W3C Bloody Inbred MEMORIES


Recently I submitted the following “piece” to a weekly publication who were kind enough to print it, however it got edited quite dramatically (which is of course their prerogative), however for me it was spoilt. This is the original submission.

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It seemed to have rained for most of the previous week, the beck, which flowed through the centre of the village, was fast moving and swollen with rain, the drains long ago blocked with fallen leaves had given up the unequal struggle to cope with the torrents of water running down the roads and large puddles had formed through which the local children ran, splashing and shouting. The surrounding fells had slept most of the week under a low covering of mist and rain clouds.

The morning dawned, very dark and rain continued to fall from a low overcast sky. We stood below the mist, which obscured the fellside above. The ground was saturated and small rivulets of water ran down the hillside, falling over small rocks here and there to produce mini waterfalls. Every footstep squelched. The sound of rain on my waterproof top had become so familiar I no longer noticed it, to put it simply, it was, some would say, a typical Lakeland morning. For the umpteenth time this morning I had a moan about the weather, this was met with the usual curt answer that I was a “soft bugger”. Why were you standing getting soaked to the skin on that desolate fellside, I hear you ask. Well the answer is simple - we were waiting for the hunt.

The meet was advertised at the Kennels for the valley in which we stood, and we were standing on the steep fellside, about a mile further up, above an old packhorse bridge. To our right was a wood containing old quarry workings much frequented by foxes, especially the spoil heaps, above us and ahead the open fell broken only with semi derelict walls, small crags and bracken beds as the fell climbed away to the valley head, three hard miles further along.

We knew the hounds would come up our side of the valley, rather than the opposite side with its borrans and bracken beds, because Jack had met somebody in the village the previous evening. The wood we had recently passed through would provide dry laying up for a fox driven off the tops by the increasing storm raging on the heights above. “Should have lowsed by now,” I said hopefully looking at the ancient timepiece attached to my wrist, hoping it might suggest by the time and lack of any action, they had decided not to and we could go back down and home. Just at that moment the faint cry of hounds drifted up the valley. Jack glanced at me. “Doubter,” he said. I was just thinking of some smart reply when a big red deer stag, no doubt sheltering from the weather and disturbed by the hounds, shot out of the wood almost beside where we were standing, such was the speed with which he had vacated the wood a small branch was caught in his antlers; he passed by so close you could see droplets of water on his coat and smell his breath. “Hell, that was close,“ said Jack as the deer bounded away up the sodden fellside, not looking back. “Don’t know who was the more surprised him or me.” “Big un too,” I opinionated. Before Jack could reply the sound of a holloa carried up to us on the fellside.

It wasn’t the clear resounding halloa which echoes from the rocks, but one more like as Jack put it, “somebody having his bollocks squeezed”; however irrespective of the purity of the sound it was a halloa which meant a chance of a hunt. I looked down into the valley below which was rapidly becoming obscured by mist, blowing in and out on the breeze, one moment you could see the river and track below, the next moment nothing.

The mist parted and briefly I could see the originator of the halloa, standing on the bridge and pointing with his stick, the screams continued.

“That man is a living legend,” said Jack, “they had a lock in last night at the pub, and he was still there at 4 am.” The mist closed over the gesticulating figure and he was lost to view; the screams however continued.

Down the fellside came the hounds, almost all of the pack. They had been coming through the wood on a high level when the halloaing began several hundred feet below. They too disappeared into the mist, the odd bark helping to locate their position. Soon sounds of encouragement from the man on the bridge were heard as the hounds got to him. It was impossible to make out what he was saying, shrieks and whoops being the main constituents, whatever it was that he was doing was successful as a crash of music carried up to us as hounds struck the line.

To this cacophony of sound was added, from low down in the wood, the huntsman’s cries of encouragement and the cracking of his whip. Jack and I looked at each other and smiled at the memory. On another hunt, some while before, the huntsman had got a “larl bit excited” and begun to crack his whip. Nothing wrong in that you may think and you’d be right unless you happened to be a follower of many years standing who caught the tip on his ear and produced one of the longest tirades of abuse I have ever heard and I’m certain he never used the same obscenity twice. The ear in question glowed on that cold winter's morning for quite some time after.

The hounds splashed across the beck, although we could not see them due to the mist which again had closed in, their music drifted over to us but began to get fainter as they climbed the opposite fellside. Without a word we turned and began to descend the steep sodden fellside towards the valley bottom. Jack’s morning was much enlivened when I lost my footing and slid down the fellside, my waterproofs speeding up my slide. Finally I managed to stop and with a couple of curses followed Jack towards the ramshackle gate, which led to the bridge. Soon we were standing on the bridge, rain running down our faces and in my case down my neck; all you could hear was the rising wind and the roar of the flooded beck under our feet. “Good to nowt,” I said, ascending the fellside in order to get some quietso as to perhaps hear some music or even a bark, giving an idea as to which way they had gone. But all was quiet; the only sound was that of rain on my waterproofs and the squelch of my boots on the sodden turf. At the stile above the bridge I halted and Jack came up, together we huddled in the lee of the wall as the storm increased in intensity, discussing our options.

A party of walkers, who suddenly loomed out of the mist, interrupted our deliberations; we moved to one side to allow them access to the stile and nodded a greeting in their general direction. A large formidable looking lady in an orange top marched over to me, almost knocking me over, her face and flushed red cheeks were reminiscent as Jack later remarked of a well-slapped backside (I didn’t ask). “It’s barbaric,” she bellowed, her face about two feet from mine. Taken by surprise I gasped, “What is?” She inhaled deeply, “Fox hunting,” she bellowed, “letting those hounds chase a poor defenceless fox, and now you have lost them, haven’t you?” Jack had moved deeper into the lee of the wall to try to light his pipe. I looked over at him and saw he was doing his best not to laugh. “They are here,” shouted the lady thrusting a map case dripping water under my nose and pointing to a marked crag about two hundred yards from where we stood, but totally invisible in the mist. “All standing on the rocks too tired to bark, lost, wet and no doubt cold and hungry, you should be ashamed of yourselves taking them out on such a foul morning.” I looked at her. “Thank you,” I mumbled, “we will go and collect them directly.” She glared at me. “And make sure you towel them down properly too," she snarled and turning on her heel she followed the remainder of her group, who by now had crossed the stile and were descending the track down to the bridge.

To this day I’m sure I heard her mutter “bloody inbred” as she squelched away.

Shortly after we stood on the borran, the rain, heavier now, fell from the mist leaden sky, our friend from the bridge looked at us, water running down his face, his cap long since blown away on the wind. “A bad job this,” he opinionated, “even mi terrier isn’t for it.” I looked at him. “That makes two of us,” I said. “Nowt’s changed with you then,” grinned Jack, “but you're right, let’s go down.” He looked at the hounds. “Do you reckon they will come with us, it’s getting worse.” We turned and made for the track which would ultimately lead down past the kennels. “Come, come,” we cried at the hounds, without much conviction. Twenty yards further on I paused and looked back, and saw a line of hounds following along the path.

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