I noticed in the Conservative Party Manifesto that they are offering a free vote on reinstating Fox Hunting if the nation decides to re-elect President May. Around these parts the hunt still meets – but currently just ride to with the hounds or canter with canines or something. The traditional Boxing Day Hunt Meet is always a well attended annual event outside the George in Cary, drawing bloated Christmas crowds to share in a mulled wine before the men in hunting pinks take the hounds to seek and destroy the vulpine vermin (by accident of course).
We tottered into Canaryville this year feeling content after a good festive feast the day before, but the feelings of comfort and positivity started to dissipate as we arrived at the Market House. I have mixed feelings about the hunt and I am not entirely sure what to make of a gathering of people on horses sipping mulled wine, surrounded by others who have little or no attachment to the countryside other than the fact that they own large parts of it to enable them to graze their ponies for their offspring to ride. So much green tweed, Hunter wellies and dogs smoozing in the thin December sunshine, ra-ra-ing at the strident political statements from the master of the hunt, as he stands up in his stirrups and lets forth at the usual subjects.
There are no longer any hunt sabs who some decades ago (prior to the ban) had the nerve to stand outside the George to protest. They looked sad and a little forlorn surrounded by the congregation of slightly tipsy twits with terriers who were fencing them in. But the Master these days has his unopposed moment in the sun to make his case and he took it with his whip hand in December.
In a rollicking review of the ills that beset the countryside he started with a popular subject, harking back to the days of Tony Blair “and his cronies” deciding to ban hunting with dogs – to general murmurs of support. Except at this point – miraculously – a voice was heard saying “good job too” to some startled mutterings. While someone was despatched to find the key for the lock-up on Bailey Hill into which to throw the woolly-headed liberal dissenter, the Master continued unabashed. He berated such organisations as the RSPCA, National Trust and RSPB for having lost touch with the countryside. This cheered the assembled throng who were further enlivened as the Master reviewed the three major events of 2016: Leicester City winning the league (loud cheers); Brexit (even louder cheers); and Donald Trump becoming the Leader of the Free World (the audience were a bit confused with that – were they meant to cheer or not?).
Brexit is an interesting one. Why did it elicit such a cheer, when, as I understand it, the farming community – with which the Hunt is supposedly intrinsically linked – has for years survived on the subsidies provided by the Common Agricultural Policy developed in Brussels. Country folk for Brexit sounds like turkeys and Christmas. Perhaps I have missed something and Brexiteers have discovered another £350m a week which can support agriculture as well as the NHS.
It’s part of the jingoistic nationalist tendencies that have left us as blinkered as the winner of the 3.10 at Kempton. The Master said that all we want is to be left alone to hunt to our hearts content (and kill things) and thanked the farming community for looking after the country and making it a good place to hunt and shoot (and kill things). These are the same farmers who have ripped out hedges and helped decimate numbers of hedgerow nesting birds, while we are left to dodge swarms of brainless partridge and pheasant chicks as they run around the lanes trying to end it all before the shooters get them in the autumn.
I wouldn’t say that it was a long address, but one portly gentleman in the saddle who had started a cigarette shortly before the start was forced to rummage around in his hacking jacket (pardon the pun) to light up another mid-way through in order to help him concentrate.
The Master’s final jingoistic message was to Buy British – buy local – which is a sure-fire winner, although the chances of Britain being able to feed itself in the near future are remote. On the other hand the assembled throng could do worse than come into El Castillo di Cary to exercise their democratic right to vote, then take some time to support their local businesses – and nowhere better than their local independent bookshop. They might find something educational and informative to read rather than listening to the loud-sounding nothings that have populated the airwaves for the past months.