Alain and the Hare -8/6/2006

I was in the bar the other night when Alain, a great big, bearded bear of a man and an ex Foreign Legionnaire, with the injuries to prove it, offered me a hare.
Being engrossed in a conversation about whether Zidane was past it and whether the French football team could exist without him I just said, over my shoulder,  “Oui, merci bien, j’aime beaucoup.”
“I’ll drop it off tomorrow”. he shouted, he only has one speaking style; loud!

Now being as he was, shall we say, tired and emotional! I would have had no qualms agreeing to receive an Iranian nuclear bomb from him, being totally and absolutely certain that, when he woke the following morning, he would have a bigger chance of catching leprosy than remembering what he had said the previous night.

So, the next day, he swept into the courtyard,( he drives his car like a Centurian Tank), where he, (almost literally), bumped into Sheila and asked her to take the hare from the boot.
“A what?” she asked
“A hare”, said Alaine 
“Cooked?” she resonded, mystified
‘No, whole and intact,” he replied equally mystified
“I can’t touch a dead hare”, said Sheila horrified.
“Why ever not,” said Alain, equally horrified.
“I’ll get Brian!”
So, she came charging into the garden where I was cleaning the pool.
“Brian, there’s a friend of yours, with a dead animal, in the courtyard”!
“Oh yeah, that will be Alain with his hare, it’s OK, just take it off him”, I replied.
“No chance”, she said, disappearing into the distance and, at the same time, mumbling something about it looking like Mr. Jospin, our cat, who, sadly, had met his end, on the road, a few weeks earlier.
It looked nothing like Jospin, he was black and white.
Anyway, I walked into the courtyard where I shook Alains’ hand and thanked him for bringing the hare.
“Is there a problem?” he boomed, watching Sheila disappear around the corner at a rate of knots.
“No, no problem, I’ll get the hare,” I quickly replied.
“It’s in the boot, nice hare, shot it myself six weeks ago.”
My hand paused on the boot. “SIX weeks, won’t it be a bit, you know, smelly?”
“No, why?”
At this point I was wondering why I always seem to have strange conversations with the big man.
“Because six weeks is a long time”, I suggested
“A long time for what?”   
“To go rotten’.
“Why should it go rotten?” 
“BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN DEAD FOR SIX WEEKS!” I almost shouted.     Was it the Turtles that sang that old pop song, “Going around in
Circles”?
“I saw a small smile fight through his luxuriant growth as realisation slowly dawned. He beckoned me closer and, for the first time ever, I heard him whisper:-
“It’s frozen!”
“Ah bon” I replied, perhaps just a little embarrased.
“It’s got its bracelet so you can show it to the police” roared Alain, back to full volume
Bracelet, I thought. Why would it have a bracelet and why on earth would I want to show it to the police?  Life would be a lot simpler if, just occasionally, I had the faintest idea what Alain was going on about!
I opened the boot and lifted the hare out by its rear legs. It was solid, rigid and I could not help but think of the dead parrot sketch from Monty Python. I almost asked Alain if he was the “owner of this boutique”, but ultimately I  decided that conversation with him was complicated enough to start with without bringing a 30 year old cult English comedy sketch into the equation.
And then I saw, to my great surprise, that attached to its leg, was a green plastic bracelet with a six digit number.
Was this the latest thing in hare fashion, had it been a member of an exclusive club for hares about town or had it been hiding from the police, having been tagged?
In fact, as Alain, explained, it was none of these things. It was an official hunt bracelet, affixed to every animal shot in the course of the days activity, each tag represented one part of the hunts allocated quota, and, once they were all allocated, then the hunt could no longer shoot anymore of that particular species.  If a hunter happened to be walking along with a shot animal in hand, the police, or Gendamerie, are quite at liberty to stop him and ask to see the bracelet attached to the animal.  If it is not attached then the hunter is committing a criminal offence. Typically Gallic.
I shut the boot lid and Alain roared off in his tank, scattering the gravel, waving his arm out of the window and bellowing a mighty, “à plus!” , as he disappeared through the gateway, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there might be another motorist wishing to share the same bit of narrow road.  Still he was driving a tank! 

What happened then, how,against all the odds, I completed a famous culinery triumph, I will reveal next time.

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