With a shotgun in your arms you can be at peace

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
Welcome to our merry band of men, sirrah! This was my first - characteristically generous - thought upon hearing that my future liege, Prince William, had bagged his very first stag.

Might I indulge in a short trip down Memory Lane? I suppose my first successful shoot was when I was eight or nine years of age. My father placed a shotgun in my arms and told me to have a pot at whatever took my fancy. Three-quarters of an hour later, I had shot a wolf, a lion, two zebras, a couple of snakes and a chimpanzee. Needless to say, the Keeper of London Zoo went hopping mad - proving, as my father was later to attest to the magistrate, that the poor man knew not the first thing about the delicate balance of nature.

Before the year was out, I had clocked up quite a few more trophies. Soon the walls of my bedroom were chock-a-block with every manner of stuffed head, never prouder than in death: here a wildebeest, there a penguin, here a partridge, there a tortoise (always so slow on the uptake!). Above my bedhead, I even exhibited the left shin of our elderly cook. The clumsy lady had failed to heed my silent warning, getting caught in the crossfire between myself and an errant hedgehog, simultaneously losing her leg, a 24-piece tea-service she had been carrying and her job, all at the same time!

Once one has caught the blood sports bug, it never goes. If ever there were no new birds around, I would cut corners by nipping to the village store, buying carton upon carton of eggs, tossing them high in the air and bagging them, one by one, until the earth for miles around was splattered bright yellow. But what those who do not live in the country fail to understand is that the shooting of bird and beast is not just a sport but a way of life. On idle nights, I leaf through the gamebooks of my youth, and, time and time again, I am transported back to an infinitely more joyous era.

"December 2nd, 1951: 3 brace of snipe, 7 hare, 9 stag, 1 whippet, 53 woodlice, 4 brace of worms, 1 ret'd station-master, 5 rabbit, 19 goldfish (v poor flyers)."

How vividly such entries evoke golden days of innocence and passion, before the forces of "political correctness" (dread phrase!) rushed to hold the hand of the cunning Monsieur Reynard!

Critics of field sports never appreciate the social side of things - so much more important than any blood-letting. Some of the most lively and stimulating conversations I have ever enjoyed have been while polishing off a picnic on the grouse-moor. Only last Saturday, our conversation zipped along like this:

W Arnold: Brrr! Anyone for another ham sandwich?

W F Deedes: I could manage one, if there's one going begging! Thanks awfully, old man!

(PAUSE)

W Arnold: Brrrrr! Chilly breeze from the west!

Peter Lilley: Did you say vest? I always wear a vest. A white vest, though - never pink. Never ever pink. I really hate pink - my wife will confirm that, if you ask her.

W F Deedes: I think you'll find he said WEST, not VEST!

(PAUSE)

W Arnold: Brrrrrr! Anyone for another ham sandwich?

Marvellous, no? And in my experience our own Royal Family has always been at the very forefront of the social side of field sports, never happier than when outflanking a pheasant before flinging it on the barbecue, for all to savour. And who could seriously argue that the Duke of Edinburgh's great love of shooting could be said to compromise his enthusiasm for endangered species? It does not take a fool to realise that without shooting, there would be no endangered species to love!

As the head of the family, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is never happier than when flopping around in a pair of old waders. It is a little known fact that she regularly wears waders beneath her voluminous ballgowns, often storing old copies of Horse and Hound in them for when the conversation starts to flag. And even at her grand old age, she retains a terrific love of the chase: only last week, I spotted her spearing a couple of goldfish in the fountains of Clarence House employing only a table-fork, a Swiss Army knife and an electronic cattle-prod.

As godfather to the young Prince William, I have long made it my business to interest him in the pleasures of the gun. If only the "urban underclass" (dread section of the population!) could be encouraged to follow suit, methinks there would be a marked decline in offensive weapons, abusive language and wanton violence. Tally-ho!

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz