When I was a kid we had a rabbit, a morose and dopey animal which never did anything but chew. I used to stare at it and dare it to do something, anything, but it merely stared back at me and continued to chew.
The rabbits I preferred were those my mother made into stew. Now it was my time to chew.
When I’d finished my meal I would play with the bones; there were no computer games in those days. The spine and ribs became a dinosaur or the wreck of a ship. The collar-bone, almost transparent in its fragility, was the sail of a yacht.
When I got a little older I discovered the existence of something far more magical than a rabbit, far more impressive, far more wonderful. I heard about the hare.
What a revelation. Where the rabbit was domestic, the hare was wild, where the rabbit was plodding, the hare was fleet. The rabbit was a downtrodden, earth-shifting peasant. The hare was a wild nomad, disdaining to settle down, wilfully placing his camp in the open, in full view of his foes.
I loved the idea that hares were supposed to go mad in March, that they seemed to engage in pugilism and were said to stare at the full moon.
Later Kit Williams’ ‘Masquerade‘ beguiled the nation and set hundreds of people off on a treasure hunt rather more enchanting than any search for pseudo-religious clues allegedly left by Leonardo.
I later discovered the poem by Yeats and wondered if I would be able to find the collar-bone of a hare, pierce it and stare through it to a different world.
One day, when I was eighteen I was walking in the country an hour before sunset. I saw a bank with a crude path hacked out of it and clambered up to see if there was a good place to watch the sun go down. I had stumbled upon a microscopic Lost World Professor Challenger found dinosaurs on his Lost World. I found a mob of rabbits.
The top of the hill was shaped like a shallow bowl and the sun seemed to drench it to overflowing. The rabbits hopped and raced, leapt over each other and careered around as if mad. They seemed to be in a passionate frenzy.
My eyes swept the hill. What was needed was for a hare to arrive, for him to command the attention of his rabbit followers and summon them to sit at his feet in grateful adoration. No hare came. I so longed to see one.
The other thing which I greatly desired was to eat a hare. I’ve been to many restaurants which promised the dish but all had told untruths. There was wild boar, venison, pheasant or partridge but never any hare.
But recently, at long-last, I finally ate hare. Our friends Colin and Penny were returning to England and invited us around for a meal. I was delighted to find that they were serving hare. It was a hare from Argentina and I had images of the hare being hunted down by a bolas-swinging Gaucho. I don’t suppose it was but it was an excellent meal. That hare did not die in vain.
I wish, however, that I could see one.
Once when we drove through the Loire Valley my wife called out for me to look at the hare which was watching us from a field. I turned and caught a shape out of the corner of my eye. I suppose it was one but I cannot truly count it so.
I still yearn. Does anyone know where I can see hares in France? I’d be very grateful to see these creatures. Not eat, just see.