Opinion: Hares, Emma Watson and the thin blue line

Emma Watson

© Stewart Cook/Rex Shutterstock

I bet I’m not the only sad middle-aged man to have been quizzed by his wife about pictures of Emma Watson on his computer.

“Oh, that’s easy to explain,” I said. “The poaching season is about to start, and I was doing some research, and, er, and Emma Watson, is, er…”

Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, in Hampshire

I never got a chance to finish. After a sigh, a smile, and a slight shake of the head, Hazel left the room.

But it’s true. Really, it is easy to explain.

Poaching season is approaching; a third of the farm has been cleared, the hares have had another bumper breeding season, and while we farmers are making our autumn preparations – overhaul drill, buy new calibration scales, toss a coin to see if oilseed rape is really worth all the effort – the sturdy folk from the hare-coursing fraternity are making theirs.

See also: Charlie Flindt on why he’s sick of being patronised by armchair experts

They are driving round the farms (at that special speed that always gives them away), checking which gateways have hideous new gates in them, deciding which bolt croppers will be needed on any chains we’ve put on the gates, and scanning the field edges for new ditches.

They are wondering just how the police response will be this season, as the thin blue line gets thinner.

Most worryingly, they will be putting new batteries in their night-vision equipment.

I realised for the first time that they were using this sort of kit last autumn.

Three high-powered off-roaders were doing sweeps of the field right next to the house late one night; huge floodlights flashing, engine revving, dogs yelping – all the usual routine.

Having called 999, I stealthily strolled down to the edge of the garden, clad in not much more than wellies and jimjams, ready to help the police if and when they arrived.

Suddenly all lights went out. That’s odd, I thought. The next thing I saw was a brief flash of light about half a mile away.

By now, police cars had arrived, but the drivers (not our familiar Countrywatch team in this instance) were cruising the lanes on a strange farm in pitch darkness. There wasn’t much chance of them collaring anyone under those circumstances.

So I went back to the yard, got in my truck, and thought I’d help out by trundling quietly along the main farm track, lights off, using only my own excellent, natural night-time eyesight towards where the poachers’ lights were last seen.

I paused, and turned my engine off.

There was then a bizarre and very scary moment as, in the almost complete darkness, three vehicles roared away from me, down across two more fields, directly through open gateways, and out on to the A272 where, finally, headlights were turned on.

I realised that they had been watching me all the time – with some pretty fancy technology.

So, what I need, if I’m to act as spotter for lost and confused night-shift policemen who hail from a remote parish, is something to hide me, to keep my ample frame and expensive silk Gucci pyjamas away from hi-tech eyes. Some sort of cloak to keep me invisible: an invisibility cloak.

Googling “invisibility cloak” inevitably leads to Harry Potter. And, for sad middle-aged men the world over, the click trail from “Harry Potter” leads, with equal inevitability, to Emma Watson.

Which is where I was when I got up to make a fresh cup of tea. See? Simple. It’s a good thing Hazel can still smile about it.

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