I’ve been lucky enough to have one of the best in the country loading for me on the grouse a couple of times. Mick Dickinson has loaded for aristocracy, royalty, and in my case a bit of a duffer. He was very quick, excellent company, eagle-eyed and added considerably to my day’s entertainment. But I couldn’t do what he did for all the tips in the world.
You see, even though he is a steely-eyed killer, as deadly with a 12 bore as he is with his bare hands, Mick was endlessly patient. He was patient when I missed, when I didn’t shoot at birds I should have, when I swore and when I forgot he was loading for me and broke my gun. He was even patient when, to cut through the embarrassment of his obviously Jeeves-to-my-bertie levels of basic human competence, I started telling TVR anecdotes. If I had been Mick, who is a rather serious martial arts instructor in his spare time, there is absolutely no way I could have got through the first drive without using my Vulcan death grip to relieve me of my guns - and my power of speech.
The alternative, for the purposes of this argument, is beating, which many will tell you is very hard work. But for those who, like me, are appalled at the prospect of being thought a rambler, it’s a very good way of walking around the most beautiful parts of our country. Without having to wear day-glo man made fibres, grow a beard and develop strange ideas about roaming on other people’s property. It means you can spend a bit, but not the whole, of your day in other folks’ company. You get paid, as does your dog, and you get a slap up meal at the end of it. Sorry Giles, no contest …