"Look at my feather, Auntie Emma!" says my niece, waving it under my nose. "It's from a dead wood pigeon! We took it straight out of the FLESH".
"Oh? Is that the dead bird out in the barn of doom?" As ever, the barn of doom is staffed with a full compliment of dead creatures and rusting agricultural machinery.
"No! This one is all rotten and its head had come off!"
Not to be outdone, eldest son starts fishing around in the drains for toads with a slotted spoon he has taken from the kitchen. He shouts excitedly for me to come and see what he has found. What he has found is a tiny pink and white bloated mouse corpse. Far too exciting for the mere slotted spoon, he is holding it by one pathetically tiny white paw in his hand. Smiling fixedly, I escort him into the house for decontamination.
"Grandad! We found a baby mouse dead!" he says, enunciating carefully in English but with his own brand of Belgo-syntax.
My father rouses himself briefly from sour contemplation of a tiny newt, also discovered swimming in a fetid dead mouse soup in the drain. He is very much hoping will not turn out to be the hideously rare and protected Great Crested variety, which will put paid to any home improvement plans he may have envisaged.
"Oh? What kind of mouse do you think it is?" He reaches for the large guide to native British flora and fauna.
"Hard to say" I tell him bleakly "One at an advanced stage of decomposition".
Revived by dead fauna - we soon establish after close examination of its tiny, pathetic tail that it is probably a field vole, since the parent and its droppings have been sighted in the utility room - the Bearded One takes me aside and whispers gleefully to me the treat he has kept in store for the children when they get bored with poking wasps and contracting tetanus.
"We found a baby dead fox on the lawn a few weeks ago and I dumped it in the forest. I thought maybe I could lead an expedition to examine its corpse!"
"Sounds marvellous" I say and go and lie on the bathroom floor until a large earwig crawls over my face.
Desperate for light relief after this catalogue of decay and destruction we place all the children in front of an edifying natural history DVD about amphibians. With hindsight, cartoons would have been wiser.
"What is sperm?" asks my nephew.
"It's complicated" says my brother after the briefest of pauses, with the heavy finality of one who has no desire to talk four under 8s through the facts of life today. In the background David Attenborough continues to burble excitedly about the female tree frog's "genital holes". The adults try to avoid each other's eyes.
Finally we concede defeat at the hands of nature and head for the Cotswold Farm Park where everything that would be discovered here dead can be seen live and relatively salubrious, petted and fed. It's country lite and it comes with added cake. I am in favour. Of course, we cannot tell my nephew where we are going due to his great distaste for everything farm related so must maintain the fiction that we are going to "a playground". He bravely tolerates the presence of various horrors - small, pungent slotty eyed Soay sheep, tiny chicks and piles of sleepy, warm kune kune piglets, and my new lust object (entirey superceding Number 18, the beach pony from Trouville), a two day old spotty baby donkey called Florence - before collapsing in horror and rage and having to be removed from the premises and bought a giant gleaming black rocket launcher. Thus mollified he stomps around the car park, muttering at the various outrages of the natural world.
On the way home, lightheaded with buttercream poisoning and goat sniffing, I insist we stop off in Tescos for Grazia and a bottle of Tesco's Value gin. Giddy with the possibilities of an actual British supermarket, I spin round the aisles accumulating shitty foodstuffs.
"Auntie Emma?" says my niece piteously "This is all JUNK FOOD".
"Yes, but" I lie "You can't get junk food in Belgium. Your cousins are going to take it back and show it at school". I inhale a KitKat Chunky Caramel while her back is turned and hide the wrapper in my pocket.
On our return as the body snatchers set off for more corpse watching, I sneak away to try, with little hope, to check my email. The internet miraculously, momentarily, sparks into life. It's like a tiny miracle of life, at last.