Just one day in, and a gun shatters my Zen calm


I'm back in the real world – released from my Italian detox prison one-and-a-half stone lighter and more chilled than a relaxed snowman. That lasted about two hours. One evening at home, and normal family service was resumed. The kids were arguing, my wife was shouting at the dogs, I got stressed because everyone was going to be late for a dinner reservation and we were taking our usual three hours to leave the house. It was good to be back.

I enjoyed my Zen-like existence for 10 days but it's really not something I can realistically apply to my daily life. I think some people go to these detox-type places looking for a new start to their lives. Others do the Roman thing and treat it a bit like a vomitorium. They shed weight, relax and then head straight back into the fray to eat, drink and be merry. I am most definitely in the latter camp, although I did just make myself a smoothie that contained kale, spinach, lime and almond milk but don't worry – it really won't last.

Sensing a momentary break in the weather I decided to take my dogs out for a walk on the hills behind the farm. It was blissful to be back, striding purposefully through the woods with my faithful hounds by my side.

As usual, I was listening to my favourite podcast – Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode's awesome movie review show on Radio 5 Live. I got so engrossed in one of Mark's trademark rants that I really didn't concentrate on where we were. It was only when someone pushed me hard from behind that I was awoken from my reverie. I turned to face my assailant – a short podgy man with red cheeks, dressed in tweed and, rather alarmingly, holding a gun.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Shouted the tweed dwarf.

"I'm trying to have a walk, why are you pushing me?" I asked in a restrained manner, since he had a large shotgun.

"Because you've just wandered into our bloody shoot." He was livid and his cheeks became even redder.

I looked up and noticed that all along the base of the valley, evenly spaced, were more tweeded-up gentlemen with shotguns. I made profuse apologies before beating a hasty retreat the way I had come. I made my way up a hill through thick undergrowth before coming out in a field high above the farm. As I walked back towards the safety of home, a very horsey looking woman appeared with her own dogs.

"Which way are the guns?" She shouted at me.

I tried to indicate that I was really not the person to ask but the lady was not for turning.

"I said, which way are the guns? Are you deaf?" She had the air of a woman at ease with authority. I was very close to being quite rude when she continued: "You're the first bloody beater I've ever met who doesn't know where the guns are." She looked at me with disgust. I'd had enough and sent her straight down into the path of the guns. She was a large, formidable woman and it would be a brave man that attempted to bring her down. Only in England ….

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