Here in my bit of France our walks with our four dogs in the 7 Valleys of Pas-de-Calais where I live have been fairly lively this week. This is cow country. They say of my little hamlet “150 people and 1000 cows.” Everyone local knows where it is when you say that, though they may not know the name as it is tiny, just three streets – blink as you drive through, and you’ll miss it.
However, if you had driven through here on Tuesday, you would probably have seen a sight to remember. Yet again Thierry the farmer’s cows had managed to escape from their field. And this time, it wasn’t just a couple of runaways like usual, there were about twenty of them – a whole herd of grass and hedge munching, mooing and meandering heifers. They seemed to think it was time to go back to their barn as they were making their way up our little road to Thierry’s farm which is next door but one to our house.
The dogs thought it was the most marvellous thing to be confronted by a gang of hairy absconders. Reggie and Ronnie Kray, our year-old Labradors, barked with joyful enthusiasm, which set every dog in the village off – their woofs and howls could certainly be heard in the next village along where no doubt more dogs joined in. Nina Simone and Lady Ella, the 5-month-old Australian Shepherd puppies, sat down in wonder at the sight of the lumbering beasts which were mooing loudly with excitement, almost home! By now Thierry and his wife Mathilde and farmhand ‘young’ Gaetar (he’s not that young, but his dad is known as ‘old’ Gaetar, and his grandad is known as ‘Papi’ Gaetar. I’m so hoping one of the family becomes a rockstar guitarist so I can call them ‘Guitar Gaetar), had heard the commotion and come out to handle the situation. Or so they thought.
But just then, along came a young boy walking two large goggle-eyed billy goats on leads, well he was being dragged along actually (and no, I have no idea why he would be walking them like dogs). The goats saw the cows and started bleating wildly.
Well, that did it for everyone. The cows stampeded back down the hill and turned into the alley that leads to their field, pheasants and wild birds in the hedges that line the alley, flapped, croaked and tweeted in surprise. Thierry, Gaetar and Mathilde ran after the cows shouting at the tops of their voices. The goats dragged the boy. Ronnie and Reggie ran after the goats followed by Mark. Nina and Lady ran after Ronnie and Reggie with me on the end of their leads. The din of a more than a dozen barking dogs in the village echoed around us.
Sometimes I think my life here is a little odd – and sometimes I know it!
Bisous from a bemused dog walker in the middle of nowhere, rural northern France.
ps Top photo is Claude Monet’s House in Giverny, Normandy from the G-Day posts of our A to Z of France fun on Instagram
Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream, My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online. Her new book How to be French – a celebration of the French lifestyle, is out in October 2023 – a look at the French way of life.
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