Thank you. Thank you. I accept this award on behalf of all my fellow serfs and servants. Yes we are wearing knee length trousers and knitted long socks with matching garters. The plaid is chosen by the estate and matching suits are made in London. The 'keepers get a new suit every other year, as stated in their contract of employment.
Mike and all the underkeepers have to wear the wool suit regardless of temperature, though yesterday the team allowed him to work without his jacket on. But he had to ask permission of the shoot captain. Etiquette, you know.
It's a bold fashion statement, but also functional. The wool is tough against the brambles and thorns encountered on shoot days. One of my wifely duties is to check his suit after every shoot day, and pull any threads back through that have caught on thorns, or darn any tears. It is a glamorous life.
The trousers are short so they don't chafe under long boots or, traditionally, leather gaiters worn to protect the lower leg. You may have heard the term 'plus twos' or 'plus fours'? It refers to the amount of overhang at the knee - 2 inches or 4 inches. The knee is cinched and the overhang directs water over the top of your boot or gaiters, not into it. The ones I'm wearing are actually riding trousers (too hot for wool, I don't have to ask permission) and have no overhang. On a rainy day the capillary action where the trouser meets the sock would mean I had wet feet by lunchtime. And because they're not as sturdy a material, I was patching a hole just the night before, on the inside thigh where I caught my backside going over a barbed wire fence.
But the day was beautiful, sunny and warm. Not the best weather for flying birds (has to do with position of the sun, barometric pressure, and the birds' tendencies to wander on nice days). But the team of guns were lovely, and keen on their first partridge day. Here's a picture of the guns lined out at a drive -
The birds will fly over their heads from right to left in this photo. Poor Lord M saw a bird late and by the time he raised his gun and pulled the trigger he was bent backwards; the recoil nearly sent him rolling down the hill. The same happened on the next drive and it did catch him out. I expect he's sore this morning.
The dogs are alert, watching birds and marking the ones that are hit -
Look at the concentration. We were posted in the woods, looking for stragglers. The woods were dappled and cooler, which both the dogs and I appreciated -
The dogs caught two birds - a pheasant and a partridge - both unharmed. And because these 2 spaniels have soft mouths, I could let them go again to fly another day. It's only good sportsmanship. I took a picture of the partridge as they are such attractive little birds up close -
I don't think she's impressed by the experience. The total bag for the day was 191 partridge, and the guns were happy. The partridge have already gone to the game dealer and are probably on their way to market in Belgium. A few went home with the beaters and pickers up for their suppers. More game is eaten on the continent than in England.
It was also my 40th birthday yesterday, and I had lots of cards and well wishing from friends and family. Mike bought me too many gifts as he always goes overboard, but it was thoughtful of him. I did get the sheep trailer of my dreams, and a jam funnel and thermometer. What more does any woman need?
He had to admit that he'd also bought me a flock of Shetland/Dorset cross sheep, but only after I'd surprised him with my news of the Gotlands that were arriving in Spring. So his sheep went back. But it was a nice thought. He has promised me he won't buy any more livestock as presents. I hope I can hold him to that!