A Hunter’s Birthday
“...one must have a good pair of legs. If automobiles, elevators, and general laziness have not ruined your powers of locomotion, you may follow the dogs; otherwise, you had best stay at home.” Saxton Pope
I awaken in the glorious any blackness of the predawn. It’s my birthday, no street lights, no car horns, or sirens. Surprisingly considering the day before’s exertions no searing pain. It’s my birthday and just for once I have no expectations or hopes to be crushed. Just a brutal day of highland stalking with whatever surprises it throws my way. But first; the sweet black taste(s) of morning. Coffee served as it tastes best, with a new day all to play for. A day with rifles and venison in it. The temperature outside the bed covers suggests that it may even be a day that starts in dry clothes. Any day that can start with dry clothes; coffee of the Italian persuasion, and eggs, eggs from shells-not from powder, has started well. As I leave my room it occurs to me that Big Tim has brought a black pudding with him. Coffee, blood sausage, and eggs. The foundations are in place for a really great day. Happy birthday me. The cottage is picture postcard, with brass ornaments, exposed stonework and an assortment of furniture that will one day puzzle interior design students. Nice enough but it has some strangely thought out features; in England light switches are placed where your eye falls, in Spain and France they’re where your hand falls, in the cottage, perhaps in an attempt to limit the amount of copper wire used, they are scattered where you’d least expect them to be. Some we never found. I give up looking for a hall light and too lazy to stumble back to my room to look for my head torch, I make for the kitchen. The stairs may have been recycled from a much larger property, they are wide enough for a town hall so it’s very easy to step into empty space with the banister rail you’d use to save your life well beyond reach.
Now thoroughly adrenalized and fully awake I tour the drying areas in front of the storage heaters and rearrange the now warm dry clothes. So far so birthday! The kettle boils; the sizzle of eggs, and black pudding become a siren call drawing fat boys from their beds, in order of size. “Morning mucker, happy birthday!” first up The Big Tim hoves into view. Little Tim joins us in time to refuse to make or eat more powdered egg.
There are two opposing schools of thought when it comes to a hill-breakfast.
Plan A; stuff your face so you’ve got enough fuel to survive all day without eating again, using slow-burning carbs. If you want to be really Scottish about it, that means porridge. A bit more Scottish still? Porridge with salt.
Plan B; a smaller breakfast made of protein and fat.
Memories of being over dressed and over stuffed the day before, prompt me to eat the smallest birthday breakfast I’ve had in a few years and dressing, I sacrifice one layer of fleece. After the debacle of the day before where the scope came loose from the rifle, I spend a couple of minutes looking at the crumpled sheet of paper we used as a zeroing target, with its cluster of holes overlaying the back squiggle of marker pen. Absolute confidence in the equipment is a must. The clothes I’d chosen performed flawlessly, I’d eventually gotten wet, but never cold and wet. My binoculars had recovered from being dragged though the bog a few times, my boots had kept water out until totally submerged for the Nth time. What could go wrong? Big Tim has other plans for the day, so Little Tim and myself set off to find the Ghillie.
As we pull up in the farmyard the Ghillie is sauntering out of his front door. He looks delighted to see us, which immediately makes me suspicious that he has some horrific fate planned for us. Big Tim may have phoned ahead. “Its his birthday” Little Tim announces jerking his head towards me. The Ghillies eyes narrow slightly. The wind drops for a moment and I can hear the ghosts of long dead sportsman, whose bones lie where they fell on the hillside, wailing their terrible warning ‘Yer doomed! Doomed I tell yee’. Facing my way with his back to the Ghillie Little Tim allows himself a little smirk knowing my fate is sealed.
Thanks for reading - I really enjoyed retelling this, its like it was yesterday