The French countryside around here is teeming with wild boar. They visit the shack at night to eat the pansies and nose up the flower-beds, and their violent flare-ups over a disputed morsel wake us up. Standing about in the lane the other night, blocking it, was a 25-strong gathering of them. They ranged from cheerful little tackers to daft adolescents to suspicious old bruisers. And when we take the old dog on her daily walk, we hear them thrashing about in the tinder-dry undergrowth on either side of the track. Our neighbours advise taking a stick with us at this time of year, to fend off an attack, but as the boars seem more afraid of us than we are of them we don’t bother. All summer long they’ve been left in peace to procreate and raise litters and enjoy what must be an idyllic existence among the native scrub oaks. But now the hunting season is open, and they are being vigorously persecuted again.
Last Saturday, gunshots rang out at first light and the rapid rate of fire throughout the day suggested that the boar population was getting a good dusting. We stepped out for our afternoon walk nevertheless. The three-day mistral had blown itself out, our sanity had returned, and the sun was hot enough to warrant a hat. From our shack we can step out of the door straight on to the mountain track without a dog lead. I might take along a small rucksack to fill with wayside pine cones, which are more combustible than shop-bought firelighters.
The walk is half an hour uphill, half an hour on the level, and half an hour back down through dense pine and oak forest fragrant with wild herbs.