He even signs SMS messages: “Molecatcher to the king.” It’s been over two centuries since Louis XVI was guillotined on Paris’ Place de la Concorde, but the job of hunting the underground rodent that so troubled French monarchs on the grounds of the Versailles palace still exists.
Its current holder carries on, business as usual, with a task that hasn’t changed in centuries.
“It might sound funny, but it’s serious work. My job is to make sure molehills don’t deface Europe’s finest gardens,” says 36-year-old Jerome Dormion, the latest in an unbroken 330-year line of burrowing rodent-killers in the royal palace and gardens visited by six million people a year. “We still have visiting dignitaries too. Imagine if they were to see them!”
Dormion — who started out as a regular gardener before noticing a niche in the molecatching market — keeps the roughly 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of magnificent horticulture mole-free. The grounds include fountains, an orangery, glistening landscaped grass, Marie Antoinette’s cherished farm and famed gardener Andre Le Notre’s Royal Path and Grand Canal.
He takes the work very seriously — but there’s the odd flash of humor.
“I’m known as the king’s molecatcher because Versailles is still the palace,” he says. “The king might be gone, but the palace still has moles, loads of them.” He smiles: “Which is good, as it keeps me in work!”
Versailles is a veritable hotbed for moles, unlike some other European palaces, since it lies in the verdant countryside some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) outside the Paris city walls. Across the channel, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II need not furrow her regal brow, as her palace, within London, is protected by city foundations that prevent moles from digging through to the royal residence.
Tattooed by Trud Tattooist at Blue Dragon Tattoo Studio, Brighton.
Sarah Jessica Parker.
Our Prison Correspondent Is Back in Prison
A while back, we got a letter from a guy serving time in prison in Upstate New York for selling coke. He mentioned wanting to write for us, but most of the letter was an ultra-obscene freeform narrative about inmates eating fried chicken and getting jerked off by fat broads and jamming condoms full of drugs up their asses. We never saw anything quite like it, so we offered him a weekly column on the spot and we soon worked out a system that allowed him to write for us without alerting the prison authorities, who frown on inmates telling the public what happens behind bars for some reason. He wrote us pages and pages of stuff about being lonely in prison, jerking off (a lot about jerking off), cooking using a microwave, porn, and his life, all under the pseudonym “Bert Burykill” so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He’s continued writing for us after getting out of prison and while going through parole and rehab and we think he’s probably the funniest ex-con writer who specializes in masturbation stories in the world.
Yesterday we got some highly unbonerable news—Bert’s back in prison for six weeks after violating parole. (Meanwhile, the white-collar criminals who have destroyed the economy walk free yadda yadda yadda.) He’s going to try to write to us from inside like the old days, but his column is probably going to take a little bit of a hiatus. To tide you over, here’s a collection of his work: