I recently made a resolution to become more involved in the local community. I thought I might join the boules club, or pull on some Lycra with the weekend peloton boys. Instead, by chance, I’ve become part of a secret fraternity that gathers at dusk. We swap stories, hand over our black bags and depart with our contraband.
The story of my twilight habit begins with some wild-boar-induced carnage in my back garden. For three nights in a row the lawn was ripped to pieces. It was as if an international rugby match followed by a polo chukka had been played out while I slept.
I went to see Bruno, our garagiste. He’s a giant of a man from Corsica. When he’s not repairing cars he’s out with his dogs and guns wreaking havoc. I explained the problem. A few ripe expletives followed which expressed Bruno’s hearty dislike of wild boar.
The clientele in the garage at the time, agricultural men seeking spares for tractors and threshers, treated me to some homespun solutions.
“You must spend the afternoon drinking, and every time you need to faire pipi, go down to your lawn. Boars can put up with the scent of dogs and cats, but humans, they can’t abide.”
“Chlorine powder, sprinkle it all over the lawn,” said another.
Bruno shook his head and rolled his eyes, making it all too clear I’d be wasting my time.
Even so, with no other solution, I spent the afternoon keeping company with a bottle of pastis and urinating on the grass. Then before bed I threw handfuls of pool chlorine onto the lawn. Once again, come morning, the garden was shredded.
I went back to see Bruno, who’d already prepared for my return. Overnight he’d fashioned Stage 1 of his anti-porcine strategy. Opening the boot of my car he inserted five poles linked by a fine wire. On top of the last pole a stopwatch was mounted.
“Plant the poles in the ground. When the boar cross the wire, they’ll trip the timer and …”
“Boom,” I said demonstratively, wrongly assuming that all Corsicans had a natural affinity for explosives.
“Not quite,” said Bruno. “No the watch will stop and you’ll know the precise time the boars come every night.”
“Set your alarm and shoot them.”
“They come back at the same time every night?”
“Like clockwork,” confirmed Bruno.
“But I don’t have a gun,” I protested, feeling as self-conscious as a banker without an iPhone 6.
“I’ll give you mine.”
So it was all planned. I’d set the trap and return the next day for a revolver and the ammunition (several packs of cartridges in case I missed). At the time the chain of events seemed perfectly normal. We’d moved from problem to solution. It wasn’t until I got home that I started to think about the dangers of having a firearm in a house with three small children and the realities of actually pulling a trigger and killing a live animal. However it had become a matter of survival – the boar or my garden.
Thankfully my wife intervened with a solution before I had time to injure anyone. Late that afternoon she was sitting in the hairdressers and noticed a queue of people at the back door. Every time the hairdresser finished a cut, the floor was swept clean and the hair deposited into a black bag proffered by one of the waiting men.
“What’s going on?” my wife asked her hairdresser.
“Sssh, some of the clients don’t like it … you spread the chopped-off hair around the garden, it shoots up the boars’ noses, and before you know it they are too busy sneezing to look for grubs. It’s the only thing that actually works.”
Half an hour later I was in the same line, baseball cap pulled low over my eyes, shuffling forward for my handout, like a tramp in a food queue.
“Went right through the electric fence as if it didn’t exist,” said the man in front. “They push the babies under with their noses.”
“Strong sense of family, the boar.”
Soon the conversation was bubbling away.
“I tried peeing and chlorine,” I volunteered just as one of my children’s school teachers walked passed with a rigid new coif.
That night rather than setting Bruno’s time trap I sowed human hair across my lawn and, eureka, the next morning there was no sign of boar damage.
As for my vow to get more involved in the local community, I’ve yet to take up cycling or boules, but there’s the nightly meeting to pick up more hair, and what better way to get up close and personal with the inhabitants of the village than spreading their DNA on my lawn?
Jamie Ivey is the author of Ten Trees and a Truffle Dog and runs the website www.provenceguru.com