Magazine article The Spectator

A Man Obsessed

Magazine article The Spectator

A Man Obsessed

Article excerpt

The days lengthen, and my friend Cameron stays out hunting till nearly seven. This is because he has the zeal of the convert. `At half past four, we found again,' he says excitedly, `there were only three of us left, so I could watch hounds losing and catching the scent in the strong wind.'

Cameron is a man with an eye. He works in the world of exquisite furniture, and he is attuned to fine distinctions. He lives in London, but if you go for a country walk with him, he will educate you in seeing a particular sedge, a bird, a type of stone. He loves the natural world. I'd never thought he would hunt, though. He has a horror of anything hearty, and if he thinks someone is a red-faced philistine he will either fall silent or become foul-mouthed.

He admits that he held off hunting for years because of preconceptions of this sort, but the threat of a ban finally drove him towards it. He had almost never ridden and so took dismal lessons on the outskirts of London and then some nicer ones in Dorset. By the time the current season began, he thought he was ready for his first expedition. As soon as the field moved off, his party led him to some far coverts where the fox needed heading, and Cameron, unwarned, had to jump eight fences. Since then, he has been addicted.

Now he has hunted more than 20 times, o'er field and fountain, moor and mountain, following his new star. Fifteen different hirelings have carried his six foot five inches frame, and once, when his horse went lame, a girl lent him her coloured pony. Everything was fine, until someone pointed out that his legs were hanging down below the pony's body like those of some mediaeval knight. This made him all nervous when approaching each fence, and he hitched his long shanks up at each jump. He has fallen off only three times, last weekend `onto compressed gorse, just like a mattress'. He has a Patey hat, and a long, elegant coat which is new but looks as good as old, so that people think it was his grandfather's. `Goodness, I despised the uniform before I wore it,' he says, `but now I like it. It's levelling to wear it, and I like the ceremonial, such as it is. There's a dignity to it which separates it from baser blood sports. It's a serious responsibility killing things, and therefore I like it when it's dignified.'

What else has he learnt? Being new, he always asks what is going on, and is surprised to discover that many on the hunting field do not know. …

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