To be a woofer is to work on a French farm. The woofer is a person who volunteers on the farm in exchange for food and shelter. To woof is to be like a dog and, what is more, to work like one. The first day on the farm, my farmer Jaques looked me up and down with Gallic insoucience and asked, 'hey Irish, where do potatoes come from?' 'A shop' I replied. 'Stupid potato head, they come from the ground!' he spat whilst simultaneously grabbing his balls in passion or farming knowingness. 'Do you like potatoes?' 'Yeah, sure', came my reply. 'Then dig!' and he thrust a shovel into my hands.
I spoke neither French or he English so the inevitable mistakes that followed provoked shots of putain borde de la merde! and his cursing in French that I understood nothing. For my lack of French, however, I ironically always understood that.
By the fourth day he had me breaking rocks underneath a hot French sun. At this stage, a second potato head from Galway had joined me and remarked: 'we could form a chain gang!' before adding, 'I am joking of course', but tears don't form transparent curtains behind the eyes of joking men, only for the forgotten and the damned! Free at last, free at last, God Almighty free at last! Those slaves never had do to this shit or suffer the embarrassment of trying to speak to the horses in French and switching to English before realising that horses are not in the habit of speaking either French or English.
Our shelter was a shack in the garden fastened with hemp, straw and a general not giving 'a shit about building this' vibe. It was very rustic. Any chance of a house warming, lads? It was our home away from home, our very own pit of hell. I almost took up my pen and wrote Invictus 2. During one night of heavy rain, Mick from Galway woke me up by whispering, 'Well boy, don't want to alarm you but I think our shack is floating way'. We emerged in the new dawn two inches more to the left than usual.
By the twelfth day, something had broken in Mick and by the time we left, a little piece of his freckled soul lay buried in the French countryside. At home now, a million questions shout in my brain. Are all French farmers this angry? Did I really hear a French cow go le moo? I think we both died a little in that commercial dairy farm, the milk producing theatre of nightmares.