When the police appear at a hunt in France, they are there to help the huntsmen and the hounds, not to arrest them. Henri d’Origny, a designer for Hérmes and regular at the Rallye Trois Fôrets hunt north of Paris, says the gendarmes queue up to attend the meetings. “Their job is to escort the hounds across the roads. They hunt three times a week and get paid for it. It is one of the best jobs going.”
This different approach is encouraging some English huntsmen to move to France. “Hunting is part of my life and I am not prepared to give it up,” says Simon Wright, who hunts twice a week with the Southdown and Eridge. “I am a Sussex man born and bred but this is enough to make me leave the country. My 14-year-old son Marcus loves it too and I don’t see why he should have to give it up at such a young age.”
The French, who have grown accustomed to the arrival of the British diaspora over the last five years, are now bracing themselves for a new influx, together with horses and hounds. The new arrivals will have a largely sympathetic welcome. “Hunting is a symbol of England,” says d’Origny. “This is fascism and totally ridiculous.” Lady Venetia Wymborne who hunts several times a week and has lived in Normandy for over 20 years says the ban would never happen in France. “If they tried it here they would have people with pitchforks marching on Paris,” she says.
Simon is looking for a house close to Pau where fox hunting was introduced by the Duke of Wellington over a hundred years ago. The Victorians went out in hordes on account of the benign climate. At one stage during the 19th century 20% of the population was British. Their influence is everywhere. There is a rue Buckingham, an 18-hole golf course (the first in continental Europe) and tearooms all over the city. Pau is still known as La Ville Anglaise. “There are already lots of Brits here but we have been on contact with several hunts in England that are making plans for the future,” says Paul Mirat, Head of International Relations at the Pau Tourist office and a keen huntsman.
Jeffrey Quirk, who runs riding and hunting holidays at Château de Sombrun near Pau, is planning to bring a pack of hounds over from Hertfordshire. “We are going to create a truly English fox hunt here.” Quirk predicts more packs will move to France. “I think it’s going to go absolutely crazy,” he says. “You are looking at 250 hunts that will be unable to function after February. It’s either move or shoot the hounds and sack the staff. I am investing in another 15 Irish hunters to cope with demand.” Quirk is in talks with Diane Pyper, joint master of the Puckeridge Hunt in Hertfordshire. “The hounds have been in my family for over 100 years and their pedigrees go back to the 17th century,” says Diane. “I couldn’t bear to put them down so moving to France is one possibility.”
Stephen Sherwood, an equestrian property consultant and former master of the New Forest Foxhounds moved to France three years ago to escape the ban on hunting. He says those considering moving their packs out should look into it carefully first. “There is so much work involved in getting the licences to hunt here,” he says. “You have to sit a really tough exam, organise insurance, get local permits to hunt and so forth. They would be better off developing a relationship with a French pack.”
All around the country the hunting community is gearing up for an influx of Brits if the ban comes into force. “I think we will see a lot of them coming over,” says Jane Hanslip who runs riding holidays from her home outside Bergerac in the Dordogne. “I am planning to run two hunting weekends a year from my property. The idea would be to hunt all day Saturday and Sunday, obviously interspersed with lots of food and wine.”
Hunting with hounds in France is mainly for stag and wild boar. As Lady Winborne puts it; “The French rarely chase anything inedible.” The culture here is also very different. In England the emphasis and culture is centered around the horse. In France it is the hounds that really count. “Of course we respect horses and I personally don’t eat them, but it’s a totally different thing,” says Louis de Blauvac, a wine maker and huntsman. The French have managed to turn hunting into something altogether more cerebral than the British. They call it the art de vènerie, the art of hunting. Apparently it is all about how the dogs work together mentally and physically to outwit the animal they are chasing. And the animal they are chasing has to be considered worthy, which is why the French don’t often chase foxes. “It would be a bit like chasing a rat,” says Stephen Sherwood.
For those from an Anglo-Saxon culture, this can all be a bit too much. Henri d’Origny’s American wife Sybil doesn’t hunt in France. “She finds it too intellectual,” says Henri.
Jane Hanslip www.dordogneriding.com Telephone: 0033 (0) 5 53 22 76 08
Jeffrey Quirk www.sombrun.com
Stephen Sherwood www.yourfrenchhouse.com email firstname.lastname@example.org
Changes to E111
The E111, the form you get from the post office which entitles you to free or reduced cost healthcare cover in European Union countries, is changing. Anyone travelling from 2005 will have to apply for a new one as the old ones are only valid until December 2004. The main difference is that the new form will be issued on an individual and not a family basis. However one family member can complete the form on behalf of spouse and children. You will still be able to get the form from the post office.
“Is there a new law in France which says we must all keep our headlights on at all times,” writes a reader from Bordeaux. Not yet. But the French Transport Ministry is running a national try-out to see what the effects on road safety will be. This period started on October 30th 2004 and will go on until Match 27th 2005. It is not compulsory to have your headlights on yet but depending on the outcome of the trial it may soon become law. As one reader puts it; “You may as well put them on, why give them an excuse to pull you over.”
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor in chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group. She writes a beauty blog www.beautyorbeast.uk.
Her third novel, The Arnolfini Marriage, based on a romance that evolves around a van Eyck masterpiece came out in 2016. As well as contributing regularly for newspapers and magazines, writing short stories and studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, Helena is also working on a thriller called The Longest Night that will be published in spring 2019. Her latest non-fiction work Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles came out in hardback in 2016 and came out in paperback in April 2018.
Helena was educated at Durham University and lived in the Languedoc region of France for eight years, where the family still have a home. She lives between there and London with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019