A Sporting day.

We have a new writer, with a new style and we think he will fit in rather well, here at the diary.

Written as, ” I have got the gear never done it before shooter.” It will tell his tales of woe and joy as he learns the ropes.

Dear Diary:

January 4th 2019 – A little house on the outskirts of Dunsford St. Bishop, between Moretonhampstead and Exeter, around 7.45am.

The letterbox rattled and this used to excite me as a child but only bills come by post
these days so I ignored it. I eventually swept up the potentially costly mess and you can
imagine my surprise when I noticed the parchment looking envelope.

It was reminiscent of a letter?  It was, it’s an invitation to go shooting. Would I like to go
shooting as a guest, small day, bring a lunch? On a Monday. Of course I would, who
wouldn’t as a guest…. I didn’t know I had friends like this.

But hang on, it’s a Monday, and I can’t really shoot properly and the last time I did, I shot
a sparrow hawk and got fined for being improperly dressed. However, I’ve got the short
trouser things now, breeks I think they’re called, and have had a shooting lesson where
the instructor suggested I was a natural something or other. I’ve also got a bit of holiday
due so why not; I accepted.

January 11th 2019 – Medland – 9.27am
I was greeted by teeth, lots of them, on a Monday. Who were all these owners of teeth
not contributing to the GDP of the country. Most looked real but one or two were just too
white. Coffee presented itself, then sandwiches of  smoked pig appeared from nowhere. The
teeth moved…a lot.. and sound came…lots of it. Some of it was munching, some of it
slurping but most of it was soothing. I munched and I slurped and I thought…. I know it’s
a Monday but I’m sure I can shoot and I think like it.

Whilst in this period of optimistic tranquility I got prodded in the mid-riff by a heavily
camouflaged waxed lady who stated and inquired of me,
‘I’m a part time dogger and picker-upper, who are you?’
Tranquility left me as fast as a Hadron Collider in operation as I’d never met a dogger or a
picker-upper before and I’m sure nanny warned me off them at an early age and I’d always
shied away from asking myself ‘who I was’.

Saved by the whistle I watched as the waxed camouflaged enquirer slunk away morphing
into what appeared to be a chuckling hazel bush with teeth.
The whistle was speaking but I only caught the last shrill from it’s blower as a small
pewter cup was thrust into my hand,
’Number at the bottom, woodcock is up to you, you’re up three, from the right and don’t
shoot the fineable birds unless you’re feeling flush’.
This left me with silent questions; ‘What’s a woodcock? Where’s the right? And were
sparrow hawks on the list?

We’re off. Told to jump in. My sponsor and host suggest I get into a trailer on the back of
what looked like an antiquated golf buggy with a Labrador in the driving seat.
Still struggling with ‘who I was’ I delay my decision and watch the others whilst tweaking
my short trousers (sorry, breeks) back into position as they are now causing me a tad of

A quartet accompanied by an aged terrier of some description making noises that
reminded me of a recent Italian proverb I’d come across, ‘Molto Fumo Piccolo Arrosto” –
(Much smoke Little roast) make their way to the suggested trailer whilst my host ambles
off to what looks like a more than comfortable and fit for purpose carrier of people.
He’s followed by a very pretty cutting of camouflage and an extremely elegant cocker
spaniel. I reject the trailer and follow them. It’s precisely 10am.

First drive. One minute past ten o’clock. 10.01am.

Well, excuse me but do carriers of people go that bloody quickly? Do we get extra birds if
we’re there first? Are we exempt from fines before the gamekeeper knows we’ve been
teleported to our peg? I’m now awake; I’m also alive and I feel part of it and welcomed.
I’m still struggling with, ‘who I am’ but I’ll persevere with that.
Didn’t see a bird.

Second drive. 10.30am.

Made a bee line for the golf buggy looking thing this time. Bit muddy but otherwise fine.
Was dropped off at a pond by the shoot captain who asked me my peg number. I’ve
forgotten. Why does three become so hard to add. What number was I? I know, I was
one so I must be four. ‘
‘Four’ I tentatively enquire of him.
‘I don’t know,’ barks the shoot captain, ‘What were you?’
Oh Christ I think, I’m currently struggling with ‘who I am’ let alone ‘what I was.’ We settle
on four.

He wafts a stick in the general direction of my peg and strides off with mumblings I can’t
quite interpret. I find peg four and am greeted by an amiable roundish chap creating
enormous amounts of smoke.
‘I’m giving up’ he coughs at me. Me too I think but tentatively say,
‘Good for you, but why are you here?’
‘Oh, I’m always here, just love it, not sure why. But what about you? Why are you here?’
It’s only just gone 10.30 and I’m nearly done. By now I don’t know who I am, what I was
or why I’m here.

How can a shooting day so full of amiable teeth do this? I quickly snap out of this
pensiveness and say,
‘No, I meant, I think I’m on this peg for this drive.’ ‘
‘Am sure you are,’ he puffed, ‘never know what number I am after the first drive with this
three up stuff, I’ll just shove up or down you know. Hot seat by the way’
I didn’t know and how can a peg be a seat? What happens to grown ups on a shoot day
when they try to add the most simple of numbers? Did he say hot seat? Oh, shit. Middle
of the line, everyone can see. Breathe, remember your tuition. Nose over toes, bum belly
beak, swing through and pull the trigger….

What a drive and I shot one. Neighbour on five thinks it’s his but I know I was a
millisecond before him and anyway he had 12. Masses of birds but all just slightly to my
left or right. Wonder what we do with all of our spent cartridges?
The dogs came with the camouflage troop. The camouflage spoke in strange tongues with
words that were reminiscent of a sweet shop.
‘Hubbabubba, hubbabubba’ the elegant cocker spaniel was repeatedly told. ‘Wotsit’ and
‘Whirly” however seemed to work for what looked like a cross between a goat and a
piranha as it retrieved my bounty. I didn’t know that dogs could be undershot but my bird
was returned, impaled on the bayonets that made up its lower jaw and took some careful

The remainder of the day is somewhat fuddled. Not for my continued philosophical
musings but after the second drive I was presented with a mug of I’m not quite sure what
by a delightful branch of the camouflage brigade.
This was accompanied by a mustard pimpled sausage that I assumed was for eating
rather than stirring the contents of this befuddling mug. The second mug was even better;
Bullshit I think it was called.

Third drive. 11.25am.

We walked. Hooray, hurrah. Not a golf buggy in site. I feel safe, I feel warm. I’m blaming
the Bullshit for both but am warming to other ideas. Am told the drive is called Woodcock
drive. Am reminded not to shoot woodcock if I see them.
I’m confused. Not only because of my continued philosophical musings and the onrushing
effects of the Bullshit but I don’t know what a woodcock looks like.
I’m prepared but I’m nervous.

Didn’t see a bird.!

Fourth drive – 12.11am.

I’ve no idea what number I am but with some clever “social chitchat’ I’ve worked out I’m
either peg 3 or peg 8. Will ask the round man who creates a lot of smoke. Ended up on
peg 2 and was jovially informed by peg 1 that,
’There isn’t the slightest chance of a bird coming over you but it’s a great drive.’
He ended up being right and I witnessed both of my neighbors shoot magnificent birds
worthy of public recognition if allowed.
These birds lifted and soared if on rising draughts of air and as good as you will find
anywhere. Both guns hugged the keeper – their day is made; their baths filled with milk
and honey.
I also think the the keeper grinned.

Lunch 12.52am.

Teeth everywhere. But they’re not eating yet. They’re smiling, they’re chatting, they’re
laughing. My philosophical musings are beginning to take shape. Where’s my host? I don’t
really care now.
Now’s there’s anchovies with Jamón coming up on the inside. Cheese being chased by
sweet delights that just melt on tasting. Fruit liqueurs arriving by magic. All in a shelter in
a wood… on a Monday.
Please don’t stop, this is a pop up family.

Fifth drive. 1.56pm.

Absolutely no idea what number I am and that’s really concerning and quite honestly
ridiculous. Accept the offer of a lift from the tardis machine. Lunch hasn’t slowed the
machine but I’m grateful as lunch has slowed me.
Found an unoccupied peg and returned to ‘who I am’ for a moment. I felt I was making
some reasoned progress with this matter when pheasants interrupted the proceedings.
With a cry of ‘over’ and with yelping dogs and the sweetshop behind them they scorched
over an imposing line of Douglas fir making for home.
I shot the best pheasant of my life.

There was a sixth and a seventh drive and a pub and more mathematics involving drink
and the number three. I lost, and bought the most expensive round of drinks in my life
but I didn’t care as I was still stuck on the fifth drive.
I was also stuck on the teeth that greeted me, the lunch that consumed me, the fact that
shooting wasn’t once mentioned but just part of the day, the inclusiveness of me, the
respect shown to all things, the camouflage that was unmasked and, most importantly, my
musings at the end of the day that left me feeling that.

I know a little bit more of who I am, what I was and where I am.

October 1st 2019 – A little house on the outskirts of St. Dunsford Bishop – 7.45 am
I seem to be spending quite a lot of time watching my letterbox these days.

Thank you Medland.

Many thanks to Ashley for kicking off this brilliant new series and hopefully you will all look forward to the next on on a sporting day.

You can catch Ashley here to book days and events.