The French hunting season is coming to a close and soon it will be safe to walk in the woods again.
When a hunt is on, the hunters are supposed to give notice to the local town hall, so walkers can check where to avoid and to place warning signs at the entrance to the area being hunted over. Every year an astonishing number of walkers and hunters are shot dead and injured by stray bullets and so extreme caution is advised.
A few weeks ago I was walking home through a wood on the Swiss French border . There had been no notifications on the local website of hunts and no warning signs at the entrance to the wood, so like little Red Riding Hood into the dark forest I went.
All was well, the path was slippy with rain and snow, but I was making good time when I heard dogs close by barking loudly. There were no dog walkers on the path in front or behind and so the dogs must be along side me in the slope of the forest. Then I heard hunting horns and I started to stride out as fast as I could. I could hear voices and calling to the dogs, but I could see no one at all. I realised I was in the middle of a wild boar hunt and unraveled the bright pink scarf from my dark coat, in the hope that the hunters would realise I was human and not pig.
There was still nothing to see, but the sound of dogs and horns and yelling voices was getting louder. Then I remember what you did in Africa if you thought big dangerous wildlife was close : you make as much noise as possible. I wasn’t scared of the boar, but I was scared of short sighted huntsmen with very large shot guns. I was alone with no one to shout to, so I decided to sing at the top of my voice. For some reason “ I Could Have Danced All Night” from “ My Fair Lady” came into my head and so I bellowed the English words as loud as I could as I scurried ignominiously through the undergrowth.
“I never know, what made it so enchanting, when all at once my heart took flight. I only know when he decided to dance with me, I could have danced, danced, danced, all night!”
And so breathless and triumphant I broke out of the forest onto a road where an astonished local was preparing a large fire to roast the musical pig he imagined was being slaughtered by his fellow hunters.
I smiled with as much insouciance as I could muster at his border mixture of bon jour and gruezi and scuttled on through the woods, back to the safety of my own garden, still humming protective show tunes just to be sure!