Am singularly lacking in festive cheer. Thought: "I know. I'll go shooting." I have never been shooting before unless you count a couple of times at school and at fairs at those irritating ducks that paddle by regardless of the popping corks around them.
A friend set me up with a local shoot. I knew I needed some gear; I have a rough idea of what people who go shooting wear because I see them on a morning as I drive by on the school run - a lot of tweed, strange knickerbockers and cartridge belts. I tried to borrow what I needed but all I could muster was a waterproof coat the size of a tent and a pair of hunting socks. This particular combination might have made me quite popular on the shoot but I thought I might catch a chill. I went into a nearby country shop. The very charming man who owns it is a keen fan of shooting. He obviously approved of my decision to give it a go - I do not think he was influenced by the fact he was about to earn a walloping amount of money.
The "outfitter" held up a pair of the aforementioned knickerbockers or breeks as they are technically termed. They are supposed to finish just under the knee. This pair finished at my ankles. I think I must be shorter than the average "gun". He found me a smaller pair. When I say smaller - I mean leg length. Silk lined, tweed knickerbockers feel fabulous on, warm and roomy but they do nothing to minimise your backside. He handed me a checked shirt. I hated it immediately but it was in brushed cotton and I decided I could live with it if it kept me warm. I baulked at both the green and the orange lambswool jumpers on the grounds you had to draw a line somewhere but I decided I needed the fitted Barbour jacket because my only outdoor alternative is my fabuous floor length coat or a very scruffy tan suede jacket which is falling apart at the seams. The Barbour belts at the waist. I did not think this would be a brilliant idea bearing in mind the knickerbockers underneath but amazingly it worked very well. It was slightly World War Two ( - the Nazis not the good guys). I thought I was done until he handed me a tweed Gainsborough cap (same tweed as the knickerbockers). I looked a picture. I said to the outfitter: "I don't want to look like I'm cross-dressing you know." He laughed. He said: "Not at all." I am not sure if he realised what I meant by "cross-dressing". I think it is possible he thought I meant it made me look slightly mean rather than entirely fragrant. I bought the lot and the next morning climbed into my gear not forgetting the borrowed green hunting socks which are long and which you tie under the knee and over the cuff of the knickerbocker with a tasselled yellow gaiter. You then bend the sock back over the gaiter but allow the tassel to fall outside your wellington boots. I thought there was a chance I looked like a Principal Boy (absurd, cute, sexually ambiguous) and there was a chance I looked like Mr Toad (tweedy, green and fat). I came down to the kitchen. My six-year-old said: "Mummy - you look stupid." My four-year-old could not speak for laughing; the baby girl said "Where's Mummy?" and began to wail. My husband looked me up and down. He said: "Exactly how much did that lot cost?"