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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Partridges etc.

Weather : dark & overcast - beginning to snow
Temperature : minus two & falling
Earth : hard as iron
Water : like a stone

Good conditions for hunting ? You bet your ass.

We in the UK have a particularly morbid way to celebrate the birth of Christ around this time of year. The tradition comes in many forms but always involves inflicting pain on small animals. The Boxing Day Hunt leaves from the grounds of Ludlow castle at midday to huge cheers from an adoring crowd. Red-coated gentry mount their steeds and charge off into the fields to do battle with crafty mr. Fox. At the same time teams of barber-coated huntsmen trawl through the damp forests armed with double-barrelled shotguns. They are preceeded by a crowd of "beaters" whose sole purpose is to disturb pheasants from their slumber so that they can be shot (that's pheasants with an "h" mind - we're not completely stuck in the dark ages here !).

There has been much debate over the ethics and legality of hunting over the last couple of years in the UK, which eventually led to hunting with dogs being banned back in February last year. An argument in favour of hunting is that it makes the connection between eating meat and the death of an animal. A hunter will say "yum yum - I need to eat so I hunt - it is my most basic right". To which I absolutely agree. But there comes a point where it's clear people are doing it just for fun - a local shoot in Shrophire has to hire a JCB each new year to bury the mounds of pheasant (with an "h") carcasses.

There is a point to this rambling and it is this : whilst others practise their hunting method of choice the family Lewis decided to try something a little different this year and so headed deep into the Shropshire hills armed only with ... hawks. Yes - hawks. Harris hawks to be precise and there's a picture of one below. He's called Mo. See how fearless I am when face to face with such a lethal killing machine. See how wonderful it is to see man living so seamlessly with nature. Aaaah. Mmmmm. I won't mention that Mo actually fell off my hand after the picture was taken. Actually fell off ! I didn't even know that birds fell over !

They called me Captain Fearless by the end of the day

Sister Camilla also showed little sign of fear

Christmas itself was fantastic. Turkey galore and the usual fuzzy mix of endless puzzles and chocolate boxes filled the Lewis household as it does every year for three or four days. Now I have to try and get the car back on the road and start heading back to Barcelona. Boooo ! Hopefully stopping in France on the way through to spend New Year with a couple of old spankers from school staying out there, then on to Barcelona after that.

Mmm. Need more turkey.

Mum, Camilla and me

A studious Lewis Christmas

When I finally came around on Boxing Day I realised that Chris had bought me a ticket to go and see Wolves play Reading at Molineux. The last time I had been was Boxing Day last year when we drew with Brighton 1-1 so was expecting a similar good-spirited result this time. It wasn't to be however as Wolves had obviously had a mulled wine and turkey party just before the game and couldn't physically run around the pitch. Dreadful - made worse by the fact that Reading didn't even play very well and still ended up stuffing us 2-0 !!! At least I had the famous Balti pie at half time (the real taste of the Black Country !!!).

The indominable figure of Billy Wright watches over the Wolves ground

Come on the Wolves !

(addendum - sitting next to mother in the kitchen where she has just discovered predictive text and has succeeded in sending my sister a message saying "hi this is mutterss pop love nun" - gawd bless 'er !)

(additional addendum - domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys, however, can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They can also reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground. Imagine that !!! That is a really wild turkey !!!


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