Although he now lives and works in France, former gamekeeper JEREMY HOBSON has never forgotten his days with both the Colne Valley and Holme Valley Beagles. After last night's Commons' vote to ban hunting he wonders how his rural neighbours in France would receive a similar ban.
THE decision as to when hunting will eventually be banned in England and Wales took a further step forward last night.
Parliament Square was once again the rendezvous for thousands of furious field sports enthusiasts and country workers, all intent on protesting against the "Bank's version" of a ban on hunting.
The explosion of rage that resulted has been dubbed by some as a civil war.
But MPs voted in favour of the option, calling for a complete ban on hunting although one that will not be implemented until July 2006 to give packs of hounds the chance to "scale down" or switch to drag hunting.
Our rural neighbours here in France, are watching developments in the UK with interest - not because they are worried that such a ban may spread, like an oil slick across the water but merely out of idle curiosity.
They cannot understand why such a fuss is being made when, in their opinion, Britain has larger problems requiring more immediate attention.
Although parts of France are industrialized, it is still predominantly an agricultural country and many of its inhabitants either work on the land or take their sport from it.
At any meet of hounds, there is a good attendance of foot followers and none of the "riding about in red coats" or "it's a sport for `toffs'" accusations could be levelled at any of these participants.
With the exception of some of the prestigious shire packs, where in England would over 50 cars follow?
It is a good advert for Renault, whose vans are often to be seen careering madly across stubble fields as their occupants endeavour to reach the hounds before the more traditionally mounted huntsman.
Custom-built mountain bikes line up alongside ancient road racers and delivery cycles, one of which l noticed had been adapted for the owner's granddaughter to ride sidesaddle.
The little huddle of "old boys" remains the same whether following the Holme or Colne Valley beagles or any one of France's 300 or so packs.
Wrapped up warm, leaning on their sticks and with plenty of good natured banter to all and sundry, you know that they will position themselves at the best advantage point from which to view most of the hunting.
Some are pleased that so many hunt supporters in England and Wales have pledged to continue hunting even if a ban does become law. The majority think that the British accept rules and regulations all too easily, often giving up without a fight. "Mieux vaut tard jamais" or, "Better late than never."
All are mystified by the determination of so many to interfere with the sport across the Channel - they scratch their Gallic heads, shrug their shoulders and mumble "mais, c'est la vie" when one tries, in poor French, to explain the situation.
Their furrowed brows clear a little as they realise that a ban on hunting in England can only do good for the French economy as thwarted UK sportsmen and women head over here to follow the 700,000 hounds and 400,000 hunting enthusiasts currently out each weekend.
I get the feeling that some of my rural neighbours are perhaps, a little disappointed that such a ban is highly unlikely here for a long time to come - after all there is nothing the average French person loves more than the opportunity to indulge in a protest!