How many times as a child did you stand behind an unknowing goofball and make the hand signals for “you're driving me cuckoo” directed to a giggling group of friends?
And how many of us remember the cuckoo clock that chirped every half hour at our grandparents house? I thought that the little bird inside that clock was just magical. I would play underneath that elaborate little house to be sure to be there when that little bird popped in and out. Until our first spring in France I thought those cuckoo birds were just the fanciful creation of Swiss clock makers.
Imagine my great glee the first time some one said, “Listen, did you hear that?” Off in the distance I could hear “cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo” exactly like the calls from the clocks and cartoons of my childhood. How wonderful! For the French, the first call of the cukoo is a sign that spring has arrived. Every night we’d strain our ears to see who could be the first to hear the well-camouflaged bird. “Cuckoo cuckoo” from one side of the valley followed by “cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo” from the other side of the valley and on and on.
It wasn’t until we were here full time that we began to notice that we heard the call all day long.... starting around 6 in the morning and not ending until 7 or so at night. Cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo in a never ending volley of calls. The noon bells of a dozen churches would be less commotion than this incessant cuckooing. Very quickly one understands where the expression “You’re driving me cuckoo!” comes from.
I’ve asked around and only our English friends are familiar with this expression. To our French friends the cuckoo is an endearment for hello to be used with children. Or the nickname for yellow primroses. One story has it that these spring flowers must never enter a farmer’s home or the chickens will no longer lay eggs. Even chickens don’t want to be driven cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo.
To experience the common cuckoo click here...