Along for the ride:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Extract from Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, by Terry Darlington

On a canal boat food comes and gets you. The crab-apple and the curious pear themselves into your hands do reach; nuts tap you on the shoulder; ruined orchards beckon you in. Monica makes blackberry jelly. At a lock she gathered two pounds of aromatic fungus - for all their enterprise the southerners do not play mushroom roulette. Near Abingdon I flung a rope over a branch and Monica spread a blanket on the ground. We pulled in rhythm and hundreds of black plums fell on Jim. Then there is Monica's home-baked bread. You could throw one of her sandwiches through a corrugated iron sheet.
If you would let me make beer in the engine room we could live off the cut, I said. At least it might get you into the engine-room, said Monica. What we need is protein-what we need is rabbits. That whippet has got to be good for something. What about lamping, like the gypsies -you can borrow my torch. (My wind-up torch had recently attacked me, then exploded.)
So I set out into the dusk, gatherer turned hunter, by the light of my faithful hound Jim, the fastest dog in the world, and a kitchen torch with a half-mile throw. It seemed like a winning team to me.
The field was big, and there were dozens of rabbits grazing a yard from the hedges. I aimed the torch. They stopped chewing and sat transfixed, their eyes shining. Jim began to scream softly, like a fiend in hell watching a likely soul go over the wall. I cried havoc and let him slip. As he approached at forty miles an hour the rabbits stepped into the hedge, and when he had gone they stepped back out again.
After some time I put Jim on the lead and we considered our position. Then we saw some baby rabbits ten yards away, lolloping around. They were the size of chocolate Easter bunnies. My heart filled with lust, I realized the enormity of what I was going to do but still I did it. Jim rushed at the babies and knocked two of them over, then stood and looked at them as they hopped into the hedge.
Back at the boat Monica was waiting with a scissors. Jim went into his kennel, looking straight ahead. Where are my rabbits? asked Monica. Not much out there tonight, I said. You are a pair of losers, said Monica. I did not answer - I was too ashamed. I am ashamed still, and glad that Jim won't talk.


  1. Good thing. I was rooting for the rabbits.

    Nice bit of writing. Thanks for letting me read it.

    Read the post below with my two years of college French some 40 years ago offering translation. Lovely tribute to you for your unselfish and kind acts. Must feel good to be remembered like that.

  2. I enjoyed this. Reminds me of hunting with my father, the outcome was always different, but I lived your ending in my heart.

  3. Hi Jean,
    I highly recommend the above book.
    The letter was a correct piece of Consular Etiquette, but also much more. You never know what people's standards are. This exceeded my expectations. They are holding a reception Tuesday, to which I have been invited, at the residence of the Consul and his wife. It will be a "group-hug" moment for all of us who met this way. (I had to get another pedicure, so I am being careful in my weekend gardening exploits not to mess it up).

  4. It's a strange mixture of sick numbness and exhilaration when hunting. I used to go poaching with my dad and he would let me fire the shotgun. we own guns and I have a passion for all things houndy (we have a deerhound lurcher called Bodger.. name fits). We never shoot anything except old tin teapots and buckets and the dogs are feckin useless. It's nice thinking of the romance that we could be self sufficient... if we reeeeaallly needed to
    be. This story sums that feeling up perfectly! cheers!

  5. Terry Darlington is new to me. Looks like he'll have to go on my reading list. Thanks

  6. Crikey, I'm so soft I'd have to kiss them to death.


  7. If even after that empty-handed adventure they are still wanting rabbits for dinner, they just need to take an evening drive on any of the roads around CDG Airport, north of Paris, where freshly run over rabbits abound on any day of the year. The airport has large expanses of fox-free grasslands around the runways where rabbits thrive in great numbers, and often turn into rabbit-road-pizza when for reasons known only to the rabbit mind, they try to cross the road. Sounds like a good book...

    Hmmm, gotta run for lunch now, I think we're having rabbit stew... it's wonderful how truck tires tenderize the meat... (whooops, shouldn't let the cat, er, the rabbit out of the bag)

  8. We used to get rabbit stew and rabbit pie as kids, haven't had it since then. I really must get that book though, priceless!

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