John Holliday: A flicker of hope? *H&H VIP*

  • Whether a Brexiteer or a Remoaner, you may well be considering what effect leaving the EU may have on hunting. Well, very little is the most likely answer.

    There was, I seem to recall, some half-hearted attempt, regarding the Hunting Act, at an appeal in the European Court. Despite the rest of the Continent generally having a far more salutary and pragmatic attitude to the countryside and country sports, it was predictably unsuccessful. It must be the only area of our national life the European Court felt was out of its jurisdiction during the past 40 years.

    Of far greater significance to British hunters must be the Labour Party’s anomalous decision to retain their antique leader. The once great party of the working classes, the party of Attlee and MacDonald, chose to keep Jeremy Corbyn, that grand old lefty and relic of the 1970s, thus consigning them to the political fringe for the foreseeable future.

    It is hard to imagine what the present government could do badly enough not to garner a far larger majority at the next election. That in turn raises the prospect of some sober and pragmatic action regarding the failures of the Hunting Act and countryside issues generally.

    I am aware there are other pressing matters to which the government need attend. However, the flame of hope still faintly flickers that the current state of limbo in which hunting dwells might yet be addressed.

    Carpe diem

    I am no Scrooge when it comes to Christmas, but I do my best to block out all references to it, which seem to begin as early as All Saints Day, until the 25th itself. I awoke on a recent Sunday morning barely into December, feeling somewhat jaded from the previous night’s festivities, to find hundreds of sweaty Santas running around the usually tranquil Belvoir park. A charity event for a very worthy cause, as it turned out. But to me, “running” and “dressing as Father Christmas” is how I envisage the Tenth Circle of Hell.

    And then there is tinsel. What possesses normally sane people to bedeck their poor horses instead of the Christmas tree?

    Tinsel and baubles are tomorrow’s dread. My concern is our next hunting day at Long Clawson; we have 40 visitors booked in and counting. I know we huntsmen like to complain about too many people, but really I relish it. The “huroosh” of a big field adds to the exhilaration and the bruisers in the Belvoir field were (and are) legendary.

    I recall as a whipper-in going away from Clawson Thorns; as the last hound left the covert and you set off towards the first hedge, the noise thundering behind was like the charge of Scarlett’s Heavy Brigade at Balaclava.

    Hunting with the Belvoir epitomises what Jorrocks referred to as: “The image of war, without the guilt and only five and twenty percent its danger.” Former master John Blakeway used to equate hunting with the Belvoir field to rugby on horseback. The unwritten rule was: “Never stop and help anybody and never catch a loose horse, just push your hat down and kick on.” It certainly inspires  a sense of carpe diem.

    On the home front life is as ever hectic, though we still await with some impatience a purple patch of settled weather. No two days have been alike, and slow, lingering fogs have proved an added concern. Nonetheless, the dog pack from Leadenham and, the following day, the bitches from Harby gave all who were present a foretaste of delights to come.

    In the words of Omar Khayyam, “Dead yesterdays and unborn tomorrows, why fret about it, if today be sweet?”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 15 December 2016