Shooting and Fishing: 'I find it rather heartening that Crumpet has a fan club of at least one'

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I was standing in some bracken urging on Crumpet to find a woodcock at the end of the second drive of the day when a voice asked, "Is that Crumpet?" .

"The very same," said I, as Crumpet was by this stage head in ditch and tail in air in search of said woodcock and unable to speak for herself.

"Well, well," said the voice, "Very nice to meet her". And, as an afterthought: "You too."

This, I later assured Crumpet, was fame indeed. Her face had appeared, as it does, in "the paper" and she had been recognised. In this case by Derek Trim, a regular beater on his local shoot in Moray, which is owned by my friend Joe.

I find it rather heartening that Crumpet has a fan club of at least one among Moray beaters, clearly a very upmarket crew compared to some of the cider-quaffing riff-raff found closer to our larger cities.

(One or two beaters of my ken are becoming increasingly concerned about the Government's review of disability benefits. They fear, not surprisingly that they may be deprived of healthy cash-in-hand exercise in the countryside if forced to look for "proper" employment.)

So Derek and I shook hands while Crumpet and Heidi, Derek's fox-red lab rootled about in the bracken and ditch.

We didn't find the woodcock and some of us began to suspect it probably wasn't where No 3 gun insisted. Woodcock have a habit of taking a sudden exhausted dive, which can sometimes look as if they are winged, and down. And although we had a great many dogs charging about there was still no sign of the bird. But then as we agreed, dogs quite often have a thing about woodcock and won't pick them up. I don't think that stops them finding them; just bringing them back. So we all moved on.

"I thought it might be you," said Derek, "because of the cap."

I should hope so. The cap, the fourth in a long line of similar caps was made by S&P Harris of Glasgow in 1942 and is stamped with a government arrow and the date and a wartime utility symbol. I acquired six, all different colours, for what was then two and sixpence each (12p) from a surplus store. Two got lost or disintegrated and one I lent to a Greek Old Etonian called Cassavetti who became an Aberdeen trawlerman for some unknown reason (I think he was trying to avoid someone's husband) and promptly lost it while being sick over the side.

Still, I think it was very clever of Derek to spot Crumpet and my cap and, as he's a regular on the shoot, there is a good chance we shall all meet again – assuming I am asked back.

This article was first published in The Scotsman on December 4, 2010

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