Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The Glorious Twelfth

“Are you teachers?” It’s the second most popular question we get asked, after ”Are you doing it for charity?’’ What people really mean is ‘how come you can get seven weeks off work to do something like this?’ Well, it’s one of the advantages of self employment, the ability to stop trading, stop earning money and go spend it instead. But if we think we have it good, some people have it even better.

We met Gerard on our way up the Drumochter Pass. He was sheltering from the midges in his top of the range Range Rover, doing business on his mobile when we crawled past and interrupted his day. “I used to race,” he said as he stopped us to tell us about himself, “got a Scottish National medal you know. Still cycle to work sometimes now, 19 miles each way.” He didn’t look much of a cyclist now, dressed in green barbour waistcoat and knee length laced hunting boots, more portly country gentleman.

He was waiting to join a local keeper on the Dalncardoch Estate, for a day out with a German party, heading out for six hours grouse beating and shooting in the highland heather. He smiled and motioned to the yapping in his 4x4, “Like to get out and train my twelve dogs in the thick of the hunt, the young ones forget everything I’ve taught them and go wild when they get the scent of game in their noses.” A bit like our boys when they spot a playground.

“Hunting’s my passion now but not my business ,” he explained, “I have a young MD to run that for me, especially around the Glorious Twelfth.” The date had passed me by, as things do after four of five weeks on the road, one day blending into another, days and dates becoming meaningless markers in an alternative world in which everything is marked in miles and mealtimes. “Ay, ask anyone in Scotland about CJ Smiths and they’ll know me,” he continued, “….glazing and conservatories for over 30 years.” For all his talking Gerard was not your typical double glazing salesman, more a self-made lad come Laird and I envied his ability to take time out to pursue his passion while others earnt his money, a skill we have yet to acquire. Still, I was grateful for the large note he stuffed into our charity collection tin.

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