There was a lot we were planning to write about this week. A visitor from the UK, a day out to St Tropez, the ongoing battles with the internet and so on. But on Thursday there was a fatal hunting accident here and that puts everything into perspective.
Some background first. In the absence of natural predators such as wolves, in country areas like Courmettes deer and boar numbers soon get out of control. (So, for instance on Tuesday night we saw two young wild boar while driving back up the hill and on Wednesday night, in one of the bizarre forays with computer and phone that are currently needed to check email, Chris came across a herd of a dozen deer.) At this time of year the hunters come up most Thursdays. The hunting is regulated and agreed between the mayor’s office and the Domaine des Courmettes and normally around forty men in bright red jackets turn up at the chateau in various vehicles with dogs and guns. Warning signs are posted around the entrance to the Domaine and we have a strict policy of either leaving the site or staying indoors.
This Thursday we opted to leave the site and went down to Cannes to look at cars (with our house purchase now in process we have decided to look around at something more suitable than our old Octavia for accessing what is already a difficult road up to Courmettes and one that is going to get worse once we get rain, snow and ice). Coming back at 4 o’clock as we crested the last ridge before the château, it was obvious that there was something terribly wrong. There was a solemn line of hunters staring down at one of the fields. Stopping, we immediately saw a couple of police and fire vehicles and a rescue helicopter. The fact that it had switched the engine off spoke volumes. Conversation with the hunters revealed that there had indeed been un accident de chasse.
We didn’t find it easy to work out the details because there doesn’t seem to be an English equivalent for some of the French hunting terms. What is plain is that Jean-Louis Passeron, the ‘Lieutenant de Louvetrie’, a senior figure of the hunt, and the man responsible for beating or flushing the boar out into the open was struck by a bullet in his femoral artery and died from loss of blood. Police investigations continue but it seems to have been a ricochet – there’s a lot of rocks where they were shooting – and simply a terrible accident. What can one say other than the fact that we and the team here extend sympathy to his family and friends? They will be in our prayers.