Jeremy Clarke

A yokel comes to town

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I went on the Countryside March in my capacity as vice-chairman of the South West Terrier, Lurcher, Ferret and Family Dog club and on a more personal note because I think it is supremely un-English for a government to try to make us good by an Act of Parliament. On the march I wore a red England shirt, which I also wore to the party I went to the night before.

The party was a very up-market party on the roof-top terrace of a large house in Kensington. Everyone there was clever, barristers mostly, and beautifully dressed. Our host, for example, wore an iridescent two-tone double-breasted suit. There was quiche and bite-sized sausages to eat and plenty of champagne chilling in the Smeg fridge. The conversation was bright, witty and ill-informed. In my England shirt I felt like the hick up from the country that I was. When I said I was up from Devon to represent a dog and ferret club on the Countryside March, they thought I was making a joke.

About midnight it got quite chilly, and the actress I was talking to went inside to look in our host's wardrobe for something warm to put on. She came back flourishing this short PVC dress with large buckles on it - fetish gear for games in the bedroom. She'd discovered it on a hanger in the wardrobe and returned to tease our host with it. Everyone cheered at the sight of it. Personally, I thought what a lovely little dress it was, one I wouldn't have minded wearing myself given the right circumstances. But our host, hitherto impeccably genial and self-deprecating, suffered a massive sense of humour failure. He was so embarrassed, and then angry, he told us all to leave, which we did, rather sheepishly.

We were still laughing about it the following morning as we queued to join the Livelihood section of the march, which, judging from the accents, seemed to comprise the whole of Norfolk. It wasn't all landed gentry down for the day either, as that evening's Channel 4 News suggested. I must have seen at least half a dozen men who were definitely working-class. In Northumberland Avenue, for example, I passed a man with an earring, a tattoo and a Lakeland terrier. He was holding aloft a placard that simply said, 'Ban Bans'. The Lakeland was trotting along as if it was all the same to him whether he was protesting in central London or out foxing.

The atmosphere was more like that of a village f