Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Red-Neck or Toff?

A friend of Hubby’s recently invited me out. It was not some clandestine rendezvous involving dinner and a drink or even the pictures and a packet of chips. Nothing could be further from the truth. The conversation Hubby had with this chap, for I vaguely remember it after the Christmas ball, one night at the mess and it was along the lines of:
“Mate, next time you go out, take her with you will you? The old girl needs some fresh air”. I stood there in my finery, feeling for all the world, like an old horse. I must have said this last bit out loud for Hubby quipped, “More like an old nag”. The two men obviously found this hilarious enough to chink their glasses together. As if suddenly overwhelmed to attempt a modicum of discretion, he lowered his voice, “Seriously mate, she’s driving us all crazy. Assessments, assignments. A Saturday away would do us all the power of good.” He cast his eye in my glowering, direction, “Only got your best interests at heart Alice love”, he added in a most jocular fashion, slapping my sequined if bristling, behind.
A week ago I got an email from the aforementioned friend to dress up warmly, bring some wellies and to meet him and his friends on Saturday at an address, miles away in the country. I was most intrigued but couldn’t find the location on any map, so my dear old lovely dad, leant me his dear and not so old car and, more importantly, his Satnav. I have never driven by satellite navigation before, preferring to rely on research, maps and asking strangers if research and maps did not suffice. It takes a little getting used to therefore to put your trust and faith in a computerised woman, one whom you know for a fact has never been to the place you are now hoping to arrive at in an hour’s time and you can only blithely follow her insistence to turn left at a particular junction and right in so many, point whatever of a mile.
Unbelievably, even though the route had to be recalculated twice as doubt got the better of me, I arrived in a muddy farm yard at precisely the time anticipated on the Satnav. At this point, I still had no idea what sort of day out I’d agreed to but, knowing that he was an outdoorsy sort, anticipated that it must have something to do with horses. As I got out of dad’s car and pulled on my pink Hunter wellies and was introduced to the others, I knew immediately that horses were not going to be on the agenda. There were so many Barbour jackets shaking my hand that to be honest I half expected to meet the Queen. Under the green wax jackets the men wore tattersall check shirts tied at the neck with silk, bird motif, sharp, Windsor knots. On their legs they wore breeks (I was put right when I referred to them as pedal pushers) and tasselled garters. All wore a tweed, flat cap.
The women wore a similar, if jauntier combination. Thank God Hubby had leant me his Barbour, it may have drowned me and I doubt that The Filed magazine will be asking for my services anytime soon but at least I was dressed in the right colour. Or so I thought.
“Trying to frighten the pheasants to death Alice?” laughed my host, “Pink wellies will do the trick!”
“Pheasants?” My eyes were as wide as saucers.
“Yes Alice. Pheasant. Don’t look so horrified. Come and have a drink”. I’ll say this for the huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ community, they’re a convivial breed. It was 9.30am as Hubby’s friend ushered me into the barn; immediately his wife thrust a glass of sloe gin into my hand, “Or would you prefer a port?”
Within ten minutes I was starting to tremble. I’d only ever used a spud gun before and even then the potato was dead. A very dashing young man called Ade, followed faithfully by several black Labradors, was to show me the ropes. We took our places at our ‘peg’. I have a glossary of new words at my disposal. Ade taught me how to load my gun and how to break it, this has nothing to do with actually breaking it. I wasn’t confident and so, as we walked, I felt and looked like Private Jones in the closing credits of Dad’s Army, clutching my gun, eyes darting hither and yon for the enemy. Ade explained the safety procedures. All I had to do was spot a bird, aim and fire. We heard the beaters in the distant copse. I held my breath. Suddenly, a mighty flap of feathers flew overhead. I shut my eyes and fired. I didn’t expect such noise nor recoil.
A bird fell at my feet. I gulped.
“Did I?”, I barely dared ask.
“Shoot it?” asked Ade. I nodded.
“No”. Thank God. They put me on beating duties after that and out of pity, handed me a brace at the end of the day. Nothing like knowing the provenance of your quarry. I couldn’t keep it quiet though. The photos are on Facebook along with the rather ignominious comment, ‘Bloody hell! It’s Sarah Palin!’

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