Last time I was in france I left just before the season started (Aug 15th) and i reported on the European hunting tradition known as Battue - where whole villages hunt and feast together in a cooperative effort. This time I was a little nearer the mark, and I left only a couple of days after the season began. Bah!
I met these chaps by the side of the road one morning while I was cycling through vineyards and fields of sunflowers on my way to the bread shop - freshly made bread every day is still an article of faith in france. A proof that the modern world can be held at bay by sticking to your guns.
I may speak very little French but reading a couple of hunting mags had given me a start. I wont attempt to recreate my attempts to escape my shocking monoglotism in print, but it went something like this:
SBW: Good morning Gentlemen
SBW: I see you are hunting, how goes it?
SBW: Where's the line? The beaters?
Boff. They're miles off
SBW: What are you Hunting today?
Boar, Deer, and if the Fox passes he's getting one too
SBW: When did you start?
Well yesterday was the 15th, so we had a big dinner to wish the season well...
It's been a while since I was last in France, and I still come away thinking; 'you've got to admire anyone who really doesn't care what anyone thinks about them'. The french are in equal parts authoritarian and freewheeling which creates some bemusing contrasts.
They do rude and stuck up every bit as well as the english. The look of horror on a middle aged middle class french persons face as our unruly kids trample on their sensibilities is worth the price of admission alone. However they don't temper stuck up and rude in the way english people do. They just don't seem to do 'self deprecating'. Any country where people feel the need to start a society to keep foreign words from getting into the language needs to learn to laugh at its self, and any country where such a society is taken even remotely seriously by publishers and politicians needs to get used to the sound of us laughing at them.
For all their uptightness they're also so good at sticking together against the sates interferences that they remind me of the USA's founding fathers.
Tax hike? Close the roads.
Change to working practices? Shut the ports.
Shorter lunch break? Is nothing sacred!!!! Set fire to the mayors office.
In france you can't really be a national hero with out having been to jail for deifying the courts.
As a nation the passion they show for a proper meal during the day is nothing short of magnificent. In my book if you were going to take something seriously, lunch would be a good choice. It's not a myth, you really can find restaurants that have closed for lunch. I find it quite appealing, that and the grub.