Having been up stalking and grouse beating in Aberdeenshire for the past couple of days, I returned home last night with an extraordinary and unforseen cargo. While beating yesterday afternoon near Fettercairn, a greyhen rose up from the heather at my feet with a clatter. As soon as she was up and going, she stuttered a few classic, grasping wingbeats, then the gears kicked in and she blasted back over the beating line, gaining height before flying straight into an overhead power line. I’ve written before about the danger of power lines, and the way this hen fell down made it clear that she wouldn’t be getting up again. Thanks to the headkeeper, I was allowed to take this bundle home with me, and after a great deal of deliberation, I have decided to eat it.
I’ll save some of the different feathers and write about them in due course because they are absolutely stunning, but having plucked and gutted the young bird this afternoon, I found the experience absolutely fascinating. I’ve spent so many hours watching these birds from all ranges, so to have an opportunity to inspect a bird in the hand was a real treat. The tail in particular was a real gem, and I have cut it off at the parson’s nose and dipped the meat in pickling vinegar like the old regimental outfitters used to do with blackcock tails prior to issuing them for military uniforms.
I am particularly delighted to be heading south to shoot grouse near Macclesfield tomorrow, and can think of no better escape from the misery of the independence referendum than a day in England. Having casted my vote, I now just have to hope that Scotland will come to its senses in time and steer us away from this appalling chasm of self-destruction. I’m tired of fretting about it, and I couldn’t take another day of campaigning and media saturation. Discussion in the beater’s wagon yesterday was full of passion and zest, but while the politicians crow about how great it is to see people “engaged in a debate”, much of what I have seen is division, conflict, bullying and xenophobia. It turns out that some of my fellow scots are fundamentally foul people, and some of the language and attitudes going around have been deeply unpleasant.
At least I have a cracking meal to look forward to on Friday night. There are not many Scottish recipes for black grouse, but a full report will follow afterwards…