“The Rosebery?” I asked, nonplussed, of the Country House Rescue presenter.
“The Rosebery, it’s a converted 1966 Routemaster double-decker bus which we host events in. It has a cocktail bar and dining room upstairs. We are going to events all over Europe, so that is a major project for us at the moment. It really has taken off, very exciting. It would be brilliant for hosting shoot lunches in it. My dream is to have her parked up somewhere and you could have some guns up top and you can shoot your lunch, pluck it, spatch-cock it and grill it all in one go… a culinary Macnab.”
“Was last season a busy one for you?”
“I’m on a syndicate at Sudeley Castle; we had three days there which were great. They are not big bag days and not particularly varied but it is my kind of shooting because it is a bunch of mates who don’t get to see each other that much, so shooting… it’s kind of the fulcrum of our getting together. We have dinner the night before, followed by a dinner with the wives on the night of the shoot. I think my favourite shoot is Al Ward’s Cornwell Manor, just outside Chipping Norton. It is a wonderful estate with such a wonderful mix of quarry. He’s created a wonderful bog area which is known as Al’s Wet Patch… there are snipe and teal. It is still a private family shoot, a rare thing. I don’t do an enormous amount but if you’re asked by a friend to shoot on their own estate, it is a huge privilege; one quickly clears the diary.
“I love driven days but the bag size is irrelevant. I have just as much fun going out with Casper, my son, walking around trying to get some pigeon. There is a very nice man who has some ground next to us and he lets Casper and I walk that.”
“Does your son shoot too?”
“No, Casper doesn’t have a gun yet. If he comes out, he comes beating and picking-up. He is eight now. It is quite hard to know when they can first have a .410 or a 16 bore. I took Casper out on one of the Sudeley days and on one drive, which was right up on the ridge, it was pouring with rain and he was miserable and cold. I thought, oh dear, this is not going to work. On other occasions we have been on a great drive and I have had my eye in a bit and he counts, very carefully. The problem with having your son out with you is that when you get back into the wagon he delightfully tells all the other guns exactly how many birds you have actually hit. It’s a great leveller.
“I use a British side-by-side, built by Greener. I went out with a view to buy one gun but bought two. The side-by-side is actually the second gun of a pair. I am now trying to find number one. I just like the beauty of an old English shotgun; it is something I just couldn’t resist. I also bought an over-under as well, a Browning with 32” barrels for clays and pigeons.
“I shoot with a side-by-side for game. I love that heritage and the process of shooting. It’s rather like making a cocktail, assembling the gun and then the whole thing of cleaning the gun afterwards. I love all the accoutrements that go with shooting. I love the ritual of it. When I clean my gun, I pour myself a dram and think of everything that I’ve missed.”
“Come on, you’re not that bad; I’ve seen you shoot.”
“I get by and you see, my parents didn’t shoot, so I wasn’t brought up shooting. I first shot when I was about 19. The first shoot I ever went on was at Glyndebourne in Sussex. I was invited by Tol Christie, who I lived with at university. I didn’t shoot particularly well because I had never really done it before. I was safe but not very… accomplished shall we say, and half way through the drive, Sir George Christie suggested I went back to the house to look after the children.”
Aside from Simon Davis, other Robert Cuthbert interviewees for Shooting Stars include: