‘Oh, I do so love to see all the lovely pheasants running around the place,’ said the lady walking the Alsatian up the farm track.
The huge dog was straining at the leash, pulling her along, but she was trying to stop for a chat with the builder boyfriend as he mended a fence.
I came alongside them in my car as I arrived at the farm to ride Darcy. I got out and joined the tail end of the conversation, in which the builder b took it upon himself to explain to this sweet lady that the pheasants got shot.
Look, he had to. She was under the impression the footpath ran through a wildlife park, and that the millionaire at the top of the track was putting the pheasants there for the walkers to look at.
I reckon this explains why the whole village support the local shoot. They have no idea it is a shoot. That would make sense, because they’re all lefties round here, and we’ve always been amazed and relieved they don’t turn up in balaclavas to scream at the City boys when they arrive to enjoy a day’s pheasant shooting as guests of the wealthy chap down the end of the track who runs the whole shooting malarkey.
‘Did you not wonder what all the gunfire was during the winter?’ asked the BB.
She simpered: ‘Yes, I did wonder. But they’re all so nice down here.’ Then she gasped and said: ‘But what about the deer?’ We thought hard before telling her about the stalking. We looked at each other, and a lot passed silently between us.
We’re out of favour with the shoot boys since we refused to let them on the land we rent.
While I have been an advocate of country sports in the past, I’m actually a bit at the end of my tether with it. We always knew there was shooting in woods and fields near us. We just didn’t think we would have to fight so hard to say no to the idea of the boys coming on to our smallholding and letting off guns near our horses. They were downright furious when we said they couldn’t use our land, and a lot has happened I won’t go into.
But suffice to say that, as this lady looked to us for answers about what happens to Bambi, we simultaneously thought: ‘To hell with it.’
It’s not just the way the shoot has treated us that made us tell her, it’s the way the locals live in cuckoo land.
The builder boyfriend reckons we are getting to the point in Surrey where daft lefties enjoying a steak at the local gastropub will voice utter outrage if you tell them that steak is a dead cow.
The cognitive dissonance is off the scale round here. They prefer any old fairy story to the complex, messy realties of life.
The rich lefties, in particular, are getting guiltier of ever more ludicrous attempts to enjoy what they loathe.
They like the idea of the shoot because the shoot members are wealthy, smart, well-connected people and this affords new entrants to the country set a chance to social climb by associating with them.
So perhaps the locals push to the backs of their minds what a ‘shoot’ actually entails, aside from everyone dressing up in jolly smart clothes and looking posh.
I have noticed the tendency of the village lefties to dress in expensive Dubarry shooting jackets and so on, just to walk their dogs. And, of course, practically every dog in Surrey is a working cocker nowadays.
The lefties have no idea what to do with these dogs, so they let them pull them along, wildly straining at stupid harnesses around their middles, when they should be wearing a slip lead. Ditto the German shepherds that pull the kind, old, silver-haired ladies up the farm track as they sing: ‘La la la, not listening not listening, nothing dies, nothing gets shot. Oh look, there’s a lovely, happy pheasant who will live a long life and die of old age.’
So the BB said to this particular lady: ‘Did you not wonder what those high chairs were in the trees?’ And she said: ‘They’re to watch the wildlife from.’ And he said: ‘Yes, they watch the wildlife, before they shoot it.’
‘No no no!’ she wailed. ‘I won’t listen!’
‘Did you never have venison from the keeper?’ he pressed on. ‘Ye-es,’ she said, really looking quite frightened now. ‘Well, where do you suppose the venison came from?’
‘The shop?’ her eyes said. ‘Please tell me it came from Waitrose…’
He put her out of her misery: ‘Venison is deer. Those deer…’ And she shrieked and turned on her heels, letting the huge dog pull her up the track while wailing: ‘No no no! It can’t be!’