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
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