Janine Marsh: Spring in France

Janine Marsh: Spring in France

Janine Marsh has a spring in her step as she walks the dogs and rounds up stray cows!

Every season has its charms, but there’s something special about spring here in the Seven Valleys, Pas-de-Calais, where I live. Winters are not Siberian-style, snow falls rarely, but my neighbours tend to stay inside with shutters closed against the chill wind that can howl down the hill outside our house. Often the only sign of life is the wisps of smoke dancing out of the chimneys.

Spring brings vigour to these parts. On our daily walks with our dogs, me and my husband Mark spot storks returning to the area to make nests that are wonderfully camouflaged by the huge balls of mistletoe that seem to hang from every tree branch. The wildlife – deer, rabbits, hare, pheasants and boar – catch spring fever and dash across the fields. And the farmers are out in force, preparing the land, sowing seeds and feeding the animals.

Our four dogs enjoy chasing tractors and meeting farmers. Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the Labrador twins, and Lady Ella and Nina Simone, the Australian shepherd puppies, love everyone they meet, especially farmer Thierry. I think it is on account of the ‘Day the Cows Escaped’ which we still talk about several months after it happened.

One morning, just after sunrise, on leaving our house to walk the dogs, we bumped into Thierry’s whole herd of 20 hairy heifers. They’d got out of their field round the corner and seemed to think it was time to go back to their barn because they were making their way up our little road to the farm, next door but one to our house.

We alerted Thierry and his wife Mathilde, and they 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 hoping one of the family becomes a rockstar guitarist so I can call them ‘Guitar Gaetar‘) rushed out to round up the absconders. It seemed like they had it all under control and were heading to the barn, when along came a young boy walking two large goggle-eyed billy goats on leads (I have no idea why). The goats saw the cows and started bleating wildly.


Well, that did it. The cows stampeded back down the hill and into the alley leading to their field. Wild birds in the hedges flapped 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, barking with enthusiasm, ran after the goats, followed by Mark. Nina and Lady squeaked with excitement and ran after Ronnie and Reggie, with me holding onto the end of their leads.

Eventually we got the cows safely into their field, the goats and the boy wandered off, and peace was restored. To this day, whenever they see Thierry, the dogs bark wildly. I’m pretty sure they’re asking for a repeat performance.

Janine Marsh lives in France with her husband and 72 animals. Her latest book, How to be French: Eat, Drink, Dress, Travel, Love, is available to buy now.


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