IT WON’T BE SUCH A ‘GLORIOUS TWELFTH’ on northern Britain’s grouse moors today. Covid-19 ensures not only that the hunted will be few and far between but the hunters will be socially distanced, too.
There has already been a scramble for bedrooms among the ‘guns’ as hoteliers reduce booking availability to comply with regulations and the Downtons and Bridesheads prepare to repel all but the better-heeled boarders. Seriously, it’s a problem: Scotland’s 16-week grouse season from 12 August to 10 December is worth £32m during a good season, and supports 2,640 full-time jobs.
The beaters won’t enjoy the job much: I’m told small groups will be ‘kettled’ in individual four-by-fours in case someone goes down with the Woohoo Flu, in which case only the occupants of the affected motorised ‘bubble’ will be disqualied, causing the remainder to ‘close up’ the 200 feet distance between beaters. So stand by for disappointed exchanges like these. . .
I say, my lord, what happened to the loaders?
Loaders? Unless you brought the memsahib or the eldest boy from your ‘home bubble’ it’ll be DIY reloading for you, m’lad! The cartridge carriers normally share your butt and if they are non-family members they would have to stay more than a metre away and that wouldn’t work.
Feeling a bit peckish, actually. . . time for lunch, sir?
Rather difficult, I’m afraid. A minor social impact, but we can’t have everyone sitting around the same table, can we? Pull up a three-legged stool and find a perch Under yonder tree where the new hygiene rules permit. Carson will be over shortly with your cheese and pickle sandwich and a hot chocolate.
Shame. I was looking forward to sharing my hamper with that little Belgian bloke, old Hercule.
Ah, that’s another problem: no foreign chappies on the drive this year, travel restrictions and all that. Actually, little Hercule did arrive but he’s quarantined in the kennels at Heathrow, I’m sorry to say.
Can the situation get any worse, m’lord?
No, there is one bright spot: that BBC fellah, Chris Packham, raised a 110,000-signature petition against driven grouse shooting which was due to be debated in Parliament. . . but it’s been cancelled because of social distancing!
Now, chaps: on with your masks, shoulder arms and let the blasted day begin!