Exploring a lane flanked by late sunflowers, all blanketed in thick rolling mist. Noises deadened, flower heads sodden, quiet, still, so still.
Ahead, an ancient hamlet enveloped in the grey, nestled between woods and open flatland.
Fragmented baying of hounds boom in the eerie distance.
I start in shock.
A terrified wild boar, prehistoric-like form, tusks, pelt, stink, breaks cover and claims sanctuary in the woods below.
The hounds, close now, indefinable in colour and shape, men with guns, whips and curses. The mist conceals all and they are gone.
France, still medieval, frozen in a preternatural moment in time.
I peek around the corner.
Nooo, wrong. Lost again! But time’s running out.
Wheeling around, I dash down another identical street, slipping on wet cobbles, skidding to a halt at the T-junction.
Which way now?
Frantically scanning, nothing but interminable cobbles and…stairs. Aha! I remember these.
Clattering up near-vertical steps I pause at the top – panting.
Surely it’s close now.
Two paces right – it’s there. Thank heavens! I gallop towards my goal, panic-stricken – seconds to go.
If I don’t reach it before midday I’ve failed, the pâtisserie will shut.
Grandma deprived of her favourite cupcakes is an inconceivable thought!
Beth Haslam was brought up on a country estate in Wales. Deep in the countryside, her childhood was spent either on horseback, helping the gamekeepers raise pheasants, or out sailing.
A serious car crash in 1991 ended Beth's full time career in Personnel management, so she set up her own Human Resources consultancy business. As semi-retirement beckoned, Beth and her husband, Jack, decided to buy a second home in France. This has become a life-changing event where computers and mobile phones have swapped places with understanding French customs, and wrestling with the local dialect.
Beth is now occupied as never before. Raising and saving animals, writing, and embracing everything that rural France has to offer.
She's loving it!