22 APRIL 2000, Page 47

Country life

Hunting at Easter

Leanda de Lisle

0 ur daffodils have been completely flattened by the dog. Every morning our labrador rushes straight through their proud stems, running from clump to clump, pausing only to pee over the few flowers that remain standing. It's just as well we are spending Easter with my parents. I wouldn't know where to hide our chocolate eggs for Sunday's hunt.

My parents will not only have pristine daffodils (if they haven't already gone over in the on/off tropical heat of southern Eng- land), they will have hedges as well: huge Yews which have been thoroughly nibbled by deer, leaving gaps into which it is easy to push eggs and to spot them afterwards. My contribution will be the eggs themselves. But while I will buy most of them, I won't be eating any, for I already look like an Easter egg. I'm afraid I arrived for our ski- ing trip in France the fattest I've ever been and then ate with gusto. To my mind eating is what France is for. However, our companions on our holiday seem to find Peter's and my ever-fresh Interest in the next meal quite eccentric. In the end I was whispering to him in bed, ' Darling, we're alone. We can talk about food now.' We had a final blow-out togeth- er as a family when we stopped off during our drive back to England: a menu Bor- goigne at a frightfully grand restaurant in Tournus. The food was excellent, but the best thing was the waiter who looked even more like an Easter egg than I do.

This chap was completely bald with painted-on eyebrows, like a cross between Humpty Dumpty and the Austin Powers character Dr Evil. If only we could have brought him home with us, he would have made a wonderfully supercilious Gallic alternative to the Easter bunny. I wonder, do the French have Easter-egg hunts? I doubt it. I'm sure it's a peculiarly English madness. Where else could you possibly find a couple in their seventies still arrang- ing an Easter-egg hunt for their oversized, middle-aged offspring? I'm not talking about my family but, rather, the family of a friend.

Sunday in this particular household will begin with the baby — six foot seven and in his thirties — coming down to breakfast with his siblings, where they'll find a choco- late rabbit and a fluffy nylon chicken placed by their eggcups. Church will follow, after which the father always goes out to hide the eggs in the garden. In the past, when the mother of the family was a little more enthusiastic over the ritual, there would be Suchard chocolate and even Cad- bury's creme eggs to be hidden. In recent years, however, she has taken to buying charity eggs made in the Third World from Conservative party bazaars.

After lunch everyone will swap presents, as if it were Christmas, and then, sometime before tea, perhaps when a hangover has just started to kick in, the 'children' will be let out for the hunt. With the parents sit- ting on their veranda crying 'Warmer . . . no, colder' and 'Watch out for my rose bush' their offspring (company directors, diplomats and the like) will push each other in a desperate scramble for what are now disappointingly inedible eggs. Usually the family dog is allowed to join in. I can only suppose he's more continent than ours — and other protagonists less savage.

Our labrador may get away with destroy- ing daffodils, but I hate to think what would happen if he ever took more than his fair share of eggs on a hunt. The chil- dren would probably roast him on a spit. As it is they will only be given the opportu- nity to reduce their younger cousins to tears of disappointed rage. Happy Easter.

`If you pass anything on the way down it'll be your shares.'