Magazine article The Spectator

Drink: Bruce Anderson

Magazine article The Spectator

Drink: Bruce Anderson

Article excerpt

Someone came up with a century-old quotation plangent with irony and sadness: 'The year 1916 was cursed: 1917 will surely be better.' That was Tsar Nicholas II. Poor fellow: tragedy for him and his family, tragedy down the decades for tens of millions of his subjects. Its spectre is still haunting Russia.

Although we raised a toast to the tsar's memory, tragedy was far from our minds as we welcomed the latest New Year in a mood best described as eupeptic pessimism. Not hard to do: Dorset is one of the least dyspeptic places on earth. My friends who live there sometimes try to discourage me from praising their sweet especial rural scene. They fear that it will only encourage others to move in and they want to keep this heaven on earth to themselves: a hundred miles from the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Elsewhere, the world might be too much with us. Down here, pessimism could easily be kept over the horizon. For us, the last Trump was nothing to do with any confrontation between the new president and the heavenly host -- merely an occurrence at the bridge table.

On New Year's Eve, there were assembled seven dogs and 15 children. All of them were delightful company and quite astonishingly well-behaved. Martha and Paddy had been instructed by their parents -- gallivanting elsewhere -- to be in bed just after midnight. I said that, if interrogated, they could always plead the Fifth. Others wondered whether the US Constitution could be invoked by ten-year-olds in Dorset. At least away from the hunting field, it is not a county notorious for human rights. The parents were eventually informed that their offspring had gone to bed, on 1 January.

During daylight, other youngsters solicited grown-up volunteers to supervise the use of recently acquired firearms. In Dorset, Santa Claus is inter alia a gunsmith. A youthful enthusiast with a first gun, awed and thrilled to be joining the fellowship of the shooting field, that Burkean partnership between the generations: it is an enchanting spectacle. …

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