Keep your friends closer
It is, of course, illegal to shoot on Christmas Day. And quite right too. There are other things a chap should be doing — such as singing heartily in church and carving turkeys and decanting claret. And exchanging warm festive tidings and occasional gifts with members of the family both close and more remote. However, Christmas is also a time for friends. And who are our best friends? The people we trust with our lives every time we walk to our pegs together? Our shooting buddies, naturally.
So having savoured the glow of the traditional family Christmas and all that it entails – though as we all know, our traditional family Christmas is no more than a romantic confection cooked up by Prince Albert then reported and embellished by Charles Dickens so it is no more traditional than the internal combustion engine — but what could possibly be more proper than to share some time with our friends?
The shooting day has a great deal in common with Christmas Day. There is the dressing up to start with and on a Christmas shoot especially the sartorial rulebook can be torn up even more than usual. The bungalow check tweed with the mauve overstripe, the silly stockings and the ludicrous hats all make their annual appearances. Bags and belts are charged with tinsel and confetti filled cartridges and the poudre noire has its annual outing.
There is an enormous meal involved and the whole undertaking is wrapped in a colossal fantasy, not that a fat and cheerful Scandinavian pensioner will slide down the chimney to bring us all our hearts desire because none of us have been good enough over the past year to deserve it, but that we are a gang of Victorian nobs who own houses with lakes and deer parks and gamekeepers who call us “Sir” without giggling.
And there is always laughter. The free, unfettered guffaws and gales of merriment that characterise time well spent with true friends. That is the best Christmas present of all and I can’t wait to open it.