Hunters Backlash …

Well, it had to take something pretty strong to get my writing my blog again. I just had a very angry comment about a post I wrote just over 2 years ago: The Wild Boar Hunting Society. The person writing the comment was so angry at me, threatening to spray pig slurry on my home, that I went and re-read the post. And I have to admit that reading it with fresh eyes, I realised that I had made some big sweeping statements two years ago. In the blog post I come across as a raging extremist. I think it was partly because like the person who was angry at me, I was also very angry when I wrote the post. That week I had been in close, conflictual contact with some very drunken, selfish, rude hunters who had blocked the road to our house with their massive jeeps. And it was the two year anniversary of the death of a young man who had been out on his mountain bike and shot and killed by hunters. And I was breast-feeding and hormonally sensitive. Especially when walking past the cut-off tails of baby wild boars that had been nailed to the door of the hunters’ hide-out. But that doesn’t excuse everything. I did write “I hate hunters. I hate them with all my might. I delight in tales of them accidentally shooting each other.” That was pretty nasty of me, I have to admit. And I went on to write, “When I see them, I scowl and send out deadly rays of painful cell-shrivelling terror, aiming for their inner organs. The more hunters who perish, the happier I am. This is because all the hunters I have ever met are : 1/ boorish, 2/thoughtless, 3/self-important, 4/narrow-minded, 5/ macho. They are also all red-faced and ugly.” Ahem. I can imagine that someone who doesn’t know me might have read that post and come to the conclusion that I am an absolute raving loon, wrapped up in a fog of hatred and bitterness. And to lump all hunters into one category is totally unfair, I know. I can’t stand people doing that, yet I did it 2 years ago having just had a run-in with a nasty bunch of blokes who all happen to like shooting animals of a winter morning.

Since then I have met some nice hunters. Ones who are careful and respectful of nature and the families living in the countryside. Ones who warn you they’re hunting in a certain area so that you don’t stumble into their crossfire. On two different occasions I have found a couple of lost hunting dogs and have phoned their owners so they could be reunited with their faithful friend. I even offered them a coffee. I have had a meal with some very nice hunters who are friends of a friend. One of my colleagues, who is now a friend, turns out to be an occasional hunter. So my view of hunters has changed. Some of them are utter idiots, still stumbling drunkenly through the valley shooting too close to the village houses, but some of them are very decent chaps.

Here is the angry comment on my original ‘Hunters” post:

“If only you could see yourself for what you are. In my opinion the sort of Brit who gives other English people in France a bad name. Who or what gives you the right to be critical of the local traditional culture. Hunting in France has been practiced for a very long time & certainly long before you imported your intolerant towny views. Rarely have I read such a demonic rant as yours about the hunters. You are obviously the wrong sort of person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either you should ship-out or get professional therapy for your intolerance & try to blend with your locality. Thank God you don’t live anywhere near me or I’d be delivering a couple of tons of pig slurry via pressure pump all over your house. Surpised no one has done so already, it’s long overdue.”

In response to this, I have a few things to say.

Who or what gives you the right to be critical of the local traditional culture.” Well, anyone has ‘the right’ to criticise anyone or anything, including local traditional culture. It’s called freedom of expression. And criticism shouldn’t come as a surprise when certain participants of a traditional pastime are disrespectful of the people actually living there. The hunters who tend to block the village square and all access to the houses below the village don’t actually come from around here. They’re not locals at all. They drive down from Lyon and St Etienne, hunt, drink, hunt a bit more while still drunk, drink more, then drink-drive their way to their weekend gîte. I’m not the only one who is annoyed with the behaviour of these particular hunters; lots of other villagers are bothered by them, our mayor too. They are renowned for being disrespectful and aggressive. Very different to the hunters I have met who live around here. The local hunters are far more careful of the environment and the villagers.

“Hunting in France has been practiced for a very long time & certainly long before you imported your intolerant towny views.” Hmmm. How do you know I’m a “towny”? I’ve been living in France for 18 years, most of that time in the countryside. When I lived in central France I ran a farm with my French boyfriend. I have birthed lambs, calves and foals. I tended to a vegetable plot so huge we didn’t need to buy any vegetables for five years. I know my plants, my trees, my mushrooms. Not exactly a towny then. It’s these particular hunters who are “towny”, driving down from the big cities to have careless fun in the countryside. And even if I was a towny, just because something has been practiced for a very long time doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be criticised. Hanging was practised for a very long time until someone started to make noises about it not being a very nice ‘tradition’.

“Rarely have I read such a demonic rant as yours about the hunters.” Yeah, you’re right there. I did indeed sound demonic. And I was indeed ranting. Sorry about that. I was really pissed off with those disrespectful drunken men. And I went and lumped all hunters in the same bucket, which isn’t fair, I know. It’s quite a revelation to read something I wrote so long ago, now in a very different state of mind, and to actually be regrettably surprised at what I wrote.

You are obviously the wrong sort of person in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Erm… hang on. Maybe those drunken hunters were actually the wrong sort of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. ie: rowdy, drunken blokes in a sleepy little village at 2 in the morning, parked so that the inhabitants couldn’t drive down to their houses, or out again in the event of an accident and/or a dash to the hospital.

Either you should ship-out or get professional therapy for your intolerance & try to blend with your locality.” Yeah, thanks mate. I help the local farmers out when they need a hand, visit the elderly ladies in the village, only buy local produce from the local farmers, give free English lessons to the neighbourhood schoolchildren, translate all sorts of things for the villagers and help them when they don’t understand documents in English, take all our vegetable peelings and leftovers down to the farm to feed the pigs, give guided tours based on the local architecture, history and geology of this corner of the Ardèche, speak fluent French with local slang thrown in… if that’s not blending in with my locality then I don’t know what is. You have hastily judged me on one angry blog post without knowing anything about me or my life.

“Thank God you don’t live anywhere near me or I’d be delivering a couple of tons of pig slurry via pressure pump all over your house.” Wow. And you talk about intolerance and demonic behaviour. Nice one, the pig slurry and the pressure pump.

Surpised no one has done so already, it’s long overdue.” Well, now things are getting interesting because I have never been “ranted at” before in my life, yet just yesterday someone had an email rant at me for something entirely unrelated. Or was it? I am beginning to wonder whether the two angry rants are in fact coming from the same source. It’s so easy to find people on the internet. All it takes is typing my name into Google and there my blog is. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s pure coincidence. But the writing styles are VERY similar… which makes me wonder… hmmm…

Hunters (continued)

Since writing my last post, I have discovered that not long after I burst into the village snack bar full of drunken hunters the other night and hurled insults at all and sundry, a fight broke out. I was a bit concerned that it was something to do with me, and that I would soon have twenty hunters out the front of the house complaining that a small English woman has no right to scold them like I did and trampling on my lettuces, but no – apparently they were arguing over a wild boar and who had shot it and whose dog had tracked it and who had the right to its two back legs (Obelix’s favourite morsel). Of course, when in disagreement and unable to find a compromise, do what only a true, proud hunter can do : hit the bloke in front of you. And if you are a hunter standing by, by all means, join in and hit the closest person to you. Maybe pick up a chair and throw it. Or push a table over, or smash a beer bottle on the edge of the bar and brandish it in a dozen fat, red-faced, moustached faces. This is the Hunter’s Code. Hit, smash, break and shoot. Then you’re more of a man. More of a hunting man.

The Wild Boar Hunting Society

I am a little concerned. I knew you had to be slightly stupid to be a hunter in this day and age, but I didn’t realise you had to be an absolute dimwit barely capable of rational thought.

We live in the countryside. Hills and valleys of thyme, lavender, rosemary, box-trees and small oaks; home to a population of deer, badgers, rabbits, foxes, snakes and wild boar. This is the most beautiful time of the year, as the valley is tinged with strokes of  bright yellow, deep red,  burnt gold and orangey brown. This is the best time to go for long rambles up through the hills, along the narrow tracks that trace the slopes and cut through the brambles. Lift a heavy stone and you’ll find a scorpion curled up beneath it. Wade through the stream and you’ll see water snakes. Yesterday we found fossils. Today we discovered a cactus. Nature is out there being welcoming and beautiful. Unfortunately, this is also the time of the year when you may well be shot by a fat, red-faced man in camouflage gear, with a fluorescent cap on his head, certain that you are a wild boar. Or he might not even be certain. It might just be that you brushed by a bush in a wild boar-like manner. Or it might just be that he had three too many pastis at lunchtime. This does happen. Two years ago a young bloke on his mountain bike was shot and killed by a hunter. It was entirely the hunter’s fault. But the authorities did not take measures to ban hunting near the mountain bike tracks, they simply warned the mountain bikers to watch out for hunters. I have been for walks when I have run into hunters and they have told me to be careful. Nice.

I hate hunters.

I hate them with all my might. I delight in tales of them accidentally shooting each other. When I see them, I scowl and send out deadly rays of painful cell-shrivelling terror, aiming for their inner organs. The more hunters who perish, the happier I am. This is because all the hunters I have ever met are : 1/ boorish, 2/thoughtless, 3/self-important, 4/narrow-minded, 5/ macho. They are also all red-faced and ugly, not that I dislike red-faced, ugly people – but it’s just something I happen to have noticed amongst this particular group of (mostly) men who share a common interest in tracking animals to the point of exhaustion, sending in their dogs and shooting at the animal until eventually one of them hits it. Nowadays hunting is even more despicable around here as the hunters have become lazier and lazier, employing new technology to allow them to expend as little energy and skill as possible. As you drive along the narrow, windy road that follows the river from the route nationale to our village, you frequently come across these red-faced men sitting on little fold-out chairs, waiting for one of their mates to call their mobile to say “le sanglier arrive” (“wild boar heading in your direction, Gérard”). They then heave their porky selves out of their golf-chair, pick up their rifle and shoot at whatever moves. It might be your car.  Their dogs are tagged with  sensors so that when they get lost, and they invariably do, the owner can track them. This means the dogs aren’t trained to come back, they just have a sat-nav around their neck. And as for the army gear get-up … they wear it to feel like they’re in the army, doing something very manly, important and gun-toting, but then they went through a phase when they were so well camouflaged that they kept shooting each other. So they now continue to wear the green mottled army attire, but with a fluorescent orange cap and glow-in-the-dark band across their chest. Which means they stand out like a tangerine in a bowl of pea soup. ie. You can see them a mile off, and so can the wild boar. But hey, it doesn’t matter, as they’ve got the mobile phone network on their side to get one step ahead of the wild boar and cut them down in their steps, before they can run back to mummy wild boar. I say this, as it appears that most of the hunters’ successful killings are baby wild boar. Judging by the (small-sized) dead animals I see lumped in the back of their 4×4, and by the tails nailed up on the door of their “den”, the hunters are very good at shooting the little ones. Sorry, did I say “tails nailed up on the door …?” Yes, I did. Here is a photo of their den. Look closely at the decoration on the door.

I hate hunters.

Can you see them? The tails? Here’s a close-up.

The tails of their little, hairy, tusky victims. Very foul. These men are very foul. And also incredibly stupid. I had proof of this last week-end when I got home from an evening out at 2 a.m. (my first since Léonie was born 11 months ago, so quite an event), drove into the village and braked suddenly when I saw I couldn’t go any further as the little square was ram-packed with hunters’ trucks. Big fat 4×4 everywhere, parked so that a car couldn’t get through. There is, since June, a little restaurant in the village – they call it a “snack” (I have tried, unsuccessfully, to explain that a snack is a small bite to eat, like a biscuit or an apple or a piece of toast, but no, they believe it is a small restaurant that serves chips and sausages) and the hunters are very happy to have found a place to eat and get smashed in each week-end. But instead of parking just out the front of the village, they prefer squeezing their massive vehicles through the narrow street that enters the village and parking as close as possible to the “snack”, thereby walking 30 metres less than if they had parked out the front. So, they gain 20 seconds of precious Pastis time. It doesn’t cross their minds that they will then have to manoeuvre their car out backwards through the skinny street, and that will take them far longer than simply walking back to their car, especially after a liver full of alcohol. They will also probably scrape their truck on a corner and will curse and shout and wake up sleeping villagers, or they will ram into another hunters’ truck, a fight will ensue, and their new army trousers will end up ripped and/or wee-stained. They haven’t even considered the possibility of someone in the village wanting to get through; either trying to get home, like me the other night, or trying to get out, like a parent rushing a child to emergency ward, a husband driving his contracting wife to the maternity ward, or our neighbouring doctor on call. I wasn’t in a rush, there wasn’t an emergency, but I was livid because the hunters hadn’t taken anyone into consideration except themselves. So I marched into the “snack” and shouted “QUEL CRETIN A BOUCHE LE PASSAGE? … QUEL IDIOT NE SAIT PAS SE GARER?” The bar area went quiet so I continued “QUE LA PERSONNE RESPONSABLE VIENT TOUT DE SUITE ET BOUGE SA GROSSE VOITURE!” I turned on my heels and a couple of hunters followed me out trying to be helpful, in a drunken, sprawling way. They didn’t know who owned the grey truck which had definitively blocked the way, although it was the culmination of all their vehicles which was the real problem. I stormed around the village square cursing them all, the “snack” owner apologising and saying he had no idea they had all parked on the square, until one fat, red-faced hunter with a moustache (I forgot to mention that most of them have moustaches), sheepishly climbed into his grey truck and attempted to back it up. This meant me backing up too. Then I saw he had stopped in a side-road to let me pass, suggesting he was simply going to park his truck back in the same spot. I got our of my car again and marched up to his truck. I banged on the window and when he didn’t open it fast enough I opened the door myself. “Look mate, you can turn your truck around and park it out the front of the village. There are about 20 free parking spaces there. I’m sure it won’t hurt you to walk the 30 extra metres back to your pastis and your fat, red-faced mates, and you can tell them all to park out the front of the village from now on or they’ll have me to answer to.” I slammed his door and drove off, across the square, through the arch (where their den and the Tail Tableau is) and down to our house.

It only then crossed my mind that I had just insulted a group of drunken men, about thirty odd, each with a rifle. And having me to answer to might not frighten them much. I am short, skinny, female, and look like Peter Pan on a bad day. But I felt better.

I went back last night, around midnight to see what their parking efforts were like … things were slightly better. At least I could drive out of the village if I wanted to. Maybe I did scare them a bit. But what scares me is the idea that these blokes lack the intelligence to park their vehicle where it doesn’t bother anyone, themselves included, yet they are allowed to carry and use a fire-arm, out in the countryside, in areas where families go walking, not far from roads and villages.

There is nothing I can do to change any of this, but my mission now is to prise each of those wild boar tails off their den door and to replace them with pretty pink ribbons. Maybe photos of Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga too. And Gay Pride stickers.