Life Stinks. Deal with It.

In the 6th century BC, the Greek city Sybaris banished both noisy tradesmen and roosters to beyond the city walls. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar restricted the times during which clattering wagons could be driven down city streets or through residential districts. And in 1595, a Londoner could face charges for disturbing his neighbors with noise while beating his wife in the middle of the night.

In 1595, Londoners were expected to conduct their wife beatings during daylight hours. Like civilized people.
By © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66185487

It’s not hard to imagine that as cities grew and industry rose that noise followed, and I doubt anyone would argue with me that todays’ cities with their incessant honking, street musicians, police whistles, and general milling about of thousands of people doing whatever it is that thousands of people do are not exactly peaceful places to be. And then there’s the smell.

As a suburbanite, at least for the last eight years or so, I can assure you that it’s noisy and smelly here, too. For one thing, my neighbors have windchimes that tinkle away in the breeze seemingly right outside my office window. In addition to that there’s an interstate not too far away with plenty of traffic rushing by, a train track well within loud whistle blowing distance, and this one black dog that barks and barks and barks.

Seriously, this dog barks all the time. And he leaves stinky poops in my yard, too. Then he sleeps in my house. Because he’s my dog.

So, I understand why city-dwellers would occasionally wish to seek escape in the countryside where the air always smells sweet and there is absolutely no noise at all. Or at least that seems to be the expectation in France, where tensions between country and city folk have been on the rise in recent months.

With the pressure to socially distance during the pandemic has come a surge in those city dwellers who can afford to do so investing in getaway properties in the French countryside. And that has led to complaints. And lawsuits. Truly ridiculous lawsuits.

In the fall of 2019, one farmer was sued for $5,000 because her ducks had the nerve to be quacking too loudly. Another suit sought to silence a rooster who liked to greet the morning earlier than his new neighbors preferred. A small-town mayor received a request to exterminate the local cicadas because of their droning. He opted instead to erect a six-foot tall cicada statue, because I suspect he is my kind of guy.

In other cases, the plaintiffs were more successful. A pond was ordered to be drained because of excessive frog croaking. A horse was handed a restraining order because his poop was too smelly. It was getting beyond ridiculous.

You do you
You French rooster you.
Cock-a-doodle-doo.
And this, my friends, is why I don’t write poetry.
Image by miniformat65 from Pixabay

And that’s when French lawmakers stepped in. Without amendment and with unanimous support, the Senate passed a bill from the National Assembly on January 21 that protects the “sensory heritage of the French countryside.”

Secretary of Rural Affairs Joël Giraud is pretty psyched about the move calling it a “real victory for rural communities.” And I suppose it is, though certainly not one this practical historian would have thought necessary to proclaim. Essentially, what the French government just did, what the city dwellers of France just forced its own government to do, was to deal out a little tough love and tell its citizens in no uncertain terms (well, maybe a little uncertain, because who really says things like “sensory heritage”) that if one wishes to enjoy the French countryside, then one should expect to take a good whiff of France’s fresh dairy air.

In other words: Life stinks. Deal with it.

21 thoughts on “Life Stinks. Deal with It.

  1. It always cracks me up when people move to the country and have no experience or knowledge of what they are getting into. Living in a suburb near Fort Carson there will be the occasional newbie who will ask what the loud booming noises are. “They’re Howitzers and tanks down on Fort Carson practicing maneuvers.” “But do they have to be so loud?” If you stay in a place long enough you get used to it, even living near the train tracks.

  2. I believe French roosters crow one syllable shorter than the English-speaking roosters. Ours go Cock-a-doodle-do whereas the French go Cocorico. And yet the French complain and have not as much to complain about as us. And incidentally, I love the smell of pigs – now that’s something to crow about!

    1. It does seem like that one syllable could make all the difference. But it does mean I’m an even worse poet than I imagined. I hadn’t even considered what a French rooster accent might do to the meters.

  3. I saw that bill in the news and was wondering how they’d enforce it. Horse lawyers are going to have their hooves full with restraining orders (and yes, I am picturing Mr. Ed in a tie and beret right now).

    Also, highways, trains? I think we live in the same house…only replace big, barking dog with little, incessantly yapping dog.

    1. When I lived in Oregon, our house wasn’t very far from I-5. I remember once on Halloween, some people who were clearly not from our neighborhood having a conversation about what a nice neighborhood it was, but you could really hear the traffic from the front yard. Until they said something, I had honestly never noticed. After that, it always bugged me. So I guess when we moved back to the Midwest, we should have thought about that. Or then maybe it’s just loud everywhere.

      1. I think it depends on your mood too…bad mood and EVERYTHING seems louder and more annoying. And of course when you’re having trouble sleeping, it seems like every neighbor decides to have a party, every dog is barking, and every ambulance is zipping down the highway.

  4. Hahaha oh my gosh how funny. I grew up waaaaay out in the country. Like… snow plows took days to dig us out after a blizzard out in the country. I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t so quiet out there either. In the woods next to our house there was a pond. Every night in summer, the frogs would raise an unbelievable racket at that pond! While I always enjoyed it, and always got giddy when I heard the first frog chirps of the summer, I bet some of these people would have been calling for a frog massacre. Also – this line made me laugh out loud: “He opted instead to erect a six-foot tall cicada statue, because I suspect he is my kind of guy.”

  5. I love the 6 ft cicada statue!!! Yes! My kind of guy, too. Ah, I remember being with my cousin at a hotel in the Carolina mountains and walking out to our little patio and hearing peepers!! I hadn’t heard them for years. The next day we heard another guests talking about the loud bugs singing at night…

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