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Bluebirds fly over the white cliffs of Dover and end up in a supermarket; OPINION.

Byline: SteveGrove

SOISSONS is a little town in Picardy in northern France. With its Celtic roots it's one of that country's most ancient settlements.

They farm snails there - 160 million of them - and collect their eggs. Snails' eggs are the new caviar. "A few snail eggs served on a fresh sage leaf is an excellent appetiser," says a food expert and I'm in no position to doubt him.

Meanwhile, I found a posting on a website from a woman from Soissons who says that while in Cardiff at a wedding she was asked: "Are you reading that paper you're sitting on?" And that's just about exhausted my knowledge of Soissons. Except that the Romans liked it, as they did Cardiff.

None of this really explains why - alongside French chanson and the vocal stylings of Mr Mick Hucknall out of Simply Red - the town's Cora supermarket has been playing over its public address system the great Welsh football anthem Bluebirds Flying High by James Fox.

For I have a firsthand account of it happening. My brother Phil was there last week, minding his own business and doing some shopping (I suspect some tins of cassoulet and a few jars of Tripes la mode de Caen).

He reports that suddenly, amid the usual in-shop hip-hop pop pap bombarding the unsuspecting lugholes of the customers, the air was filled with the opening bars of Fox's hymn to Cardiff City reaching the FA Cup Final just over a year ago. Phil was stunned and the locals were apparently shocked when he joined in the chorus, opening his lungs and showing his class by chanting: "We are Cardiff City and we're going to Wembley, watch the Bluebirds flying high."

Well, it would turn any Frenchman's head. "Wot is zees oiseau bleu of which you sing, monsieur?" they might have asked, but they had other fish to fry - not to mention snails' eggs to collect. They sell at pounds 21 for a 15-gram pot, these snails' eggs - a delight for the palate. It actually says they're a delight for the "palace" on the translation of their website, but I think they mean palate. They might mean palace - that's the sort of place where you'd eat this stuff.

I can't seem to get to the bottom of how they harvest these eggs, and perhaps it's better that I never do. The eggs are white and only 3mm to 4mm in diameter which actually seems quite big for a snail's egg, but what do I know? Despite the urgings of the current Mrs Groves, however, I am not spending the next few days trying to harvest the eggs from the many snails which populate the Groves Estate. It would seem churlish to undermine the thriving industry of this small, ancient town by setting up in competition, especially when they're prepared to remember in music one of the great Welsh sporting achievements.

Tomorrow: Steve Dub

Way out West
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 6, 2009
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