Magazine article The Spectator

First Day Out

Magazine article The Spectator

First Day Out

Article excerpt

I go shooting for love, but not for love of shooting. In my early twenties, I was willing to stand in a biting wind all day for the pleasure of watching my beloved husband at play with his gun. By my late twenties, it was down to half a day and after 30 1 just turned up for lunch. However, I was out again on Saturday morning, togged up in Peter's Barbour and some old Damart socks. It was to be my eldest son's first day shooting.

My son is 13, but looks younger. A 12bore was considered too heavy for him and my mother-in-law has lent him a 20-bore until he gets bigger. It's quite powerful enough to kill a man and, although he had some shooting lessons with it over the summer, I was pretty nervous that he might not treat it with quite the respect it deserves. `It's not important whether or not you hit a bird today,' I told the boy. 'The only thing that's really important is that you don't shoot anyone.' I expect he knew that, but I seemed to forget it, sitting on my shooting-- stick, waiting for the partridge to fly over the tree line.

It's true that at first I felt a frisson of horror seeing a child poised to use a loaded gun. But that rapidly vanished when the line began to fire. It's not easy to shoot partridge - far harder than pheasant. They are small and fly quickly. By the time my son had them in his sights they were behind him and he couldn't swing round as he had my husband standing on his tail. `Can't you show him how to swing and get out of his way?' I told Peter in a tone nearer to an order than a suggestion. `No, he's too inexperienced. If he drops his sights he'll blow Richard's head off.' Richard was the next gun along the line. Happily, he couldn't hear what was being said about his head, or sense my apparent indifference to its fate.

I remained on my seat, growing increasingly huffy as my husband told my son to empty one used cartridge from his double barrel and replace it in double time, before the next wave of birds appeared. …

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