The March 2018 Parish Council Meeting, originally scheduled for the 22nd, has been cancelled.
The next monthly meeting will be on Thursday 26th April 2018 at 7:30pm at the Kingsley Centre.
Monday, 12 March 2018
Monday, 26 February 2018
As I write, towards the end of February, it hardly seems possible that yet another shooting season has come and gone. I seem to recall, as a child, I was told time gets slower as you get older, it seems to me to be the other way around. Be that as it may, yet another season has passed and during all the days I was beating there were only two or three which were wet. Mercifully they were only part days of rain. Believe me, there is nothing worse than starting a day in the rain and continuing to get wet until it is time to go home many hours later. Not good for man or dog. It all becomes particularly unpleasant if the guns stop for lunch. What this means, in practical terms, is the beaters hang around in their cold and wet clothing trying to dry out, knowing full well they are in for a second soaking when the guns return and shooting continues. Fortunately, the keeper on the shoot I go to most often has made a rule that the guns shoot through and lunch at the end of the day. This has been a great success and it also ensures that guns are not handled by people whom have had the odd tipple with their lunch. Say no more! So, for the most part, we had dry days and many of them were sunny and very pleasant. Of course, nothing is ever straightforward, as,on sunny days the pheasants are not in the woods, they are out along the hedgerows dusting and basking in the sunshine. All this means they have to be driven back into the woods and on to the flushing points in order to be presented before the guns. This all takes time and a lot of walking but in the sun it is rather a nice way to spend a few hours.
Bertie, my young Lurcher, was a year old at the beginning of the season. This was as I planned it because I wanted to be able to take him beating and to begin the job of teaching him his part in the shooting calendar. Any Lurcher worth his salt wants to work and the selection of a puppy from working stock is just the start of the process. During the weeks and months leading up to the season, basic obedience has to be taught and a good standard achieved. There is absolutely no point in arriving at a shoot with a dog which is out of control, the most likely outcome of such a situation is to be sent home by the keeper. A bad dog can very quickly ruin the day's shooting and that would not be a good thing for man or beast. Fortunately, Bertie was receptive and took well to training, he was a quick learner and, I am happy to claim, puts a lot of more experienced dogs to shame. He comes back when called, he stays when told to do so and I can drop him in the down position with a hand signal and at long distances. All of which commends him to shoot keepers. There is always a worry with a new dog that it might be gun shy. Some dogs hear the bang of a gun and are gone. This is something which, as far as I am aware, is with them for life and, I think, incurable. However, thankfully, Bertie does not suffer from that problem.
Lurchers are by nature, and for the most part, quite clever dogs. I say for the most part as, with any breed or strain of dog, there are always the idiots which appear to be beyond training. The makeup of a proper Lurcher usually includes Greyhound and Collie. The Greyhound being the fastest dog and, therefore, providing speed and the Collie being brainy and providing intelligence. Together these two qualities should make for a very good working dog and, trained well, usually do. One of the biggest matters to overcome in the shooting field, when working a Lurcher, is the fact that they are gazehounds. This means they hunt by sight and not by scent. Working by sight has its benefits but it is also desirable for the dog to use its nose as well. Bertie took to locating and flushing pheasants by sight as though he had been born for it. Which, since he was brought into the world for hunting, is not that surprising. However, it has taken most of the season to train him into using his nose as well. This, really, is just a question of regular and frequent contact with the pheasants in cover where sighting is difficult if not. impossible. The nose, therefore, becomes an essential part in both locating and flushing the birds. Well, don't you just know it, at almost exactly the moment when the penny dropped and Bertie got the idea that nose equals pheasants the season came to an end. Fortunately, dogs have a very good memory and my expectation is, at the beginning of next season, Bertie will pick up pretty much where he left off. So what do we do now and until October when it all starts again? Well there will be a bit a rabbiting and chasing the odd grey squirrel. Training never stops and most days when we go out there is a session of training, all of which is, wrapped up as a game and a fun thing to do. Also long summer walks to keep us both fit, well assuming that is, that we get a summer.
Tuesday, 16 January 2018
As the shooting season progressed and, every time, the beaters wagon drove past Maurice's smallholding mention was made of his incredible chutney. Pete was well and truly hooked and continued to express his amazement that such a production could have taken place, right under his nose, involving a friend of his, and he remaining completely unaware of its existence. As we approached Christmas of that particular year and thoughts turned to the traditional beaters pre–Christmas food, my brother told Pete that he would bring along a jar of the famous chutney to share with us all. Famous, that is, because by now we had elevated the phantom chutney to new heights. Maurice had won the gold medal for chutney at the Bath and West Show, undoubtedly a great achievement. This we told Pete had resulted in a contract to supply chutney to Waitrose stores throughout the country. Again Pete expressed his amazement at these achievements and told us all that he had not seen Maurice for many months… just as well really, in the circumstances. However, Pete continued to accept, without question, that Maurice was a leading maker of fine chutney and doing very nicely at it. The beaters pre-Christmas feast is really just an extension of the normal mid-morning drinks break that takes place on every shoot day. The difference being, on the pre-Christmas day beaters tend to bring additional festive bites to be shared and some of the guns also donate various goodies for our delectation. The keeper's wife, who normally provides the refreshments for the beaters, also puts on a special spread for the occasion. It was, therefore, nothing out of the ordinary that Don had offered to bring a jar of chutney for the event. He did an incredible job, having produced an extremely realistic label for the chutney jar. Apart from mention of Dorset's finest chutney there was a list of ingredients and mention of the awards which had been bestowed upon the completely fake chutney within the jar.
What was not mentioned on the label was the fact that Don had liberally laced the homemade chutney, he had produced, with a very strong chilli powder. It was hot, very hot! Knowing what was in it I abstained. Some of the more enthusiastic chutney eating beaters generously spread their cheese and biscuits with the lethal mix. Not, however, before Pete had been enticed to sample a small portion of the stuff. With his usual protestations of not being one for spicy or fancy food out of the way, and, having been persuaded that it was, after all, Christmas Pete got stuck in and his reaction was as swift as it was spectacular. The fiery mix hit his pallet nearly taking his head off, he choked, he coughed and his face changed from its normal colour to an alarming shade of red. He dived for the hedge to expel the chutney from his mouth. Whilst several others within the group had experienced the undoubted heat they had managed, in varying degrees, to put on a brave face and spoke warmly of the excellence, of this, one of Maurice's finest chutneys. It took Pete most of the day to regain normality, during which time, he made it very clear his first taste of chutney was quite definitely his last. He could not begin to understand why anyone would want to eat such stuff and how it had achieved such acclaim was quite beyond his comprehension. The pre–Christmas episode long forgotten, the season continued and the chutney joke carried on, Pete still blissfully unaware that the whole thing was a complete farce.
The season ended and that was that. In the autumn of the same year the new season began, as they always do, and the chutney joke was soon up and running again. Pete was again told of further successes which Maurice and his chutney had achieved throughout the summer. As previously, he accepted all this nonsense without question. Each time we passed Maurice's place the chutney was always mentioned and so we continued for several weeks. Then, the inevitable happened, one morning Pete arrived for beating as usual and received the usual greetings and was asked how he was. "Well", he said, "I am ok but I had a very embarrassing experience in the week. "What happened", we asked. "I bumped into Maurice and congratulated him on his chutney success but he said he didn't know what I was talking about." replied Pete. "I said, you know all your awards and sales at Waitrose but he said are you mad, I don't know what you are on about". "So", went on Pete, "I said Derek told me all about you and your chutney and then Maurice got quite funny and said he didn't know anyone called Derek and nor did he bloody well know anything about chutney". Pete it would appear persisted saying that he had seen and tasted a jar of the chutney. Where upon Maurice told him he was talking complete rubbish, actually he used another word, but you get the point. "I was so embarrassed" said Pete. "What's going on he asked?" Quick as a flash my brother said, "I think old Maurice is not paying his VAT or taxes and he doesn't want you to know about his chutney business". Pete pondered this for a few moments and then said "Oh well that would explain why he was so queer with me". That was that, the explanation was accepted without further doubt and the whole matter not mentioned again. Clearly, Pete knew Maurice better than we did and was perfectly happy to assume, the somewhat sinister explanation, completely accounted for Maurice's strange behaviour. Due to age and ill health Pete no longer comes beating and, as far as I know, still believes the chutney tale. As for the other members of the beating team, well, they all have a bit of a giggle each time we pass Maurice's place.