined Tallulah, tutting in a soft way that matched her downbeat clucking. “Hmm,” he said, “I’ll prescribe her some strong antibiotics, she has a virus of some kind. But to be honest if these don’t work…” He trailed off, showing genuine compassion. “I’ll get the stuff and show you how to inject her. I’ll be back in five minutes.”
I don’t really know what possessed me. Okay, as a comedian I have a streak of childishness in me, an eye for the absurd perhaps, and it just struck me (to be fair it had struck me when I first put Tallulah in the car) just what an utterly ridiculous sight we were. And then, the flash of inspiration – what if me standing in full mod suit, proudly holding my hen, was a new publicity shot?
It’s so difficult coming up with original publicity shots, so many are just lean towards the camera, or wackily hold a microphone or look askance at something out of shot. Nobody has the ‘sick hen with Italian cut fitted mod suit’ juxtaposition. I picked Tallulah up out of her box and stood against a blank white wall and held my phone up for the surreptitious ‘selfie’.
“Just one thing Monsieur Moore…” the vet asked as he walked into the room again. He broke off, looked at the pair of us, said “I’ll leave you two to it” and turned straight back around and out again. It may be time to find a new vet.