When Janine Marsh moved to France, she didn’t imagine her life would involve cattle wrangling…
Walking my dogs in the morning is a true pleasure. We wander up and down hills through the glorious unspoiled countryside of the Seven Valleys, Pas-de-Calais, and rarely see a car. But every now and again something out of the ordinary happens. One damp and misty morning, by the gate of the house opposite Thierry’s farm at the top of our road, the dogs spotted something and started barking furiously.
“Look” said my husband Mark, “a plastic cow.”
Not much happens in these parts, but it’s never ordinary.
Then the ‘plastic’ cow lifted its head from the flowers it was munching away on in Madame Monique’s front garden.
We were sure it belonged to neighbours Mr and Mrs Pepperpot, so I dashed off to get Mr Pepperpot (that isn’t his real name, but they are very petite), who rather reluctantly pulled on his rubber boots and a raincoat as by now the heavens had opened.
“Zut alors” he said when we arrived at the corner where Mark stood drenched, “that’s my cow!” The cow, a very skittish creature, ran into the farmer Thierry’s field, where the road turns so that there are two ways out. It was followed by Mr Pepperpot calling it names and sliding about in the now sodden mud. To stop the cow running off, Mr Pepperpot instructed Mark to stand in the middle of the road on one side, with me in the middle of the road on the other side. I did wonder if I should have a lasso, but Mr Pepperpot had a tight grip on the only piece of rope, and he wasn’t letting go.
We stood there for ages as Mr Pepperpot attempted to first cajole, and then yell at the top of his voice to make the cow come to him. Meanwhile, neighbours had come out to watch the shenanigans, when all of a sudden, the cow came dashing out and headed straight towards Mark, who ran about waving his arms while the dogs leaped about with joy.
The animal then changed its course and came charging towards me – I flapped my arms like Mary Poppins without an umbrella. It decided a flying woman in the road was too much to deal with and clip- clopped its way into Thierry’s courtyard where Villaine, the Labrador, awoke with a start from her bed in a shed and started barking.
We all ran into the courtyard and Thierry came out to see what the normally very lazy Villaine was getting in a tizzy about. The little cow jumped over a trough of flowers and skidded to a halt in front of Thierry’s barn-load of big cows, which moo’d in surprise at all this unusual action, making her come to a confused standstill.
Mr Pepperpot swiftly put the rope around her neck and wandered home. French country life – there’s never a dull moment!
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. She will be joining France Today on Thursday, January 25th, 2024 for an exclusive online conversation. Discover the secrets of French lifestyle, from the joy of taking your time, indulging in a glass of wine or a decadent pastry, to knowing just how to dress so you “always look effortlessly chic”. Don’t miss this delightful chance to delve into the essence of French living with a confirmed Francophile. Register here.
Lead photo credit : Don’t be fooled by this tranquil pastoral picture – there’s never a dull moment in the French countryside!, Photo: Janine Marsh