Have you ever been to a Country Show? No neither had I, but I urge you to do so as you will be exposed to an extraordinary world of the strange that you vaguely knew existed but never expected to experience. A place where you can buy a crossbow adjacent to the marquee for the hamster breeders. Camouflage, wellies and tweed vie with shotguns, shooting sticks and ferrets to lure in the country pursuits loving punter and take the unwary civilian by surprise.
So a visit to Thame Country Show over the Easter weekend proved that there is a rural world free from metrosexual, latte slurping townies, who still practice and preserve country pursuits, that in fairness seem mostly like a good idea. For example I now feel, should the collapse of capitalism precipitated by the greed of the banks and the onset of a new brand of Tory self interest arrive, I will be fully prepared to live on a diet of wild rabbit, having witnessed a very long display of the art of netting them. Should I be out ferreting, unlikely I know, I am confident that with just a few metres (sorry feet, metres haven’t penetrated the countryside yet) of fine netting, a faithful hound and some stakes I could fairly simply catch my tea.
There wasn’t a display on killing, skinning and eating the poor bunny, who in this case was made of nylon, but I am sure a quick peruse of a Clarissa Dickson-Wright or Valentine Warner cookery book and a sharp knife will put me right.
On the subject of rabbits there seems to be a vast club of people who breed giant specimens, that like bunny buddha’s, sit fatly in their cages gazing benignly at the small children wanting to stroke their lush and no doubt valuable fur. More fascinating still are their owners, who unlike their counterparts who catch and eat them, really should get out more. This is also true of the stranger still sub tribe of Hamster breeder; grown men and women who quite obviously devote themselves to the ungrateful brown rodents.
But I don’t want it to sound like I’m contemptuous, I loved all this stuff. I think its fantastic that there are large numbers of people who are immersed in lives that are in touch with the wild (or caged in the case of the hamsters), who can forge a living from the woods and the fields. Who will go hunting for their dinner and in general harm no one apart from pigeons, fish and rodent’s. Falconry is incredibly impressive to watch and I’m sure casting lessons will help many more men get away from their wives for hours, maybe days at a time next to a river or pond.
And while I am sure there is a major whiff of Countryside Alliance about them and possibly a darker side of dog fights and poaching, I have definitely gained a new respect for this very different, at least very different to mine, way of life.
I still don’t know what you need a crossbow for though!