The RSPB?s recent annual Birdcrime report contains a commentary about the organisation?s use of covert surveillance. Basically, the charity defends the use of private surveillance to gain evidence that is subsequently used by the Crown in prosecutions, despite concerns expressed by a judge (in relation to a case involving evidence from animal rights activists) that such activity might potentially infringe on the 1998 Human Rights Act. Isn?t it interesting to note that, in some respects, the News of the World and the RSPB have shared values?
Shoes might come in handy
On a whim, Gerry and I drove to Tayside for a bit of goose shooting. It was good to be back on what BB called ?dark estuary? and to hear again the evocative sounds of newly arrived pinkfoot. We planned to intercept the geese at dawn fl ight. In the event, Gerry got two pinks. As it happens, I didn?t get a shot at geese in the two days, but the sights and sounds of the wildlife on an estuary in a misty autumn dawn made the trip worthwhile. Moreover, I did manage to shoot three mallard over flooded stubble.
Shortly before the trip, as I was packing clothes and equipment, I found that I didn?t have a single pair of waterproof wellington boots. I don?t have much luck with wellies. I have bought all sorts of them in my time, but they all seem to go in the end. I admit that some of the newer neoprene designs are superbly comfortable, but in my experience they seldom last an entire season without splitting. So, in preparation for my goose hunt, I bought a pair of plain farm wellies for £20.
Gerry was unimpressed. He has every conceivable bit of kit, all of superlative quality. He pointed out the features of his own wellies, which had zip-up sides and proper cleated soles. On hearing that they had cost him £220 a couple of years ago, I observed that this was 11 times my own recent outlay. ?You get what you pay for,? snorted Gerry. ?Your cheap, nasty boots will probably last less than a month.?
A few hours after that conversation, we were in Scotland. As we drove out to our flighting point in the predawn darkness, torrential rain splattered on the windscreen of Gerry?s expensive, superbly comfortable car. On reaching our destination, we sat for a while in the car. Is there any better feeling than dozing in a warm leather seat, with the rain pattering on the roof and the wipers making a rhythmic, wet clacking sound? (If anybody could replicate this experience in a sort of flight simulator, it would be a boon to people who suffer from insomnia.)
Eventually, we persuaded ourselves to get out. The rain had eased, but the ground was sopping. We could see patches of water gleaming dully on the stubble fi elds. We let the dogs out of the back and began to don our shooting kit. It was at this point that I heard Gerry, on the other side of the vehicle, utter a plaintive moan. ?Oh no,? he muttered. ?I?ve left my wellies behind at your place.?
Carry on regardless
I am sorry to say that my reaction was not exactly sympathetic. I think I may even have laughed, in nasty sort of way. I have to admit that I proceeded to display a rather childish side to my character, gleefully explaining to Gerry how, at this precise moment, the £20 wellies on my feet seemed to be worth rather more than his £220 versions, which happened to be 170 miles away. I kindly offered to sell him my pair for a mere £200. You may imagine his response.
Of course, later that day, he could have driven to the nearest farm shop and bought some cheap wellies like mine. But Gerry is a man of principle. For the rest of the trip, he suffered wet feet without a wimper, pretending he didn?t mind a jot.