I’ve never been one for speaking lovingly of the “good old days”. The idea of farming with no dust masks, no radios, just a West of England sack around the shoulders to keep the elements at bay, no home comfort other than the smell of an oily rag? Not for me.
Having said all that, however, I did actually have a “good old days” moment a couple of weeks ago.
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It was just before dawn – and while proper farmers were already out just finishing their first shift, and thinking about popping indoors for a wholesome breakfast, I was staring through bleary eyes out of the bathroom window, clad only in my finest Gucci jimjams.
My blessed slumber had been disturbed by a fox doing its half bark/half retch routine, sometimes half a mile away, sometimes just outside the window – right next to our chicken run.
And as the grey dawn crept over the trees to the south east, I could see the blighter, stalking up and down the fence of the chicken run.
It was definitely a town fox that had been “rehoused” in the countryside by do-gooding idiots – thus sentencing the poor beast to months of confusion before it meets its end next harvest at the end of a shotgun barrel, as it emerges naively from a land of standing corn.
No rural fox would allow itself to be spotted so easily on this winter morning by some fat bloke in fancy nightwear.
Meet your maker
What I needed now was my 12-bore and a handful of those 42g BB cartridges we farmers keep for just such an occasion.
But there’s a problem: to get to my shotgun, I would have to pop down to room “A” (I can’t be more specific, for fear of being arrested) to get the keys to the gun cabinet, and that would mean disturbing three dogs.
The welcome would be noisy and exuberant. I would then have to make my way to room “B” to get to the cabinet itself.
Two cats tend to sleep in room “B”, and would be delighted to scoot past me and upstairs to find a nice warm bed – warm and still occupied, so I wouldn’t be very popular.
Then it would be off to room “C” (I take gun security very seriously) to fetch some cartridges. Unfortunately, it would mean passing the dogs again, this time while carrying a gun.
When highly trained flatcoats see a gun, they go ballistic, and at this point the Malinois would decide the flatcoats need putting back in their place. Peaceful it wouldn’t be.
It struck me, as I continued to watch the fox wandering round the garden going “Wot’s all this abaaaht?” (obviously down from London) that the chances of even the dopiest cockney fox being still out in the garden after all this canine cacophony were infinitesimally small.
It also struck me that all the mid-Hampshire white settlers, just setting off to catch the 0618 train from Winchester, would be 999-ing in a panic at the sound of a shotgun.
Back in the day
So I bottled the whole shotgun idea, and decided to scare it away for another day. I resisted using the obvious weapon at hand, and flashed it with a torch instead.
It ambled away, not terribly concerned, off towards the stubbles. I headed back to bed.
Fifty years ago, same house, Dad would have reached for his 12-bore, propped up behind the bedroom door, slowly slid the bathroom window open and blasted away.
Mind you, there wouldn’t have been confused urban foxes back then. Or white settlers.
Ah, the good old days.