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Jottings From A Factors Scrapbook
Taking a none too serious look behind the scenes of a rural estate.
ON DOGS AT SHOOTS
His prowess was such that he was seldom if ever seen perpetrating what he obviously considered to be his function at a shoot. At least that was the case initially and my own embarrassment was therefore short lived for a time. As the season wore on however the reputation of the oft times phantom waterspout became more widespread and my circle of shooting friends seemed to diminish.
His every move, from his joyous exit from my car in the morning to his jaded return that evening was observed with military precision. Conversations became disrupted by sideways and downward glances.
Only when the next mighty oath erupted and a considerable shaking of wetted leg ensued, would something like normality reign in the knowledge that there would be a respite for perhaps ten minutes.
As invitations to shoots became fewer and further between, other targets became of interest to Widdle. An afternoon nap on our local park bench became a thing of the past as those lovely inviting legs were homed in upon.
Sadly he never did learn the real purpose of lamp posts and trees.
ON THE ORIGIN OF WOODLANDS
I had already had the temerity of prejudging the situations and stating that it would be a mixture of Scots Pine and oak. In my mind's eye I had the vision of several thousand transplants which had been languishing in our forest nursery for several years awaiting such a chance as this since I couldn't think what else to do with them. Burke was beginning to cloud the issue by appearing to wish to preserve an open mind whilst the matter was given further consideration.
We all stood about gazing at the wilderness around us and Sir Jeremy having now taken his place on a shooting stick, hip flask at the ready, eventually remarks that as it was oak last time it really should be conifers this time. I applaud this solution heartily since after all that would take care of half of my problem and no doubt the oaks could surreptitiously find their way here too. To my amazement Burke bends over an adjacent rabbit hole and scoops up some of the soil. It is passed from hand to hand and sniffed occasionally. No one seems quite clear as to the merits of this process although Burke refers to it as a scientific soil test. Sir Jeremy confines himself to knowledgeable grunts. He then looks at his watch and informs us that he must be pushing off now so what was the decision to be. "Thuja Plicata", came the astonishing reply from Burke. Until that moment Sir Jeremy had considered this to be some form of notifiable disease and rather than look foolish appeared to agree vigorously. Fortunately his enthusiasm was short lived when he became more concerned with moving rabbit droppings from his breast pocket, blown from the soil sample by an inconsiderate gust of wind. "That's it then", I said, "oak and Scots pine, don't you agree Burke?"
After all, what are we going to do with the transplants in the nursery? It was inconceivable, but I was almost certain that he mumbled something about being in favour of burning them. Sir Jeremy finally decides to push off but instructs us not to decide upon anything that won't give a bit of holding for the birds later on.
And so it came about that after such careful planning and deliberation there was planted a woodland of Scots pine with, here and there, some oak.
But this is the Notting-Badley Estate. Perhaps it couldn't happen anywhere else. . . .
In closing these ramblings from a factor's notebooks I am reminded of the following jingle -
In boyhood days I woke from sleep,
|This article first appeared in the Caithness Field Club Bulletin April 1987|