Bolv­ing and other busi­ness

As the Oc­to­ber rut gets un­der­way, it is not just stags, says Eve Jones, whose minds are turned to­wards the dat­ing/mat­ing game

The Field - - Young In The Field -

A SHORT while back, a new col­league emailed me a video of him­self mak­ing some pe­cu­liar noises. It looked like he was hid­ing in a bush and kind of moan­ing loudly and strain­ing. Ini­tially, I won­dered whether this might be a case for HR. How­ever, it turned out to be a demon­stra­tion of an ex­tra­or­di­nary Ex­moor quirk called “bolv­ing” – the art of im­i­tat­ing a stag’s roar dur­ing the Oc­to­ber rut­ting sea­son. Dur­ing the rut, stags bel­low and roar across the moor to demon­strate their strength and dom­i­nance over other chal­leng­ing stags to at­tract hinds – a sort of pub­lic viril­ity broad­cast, if you will. And through­out the sea­son on Ex­moor, bolv­ing com­pe­ti­tions may be held, com­peti­tors wail­ing and thun­der­ing away in the hope a stag will bel­low back at their chal­lenge. Red deer are very much roar­ing and bawl; fal­low deer sort of belch, which isn’t dis­sim­i­lar be­hav­iour to that of some men on the pull in pubs, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the rugby. A stag may have a huge herd of hinds to be­gin but through­out the sea­son they will likely de­plete – lost to chal­leng­ing stags with bet­ter chat-up lines.

Do peo­ple still use chat-up lines? I can’t re­mem­ber the last time any­one un­der the age of 50 tried one on me. There was a time, circa 2002, that I was bom­barded with hi­lar­i­ous one-line as­saults. Granted, at that point I was a perky size 8 and my skin looked less like an unironed T-shirt, but I’m op­ti­misti­cally at­tribut­ing it to the fact that bla­tant come-ons have fallen out of fash­ion, mak­ing room for dig­i­tal dat­ing. The in­ter­net has made peo­ple so mis­er­ably unimag­i­na­tive that “Hey” is an ac­cept­able ad­vance and in real life – un­less you’ve tracked down the po­ten­tial at the bar by cross-ref­er­enc­ing your dat­ing app with their Face­book pro­file to check out their mates, jobs and vi­tal stats – you daren’t even make eye con­tact.

I’m told in Oc­to­ber, like stags, hu­man ef­forts pick up as we en­ter “cuff­ing” sea­son. This is ac­cord­ing to my friend Ailsa, who is in­fin­itely cooler than me and my source of all things pop cul­ture, my hash­tag-acro­nym de­coder and ur­ban-slang trans­la­tor. She’s from Dal­las, where cuff­ing is a well-known term mean­ing start­ing a re­la­tion­ship in Oc­to­ber so you’ve some­one to bunk down with when it gets a bit chilly and mis­er­able or you fancy a de­cent Christ­mas present, then of­ten call­ing it off in Jan­uary when spring weather is on the hori­zon and the so­cial cal­en­dar cheers up. So ac­cord­ing to the law of cuff­ing, the Oc­to­ber d/mat­ing game should ramp up a notch and right now I should be ditch­ing dig­i­tal and be alert to some pri­mal pea­cock­ing or se­ri­ous stag ac­tion.

Re­vert­ing to a more prim­i­tive view of dat­ing makes sense. We are all con­di­tioned to nat­u­ral se­lec­tion, which I think PE lessons have a lot to do with. Rounders team se­lec­tion al­ways meant the chee­tahs and gazelles of the class were fought over, leav­ing the warthogs and ba­boons pick­ing their noses on the side­lines. And school dis­cos, where the girls lined one side of the hall com­par­ing crop-tops and nail var­nish, while boys lined the other wedgy­ing each other and fart­ing. It was only ever the coolest kids (those who hit pu­berty a year faster than their class­mates) who’d be ac­tu­ally danc­ing with some­one.

When you think about it, there are plenty of fa­mil­iar mat­ing calls and rit­u­als in place. Take your clas­sic white-van-man wolf whis­tle. A lot of peo­ple get their knick­ers in quite a twist about this but I choose to take it as a com­pli­ment and sashay on my way. It’s cer­tainly a step up from the squad­die call of “get your rat out”, which is as ba­sic as they come and if you don’t know what it means I’d keep it that way. I’m told that it ac­tu­ally orig­i­nated in Black­wood, South Wales, where boy rac­ers used to shout it out of cars. My grand­par­ents once ran a pub in Black­wood but I’m pleased to say I never heard Grandad shout it at any­one. In Lon­don, walk past most Ful­ham pubs and ex­ces­sive honking and bray­ing from both sexes will mark the rut. Here, Schof­fel waist­coats (aka Ful­ham life­jack­ets) and wildly back­combed manes play pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion and stately prop­erty Top Trumps to sin­gle out their match. The Chelsea/kens­ing­ton mat­ing call is from the roar of ob­nox­iously loud su­per-car en­gines. The breed of owner is of­ten Euro­pean and tends to herd to wa­ter­holes such as Annabel’s or Loulou’s where they com­pete for hinds by rack­ing up ag­gres­sively big bar bills.

I no­ticed when I went to Rome that the men hiss, snake­like, through their teeth while star­ing in­tensely at their prey. Not es­pe­cially en­dear­ing, and a bit spitty. In Paris, a man stuck his hand up my skirt on the Metro and when I told him to “Va te faire foutre”, he spat chew­ing gum in my hair. I’ve no an­i­mal­is­tic com­par­i­son there, as I’ve never been chat­ted up by an­other French­man, but I don’t think that’s the norm – or I’m damned if I know why it’s called the city of love.

Back on home ter­ri­tory, hunt horns are ef­fec­tive. With scar­let fever fre­quently rife among the herd, blow­ing for home is a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous eu­phemism, par­tic­u­larly pre-hunt ball. At Young Farm­ers’ par­ties there is less long game; cou­pling is of­ten swift and pub­lic, with mul­ti­ple part­ners and both sexes likely to fight off com­pe­ti­tion vi­o­lently.

Where all this leaves me in terms of cuff­ing I’m not sure. I am quite keen for a de­cent Christ­mas present, how­ever, so for starters I’ll try hark­ing back to circa 2002 and em­ploy­ing a Croy­don facelift while writ­ing a new reper­toire of one-lin­ers. Any­one up for a cuff?

It looked like he was hid­ing in a bush and kind of moan­ing loudly and strain­ing

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