By Alexandra Henton of The Field
Monday, 14 February 2011
See how the Field man plights his troth. Rural romance from sporting swains in the field.
The infamous chubby sprite forces his way into our national consciousness this month. Most sensible types, however, will be among the vanguard organising cracking dinner parties, a spot of late-season shooting or a bracing February meet. When it comes to love and romance, the field man follows some basic but strong guiding principles. Always be prepared, never alarm the quarry,
and never, ever attempt dinner a deux on St Valentine's day (a sure-fire damp squib).
When it is time to pop that question everyone knows it's not what you say but the way you say it. The staunchest of birds can become the flightiest with an incautious word or rash deed. And yet who does not recoil from the ring 'n' restaurant cycle? Fortunately for the bucolic pioneers, other options are to hand.
Fishing and romance are rare bedfellows. There are some exceptions. A secluded picnic blanket by the side of a gurg-ling chalkstream in summer has allure and there are fishing huts on the Test where nymphing starts in May. But the waders, Polaroids and bottles of Gink are more likely to drive a wedge between a courting pair than facilitate a declaration. And though they may conceal it prettily, many's the decent country girl left shuddering at the prospect of an icy week's spring salmon fishing.
Bearing all this in mind, Charlie Ramsay - founder of www.historicbritain.com - who is an all-round sportsman and Highland hero, set about orchestrating his trothing with military precision. Heading north to engage the salmon, the plan was marshalled.
The serious hunter isn't to be deterred from sport easily. A Leicestershire swain suggested a hunting trip to his childhood haunt in Norfolk as part of a carefully cultivated plan. A day with the North Norfolk Harriers was promptly organised. "On arrival, the hireling lady had run out of horses and my horse lost a shoe. Not a particularly auspicious start," his wife reveals. "When he finally appeared on the hunting field he was on something that looked like a cart-horse - the most unattractive thing I have ever seen on four legs. We just couldn't stop laughing, " she continues. "It refused a small rail and as hounds were screaming I went on and we were separated for about an hour," she recalls.
"When he eventually caught up he volunteered to stay behind and shut the gate - much to my annoyance. I had been having a fantastic day." Once everyone had passed through the gate our hunting hero asked the question and received an affirmative. "There are now two oak trees planted either side of the gateway and we are both still hunting, but now with our four children," she says.
If not taking part in a traditional fieldsport, then the right-thinking man is still likely to choose a different sporting
setting for his romantic aspirations. The ski slopes are particularly popular. The snow brings out the chivalrous nature of the most hardened country types. Over the past few years almost every bunch of friends returning from a ski trip has reported an engagement. A usually robust chap became so nervous about the consequences of the annual Meribel jaunt that he's refused to sign up this year.
Following the future Prince of Wales's lead, the African safari proposal seems likely to gain in popularity, although the hunting man has often chased romance in exotic surrounds. An adventurous shot proposed on horseback in Mongolia and another has deemed a boar hunt the most likely of places, although he is yet to meet a suitable can-didate. Whether a ring attached to the front of the boar's nose is a practical possibility has yet to be decided.
Away from the field the hunt ball remains the essential pre-proposal ground. Alongside the Game Fair it is the backbone of many blessed shire unions. Numerous are the country cads who have met their match in the early hours in a Shire marquee; for better or worse. I tripped over Mr Right while visiting the Wynnstay hunt ball five years ago. He proposed on a hill overlooking Quorn Friday country (the way to any hunting girl's heart) and reader, I'll marry him.
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