Willy Poole column

The forest was at its autumn best with shades of brown, green and gold, with the November sunshine slanting through the branches.

The forest was at its autumn best with shades of brown, green and gold, with the November sunshine slanting through the branches.

I pedalled the trike over a carpet of fallen leaves.

Although it was the end of November, there were yellow butterflies fluttering and dragonflies flittering between the great oaks.

I said a rude French word; the yellow butterfly is regarded as a sign of bad hunting conditions and I was pedalling on to a meet of the staghounds who are very nearly my next door neighbours.

But before La Chasse, I had been bidden to break bread with Jean-Paul, the piqueur (huntsman, more or less). You may be thinking tea and toast, but no, it was a plate of assorted cold meat, then a vast sirloin steak with beans, cheeses and several bottles of the Beaujolais Nouveau: sets a chap up for a long day in the forest.

This was Sunday last and would be my fourth day's hunting for the week: two at the boar, one at the stag and one at the fox. Hunting on Sunday? And why not? In fact you can hunt 7/7 in this part of France.

It was not a great day's hunting on the Sunday. The butterflies and the gossamer webs had been right. It was too hot and dry, and there was very little scent.

It was a small comfort to think that wherever the Border Hounds are meeting this week, they are unlikely to be plagued by swarms of yellow butterflies, not if my experience of the Cheviots in November is to be relied upon.

I ENJOYED my day with the foxhounds. It was very different to England. Several of the followers said that they were sorry to hear foxhunting had been stopped in England:

"Oh has it?" I said. "But isn't there a law?" "Yes and what do you French do with bad laws?" "Ahha! We ignore them!" "Exactement!" I said.

The facts are that Parliament was reputed to have spent 700 hours banning hunting as opposed to seven hours on Blair's nice little war in Iraq.

In both cases that Parliamentary time has resulted in shambles. Shambles, I would remind you, can be defined as a confused mess or muddle; it can also mean a scene or place of slaughter and carnage; so Blair got that one right on the nail both times.

As far as the Hunting Bill has gone, it was so badly drafted and is so full of holes that it might be compared to trying to stop the flow of the River Tyne with a length of sheep netting: what does not go over it, flows through.

By the way, did you know that you can now send emails directly to Blair? You can find the site on the internet. So I sent him one about repealing the Hunting Act. It seems this one was second on the race card, exceeded in popularity only by ones suggesting his immediate retirement - or words to that effect.

But I will lay you a guinea to a gooseberry that he never lets any of the emails come near him.

He might read something that he did not like. Not knowing what people really think about you is a basic necessity for remaining Prime Minister.

MADAME has just returned from shopping in our local town. I suppose it could be compared to Alnwick in size, but not in spirit. Apart from good shops it has three markets every week where you can buy good fresh products. Now it has a novelty.

It is almost impossible to find the equivalent of a good English banger or bacon in France. Now the gap has been plugged.

A young couple from Wales have set up an English butchery business in the area. They have a stall in the Saturday market and it thrives with the French as well as the English.

Last Saturday they sold out of bacon.

I know this because Madame lifted the last bit.


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Culture Editor
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Business Editor
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Newcastle United Editor
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Sports Writer