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French family defend naming their son Canard (duck)

A family from Perigord, the duck-farming region of south west France, have defended giving their baby boy the middle name of Canard after a wave of online mockery.

French family defend naming their son Canard (duck)
A family from the duck-farming region of south west France have defended giving their child the middle name of "Canard" Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Baby Dyklan Bret was born in August in south west France, but his middle name only became public when civil servants in the area published a list of the ‘most unusual’ names registered in 2021.

Many people assumed that the name referred to Périgord’s reputation as the duck-farming capital of France, and the family were mocked on social media as “cas sociaux, alcooliques” (alcoholic social-work cases).

But in fact, the name has a very different origin, which the baby’s grandfather has shared with French TV channel BFM.

“It’s a tribute to my mother, a war orphan,” he told BFM.

“In 1943, she was abandoned in front of the church in Châtellerault (Vienne) because she came from the traveller community. She was then taken in by social services, and then adopted seven months later by a man called Georges Canard, a French soldier who later worked on the railways and was involved in the resistance.

“For my son, it was a mark of respect towards his grandmother. We wanted this surname to live on through the new generations even though it is no longer our family name, as women often lose their surname when they marry.”

French courts have the power to block certain baby names if they are deemed harmful to the child – among those refused are Nutella, Deamon and Fraise (strawberry).

READ ALSO The French baby names the law won’t allow

Until 1993, French parents had to choose from a list of acceptable names. This has now been scrapped and parents can make their own choices, within certain limits.

Local authorities in Périgord have raised no issues with Canard, which has parents say will not be used on a daily basis, as it is only a middle name.

EXPLAINED is your name ‘French enough’ for France?

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Mine-riddled French island becomes unlikely walkers’ paradise

Every year, thousands of day-trippers make the short boat journey from France's northern coast to the island of Cezembre, marvelling at the spectacular maritime views and flourishing wildlife.

Mine-riddled French island becomes unlikely walkers' paradise

But they better tread carefully and stick to the path, as almost all the island remains perilous due to unexploded munitions from World War II.

Cezembre opened to visits only in 2018, over seven decades after the end of World War II, after extensive de-mining efforts allowed the opening of a marked path for visitors.

However, the area safe for visitors makes up just three percent of the island, which experts say was the most bombed area of all of World War II in terms of the number of hits per square metre.

“It’s magnificent!” enthused Maryse Wilmart, a 60-year-old visitor from the southwestern town of La Rochelle, contemplating the sandy beach with turquoise waters and looking out to the ramparts of the port city of Saint-Malo beyond.

Tourists pass by signs reading “no trepassing – Danger” on Cezembre Island, Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“But when you see all that behind us… Can you even imagine what happened here?” she asked, pointing to the barbed wire and signs warning “Danger! Ground not cleared beyond the fences!”

A visitor needs to go back 80 years to understand what happened on this usually uninhabited rocky outcrop.

In 1942, the occupying Nazi German army seized the strategically important island and installed bunkers and artillery pieces.

On August 17th, 1944, Saint-Malo was liberated by the Americans but the Nazi commander of Cezembre, leading some 400 men, refused to surrender.

There then followed a devastating bombardment from the air by the Allies.

“It is said that per square metre it sustained the greatest number of bombardments of all the theatres of operation of World War II,” said Philippe Delacotte, author of the book “The Secrets of the Island of Cezembre”.

A beach on Cezembre Island, off Saint-Malo’. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“There were between 4,000 and 5,000 bombs dropped”, some of which contained napalm, he said.

On September 2nd, 1944, the white flag was finally raised and some 350 exhausted men surrendered.

“Some survivors claimed it was like Stalingrad,” Delacotte said. The island was completely devastated, to the extent that its altitude even dropped because of the bombs.

After the war, the island became the property of the French ministry of defence and access was totally closed, with the first de-mining efforts starting in the 1950s.

It was handed over to a public coastal conservation body, the Conservatoire du Littoral, in 2017.

The path of about 800 metres lets visitors wander between rusty cannons and bunkers, with breathtaking views towards Cap Frehel and the Pointe de la Varde.

Since the opening of the path, “there has been no accident” even if “there are always people who want to go beyond the authorised section,” said Jean-Christophe Renais, a coast guard.

Over time, colonies of seabirds have reappeared, including seagulls, cormorants, razorbills and guillemots.

“Biodiversity is doing wonderfully, everything has been recolonised and revegetated, birds have taken back possession of the site,” said Gwenal Hervouet, who manages the site for Conservatoire du Littoral.

“It’s just a joy.”

Because of the focus on restoring wildlife, the trail was partially closed in April “to maximise the chances of success and the flight of peregrine falcon chicks,” said local conservation activist Manon Simonneau.

Some walkers say they hope the trail will be lengthened to allow a complete tour of the island, but according to the Conservatoire there is little chance of this — the cost of further demining would be astronomical, so it is now birds and nature that are the masters of Cezembre.

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