Reader letters in July 2017


The photos in this article refer to the story at the end – Wild goats.

Ronnie’s reviews

Thanks to the readers who pointed out that Royal Birkdale is in Southport, not in Stockport, and who also said:

“Today as usual was interesting and fun, thank you Ronnie.”
Phil Wallace 

“Keep up the good work and give Ronnie an atlas.”
Chris Latham

Philip Bradshaw had some good examples to back up Ronnie’s section on The suicide of a language, where Ronnie said

“The offended are trying to change the English language and to replace it with a robotic, administrative, formulation that murders free thinking and free expression. They want to create an English that is inoffensive, harmless and without passion, character or humanity.  They, the offended, must be stopped”. 

· Loveable cartoon rogue Dennis the Menace has been given a politically correct make over. BBC chiefs decided to take away his edge in the remake. Gone are his bombs, catapult, water pistol and pea shooter – and in their place is a simple boyish grin.

· Spotted Dick – a classic English dessert has been renamed to avoid embarrassment. The traditional pud Spotted Dick has been given the title Spotted Richard, after UK council bosses feared the original name might cause offence. 

· A school in Seattle renamed its Easter eggs ‘spring spheres’ to avoid causing offence to people who did not celebrate Easter.

· A UK council has banned the term ‘brainstorming’ – and replaced it with ‘thought showers’, as local lawmakers thought the term may offend epileptics.

· Transport for London (TfL) is changing its London Tube greetings from “ladies and gentlemen” to “hello everyone” in a move that has been met with a mixed response – with some critics claiming it shows efforts to achieve political correctness have gone too far. 

· A university student was threatened with being thrown out of a meeting after being accused of violating “safe space” rules – by raising her hand. Imogen Wilson, the vice-president for academic affairs at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA), spoke out against safe space rules becoming “a tool for the hard left to use when they disagree with people”, following the incident last week. Ms Wilson, 22, was subject to a “safe space complaint” over her supposedly “inappropriate hand gestures” during a student council meeting

And Philip’s favourite:

· A UK recruiter was stunned when her job advert for ‘reliable’ and ‘hard-working’ applicants was rejected by the job centre as it could be offensive to unreliable and lazy people.  

Holiday season scams 

Trish Walker told us about her experience of a holiday scam

When I was living in France I experienced the damaged side mirror scam on the road from Nizas to Caux, when a car containing several young men screamed to a halt alongside me and demanded 80 euros for the damage to their wing mirror, which I hadn’t done. I told the young men concerned to contact my insurance company, but they didn’t appear to want to do that, and they drove off. 

I did go into my insurance agent in Pezenas to ask him about the situation and he said that in such incidents on narrow country roads all insurance companies assume a 50/50 blame and therefore there is no need for any further action by either party. It was quite scary though because there was only one of me and about 5 of them, so I perhaps I was foolhardy to take such a defiant attitude. 

Another reader, Pippa McIntosh said:

Speaking of scams, your readers should be wary of men who randomly visit weekly markets, purporting to be raising funds for animal welfare. They always have several very young animals such as piglets or puppies. These poor creatures have no water and in the summer they are baking in the heat. I hear from numerous people that the men become aggressive when questioned. One person asked them for the address of the animal welfare premises they were fundraising for. She followed it up and found it didn’t exist. The police sometimes move them on, but in general they get away with it because they pop up randomly at various markets. This has been going on for at least seven years, possibly many more. Only public awareness can put them out of business. 

The region 

Kieren from Fabreque wants to know if anyone can recommend any English speaking estate agents who work around Fabreque.

Christine Davies wants to know if there are any English choirs, music groups or drama groups in Languedoc region.

Carolyn Bailey said in the article about traffic, it would probably help people to know that the A61 particularly between Carcassonne and Narbonne is often at a standstill at holiday times.

Phil Daniels or Paul Daniels? 

A lot of readers wrote in thinking that Film Buff had made a mistake when he said “Long before he met Debbie McGee, Phil Daniels starred as Jimmy in Quadrophenia, looking at times much like Pete Townshend”.

In fact, Film Buff was joking, and he is looking forward to another gotcha in his next article!

Wild goats

Pauline Mason wrote to us, asking us to let other readers know of the dangers in the Ardeche Gorge. She was attacked by a wild goat, sustaining quite severe bruising to her arms and legs. She tried for some time to get reactions from the local tourist board, the national park rangers, and the police. Reactions were typically bland and unreactive, so we wanted to publish her story to warn others of the possible dangers in the area.

I am a 65 year old British lady from Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, UK and my husband Les and I were visiting the beautiful Ardeche area for the first time.

We had already experienced the thrill of canoeing down the Gorge, and were delighted to see a pair of wild goats who appeared totally unperturbed by nearby walkers – indeed they followed the walkers along the path. A pleasant sight and we thought no more of it.

Two days later we decided to walk along the valley beside the river too, and we descended down to the valley by the track leading down to the campsite close to St Marcel caverns. From there we walked upstream and had what was to us the novel experience of crawling into a small cave to descend metal rungs in the wall to reach the path below.

We continued our walk, and couldn’t help but notice the two long horned wild goats that we had seen previously on our canoe trip. It was concerning that, despite notices to the contrary, people were feeding them.

We continued along our path and then later turned back to retrace our steps and ascend to our car. When we reached the cave of which I spoke earlier we found that the goats were there too, harassing walkers for food. The goats approached Les and I but we didn’t feed them. I moved away and they went off to pursue other people. 

We chatted to a couple who had just come through the cave and ladder, and then they walked on. When Les entered the cave and climbed the ladder he found some sun glasses that must have belonged to them, so I chased after them to let them know. While I was looking for them, the male goat suddenly appeared and stood in front of me. I had no food with me at all, so it certainly wasn’t the smell of food which attracted it. I stood quite still and calm, didn’t make eye contact and then it suddenly turned and head butted me in the stomach! It wasn’t a forceful blow but more of a nudge to tell me that it wanted to be fed. But it alarmed me and I realised that had the blow been only a little more forceful it could easily have knocked me over, or even off a ledge had I been standing a little closer to the edge. So I moved away as calmly as I could and walked quickly back to where Les was, beside the cave.

He said he would run and return the sun glasses while I waited there for him, and I didn’t even have a chance to tell him about the ram. But I wasn’t too concerned as the goats had walked off in the other direction when I left them.

I sat on a ledge in the shade to await my husband’s return, when the goats appeared again.

I stayed still, didn’t pursue them or make eye contact, but the goat again came up to me and nudged me for food. Thankfully it then walked off, but I was very concerned. I felt vulnerable where I was sitting as it could have moved quickly to either side of me and stabbed me with its long horns.

As you can imagine my thoughts were racing:

1. I felt very vulnerable as these incidents had been completely unprovoked – it seemed that the animal simply didn’t like me!

2. I didn’t dare to shout or wave my arms at it as I was afraid of provoking it.

3. I had a long scarf and thought of waving that to scare it off – but thoughts of bull fights and matadors quickly put an end to that idea.

4. I couldn’t run away, as a nimble footed goat could easily outpace me, and if it knocked me to the ground then it could easily attack with its horns.

5. I didn’t want to stand up to it, again for fear of being knocked over.

6. I had a small leather rucksack with me – and it perhaps thought that I had food in there (nothing, not even a packet of sweets). I considered throwing the bag away in the hope of distracting it, but decided not to do so as that leather bag was the only defence from those horns that was available to me. I vividly recall reading about a British woman farmer being knocked over and killed by one of her own rams, so I was all too aware that this was a dangerous animal.

7. I thought of the cave and the ladder which would allow me to reach safety, but I was seriously afraid that it would pursue and trap me in there, with no escape possible. At 65 I am no longer agile enough to scramble low into a cave and then quickly climb the metal rungs of a ladder. I can do it – but at a slow pace.

Amazing how these thoughts can race through your mind at a time like this – and still no sign of Les or any other walkers nearby. 

So I made, what to me, was the only choice I had – to find a defensive place to sit where the goat could less easily attack. I was hoping, of course, that by now it would have lost interest and go off in search of food elsewhere.

I sat in a crouched position on a ledge near the entrance to the cave with my back firmly against the wall and rock face to the right of me, and to my left a short drop. My thought was that it wouldn’t be able to knock me over or to position itself so that it could stab me. The rock face would prevent too much movement with those horns.

Thank goodness I had thought it through because the ram did come back once more, and this time it attacked for real.

It approach along the path to my right and repeatedly rammed and butted me with its head. Thank goodness for that leather rucksack which I held in front of me to fend off the blows and to defend my chest and stomach from the blows. It hit repeatedly, and there was an added difficulty! My rucksack has long shoulder straps and these kept entangling round its enormous curved horns. So between each blow I was trying to unhook the bag from its horns so that I could protect myself once more. At one such point it got past the bag and rammed its head into my stomach, its horns perilously close to my shoulders and head. It pushed and shoved as hard as it could. It was trying either to knock me over into a more vulnerable position, or to knock me off the ledge all together. That defensive position saved me because push as it would, it couldn’t budge me.

It shook its head from side to side to try to use its horns, but the wall on the right meant that it had limited movement, and the path dropped away in front of me so it couldn’t get round to that side of me. Although I didn’t really feel it at the time some of those blows struck home and I sustained considerable bruising to my right arm and leg.

I was terrified and the attack just went on and on with no sign of the creature desisting. The assault probably lasted for no more than 2 minutes, with somewhere between ten and twenty blows (I lost count) and in all that time I was alone. Than at last I spotted a couple walking along the path, and I called out for help. I was never so relieved to see other walkers. They quickly ran towards me and the man threw down his bag, shouted and waved his arms to distract the animal. It worked – the goat moved away from me, towards him and then headed for his wife. She got away and reached me and told me to go into the cave. I was in shock and hadn’t moved, but with her encouragement I scrambled into that cave and up that metal ladder with a speed and agility which I thought was beyond me.

Her husband/partner quickly followed and the next thing was that we saw Les approaching – he had no idea what had occurred. We shouted that the goat was aggressive and to come up the ladder to safety as quickly as he could. The man threw some food to distract the goat so that Les could reach the cave and ladder quickly. 

I received severe bruising, shock and distress.

My husband and I immediately reported the attack, as action must be taken to protect the public from this dangerous animal.

* * *

Subsequently, Pauline received some emails. The Tourist Office were very helpful, but said that they couldn’t do anything about it. The National Parks said that no-one else had reported an attack, and that they regretted the incident but could do nothing about the goats. Now that Pauline has returned home, she is going to pursue the incident with the police. 

Has anyone else heard of such an attack?  If so, please write in so that we can pass the information on to Pauline to back up her case.

Picture 1 – lunch at the site of the attack, pre-attack.

Picture 2 – the goats.

Picture 3 & 4 – Pauline’s bruises.