In my first few days here at L’École National Supérieure Maritime in Marseille, France, it has become very obvious that I am no longer in Toronto. To begin with, I must be careful not to step on any of the ripe olives which have fallen from the several trees just outside my residence door.
In addition, there is a bird species singing in autumn: an unusual event at home. After some searching, I discovered that it is a rouge-gorge or what they call in England, a robin. It is called ”la chanson triste” or ”the sad song” here because it has a definite minor key feeling to it. Apparently the song is much more cheerful during the breeding period in spring.
Another difference is the small flocks of raucous and brightly coloured monk parakeets that fly about. In a reverse switch to the North American invasion of European starlings, the monk parakeet was introduced (and has become a pest) in Europe and North Africa from South America.
And finally, one of my favourite birds: the black-billed magpie. This very large member of the crow family seems to be in every European park. In a geographical twist of fate, they are also found in western Canada. Maybe part of my enjoyment comes from frequently practicing and performing the tricky horn solo from Rossini`s classic overture to the opera ”The Thieving Magpie.”
Oh, and I should mention that my 5 days ”work” here is to learn and practice the skill of driving the little Zodiak boats which are used worldwide by smaller cruise ships. In a Zodiak, ten passengers at a time can be whisked off for a landing in the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Amazon or a host of other exotic locales.