Keep your friends closer

Shooting Gazette - - The great debate - By Giles Catch­pole

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.

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