I suppose it was inevitable that on the day of the village show the glorious sunshine would turn into wet mizzle-drizzle worthy of a Sunday morning in West Yorkshire. However, here in SW France it is rather disappointing. Nevertheless the show must go on and, in this instance, the show being an exhibition of small animals, market and bric-a-brac stalls. Mostly these fall victim to the weather but in the shelter of the Foyer (the village hall) the exhibition of small animals goes ahead with a vengeance.
Whilst appetising odours drift across the village square from the impromptu café set up for lunch later, (rosemary and lamb, an aromatic marriage made in heaven) an aroma of a very different nature assaults the nose from within the Foyer…parfum de farmyard. I squeeze past the huddle of men gossiping over coffee in the corner and pretend not to notice the flash of silver as a small hip flask, containing je ne sais quoi surreptitiously makes its rounds.
Inside the Foyer I find poultry of every kind.
Massive cockerels, with wicked beady eyes and sharp spur claws, square up to each other. Only the bars of their cages prevents all-out war. These are watched by pairs of docile hens, sitting like fluffy tea cosies and crooning quietly to themselves. A few Silkies shuffle and preen showing off their feathered legs and one with ridiculously curled feathers all over quivers and rustles like a Shaker at a prayer meeting. On the floor larger cages house a few geese and a couple of turkeys with drooping, lugubrious expressions.
However the highlight of the morning is the show jumping… not I hasten to add with mettlesome steeds. No here in rural Languedoc, we do it in style, this is rabbit show jumping. Today there are four charming white rabbits with huge black eyes staring rather sleepily at the crowd around the ring. My Youthful Mentor in all things French and her friend Damielle are ringside and greet me.
“Who’s going to win?” I ask.
My YM replies carefully, cognisant of my inability to understand a word of French when it is spoken at a speed that outstrips the TGV (train grande vitesse).
“I don’t know. Perhaps the one with the blue collar.”
“Non” Damielle is emphatic, “the green.”
A lively argument breaks out and I edge away.
The contest begins. Both blue collar and green collar manage clear rounds but sadly red and yellow collars don’t make it. Now it’s the jump-off. The triple bar fence is suddenly raised to six bars. The spread fence takes on enormous proportions and the bamboo barricade is raised on blocks. We wait. In comes blue collar; first fence and he’s safely over and likewise the second fence. Then, disaster! A refusal at the bamboo barricade followed by escape from the ring.
Green collar enters the ring. Do I detect a bit of a rabbit swagger? He takes the first, second and third fences in his stride. Everyone holds their breath as his handler directs him to the final hurdle – a spread of half a dozen black and white striped poles and as the furry bundle clears it with inches to spare the crowd breaks out into applause.
Damielle looks smug; YM exasperated; I know when to keep quiet.