You are young, you are 8, perhaps 9. You are in school sitting at your desk. You reach out with a hand, clammy and tacky with the residues of various foods, and pick up a pencil. You clutch the pencil in your fist and begin to etch out a crude outline, a drawing of some kind. Perhaps it is a donkey, perhaps a house; the limited shapes you are capable of creating are too primitive, too haphazard to be identifiable as any kind of coherent whole. But then, the nib of your pencil snaps. "Sacre bleu!" you mutter under your breath - for you are French in this scenario. You look up, to ask the child next to you if you could borrow their pencil sharpener. However, when you look up, instead of being greeted by the sight of a another school-child, wearing some laughably ill-fitting jumper with the ghostly white stains of a Frube that he had burst down himself during lunch still evident on the fabric, you are instead greeted by a ewe.
Such is the situation a child in a regional French school may have found themselves in this week. 15 ewes were enrolled by a local farmer in the Jules Ferry school in Crêts-en-Belledonne in North-Eastern France, as part of some vainly comic way of curtailing falling pupil numbers.
Student numbers in the school had dropped from 266 to 261, and to help bolster these ailing attendance numbers, one man Michel Girerd, equal parts irresponsible shepherd/equal parts irresponsible problem-solver, registered 15 of his ewes into the school.
In a specially organised ceremony, the ewes were granted birth certificates by the town's mayor, so as to legitimise them, as, I guess, people? Their goal in doing so is to save a class in the school from mandatory closure due to its pupil numbers having dropped below a particular threshold.
The mayor, Jean-Louis Maret, speaking at the bizarre event, attended by Mr. Michel Gererd, some 50 ewes and over 200 staff and pupils from Jules Ferry school, said that the education system defied logic, saying that it's "not concerned with the arguments on the ground, just numbers."
These ewes can look forward to a life, not spent pointlessly wandering vertiginous hillocks in such of suitable land to graze upon, but instead, learning algebra and the formation of the National Assembly. An altogether preferable existence I think we can all agree.