The first thing one does when preparing to leave Paradise (aka La Chaise) for a holiday is to make lists. Lists of things to be done before leaving, of things other people should do, lists of things to be packed, lists of things to be put away.
So, the Saturday before the Tuesday that we were scheduled to leave, I had made my list of things about which I should make lists . I went down to the gîtes to see if everything was in order for my Thursday guests. The dead freezer in the Farmhouse was duly labelled hors service, the live one in the Shepherd's Cottage was firmly labelled 'svp pas ouvrir, contient produits congèles'. Both houses were supplied with loo paper, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets.
I had a quick look in the sheep shed which the Wonderful Arnold had practically finished cleaning. It smelt a lot less of sheep and looked sufficiently hygienic not to upset urban people. The hornets, wasps and birds were occupied with the fig tree which was in full production and I hoped I had remembered to suggest my guests would take careful advantage of its bounty.
Then I saw Madame Landraudie coming down the drive. She was carrying a black rubbish bag. As she came closer I noticed that the bag dripped. It dripped blood and my heart sank. Madame Laundraudie is the only lady member of our chasse of St Aquilin which has the right to hunt in our woods. In recompense, every year, we receive some game. Obviously she was coming to deliver the usual Percival tithe.
We exchanged polite enquiries about each other's healths, that of our respective husbands and, on my part, on the success or otherwise of the beginning of the chasse season. Apparently it was not too brilliant. The frantic wood cutting that had been going on all around us has disturbed the game. Possibly a little too much enthusiasm the previous season had also reduced numbers.
So she apologised for the size of the piece she offered me, a very young chevreuil. We hoped the season would improve. As my mind raced frantically to work out what I would do with this piece of meat, and no freezer capacity, we moved to discuss the nuisible situation. I raised the question of the foxes that the W'ful Arnold had seen gambolling with the lambs in the fields; foxes that would stop me from keeping ducks or chickens again.
The good news, for me but not the foxes, is that the specialist fox hunter has been contacted and he will come with his specialist pack of hounds that will raise the foxes. (English country people skip the next bit, please.) Hunters will be stationed in the woods and, if we would be so kind as to bring the sheep in for a day, in our fields as well. Then the hunters would shoot at the foxes. We shook hands and I took my prize to the kitchen.
It was the forequarter of the chevreuil and I doubt if, alive, together with the other three quarters, it weighed as much as 30 kilos. I looked at it and copped out. No way could I joint, bone, roll this meat and not least because it had been very recently skinned and was still bloody. What to do?
So, on the way to Spain, car carefully we packed, we stopped at St Astier and I took the chevreuil to my butcher. I said 'please'. He said: vous inquietez pas, Madame, vous inquietez pas.' So, here I am in Spain, not worrying.