All creatures not so great and small

Mother Nature has a funny way of reminding you who’s boss… For any city-dwellers imagining that the countryside is the place for peace and quiet, think again. Once the hotel gets full, we ship out, so I have spent a number of nights staying with our lovely farming neighbours, Monsieur and Madame Regourd. They live next door to Georgette Cayre, a plump, no-nonsense widow with a living larder – not, as some of our guests innocently think, a bunch of pets. She keeps them for food, plain and simple. I used to feel sorry for the poor little things (non-sensical, I know, as I eat and cook meat), but having been woken up every morning at quarter to five by her pair of competing roosters, if she doesn’t do something about them soon, a new dish of “coq au vin” is appearing on the Raynaudes menu…


And once the roosters have had their early-morning crowing competition, the woeful braying from the Regourds’ donkies starts up – apparently they’re not deeply distressed, as we’d all feared – they just do it for the hell of it… Or maybe they, too, are being subjected to regular nibbles from the mosquitos? But nothing has come close to the recent fly infestation – the worst in living Raynaudes memory and of quite biblical proportions. Thankfully, as the heatwave has passed its worst (we hope), the flies have abated a bit – in the nick of time, as we were being driven completely insane by the constant buzzing and swatting. Teetering on the brink of insanity is not the time for shocks – luckily when I discovered the lizard having a swim in the loo, I was too exhausted to bat an eyelid….

There’s definitely mischief in the air – the Regourds’ Red Setter Sam has a new favourite nighttime”frolic”: he waits for the front door to open when I come home and then streaks out and off into the night, with me giving chase all over Raynaudes while he antagonises all the neighbourhood dogs, eliciting much snarling and barking from the dogs and much cursing from me. He comes back eventually, with a smirk on his face and a Mutley-style snigger…

To escape the crazy animal kingdom that is currently ruling Raynaudes, I went to the Sunday market at Saint Antonin Noble Val on the River Aveyron – a touristy kind of scene, but with a buzzy atmosphere and some lovely food stalls in amongst the over-priced, ubiquitous tie-die creations. I had a leisurely lunch in the dappled sunshine of the courtyard at Restaurant Beffroi – the staff were busy and I was happy to take my time, which meant that I spent more than two hours enjoying a glass of rosé, salmon with couscous and chocolate fondant. Apparently being patient and a French-speaker helps, though – after just a brief exchange with the waiter, who had expressed amazement when I told him I was English, my bill only listed the main course – “the pudding and wine are on me”, he said in perfect English, with a little smile as he sailed past me. I left with a big grin on my face. Never mind the discount and light flirting – he’d thought I was French…