‘Ducking and Diving’- December 2008
Ok its 1pm and we were meant to be picking up today. But i’m at home. Infact we WERE picking up today. And then something happened. Grab a cuppa……
Its been raining here last 12 hours. Not soft little pretty rain, but sideways, backwards, coming-up-from-underneath you kind of rain. The sort of rain that makes you find overleggings nearly useless because by the time you have got out the car and fought them on, your trousers are soaked to your knickers. Lovely.
After 5 of the 7 possible pickers up in my team had one by one pulled out full of lame dogs, heavy colds and santa grottos to assemble, Allan and I aquaplaned to our shoot with a car full of dogs and all the wet weather gear we could muster.
THEN a gun has pulled out, so Allan infact gets to shoot. So I go it alone. Super Di (twirls in her gorgeous barbour outfit making her look like a green weeble.) With super dogs.
Drive one was uneventful. A good few birds suprisingly. Lots of rain. A shock when we saw the harmless little dykes angrily spilling over and rushing along at a rate of knots. Nearly everything had to be picked during the drive or was going to be lost downstream. The girls – LOVED IT. I cringed and winced and promised myself to get back ontop of them ‘tomorrow’
So Drive two. Again, a few birds, a bit of work and me trying to split myself in about 8 directions. Guns shot like candidates for the league against cruel sports, chipping toenails and parting crowns but not actually OFFING anything so again, dogs everywhere, all smiles and wags and pretending to run in just to wind me up (because its funny to make me shout apparently….).
Behind me ran a usually harmless brook. The harmless brook, today, made Niagra Falls look like a harmless brook. Whistle goes, last birds collected, and a gun comes up and says ‘did you get that one over the water there?’
To be fair I didn’t have a bloody clue. Dogs everywhere, coming in with birds, might have done, might not have. So I did what every sensible picker up would do and said ‘I think so Sir, but I’ll just go have a last sweep’ (knowing I had one in my bag I could come back with if I didn’t find anything just to make him happy!)
I thought I’d go over with them and headed to what counts as a bridge over a harmless brook at our place. Its one plank of wood with a piece of saggy rope as a terribly misnamed ‘safety’ rail. Its dodgy at the best of times but I’m Super Di aren’t I? No bridge too narrow, no river too wide etc….
The ‘brook’ swept over the plank so you couldn’t see it. The dogs shot over it and I carefully inch by inch felt my way across with my feet. Thanking god on high i made it to the end. Or so i thought. I pushed my stick into the far bank….. and then it happened.
Stick keeps going into soaking earth, so does Super Di. And in a blink of an eye I did a graceful comedy tumble straight into Niagra Falls! I surfaced with my glasses still on which was something I was grateful for, but then realise I was in a river, in December, and started to react in a proper manner. I thrashed about treading water as best i could in 17 layers and with two labradors throwing themselves up and down a foot from me going ‘ha haaaaa ha haaaaa thats bloody BRILLIANT, do it AGAIN!’
When I realised that i couldn’t get a grip on the bank, and my boots were rapidly filling and I couldn’t touch the bottom I started bellowing ‘hellllp, helllllp, heeeeellllllp!!!’
First to arrive was a Springer. He took one look and started to try and hump one of the girls. Second on the scene was an eldery labrador who looked faintly amused and suggested that this wasn’t going to be one of my better days.
two guys came pounding round the corner and after the inital ‘where are you??? Oh! F****, hang on!’ (A pointless phrase seen as not ‘hanging on’ meant drowning….) They managed to negotiate the plank unscathed and people started appearing from all corners. They managed with some difficulty and risk to life and limb for which i will be buying them a pint later, to drag me out.
I sat there, and panted. I considered crying but gave the idea up when I realised infact I wasn’t dead and so should basically be pleased. Everyone didn’t quite know what to do. I stood there shaking and shivering until the shoot captain said ‘ummmm…. did you find the bird…..?’
After some choice language and much hilarity (at my expense) and talk of how it will be recanted at the Shoot Dinner in March someone suggested I maybe should get out of the force nine gale and go home as I was shaking like a leaf. Then course the cry went up – ‘Wheres Allan?!’
Allan was stood chatting and smoking with some guns with no clue of my risk to life and limb. I wetly sloshed over to him. ‘Alright love?’ said he, (which gives you some idea how much it was raining – he didn’t even notice I was a drowned rat from head to toe…..)
I gave the potted version with ten others chipping in and being the noble, supportive and real gentleman he really is said ‘Christ love, your freezing! Best you get yourself home, have a shower, and meet me at the pub later then….’
So the girls and I got a leg up into the game cart and whizzed back to the farm dripping everywhere over everyones packed lunches, then stripped down in a biting gale to my knickers and jumper, threw a dog blanket over the drivers seat and drove home praying I didn’t get pulled over (Yes officer I always drive in bare feet, and in a soaking jumper and a pair of knickers this close to Christmas…..don’t you?’)
So here I am about to go to the pub. Its still raining. The dogs will dine out on this one for a while. As will the guns!
Picking up. Our lovely lovely hobby.
Diana Stevens – Dec 2008