I am always grateful to anything that manages to expand the sartorial possibilities. If nothing else, it is a way of viewing climatic extremes as an opportunity to accessorise rather than a reason to stay in bed. And so it was while shooting in the rain that I was introduced to the shooting skirt.
I have nothing against the rain. I just wish it would happen at night or somewhere else. However, when it comes to persuading the meteorological characteristics of my island home to do my bidding, I make King Canute look like a genius in sea defences and tidal management. Quite often I will set out from the ancestral terraced hovel on my Pashley, the sun beating down from cloudless heavens, a song in my step, a spring in my heart and all that… and in 15 minutes find myself struggling through a diluvium of the sort that really belongs firmly in the pages of the Old Testament.
Of course, when on the trusty Pashley I can always hail a cab (and yes, if I turn the front wheel at a right angle to the frame, the two wheeler fits into the back of a modern hansom). But out in the shooting field, taxis are nothing like as common as one might wish.
I have a strong aversion to assuming waterproof trousers over whatever bit of tweed I am wearing. I feel that others might infer that I have come prepared and that I actually know what I am doing, which would be misleading. Plus, at my age pulling overtrousers on and off is a tiring business. I remember Mark Birley once telling me that he had almost given up having trousers made because being fitted for them was such an effort, and now I have passed 50 I know what he meant.
And so I was resigned to getting soaked and smelling like a flock of sheep that had just been through a carwash, until I came across the Drowned Rat shooting skirt by The Exmoor Trading Company. It is a work of genius and even a dunderhead such as I am can operate it. If you can wrap a towel around your waist upon exiting the shower, then you can use this piece of wonderful waterproof equipment. It functions like the sort of long apron that the patrons of excessively French bistros wear, although, of course, it is known neither as a skirt nor an apron, but a kilt… albeit a kilt that reaches halfway down the calf and is made from a green waterproof manmade fibre of some sort or other.
I am toying with the idea of contacting Drowned Rat HQ and seeing whether they can get some waterproof tartans ready in time for next season to give the whole kilt thing a bit more verisimilitude. In the meantime, now that the shooting season is nearing its end, I am pondering how best to adapt this miraculous rural garment to my urban cycling.