Dai Mole gave me a pound to buy beer; it was the first and last time he acted so generous towards me. Beer was around 12 pence a pint in 1970, and petrol 32 pence a gallon in decimal currency. We were still using pounds, shillings and pence then, though. A working man could buy six pints of beer with an hour’s pay if he shopped around.
Dai asked if I would like to know how to catch pheasants without firing a shot. “Yes,” I answered and he agreed to “show me the ropes”.
I stood outside Llwynu School at 7 o’clock one cold and dark Saturday evening. My ears stung with the cold; the temperature must have been hovering around freezing.
Dai turned up twenty minutes late and drove me to a pub on the Old Ross Road.
Dai’s nemesis was a certain gamekeeper who bragged he was so good at his job that local poachers, and he knew them all, were really no match for him. I will call this keeper Fred: not his given name.
Dai sent me into the pub armed with a pound note and instructions to find out as much as I could about Fred’s modus operandi. I was nineteen: at this tender age I imaged I knew it all. In fact, someone so young knows very little about how wheels turn within wheels. I knew Fred, though not too well. He employed me as a beater on a few occasions. I also knew that he and Dai didn’t see eye-to-eye and that they had recently had an altercation where Fred accused Dai of poaching.
I spotted Fred sitting at the bar as soon as I walked in, and sort of casually sat next to him before ordering a pint. “Don’t often see you around here, lad,” Fred said, recognising me instantly. “What’s the occasion?” “Just popped in for a quick one, Fred! “ I answered in a matter-of-fact, but friendly way. As the evening progressed we got on like a house-on-fire, he pumping me for information about Dia as much as I pumped him about his nocturnal activities.
By the end of the night we were the best of friends. “Got to go on my rounds now,” said Fred. “See you around!” And off Fred went on his wobbly way.
Dai was due to pick me up along the Ross Road at 11.30pm. So I slowly finished my pint before setting off, also unsteadily, down the road. I was most of the way home and almost frozen to the bone before I heard Dai’s Landi drawing up behind me.
It was as cold inside the Land Rover as outside in the raw night air. I wasn’t in much of a condition to tell Dai what I had learned from Fred that evening, nor was he interested in hearing what I had to tell. “We talk about it another time,” he said.
A few weeks later I met Fred in the King’s Head. Apparently, whilst we were drinking in the Ross Road pub, a gang of poachers had robbed him of three dozen pheasants. “I don’t suppose you know anything about it?” asked Fred. “It’s the first I’ve heard of it, Fred!” I answered truthfully. “If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.”
Dai Mole never did show me how to catch pheasants without shooting them.
A handsome common awl robber-fly (neoitamus cyanurus) photographed by Mike Averill on Wilden south marsh yesterday.
The River Stour and Hoo Brook water levels have been up and down like a yoyo over the last few days. At midday today the brook level was 250mm below the surface of the concrete bridge, and it is rising.
All manner of rubbish is floating down the Stour; trees and bushes have been washed into the river, causing rubbish traps and blockages — all par for the course during flood conditions.