Calendar Boys

It's that time of year when the local fire department comes around with their calendars, accepting donations for the work they do.

People joke about how you better not stiff these guys, because they might hold it against you and ignore your call if you should ever need their help. I doubt that's true but it would be rude to not pony up and deny them the chance to give you a copy of their specially-designed calendar.

It might make sense to go with the old standard and use pictures on the calendar that make it something cheery to hang on a wall: flowers or puppies or local chateaux or firefighters in provocative poses.

But that would all be too random, too ordinary. I'm not sure what it's like in other towns and villages in France, but around here the calendars are absolutely literal: burning houses, cars turned upside down in flames, vans wrapped around light poles. They'd show one of the men in blue getting a kitten out of a tree but that would probably be too cutesy and might bring a smile and a warm fuzzy feeling - this is cold, hard firefighter reality and if you want to be reminded of where your donation is going, just check out the head-on collision for March.

I celebrate the sapeurs-pompiers and their calendar. I hope that none of the lurid photos in this year's version involved any injuries or loss of life - would they have remembered to ask permission to use the photos?

I'm a little miffed they left out the exploding woodburner.