After watching a bit of the Masters on telly last night, I decided to get up at the crack of dawn and play a little golf myself this morning. I like this early-morning golf because there is no one else to disturb me on the course and I get back in time for breakfast. I also seem to play better when I’m my own scorer. I didn’t play very well today, which I attribute to the song which came on when I drove to the course. I have my music on random and have started convincing myself that the song which comes on will affect how well I play. The first song to come on was “The Optimism Blues” by Allen Toussaint – a good sign, I thought. Unfortunately it was followed by “Just another Sucker on the Vine” by Tom Waits. That summed up my golf – I kept playing wildly optimistic shots and getting myself in trouble.
Still, I was back in time for breakfast and enjoyed being out in the fresh air as the sun came up. The birds were really taking the dawn chorus seriously today – what a racket! I saw a couple of jays, lots of coaltits, a red kite and a couple of buzzards. At one stage a hare ran out in front of me. You see lots of wildlife on these early-morning expeditions. It’s more or less the same stuff you see back home in England – except that the squirrels are all red and we do have wild boar! Last summer I was wandering around in the woods with the girls and we saw a family of boar feeding about a hundred yards away. They disappeared quite quickly. I was happy about this because they can apparently be aggressive when their kids are with them. We got a shock half an hour later when the whole lot ran past us – this time probably no more than 20 feet away.
Another thing you see dotted all around Germany, especially near forests, are the hunters’ “Hochsitz”, which means high seat. These are fairly crudely-built wooden boxes on stilts, a perfect sniper spot. The hunters sit in them and wait for the deer to come along before thinning them out. Our village is surrounded by woods and fields and very occasionally I hear an early morning rifle shot ring out. Apparently the best time to hunt is after dusk or just before dawn – but in all my time in Germany I have never seen a hunter actually sitting in one of their seats. Hunting here is, surprise surprise, very strictly regulated. There are all sorts of courses and exams necessary before they let you near a gun. A lot of it is about understanding nature and not much about actually shooting Bambi. The hunters here work closesly with the foresters and will only thin out the animals when necessary (whatever that means). There is also an offical hunter for each town or village. If you are unfortunate enough to hit an animal on the road, the hunter is called out to make sure it’s dead and dispose of the remains.
Hunting here is a very quiet, patient, serious pasttime – to me it looks pretty boring as well, but each to his own. Hunters wear green, non-rustling clothing and spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing. It’s so far away from the English idea of red-jacketed trumpeteers chasing a fox or champagne-fuelled bankers blowing the wings off grouse. It’s a gentle thing over here. Well, it’s as gentle as shooting a deer in the heart can be I suppose.
After breakfast the sun made an appearance so we cycled the 8 km to the Ritter Sport factory with the kids. But more about that tomorrow.