Magazine article The Spectator

Man in Tights

Magazine article The Spectator

Man in Tights

Article excerpt

I decided to take up hunting rather late in life -- it was after hours of sitting in the Press Gallery listening to MPs from both sides of the House droning on about whether or not it should be banned.

Although in my early fifties then, I decided to gather the facts first hand: was this something only for toffs, as the Labour backbenchers cried out, or was it available to a cross-section of the population as the Tories argued. The more liberal-minded pointed out that while you may not like the sport or even those who enjoy it, that was certainly no reason to ban it. But ban it they did and, ironically, more people are now hunting with hounds -- within the law -- than ever before.

I signed up with the Royal Artillery Hunt, an army-supported hunt that operates in and around Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. There is hardly any jumping, but the galloping, fast and furious, makes up for it.

I found myself competing with equally inexperienced, mostly pimply-faced new army recruits who were fearless. The trouble was that at my stage in life I wasn't as bold or brave -- there were many occasions when I would get on my mount wondering whether I would arrive back at the stable block in one piece. Would the air ambulance be called out on my account?

Nevertheless, it was an excellent initiation; and like others before and after me, I soon found myself obsessed with hunting and all its paraphernalia. The trouble was I lacked a 'mentor' -- someone who would fill me in on what to wear and, more importantly, what not to.

For starters, never wear sunglasses when out hunting and always say 'good night' when going home -- even if it's in the middle of the afternoon.

But dressing up for hunting was another matter. I became like a nerdy schoolboy aiming to please both the matron and headmaster. I relish the idea of getting my kit ready the night before, making sure my boots are the shiniest.

One of my first acquisitions was a pair of tights: for those I went to my local M&S.

Before telling the assistant what I needed, I had to confess that no, I wasn't a crossdresser, but it was for the cold and wind. A pair cost £5 then and they have lasted several seasons.

What others wear under their jodhpurs or breeches I don't really want to know, but a hip flask filled with homemade sloe gin or, even better, a supply of The King's Ginger Liqueur (£14. …

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