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After Christmas and The New Year, most people are feeling over fed, over drunk and probably pretty broke!
For the few, there is that break in the sun to look forward to, for the majority it is back to the grindstone and time to get our businesses sorted for the year ahead.
January for me is always a month I look forward to, as most years I seem to be fortunate enough, thanks to the generosity of some of my very kind friends, to enjoy some excellent days pheasant shooting. This year was no exception and I was lucky to criss cross the country on half a dozen times to shoot with some of my racing friends – many of them clients of Weatherbys in one way or another – and many of them usually have other guests shooting who hopefully will soon also be clients of Weatherbys! A day in the shooting field is a perfect networking opportunity!
Besides enjoying the hospitality of my friends I also share in a day’s shooting at the beautiful home of Alastair MacDonald-Buchanan in Northamptonshire, where the trainer Hughie Morrison, Alastair and I split the day. This year it was my time to have half of the guns to dinner the night before which was beautifully cooked by Carol with her ‘Piece de Résistance’ crab soufflé to start (secret recipe much requested!) As one of my guests included The Senior Steward, thought I had better make sure the Claret was up to scratch. Fortunately I had purchased some very nice 1999 Margaux from Chateau Kirwan when one could afford to buy wines en primeur. Imagine my surprise on opening a case of 1999 to find that all the bottles were labelled 1996 – too late to worry about it and whether it was ’96 or ’99 it drank beautifully and I am now considering whether I should send the only remaining bottle back to the supplier, Johnny Goedhuis to see if he thinks I deserve a replacement case!
Shooting close to home is an added bonus as I am able to take my little Scottie dog, Betsy out with me. Not really the most ideal shooting dog and she did get quite a few disapproving looks, but she was very sporting, behaved beautifully and was very proud of the odd bird that her master managed to shoot! No more appropriate place to take her as The Buchanan Family were the producers of Black & White Whisky, which used The Black Scottie and The White Westie on their logo!
My shooting season was brought to a close with a wonderful day at Lofts Hall courtesy of Hugo Lascelles, again a day full of racing folk, where there is always much ribaldry amongst the guns. Shooting etiquette is normally quite important to observe during a day’s shooting but on this day I witnessed something not seen before. In the last drive, a certain English Duke, who was drawn on peg 1 on the end of the line was given instructions by his host that he could “roam” a bit – by that I think he meant out to his right beyond Peg 1. I was therefore somewhat surprised to find that halfway through the drive, The Duke had roamed not to his right but halfway down the line of guns to his left standing directly behind me on Peg 5. Clearly he had decided that either I was a very bad shot and so would mop up behind me or else he wanted to keep a close eye on his wife who happened to be standing with me! Fortunately I shot like a God so his roaming was in vain!
The greatest excitement in January for The Weatherbys Team was the return to the track of our filly, Native Beauty. Fantastically well orchestrated by the great Henderson, who found a suitable race on a Sunday at the local track, Towcester when the office was shut and everybody could come with their families, with everybody getting in for free.
The race looked quite hot on paper so there was no real confidence, and for a Henderson horse to go off at 8/1 in a smallish field is quite rare. Anyway she bolted up to give us all a great thrill and The Towcester executive a nervous moment as 40 people descended for the winning owners’ celebratory drink. Fortunately The Towcester Team know how to look after connections and everyone was treated royally.
What a lovely problem to have – where to go next with Native Beauty??