After an excellent trip down to Yorkshire for the game fair, it seems a good moment to show off the fruits of my retail indulgence with the above picture. I am very pleased with my new half-price Greys 9’6″ #4 trout rod, and all the more smug to get my hands on a copy of Derek Ratcliffe’s book on peregrines at a vastly discounted price. I saw Jim Corbett’s famous .275 rigby tiger rifle, and ate myself to a standstill with some of the best scotch eggs I have ever had the honour of munching. In the afternoon, I was starstruck to meet (and shake hands with) the artist Rodger McPhail, then cheerily waved a friendly hello to a familiar-looking fellow I passed in the crowd, only to find in retrospect that when I put a name to the face, it had been Nigel Farage.
Perhaps inevitably, the fair cost me a fortune and I was lucky to get away with only spending the enormous amount I did. It could have been much worse.
I always enjoy the CLA, but at the risk of being shouted down as parochial or small-minded, many of the stands are extraordinarily lavish and corporate, and the accumulative effect bears little resemblance to my experience of the countryside. Perhaps it is predictable of me to say that I prefer the Scottish Game Fair, which is modest and accessible enough to be “do-able” in a single day. There is a only a finite variety of equipment you can sell to a rural audience, and what the CLA offers in size and sheer scale, it often loses in repetition. There are whole aisles of tents selling the same Jack Pyke trousers, pigeon decoys and teflon-coated shooting jackets, and the variations in price between one and the other is so subtle that it seems impossible that any one vendor should be able to outperform his peers.
And I can’t resist looking sideways at some of the extraordinary human cliches which seethe through the fair in their masses. Amongst a certain age of game fair goer, there is an accepted dress code which permits a rainbow nation of corduroy trousers, cream linen jackets and grandiose panama hats. And then there are the swanking fat-cats with up-combed chest hair and flat caps as big as mattresses on their heads; and leggy girls in startlingly absent tweed mini-skirts; and everywhere but everywhere a swirling kaleidoscope of schoeffel gilets, deck shoes and braying laughter. Some of this is amusingly self-referential, and there are twinkles of irony in the eyes of many of the worst offenders, but a good proportion are blithely unaware, and this almost becomes a style in itself.
Between the wholly superfluous hot-tubs and the massed tonnes of pheasant-print lampshades, there were many friends and acquaintances from both work and play, and I was thrilled to see the people I did, despite making such poor arrangements to do so. Now safely home in Galloway, I remember the pleasures and delights of the day, and realise that one of the best moments was when we decided to come home.