I often wonder why it is that people feel the need to interfere in other people’s lives? My motto has always been that if it doesn’t harm anyone, offend anyone or hurt anyone, people on the whole should be let to get on with their lives.
But, there are several people who, thinking they know best, or believing they are in the right, feel differently.
As I lived in the English countryside for more than 15 years, I got used to the often quite glamorous sight of the ladies and gents in their scarlet hunting gear galloping over the fields, sounding their horns (actual horns, this is not a metaphor for something else). It looks pretty as the picture above shows. I also know that foxes are a nuisance, and although I’m not sure limiting their numbers by fox hunting is the best way, I still think it was a bit silly to ban the sport.
Husband doesn’t care for chasing foxes on horseback, but he doesn’t mind a bit of shooting, as those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while know. (The naked squirrel post is here). I, however, find the whole process difficult. There’s a very good reason for this.
When I was sixteen I had a Finnish boyfriend who liked guns. He wasn’t a freak, he just collected antique guns and also liked to shoot things. By this I mean little birds, rabbits and such like. Once when I was staying with his family in their summer cottage and he was getting ready to go for a hunting trip, he turned to me and said, ‘Why don’t you come with me? It’s really exciting.’
I agreed; I was too much in love to understand what a horrible, horrible mistake this was. After walking through the forest for an hour or so, being mosquito-bitten to smithereens, we eventually came to a spot where my boyfriend thought there would be a lot of wood pigeons. We squatted down and in total silence waited for the birds to quieten down. I can’t remember how long it took, but I do remember how not exciting, and not enjoyable listening to the various sounds of the wildlife around us was. It was at this moment that I suspected I might be a city girl. Images of bears on their hind legs attacking us, a large moose’s head where there was but a branch of a large birch tree, or a snake slithering anywhere near me occupied my mind. I thought ants were crawling all over me, that there were bees buzzing around my head, and midges biting any part of my skin that wasn’t covered up. But my boyfriend was oblivious to my terror. He put his arm around me and whispered, ‘This is wonderful, isn’t it?’ At that moment, he saw something stir and in one movement got up, aimed his shotgun and fired. The noise was deafening. The boyfriend ran a few feet, picked up a still warm little plump wood pigeon and holding onto its legs, swung it in front of my eyes.
I must have looked pale, I certainly felt like fainting, because he only shot that one bird. My boyfriend decided to take me swiftly back to the cottage through the dense forest – how he knew the way I have no idea. He’d attached the kill onto his belt and I tried to avoid eye contact with the feathery thing. Though I feel sure I saw its chest heave a couple of times.
‘It’ll taste delicious, you’ll see,’ my boyfriend said and smiled.
When my present Husband is now invited to go shooting, I always tell him to go alone. ‘But there’s the supper and lunch and it’ll be fun,’ he says. And I get it, it is usually a couples’ thing: the ladies either shoot too, or beat (frighten the birds out of their nests to be shot). But I just cannot do either of those things. So I go along on the understanding that I really want to see the people taking part, but without any judgement whatsoever, I will not shoot or beat. I take my laptop and spend the day writing instead and join the group for supper afterwards.
Usually this arrangement works very well, but occasionally, even if the conversation about (what most English people see as) my foreign awkwardness has been concluded, there are still people who find it difficult to understand my inability to go shooting. If I had a penny for every time I hear, ‘You should come along, it’s really good fun,’….
I just tell them I’m a gun-shy Bitch. That usually shuts them up.
All I ask for is that I can do my thing and they do theirs. And, by the way, I would not dream of taking part in any kind of creepy crawly TV show. (Not that there have been many offers…!)