Posts Tagged ‘UK’

The Tedium of a One-Track Mind


 status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

This post comes with a content alert: as much as I have tried and tried to steer my mind towards non-pregnancy related topics over the last months, I regret to announce that I have finally succumbed to the same dreamy preoccupation with my condition that I imagine affects most first-time mothers in this final stretch.

(Of course I quite understand that such a topic holds very little interest for many, so I wholeheartedly forgive you for going in search of more scintillating reading fodder, and hope that in turn you might eventually forgive me for my current one-track-mindedness…)

There is no doubt that I am exceedingly lucky to at last be in a position to succumb to such aforementioned dreamy preoccupation:

The shop has finally been tied up and put to eternal sleep, my Overseas Guides Company writing commitments have been passed to a lady living in Puglia, and my darling husband has taken over the thankless task of tussling with neighbours and daft Italian bureaucrats in order to replace our uninsulated and leaky roof with something entirely more satisfactory.

And me? I have been gifted with the indescribable luxury of being able to flee the frustrations and the potential builders’ dust, straight into the welcoming arms of the mothership and a relaxing month or so of doing little else but observing the perplexing, uncomfortable, fascinating, terrifying, unique and exhilarating changes to which my body and my life are currently being subjected.

That is not to say that this time has been without its challenges: barely four days after touching down in Blighty, my brand-new waddling centre of gravity tipped me off a perfectly straight stretch of path and headlong into the agony of a badly sprained ankle.

Just over a week after that, and I find myself struck down with intense round ligament pain (something to do with those stretchy parts that give the uterus a supporting hand during this, its time of toil and overwork).

But although I am still as permanently knackered and frequently snotty as ever I was, I have found a somewhat greater sense of purpose; as the parasitic little being within me steals my energy, my health (and a worryingly large portion of my heart) in order to become the strong and active individual now turning endless somersaults under my tummy button whilst pushing my spare tyres into miraculous peaks and crests with each flex of its still-tiny limbs.

Being given this opportunity to “enjoy” the last few months of my pregnancy in relative peace and tranquility is exactly what I had hoped for. Primarily in the interests of my health and that of the sproglet; but also because this is highly likely to be my only pregnancy (a tale for another time…) and I am suddenly very aware of the importance of savouring each intriguing moment; as one probably should every major life experience when offered the chance to do so.

So the next few weeks will be spent in quiet contemplation of my rather busy naval, reading it stories from my childhood, using my constant diet of Classic FM to assess its preferences for Saint-Saëns’ organ symphony over Rossini’s overtures and being utterly and undeservedly spoilt by the Mothership whilst indulging my cravings for sleep and books – both of which I suspect I shall soon have to do without for a very long time…

This is Status Viatoris, 28 weeks and hoping that the daft Italian bureaucrats pull their roof-deciding fingers out before she is forced to give birth on an Easy Jet flight somewhere over France…


Recently Spotted Critters


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

It seems fitting, seeing as this will be my last post from the UK for some time, that I use it to show off some of our fabulous local wildlife – all creatures that play, albeit unwittingly, a hugely important part in making my trips back home as special as they always are.

Being in such close proximity to a reasonably large reservoir gives endless opportunities for spotting critters – especially of the feathered variety. Mute swan, Canada Goose, Greylag, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Grey Heron… are just some names from a list of possibilities that becomes yet longer during the winter months, providing endless fodder for the exchange of wildlife notes amongst interested locals.

Mute swan gazing lovingly at its own reflection.

Canada Geese doing an unimpressive job of blending into their background.

But I am lucky enough not to have to venture from the garden for much of my critter-spotting. With parents (now just Mothership) having dedicated nearly 36 years to building up what is now considered to be a Local Wildlife Site (it will also be entered into the National Garden Scheme handbook from the 2013 season), I find myself plumb in the middle of a veritable critters’ paradise: fox, badger, otter, Chinese Barking Deer (Muntjac), Pipistrelle and Brown Long-eared bat, Short-tailed Field Vole, Wood Mouse, rabbit and the occasional hare joining a plethora of happy garden birds and water birds, birds of prey and corvids, in a habitat created especially for them.

Female blackbird attempting to feed disabled young. Father had a partially white head. This was his first pairing, and it was perhaps his lack of customary caution whilst searching for food for his nestlings that caused him to be nobbled by a predator of some sort. The mother was then forced to fledge her two youngsters earlier than normal. This particular baby appeared to have serious problems – almost certainly blind and possibly also deaf. It was dispatched by a hungry magpie the day after this photo was taken.

Greater Spotted Woodpecker on the sunflower seed feeder as Great Tit comes in to land.

Nuthatch on the sunflower seed feeder as rival Nuthatch stages a fly-past.

Not sure that even two swallows make a summer – am I the only one who misunderstood that saying for quite some time? Swallow numbers throughout the UK have sadly and noticeably declined due to hunting during migration,  modern agricultural practices – grazing land is less intensively drained and therefore attracts more insects but much has now been converted to arable, and farm buildings which make ideal nest sites being knocked down or converted into housing.

Brown Long-eared bat snoozing away the rain-filled days.

But it does not just provide homes for the cutesy-wootsey, there are also plenty of common lizards – reintroduced from an endangered site in the mid 1990’s – frogs, toads, grass snakes, common and great crested newts, and slow worms introduced from an endangered site in the early 1990’s.

Common Lizard enjoying the briefest of brief sunny spells.

Juvenile Common Lizards doing likewise…

Slow Worms a bit cheesed off after being discovered warming up under a sun-baked slate.

Common Newt eft rescued from damp, dark ice-house.

So Spring is Sprung, peeps, and critter-spotting can now begin in earnest. I would love to hear about your sightings, and for those of you who are fans of Status Viatoris blog Facebook page, please feel free to post your wildlife pix for our delectation!

This is Status Viatoris, looking forward to stalking Italian wildlife in similarly assiduous fashion with her new camera, still in Norfhamtonshite but soon to be in Italy.

Rural Rover


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Now I was going to do this anyway, but after the heartbreaking “Where’s Pooch?” in my last reader comments, I have got a more urgent wriggle on – not giving Pooch’s fans what they want would almost certainly be my blogging downfall… 😉

Dearest Pooch has been having a simply spiffing holiday at his Granny’s, although I suspect he will sleep for around a week on our return to Italy.

I sometimes think I own parent two completely different hounds depending on our geographical location:

When at home in Italy, Pooch stays in bed long after I have risen; rarely contemplating pushing back the duvet until I actually have the front door open and his harness dangling from my fingers. He very much enjoys his two or three daily walks, and loves chewing the fat (often literally) in the local bars and shops. But time not spent either walking or socialising, is primarily occupied by long and thoughtful contemplation of the inside of his eyelids.

When in Blighty, however, I am unfailing woken at HALF PAST SIX by a scarily energised creature who is already bouncing off the walls in his eagerness to get the day started. The following 14 hours at least are spent racing round the garden barking at air traffic, policing the local squirrels, helping the Mothership with her mowing and weeding and pruning, going on walks, staring with great concentration at the wildlife (but not chasing it, good boy) and generally being busy. There is rarely a nap to be had from one end of the day to the other, and I have absolutely no idea how his little body copes with the shock of it all.

In his own words “Staying at Granny’s house is fandabbydozy”.

Many people have also commented on this visit home about how much more vocal he has become.

Always a chatty dog – morning greetings are especially tuneful – he now yaks on pretty much constantly with a surprisingly wide range of squeaks, squawks, yawns, moans, huffles and gruffles.

Now I wonder, could that be the influence of noisily talkative Italians shining through??

Go on rain, piss off – I’ve got important stuff to do out there…

Well someone has to clean up all those puddles, so it might as well be me.

She’ll be so busy admiring my pose, she won’t notice my willy’s hanging out until she uploads the picture. Snigger.

Oh! A nairoplane! I wonder if the pilot’s noticed my willy’s hanging out…

I even scan for planes when crossing slippery wooden bridges, now THAT’S dedication.

If I stare hard enough, one may jump out at my feet. Mummy? Why don’t you get the chips and mushy peas on just in case…

If I had managed to whip round and flash my willy, this would definitely have been the perfect photo.

But getting it caressed by dandelions and cowslips is not ‘arf bad either…

Hum hum whistle, one man went to mow, went to mow a meadow, one man and his dog; Pooch,went to mow a meadow… hum hum whistle this is the life.

Pooch would like to dedicate this blog to two of his peers who, very sadly, are no longer with us.

Kai and Jess, we feel extremely privileged to have known two such lovable Labradors. You are very sorely missed, both by your families who have been left with a very particular doggy-shaped hole in their lives after sharing so many wonderful years together, and by us.

You won’t be forgotten.

Huge hugs, pats, wags and licks,

SV and Pooch xxx

Fair to Midlandsing…


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

As I recently wrote in a blog post for the Overseas Guides Company, I didn’t actually leave the UK because I hated it; I left because I was eighteen years old and in dire need of an adventure.

In fact the little corner of the Northants/Leicestershire border where I grew up rates as close to my idea of heaven as anywhere I have lived until now; and on those rare occasions I stay away for a period longer than twelve months, the longing to touch base becomes an almost physical ache.

Rolling agricultural terrain just feels like home, and as much as I adore My Little Italian Village, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t secretly feel the odd Dutch barn, neatly laid hedgerow, patchwork field and rickety 5-bar gate would add a welcome je ne sais quoi to the whole shebang.

Rolling patchwork fields and a muddy lane, just what the doctor ordered…

This and similar stretches of water looking infinitely more sprightly after the recent deluges.

An English village church – serves a primarily decorative function nowadays… 😉

Always an unspoken invitation to hop over (at the hinge end, of course) and stride out over the fields…

English bluebell woods rate pretty highly on the list of spring must-sees…

The sort of house I would never be able to afford, but may be tempted back for if I won the lottery…

Ex-parkland still with its 100-yr old railings and stately trees.

Cheery Daffodils, another spring treat!

Non-native but charmingly daft, deliciously tasty and certainly now part of the scenery.

Fields of rapeseed – the epitome of all that is yellow (and sneezy).

Was that you, John Dear?

Even rain-filled skies can (occasionally) be things of beauty.

And leaving the best till last, because honestly, where would we be without ewe?

Having two ‘homes’ is without a doubt the height of luxury, but loving both of those homes to the extent that I love Chez Mothership and My Little Italian Village must certainly surpass all that is fair and reasonable.

Luck thy name is surely SV!

This is Status Viatoris, also remarkably pleased with her new camera but still with a frightening amount to learn about it, in Northamptonshire.

Souvenirs of Deceased Memories


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Whilst casting around  for something to while away the “inside” time currently being gifted to us by the UK’s charmingly schizophrenic weather (sunshine, rain shower, hailstorm, sunshine, storm clouds, sunsh… HAILSTORM! rain shower, storm clouds, sunshine, rain sh… SUNSHINE! rain shower, hailstorm, sunshine, hailst… RAIN SHOWER! sunsh… OH FOR PETE’S SAKE, I GIVE UP!), the Mothership and I decided to do that which we had thus far been putting off, and tackle the chaos of the long-ignored attic – scene of a veritable explosion of family artefacts brought on by the demise of three grandparents and one husband/father in relatively quick succession.

A row of possible ancestors on a beach…

Photograph albums, letters, diaries, school reports and birth certificates jostled for attention alongside WWII memorabilia, school projects and endless boxes of identifiable and not so identifiable curios; lovingly collected by each consecutive generation and kept safe by their descendants out of sentimentality and a sometimes misguided notion of continuity. Misguided, because the memory or emotion associated with personal possessions so often dies with the owner, leaving behind nothing but a rather meaningless object.

Miniature of unidentified woman found with the miniatures of grandmother, great-aunt and great-grandmother.

Although it was far from being the first time my mother and I had been confronted with these windows into the lives of our forebears, we had never before tackled them without the comforting presence of a “go-between”; a generation whose own memories could shed an explanatory light and act as a bridge between old-fashioned “them” and modern-day “us.”

But over the last few days we have been viewing them from the rather more uncomfortable position of being the end of the line; the culmination of those long-dead strangers’ life choices, their struggles, and their hopes for the future. It has, all of it, come to rest in our hands and only we are left to decide what to do with the remnants of their existence.

Somebody in my family obviously cared enough to frame her picture; but without leaving mention of who she might be!

Two rather ponderous lines of thought have sprung into my mind as I peruse my great-grandfather’s 1891 birth certificate, read letters from my great great-grandfather to my 13-year old grandfather or flick through albums of  unknown early-20th century faces:

The first is to wonder how these disciplined, upright people would feel about seeing their genetic lineage culminating (due to a family that has grown smaller with every generation) in the plump person – complete with recently tattooed buttock and pierced nose – of one who has thumbed her nose at convention and rejected an education, simply in order to become an aimless wanderer.

Having strived so hard to improve their lot; to steer their children towards a brighter and more financially stable future – the jump from tradesman to doctor of medicine made in a single generation – I can only imagine what they would have made of my choices…

Still haven’t managed to track down the anti-conformist gene…

Also compounded by this amble through the past is my long-held conviction that life is short and infinitely precious.

It should be seized upon and lived to the absolute max, for within only a few generations all that may remain of any of us (aside from our often unremarkable genetic footprint) are a few bits and bobs that hold meaning only for those who knew us intimately, and a selection of photographs in which even our great great-grandchildren are unlikely to be able to pick us out.

So Carpe diem, folks, because Tempus fugit and this life is all we get…

…it may well be brief; but let us at least try to make it spectacular!

Early evidence of the superior literary skills and masterful spelling of an anonymous person… 😉

This is Status Viatoris, who has been inspired to start culling all but the essential and/or beautiful from her life to save whoever has the unlucky job of mucking out the Augean Stables upon her demise.

Home from Home


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Goodness, can that really be the time?? Tempus doesn’t half fugit when you’re lounging about in a state of homecoming lethargy.

Contrary to appearances, the rest of my journey hasn’t actually taken a week; I’m ashamed to admit that only extreme idleness can be held accountable for the lack of recent blog posts.

In fact once I set off from the Formule 1 “hotel” – communal bathroom, no soap to be had for love nor money, only one channel on the television, but cheap as pig poo – last Wednesday morning; the run to Calais was, as always, delightful.

I was even accosted by some rather attractive customs cops whilst feeding pain au chocolat to Pooch at a service station, which improved my already sunny mood; especially as I had rien à déclarer except for the jaunty smile of one who would soon be supping a pint of PG Tips on board the Pride of Something or Other.

(My only complaint would have to be directed at those Nord Pas de Calais arable farmers who, since my last trog up the A26, appear to have ripped extensive tracts of hedgerow out and replaced them with fencing. Farming and ecology; a horse and carriage paring it most certainly ain’t.)

Upon arriving at the ferry terminal and checking in, Pooch and I were immediately waved straight onto an earlier vessel – the swanky new Spirit of France, which from a layman’s perspective certainly seemed a big improvement on some of the old tubs I have travelled on in the past; but which I was informed by a crew member suffers from an unpleasant and continual judder, making their working lives considerably more difficult.

Selfish to the very end; I declare myself more than happy to sacrifice the comfort of the crew for gorgeous bathrooms, comfy seats, a well-stocked duty-free shop and mega servings of hot beverages at Costa…

The run of good fortune continued when I was waylaid for a Dior makeover – no doubt wasted on a bedraggled and sweaty person travelling in her  dog-walking attire, but a freebie is a freebie, and my scruffy appearance tends to cause the mothership a little less distress when accompanied by the application of a smidgen of slap.

After a further four hours spent cursing British motorways and all who travel on them (except for me and Pooch, natch) I managed to stage my final coup de grâce at the bottom of Mother’s road, by ringing to tell her I was still in Calais and wouldn’t be making it home.

Dare I say it; it was actually marginally easier than taking sweets from a baby… 😉

So here I am in Northamptonshire, having once against travelled from the place I love to live, to spend some much-needed time in the place where I can simply be.

Two homes; a girl can’t get much luckier than that.

This is Status Viatoris, might even post some pictures soon if the rain should ever stop, in Northants.

I’d Take the Hedgehog Every Time…


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

…because contrary to most BMWs, it only has pricks on the outside.

I write with utter conviction on this point, having today been involved in a ridiculous motorway tussle with one.

A BMW, that is, not a hedgehog – I would like to say that hedgehogs  possess more road sense, but the little carcasses scattering our highways and byways would sadly give lie to that statement.

This particular BMW was being driven by a Frenchman who, in typical moron-with-ponce-mobile style, roared past before pulling abruptly into my lane and screeching into dawdle mode.

I gave him a minute or two, on the off chance that the decrease in speed was due to him scrabbling around the glove box for a Gitane and thus temporary, but when he continued to amble along I pulled out and started to overtake.

But he sped right back up again, leaving me racing alongside him, with not a hope in hell of passing.

So I pulled back in.

At which point he began to dawdle again, so I pulled out to overtake…

…and I think you can guess the rest.

This ridiculous performance went on for over 50km until I managed to squeak past him at a motorway bifurcation, leaving him trapped behind a lumbering lorry whilst hopefully choking to death on the excesses of his own stupid ego.

Nevertheless, as this was the only really negative point in today’s 1050km journey, I think I can count myself pretty lucky.

For Pooch and I rolled out of Our Little Italian Village this morning at 7h30, and by 18h30 were already hunkering down in a grotty-but-cheap Formule 1 hotel in Reims, having observed along the way that:

– the French countryside is as charmingly rustic and beautiful as ever.

– there can’t possibly be any people or vehicles left in Belgium at all.

– ditto Luxembourg.

– French service stations still have the annoying habit of putting the petrol forecourt at the front so you have to deal with the requirements of an empty tank before you can deal with the requirements of a full bladder; splashing shoes with diesel a nasty side effect of hopping up and down with crossed legs whilst clutching a dripping nozzle.

– there is no better way to spot birds of prey in ridiculous numbers than whilst racing along a French motorway.

– happily, French radio stations still share my love of 80s music.

– Central and Northern France are currently hogging all the torrential rain My Little Italian Village has been praying for – dirty road spray; gotta love it.

Thus our journey will continue tomorrow with a final Gallic leg up to Calais, a leisurely ferry ride on the Pride of Something or Other, a few hours battling the unavoidable grottinesses of overcrowded British roads; before hopefully concluding with a cup of tea and a joyous reunion with the Mothership…

This is Status Viatoris, who was meant to be posting about the finished house but that will have to wait until she gets back to Italy because the only photos she has taken showed it to look suspiciously and inexplicably (cough cough) like Tracy Emin’s bedroom.

Indubitably Intoxicatingly Inebriated


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

One of the many “issues” that recent British governments have attempted to resolve, is the culture of binge-drinking so prevalent in the UK.

I certainly do not speak from any dizzy moral heights on this topic; my “all or nothing” personality type lends itself almost perfectly to the excesses of binge-anything: drinking, eating, watching three dvd box sets of LOST back to back – overkill rules in the world of SV.

But living abroad for so long has, amongst other things, given me the opportunity to observe other nations’ attitudes to alcohol consumption; in turn leading me to wonder where on earth us Brits have gone so very wrong.

Arriving in Spain at 18, freshly plucked from the almost obligatory booziness of my British peer group, it took me some time to realise that when out with Spanish friends, I was the only one knocking back rum and cokes to the point of incoherence.

It took me even longer to notice that this behaviour was regarded with something other than amused indulgence.

But it was not until I got to France, eight years later, that I really grew-up as far as alcohol was concerned. Nights out with my new Gallic friends tended to consist of a civilised meal, with one bottle of wine shared between three or four of us, and then a drink or two at a local bar should the mood strike.

No stumbling, no slurring, no soulless sex, no sick, no shame and no regrets: it was a revelation, and I was chuffed to bits to finally be able to have an adult relationship with liquid refreshment.

But then I went to work in a Scottish pub for seven months, and was abruptly deposited back into the Danger Zone…

A zone where people from practically all age groups are only too happy to get absolutely lathered, pie-eyed, bolloxed, trollied and pished as veritable farts.

A zone where that is, in fact, the primary aim of many of their evening excursions.

A zone where there is little shame in drinking so much that you fall arse over tit, vomit copiously, pick fights, talk shite or jump the bones of complete strangers before falling into the dribbling snoring slumber of the soon to be deservedly hungover.

A zone where the following day’s amusement is the recounting of the previous night’s drunken humiliations.

Yes, it’s the Brit Zone, and yes; I have been there. Again. And again. And again.

So why are many of us seemingly wired up so very differently from our Continental cousins?

It’s not as if booze does not form a part of European life: in fact in all of the countries in which I have lived, alcohol figures very prominently in most social activities. But in Spain, France or Italy it is rare to see the extreme levels of inebriation that we are faced with in the UK.

Is alcohol treated with more “respect” in other countries?

Well yes it is, but I would not say that was a reason in and of itself. It appears to me to be more due to the fact that most Spaniards, French, Italians and others don’t “need” alcohol in the same way that we appear to.

They are confident enough to be able to converse, to laugh, to dance, to have a generally good time, without requiring to be a hat trick of sheets to the Mediterranean breeze in order to do so.

So what are we Brits so scared of?

This is Status Viatoris, would murder the box set of Homeland right now, in Italy.

Bridesmade to Measure


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

What’s a girl to do when her oldest and dearest friend stages a dramatic u-turn from aggressive, anti-matrimonial posturing, to blushing bride-to-be?

You’ve guessed it…

So having managed to remain gloriously untouched by weddings for thirty-three long and carefree years, I have just now returned from my second wedding dress shopping trip in seven short months.

This spree differed from the previous one in several ways; notably the exchange of shiny French Riviera perma-tans for pallid Leicestershire chic, but due also to an infinitely more troubling circumstance.

A circumstance that soon had me vulnerable in my bra and pants; clambering laboriously into flimsy chiffon, flouncy taffeta and bodices straining to eject their sizeable cargo.

For this friend has committed what may transpire to be the biggest booboo of her life so far, and asked the least elegant, wouldn’t-be-seen-dead-in-a-dress, can’t-walk-in-heels-for-love-nor-money girl to be a bridesmaid.

It’s me, in case you hadn’t guessed.

I’m ridiculously flattered and scared witless, in equal measure.

The trying-on of dresses was considerably more fun than I had envisaged; our raucous and knicker-wetting cackling at seeing me in actual girl-clothes meant we had the changing rooms pretty much to ourselves.

And it only took three hours to establish that the colour (or rather, anti-colour) “champagne” makes me look like uncooked biscuit dough, that strapless dresses struggle to contain the top deck, that netted underskirts are my enemy and that high heels turn me into a drag queen wannabe – no offence taken; very valid observation.

In a nutshell, dressing me is not shaping up to be the easiest of tasks.

But I hope we succeed, because I want her wedding day to be the epitome of fabulousness and I want to do her proud as one of her chosen girlies (with a possible side effect being the attracting of swarms of gorgeous, single men at the reception, natch… 😉 ).

Wendy and Kristoff, this one’s for you me ducks!

This is Status Viatoris, if anyone’s going to step on the bride’s train or tip red wine on her frock, it’s guaranteed to be me so you can’t say I didn’t warn you, in Northamptonshire.

Just Thank the Lords it’s not Cricket


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Green, pleasant and rather spectacular.


As my time in the glorious boondocks of Northamptonshire powers inexorably to a close, I am trying to absorb every little sight, scent and sound of this English countryside that I will not see again for an entire year.

It’s a struggle, thwarted as I have been by various ‘itises’ (tonsil, sinus and conjunctive) and now a truly enjoyable ear infection. Recently added to the mix is the irresistible draw of the Six Nations – luckily Italy is now a rugby-playing country, so hopefully I won’t be tournament-deprived on my return.

It has been drawn to my attention that this is a particularly contentious sport,  as it apparently played only by posh twats; an observation I find interesting on several levels.

Firstly due to the fact that it is no longer true. Yes, rugby originated in the English public school that gave it its name. Yes, because of that it was primarily played by English public school pupils for a long time. But as with most things in life, rugby has moved and changed with the times. Maybe its detractors will eventually do the same, or at least find a better argument.

Will crop fields or rugby pitches…

My second point of contention is the inference that if you don’t speak English with a regional accent, or if your parents decide (and often make important sacrifices) to pay for your education, nothing you do has any merit even if you are an internationally acclaimed sportsman. Reverse snobbery at its finest, and a load of bollocks into the bargain.

But quite honestly, chaps, how could anyone prefer football, played as it is by a bunch of inarticulate peasants? What? Oh! I hadn’t realised that sort of reactionary, generalizing and prejudiced snobbery wasn’t quite so acceptable! Frightfully sorry…

The English countryside is, of course, home to another “sport” which doubles as a class war; The Fox Hunt.

A cold day’s hunting…

Having been born and brought up in an agricultural community, seeing horses and hounds trailing past the end of the garden and hearing the call of the Huntsman’s horn  has been a part of my life for as long as I remember. And it is a pretty remarkable sight, whatever the connotations.

And as having access to a nag is fairly integral to participation, it has been an activity for primarily wealthy and/or country folk since it first caught on in the 1600’s.

A tiddly and not very ferocious hunter.

Not being able to tell one end of a horse from another and being violently allergic to large social gatherings, it is most certainly not the thing for me. But for most devotees, that is its main purpose: riding out over the fields, in the company of friends and with all the bonhomie and quaffing of liquor that goes along. Sometimes a fox is caught, and sometimes it isn’t, but it is a purely incidental part of the day.

The list of creatures that I would be prepared to send, and indeed have sent, to their maker is a short one: mosquitoes – they bloody ask for it, cockroaches – arrggghhh yuk, rats – ditto plus the fact that they raid the nests of small birds, and grey squirrels – non-native baby bird assassins and ruthless native red squirrel exterminators.

Could be a tail, could be a fringe. Who knows.

But it gives me no pleasure. There is even a little Buddhist corner of my soul that wonders when the karma will come back and kick me up the jacksey. So no, I don’t understand people who gain pleasure from killing, or who see it as a sport. However, I can see a wider picture, with more at play than a simplistic tussle between “good” and “evil”.

And as hunting seems to be one of the last inherently pointless instincts left to man, It is important to at least ensure that yet another species is not being annihilated by the indulgence of a human pastime.

Foxes need to have their numbers controlled, as do many deer, rabbits, pigeons and sometimes even crows or badgers. A predator/prey imbalance (often indirectly caused by human interference, and in particular by intensive modern farming) can cause great harm to an ecosystem.

Pheasants are bred exclusively for the purpose of losing their lives at the noisy end of a twelve-bore. Not much of an existence, that I grant you, but their short lives are filled with grain and freedom and their species will live to fight another day (something of a miracle when taking into consideration what appallingly careless parents they make).


That sort of killing cannot feasibly be compared to the obsession of the Maltese, Italians, French and Spanish et al for shooting tiny migratory birds as they make their long and exhausting journeys back from warmer climes, decimating already low numbers in the name of macho twatdom.

Another thing to bear in mind is what fox-hunting and pheasant shooting means in terms of the preservation of our dwindling countryside. For it is dwindling. Perhaps not as fast as I sometimes believe when I come back to see yet another housing estate or bypass carving its way through what was previously a habitat for our rather beleaguered native wildlife, but it is certainly going to become more and more difficult to hold back the tides of human expansion.

So perhaps it is worth trying to overlook the fact that many fox hunters, or pheasants shooters talk posh. Worth coming to terms with the fact that they partake in sporting activities that others struggle to comprehend. And instead think about the fact that it is their money and their vested interest in preserving the countryside that will keep swathes of it safe for some time to come.

Fearsome hunting hound taking well-earned rest.

This is Status Viatoris, that being said, if our local shoot drop any more litter or take aim at a single woodcock, there will be hell to pay, in Northamptonshire.

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