Cotswold Voice: Shooting woes for Adam Edwards

The mistle thrush, Adam Edwards' unintended victim / Photo: Erni [Shutterstock]

The mistle thrush, Adam Edwards' unintended victim / Photo: Erni [Shutterstock] - Credit: Archant

Adam Edwards: Once, when Yuppies strode the earth and I patronised the Groucho Club, I was a member of a serious shooting syndicate. But no more...

Adam Edwards with 'plat du jour' mistle thrush

Adam Edwards with 'plat du jour' mistle thrush - Credit: Archant

Some are born with great hand-eye co-ordination – Tin Tin Ho the rising star of British Table Tennis for example – while others are not so blessed. I fall into the latter category.

I mention this because I was asked shooting last month. I tend to be invited towards the end of the season after the urban financiers have decimated the Cotswold hedgerows and those few winged beasts that remain alive are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The reason for these kind invitations is because my hosts know that those birds that can still wobble across a late January sky will not be troubled by my gun, or rather the worst that can happen to them is that my bang banging will give them a migraine.

It was not always thus. Once, when Yuppies strode the earth and I sported a Prince of Wales check suit and patronised the Groucho Club, I was a member of a serious shooting syndicate. Armed with an elderly BSA shooter, with barrels so short I could have robbed a post office, I spent many a crisp autumn day swinging at high pheasants. In those days I could hit the occasional low fat game bird and once even downed a pigeon – a feat so fantastic that I still remember the number on the metal band ringing its right foot. Anyway for reasons that in hindsight seem contrary I left the syndicate moved to the Cotswolds and mothballed my gun.

A decade later when a local shoot was, at the last moment, a gun short I was strong-armed into bringing out the BSA. And it was then that I realised I was no Tin Tin Ho. I fired my gun with vigour and hit nothing, absolutely nothing. But, much to my surprise, my host and the other guns seemed to find this highly amusing. So much so in fact that ever since I have occasionally been summoned to one or two late season shoots as a figure of fun, a sort of geeky ex-London loon in breeks.

And so it was that a few weeks ago an invitation came from my friend Pedro. It was a fine day and the guns were wearing one thermal too many as they set off for the first drive in which I peppered a low partridge although this was subsequently disputed by the blokes with dogs as nobody could find the winged thing. The second drive was less of a success but on the third drive I was back in my Filofax years. The first covey of partridges came out of the woods like a squadron of Stukas. Bang went the BSA and a red-legged fowl caught a packet. The next group passed safely over my head except for a very high bird lurking behind the main body. I swung, fired and it too dropped dead - a shot that was the equal of that which had taken out that squab a quarter of a century ago.

Shortly before the last drive I strolled past the game cart with its pairs of game birds hanging from their baling twine nooses and I noticed in particular a pale creature dangling alone; a black spotted fledgling with a long tail with a whitish edge. “Somebody probably thought it was a high partridge,” joked a fellow gun. “Best to say nothing.” But my chum Boot, who had been on a neighbouring peg, did not agree. Like a barking mad Emile Zola he bellowed “It was Edwards that shot the mistle thrush”.

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I had never heard of a mistle thrush. (One reason for my ignorance is that there are, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, only 170,000 breeding pairs in the UK - a number unfortunately now reduced to 169,999. The bird’s decline is due ironically to the RSPB’s enthusiasm for protecting raptors, which are now more commonplace than sparrows in my neck of the Cotswolds.)

The next day I had mysteriously been joined to the RSPB and twitchers were love-bombing my email. The following Saturday I was sitting in my local with Pedro and Boot supping my pint and awaiting a ham and cheese sandwich. However, instead of the expected toastie, a garnished, gutted and plucked mistle thrush arrived. It came with a menu that claimed it was the plat du jour, that it was served with a large slice of humble pie and that it was priceless.

Readers might be interested to know that it was no bigger than a ping-pong ball, it tasted of celluloid and that it may be another decade before the BSA once more swings across an open sky.