Country mouse on frosts

Last winter, we barely had a frost, but we have had two in Hampshire already. The ice turns the sparrows, tits, blackbirds and finches into beggars around the bird table. Each bird waits, with a different degree of nervousness, for the feeders to be refilled.

The frosts stripped the ash trees of their leaves, which is as I like it when shooting, as, for reasons of superstition, I always try and spot an ash tree at the start of a drive: failure to do so convinces me I will shoot like a mug. It mattered more than usual to shoot adequately last Saturday, as it was the 31st year of the boys’ shoot. Shooting with very old friends is the best social pastime of all, a time of joshing and laughs, and a complete contrast with fishing’s lonely pleasure, which is in forming a bond with the river.

I count myself fortunate to be able to adore both. It was one of those days when everyone, at some stage, mumbled how ‘lucky we were with the weather’. The pheasants flew strongly on the breeze, their beautiful colours glowing against the sun. It was a special day. I didn’t really need an ash tree to feel lucky.