Saturday, October 16, 2004



Alright, I can't snag the pictures so I've done this with links. When you see one, open it in a new window and there you go. This is meant to be a skeleton, but he's a bit fat because I know editors would rather have more content than too little! I'm using Sarah's pictures from her website, but I'm sure she has lots more too.

Staghunting in France- Focus on the Hounds...

 (another possible title- Hunting in France- the Same,  but Different!

It isn't every day that I have the chance to take American  friends for their first day staghunting in France. And when magnificent  hunting photographer Sarah Farnsworth comes along, you know the pictures will be better than real life!

We met, as usual, deep in the forest.

Even though we were early to the meet, we weren't first.

French hunting with hounds- the chasse à courre- is a spectacle that has been refined since medieval times. It's the ancestor of English hunting, and so it's more formal. And it's France, so it's less formal.      

All French hunting is done in the forests, which have been carefully maintained for centuries. The woods are organized-  they are cut with two-horse-wide pathways in a pattern that resembles a pattern of spider webs. You always know where you are- every intersection has a name, and in this forest, a signpost telling you which clearing is which way.

Just like a North  American day with hounds, more people show up. But they show up earlier, and there are more of them, and they are different-

The first thing Americans notice is that all sorts of people, with all sorts of motive power, come out. On foot, in vehicles, on bicycles. Mounted hunters are distinctly a minority, although the etiquette is that they have the right of way. It's an occasion for everybody. This man on his very well muffled scooter is a regular.

Like hunters in the states, everyone is smiling.

And everyone shakes hands, or gets a kiss on the cheek!  The meet-and greet goes on for a while,  snacks come out, and the tufters straggle up. Just a coincidence.

These hounds went out with their handlers at dawn, looking for signs of big red deer stags- this pack's quarry.  Horses show up, and their riders- the French are very efficient users of truck space.

We joke that it's a 16-horse van. But Patrice, who's providing our livery for the day, always has wonderful horses. Well turned out, mannerly, and hard as nails.

And here come the hounds! They have their very own minivan-

"We want to hunt!"

Out they get, and everyone gathers up for the rapport.

In the U. S., hunting is preceded by some announcements and social chitchat, but here things are getting different. The tufters line up, and each one tells the Master what he's found- or not found- in the solitary misty dawn. It's an example of how French hunting is more crowdsourced than ours is. Those volunteer tufters who think they have a good stag try to "sell" what they've found to the Master, and there's plenty of banter.  Eventually he decides where he will draw, and puts us all in the picture. He also warns us about possible problems, where things are going on in the forest, and so forth. So, to horse/truck/bike/track shoes!

The hounds know it's almost time.

This is where another French difference starts- the music! 

They have no truck with our little one note horns, senior hunters all carry full sized, valveless French horns wrapped around themselves. Everything that happens during a hunt has a specific tune to go with it, and "Let's go" is first. All through the day, you'll hear those horns telling you what's going on. Remember this s the woods, so unless you're right there, you can't see the action. But your ears will let you know if they have found, what kind of stag it is, when it crosses a road or goes along it, goes to water, or gets away out of the forest.

And by the way, another difference and one of my favorites- NO electronic communication. They'll send you home if you use a cell telephone to hunt, and I think a radio might get you a head shaving. If you can't keep up or get lost, you miss out. Eyes and ears were good enough for Charlemagne.

We're off!

Dress is different here too- gold braid, long coats, and swords add panache and draw the eye in a way our somber livery doesn't.

Drawing is the same in Virginia or the Vendee. But when hounds strike, they just don't go. Because of wildlife management requirements, hounds can hunt only a mature stag. So all eyes are out to see the game- everyone is looking along the allees to see it cross.

 And another difference appears- there's no field! You're on your own here- everyone  goes where he thinks he'll have the best  chance to spot the quarry and hounds. Again, it's something I like and it would make most English and American huntsmen crazy. Thirty horses, twenty cars,  a hundred foot and bicycle people all over the place. 

I love it myself, but it will look like seven train wrecks the first time you see it.

Once hounds are off, everyone is h-u-n-t-i-n-g. The focus is on hounds and the game, period. Even the horses know what's what-

And so we settled in for the middle.
Once hounds find, the stag puts on his skates and runs. Like a coyote back home, they have superior speed and strength, intimate territorial knowledge, and they evade for a living. So there's going to be an hour or two of find him lose him, draw again.

Sarah will do whatever it takes to get the shot, you can't see it but she climbed a pretty good little bank to get this one, and took a pretty good tumble coming down quickly! You don't have to be on a horse to get hurt doing this.

And here we saw more of that crowdsourcing. The Master and the Huntsman weren't shy about asking what we'd seen, or what we hadn't seen. After a while, this whipper-in saw the hunted stag- lucky us, we were right there-  and we were off again!

Injured hounds have priority, just like at home.

Horses were getting tired,

And people too. Another French difference- no alcohol out hunting! I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true.

The Americans were still in it!

 A tai-o,

and we were off again! This find-lose-find took much longer on this day than usual, there was speculation that the stag was a visitor because  he did not seem to run typical routes. We got to see lots of forest!

And then, away! I must confess that your humble correspondent made the mistake of taking a chance on where he thought the stag would go. I have got to quit that thinking stuff, it hurts my head. I was wrong, and we were thrown well out.

It turns out that the stag left the forest! They do that now and again, and once they do, it's tough to catch them up again. Although I've seen this pack do it they didn't today. Shadows were lengthening, there were only a few people still up (including the Americans!), so they gave him best.

I admit that I like this part of the hunting day a lot.

Piled up hounds,

tired horses,

Making sure everyone is accounted for,

and loading that last one who's just too tired to take another step.

I've left off talking about differences, because this is universal. This might be different for you, though.  TheGirl diaried it- "We saw the hunted stag six times, six hours in the saddle, 45 Kilometers".

By French standards,  not a particularly big day.


You asked for a box -

I love my hunting, and I encourage everyone who hasn't to go hunting in France.

There are packs of stag, roebuck, boar, rabbit, and even fox hounds all over the country.  Like American hunts,  they are happy to have visitors. If you want to ride, livery horses are usually available. If you just want to follow afoot or in car, the more the merrier.  Ask questions, and try to connect with someone to guide you around if you aren't assigned one. Just behave as you'd want a foreign visitor to your pack to behave and you'll be fine. is the French MFHA site and is a good gateway. If you want more information, shoot an email to untacked and they will forward it on to me.

There you go. I'm way over word and picture count, so cut away. And if you want me to talk about other things, tell me what.

On review, there's not much heritage and dress up stuff so if you want more of it, let me know. I can sort of change it up and just do extended picture captions as it were if you like that instead.


Friday, October 15, 2004

Where are the sick people?

Listening to all the health care complaining, I'm confused by the absence of sick people.

Maybe I'm lucky, but I don't see lines of people seeking treatment snaking around the hospital I pass each day.

Nor are the streets filled with the collapsed. No dead carts making the rounds, either. My co workers seem to show up regularly enough that I don't notice many absences.

When people have heart attacks they get bypasses immediately, and I've never heard of an 18 week wait for a hip replacement, which takes 18 MONTHS in England.

So where are the sick people?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A wager for Senator Kerry...

I'd like a new car, so here's a bet for him, or anyone who whinges about "poverty in America".

Let's go to any place in this country where tax money is dispensed to the poor- food stamp office, housing project, or welfare office. We'll take a scale and a table of normal body weight.

For every applicant or recipient present who is under normal weight, I'll give him a thousand dollars.

For every one over weight, he gives me a thousand.

For every applicant or recipient present without a cellular telephone, I'll pay the same thousand. Every one with a cell, a thousand to me.

One proviso- the only applicants or recipients who count are those born to U. S. citizens.

Just for enlightenment, try going to one of those places yourself and doing a count of the portly cell carriers by eye. Your money at work.

Westminster Bribery Case


Corrupt Practices 

The Political Bribery case was concluded at the Old 
Bailey to-day, when nearly four hundred Members of 
Parhament crowded the dock 

Mr Justice Trout {in his summing-up to the jury) You 
have heard the lengthy and well-paid addresses of 
counsel, and you will now, if you can, divert your gaze 
from the distinguished figures in that dock and pay 
some attention to me 

The pnsoners include the whole of the Parhamen- 
tary Labour and Liberal Parties, His Majesty's Ministers 
(with three exceptions) and the man George They 
are charged under a section of the Corrupt Practices 
Act, 1854 (incorporated m the Corrupt Practices Act, 
1883), which says that any person shall be guilty of 
bribery who 

^shall directly or indirectly^ by himself or by any other 
person on his behalf y give or procurcy or agree to give or 
procure^ or ojer, promise, or promise to procurey or to 
endeavour to procure any office or employment to or for any 
voter y or to or for any person on behalf of any voter y or to or 
for any other person in order to induce such votes or refrain 
from voting ’ 

Now, you have heard in evidence that at the last 
General Parhamentary Election all the accused 
persons presentedf themselves as candidates to their 
respective constituencies, and the evidence is clear also 
in every case that they did promise to procure employ- 
ment for certain voters, as a result of which promises 
they did induce the exercise of millions of votes m their 
own mterest The promises varied m extent and con- 
fidence Some of the prisoners contented themselves 
with promismg to procure employment for particular 
sections of the people in particular trades, such as coal- 
mimng, or the cotton mdustry, others promised to find 
‘Work for AH’, and among these must be numbered 
the prisoner George, whose generous behef in his own 
capacity to find remunerative employment for all our 
citizens made a special impression on some of the 

There is very httle evidence that their promises have 
in fact been carried out, but that is not a relevant 
consideration The charge is one of bribery, not of 
deceit or false pretences (though that aspect of the 
matter may call for mqmry on some other occasion) It 
IS sufficient for the prosecution m this case to prove that 
the undertakings were made and that votes were given 
in return for them. 

It may occur to you, gentlemen, members of a later 
generation than my own, to inquire why these facts, if 
proved, should constitute an offence The answer is 
that m the year 1854 ^ very different view of the nature 
and responsibihties of the vote was held from that 
which IS common to-day In the much-abused nme- 
teenth century the exercise of the sufifirage was valued 
more as a pubhc duty than as a pnvate right. Men 
voted, or were expected to vote, after long mternal 
debate, for reasons directed to the general welfare, to 
remove an mcompetent Ministry, to uphold the honour 
or save the soul of their country, to 'defend rehgion or 
succour ihe oppressed, but not to advance their personal 
fortunes And Parliament, m the statutes already 
cited, took special steps to secure that the vote should 
never be bartered for private material gam, whether m 
the shape of money, place, or employment 

All this, as some of the prisoners confessed, almost 
with pride, has changed It is now a commonplace for 
Parliamentary candidates to mvite the support of the 
voter by the simple assurance that, if they are elected, 
the voter will receive more money, more food, and more 
material pleasure It is odd, perhaps, that this increase 
of materialism in pohtics should coincide with the 
advent to power of certain political parties which claim 
a monopoly of ideals, but it is the fact The result is 
that the vote is generally regarded not as a precious 
instrument by which each man may do his country 
good, but as a weapon of offence or cajolery by which 
his country may be influenced to satisfy lus material 

If this is the state of the public mmd (and that is not, 
I think, m dispute), it follows that those laws which 
govern the conduct of elections must be enforced with 
especial seventy and watchfulness Our conditions, in 
some cases our consciences, may have changed, but the 
law remains the same It is an offence to persuade the 
citizen to vote for this man or for that by holding out 
promises to provide him with employment, for this is 
to corrupt the character not only of the candidate but 
of the voter It is also to brmg mto the arena of pohtical 
warfare matters of trade and industry which are much 
better left out of it, but that is by the way There is no 
doubt m my mmd, and there can be httle in yours, that 
this offence — ^the offence of bribery — ^has been commit- 
ted by all the pMsoners The penalties provided by 
the Act are heavy> but you must not be deterred by
that consideration from brmging in a true verdict The 
penalties are twelve months’ imprisonment, with or 
without hard labour (or a fine of two hundred pounds), 
deprivation of the suffrage for seven years, and removal 
from and disqualification for any public office, and if 
the offender be a candidate, he also loses his seat (if 
elected) and is disqualified for ever from representmg 
the constituency Gentlemen, you will now consider 
your verdict 

The jury, without leaving the box, found all the 
pnsoners guilty, and m imposing the maximum 
sentences the judge said 

I have decided to inflict imprisonment rather than 
a fine m order to ensure that none of these persons 
shall be free to take part m the approachmg General 
Election It has been urged before me that the sudden 
mcarceration of the whole Cabmet may cause some 
trouble, but I am satisfied that the mconvenience will 
be both trifling and temporary Two hundred Members 
of the House of Commons will stiU remam at large, and 
these should without difficulty be able to provide a 
Government I may add that these proceedmgs were 
taken at the instance of a Mr Albert Haddock, and 
the nation has to thank him, not for the first time, for 
his enterprise and pubhc spirit 

Note — ^This case, decided m January, 1931, had a profound influence 
upon the technique of pphtics In the election which followed the 
‘crisis’ of the autumn, 1931, His Majesty’s Ministers vied with each 
other in promismg the electors not benefits but blows ‘We have 
reduced,’ they said, ‘your wages and your allowances and increased 
your taxes, and if we arc elected there may be worse to come * The 
more they threatened and bullied the people the more the people 
cheered The Government was returned to power by an imparalleled 
majority, while those who promised the people more work and higher 
wag^ and allowances were almost obhtcratcv