The shooting season is a matter of weeks away, and although I will leave the taxing business of knocking down grouse to those who can (a) shoot and (b) see, I hope to be discharging a few firearms in the general direction of our feathered friends once the larger and more cumbersome birds come into season. Alas, giant rocs are not native to British shores.
As I have noted before in these virtual pages, the possession of a shotgun and the occasional foray into the countryside to point it skyward and pull the trigger is just a pretext to immerse myself in a very particular culture, and one of the unexpectedly agreeable side effects is that I have got to meet some incredibly nice people, among them Fie Foghsgaard.
Her complicated surname is Danish, but through some linguistic quirk her speech is utterly unaccented. Apparently, Danish cadences – or whatever they are called – are also those of the language of Milton and Shakespeare.
Fie can shoot, and having seen her pull birds from the sky that I mistook for distant motes of dust, I respect her ability. Better than that, she seems to spend her life in a perpetual state of elation; so much so that even the hardened dysphoric such as I am cannot help breaking into a broad smile in her company. She runs a shooting business selling high-end days to high net worths, and now she has branched out into shooting apparel, too, teaming up with Timothy Everest.
It is getting on for 25 years since I first met Tim, with poet, musician and filmmaker Richard Jobson. In those days, the Everest tailoring operation used to be on Princelet Street in Spitalfields. This was before Spitalfields became the sort of place to which one would repair for an artisan espresso macchiato. In fact, I would hazard a guess that when I met Tim the word macchiato had yet to appear in England.
And so it was that early one morning I set off for Spitalfields. It might surprise you to know that I am not an habitué of this neck of the urban woods; I leave that to my younger son, who seems to like it out here. I have only been back once since my last fitting with Tim in December 1992. It is not that Tim is not a good tailor – far from it – it is just that it takes me about as long to get to Spitalfields as it does to Mariano Rubinacci’s shop in Naples.
However, there is obviously something of the homing pigeon or returning salmon in me, in that I found myself outside what I took to be the familiar old house on Princelet Street, only for it to be derelict. Tim has moved to Elder Street, but also has a studio just off Commercial Road and, from what I can tell, business is good. In addition to the bespoke work, he is making a great success of developing clothing lines for heritage brands that wish to tell their story through the medium of apparel. Thus, there are driving jackets for Morgan, with special suede patches on the left sleeve for faster gear changes, and a quite brilliant Brooks cycling jacket in some sort of waxed cotton.
Tim is also something of a cult figure in Japan, so as well as the traditional end of things, he is not afraid of using a bit of technical fabric from time to time, such as ripstop. Moreover, if I say that I would like a big, bellows, “cargo-style” pocket on my plus fours – as indeed I did – he is not going to defenestrate me in disgust, but rather ask if I would like the check of the pocket on the bias. And if I say I might like the pocket edges to be reinforced with apple green suede, he will not avert his eyes and wait for me to return to sanity (he would be in for a long wait). Instead, he will send one of his cutters scurrying away, to return with half a dozen shades of green suede swatches.
The genius of the Fie-Tim partnership is that, if you are bespeaking a shooting outfit, you can have a crack shot at the fitting, giving you the benefit of her experience with a gun. For instance, she saved me from commissioning a field coat with gathered cuffs. While potentially weather proof, she said that she finds these things too restrictive and favours instead a turn-down cuff.
I don’t shoot enough to know this sort of thing, but it is amazing how a seemingly insignificant detail, such as a slightly altered finger position around the stock or an arm movement unimpeded by a tightly gathered cuff, can give you the edge (and me the opportunity to shoot a little less feebly).
Only as I made my way back through the artisan coffee shops and vendors of deliberately esoteric denim did it strike me that, as with any sport, expert opinion is invaluable and that having this sort of two-handed suit consultation (tailor with tape measure on one side and dead-eye shot with a pair of Berettas on the other) must be what it is like going into your local Mercedes dealership to buy a car and finding Lewis Hamilton there to give you a few tips on getting the most out of your Merc.