Friday, May 04, 2007

The Provencal Panther

When we moved into our house the landlord promised we’d see wild boar at the bottom of the garden, spinning a romantic tale about mothers and their babies coming down from the mountains in the hot summer months to look for water. While he was on the subject of wildlife you’d have thought he would have mentioned the panther. “There’s a tile on the roof that’s a bit loose, the hot water tank only lasts for one shower, and oh by the way there’s a man eating cat on the prowl.“ It must have slipped his mind. Still caveat emptor we’re stuck with our new companion.

It certainly puts a novel twist on sunbathing. First we check which direction the wind is blowing - I’ve seen Big Cat diary and the lions always make sure they’re downwind of their prey - and then we position the sun-lounger. Orientation with the sun is irrelevant, all that matters is a clear view of the tree line and an escape plan.

The Provencal Panther, as we’ve dubbed our new feline friend has been spotted twice. At first I was sceptical - the feral domestic black cats that inhabit the countryside are pretty large and the house guest responsible for the first sighting had been up all night drinking coffee and looking after his child. Fairy stories and caffeine were obviously a potent mix.

But a day later Tanya rushed to the window and reported an animal twice the size of the domestic cats, and one which moved in a totally different way, a kind of elegant elongated tiptoe with its belly pressed close to the ground and its nose quivering for scents. It slipped into the shadows before I got a chance to see it, but now we’ve got a long lense camera trained on the trees and a hotline to the picture desk at La Provence.

In another unrelated development a group of tourists have started hugging our olive trees. We emerged from the house one afternoon to discover a trail of hand holding hippies traipsing through the grove. They selected a suitable tree and formed a human circle around it, resting their backs against the trunk and emitting a low humming sound. Tree by tree they made their way around the field oblivious to the lurking danger. I had to presume that the invisible energy source they were tapping into would protect them if the panther attacked. Anyway I had washing to hang up.

Many thanks to for the free images