I am thinking of taking up stalking. It’s not that I have a surfeit of time on my hands. I enjoyed my rifle shooting in Finland and will probably return to receive my full moose-hunting qualification, but to be honest my primary motivation is not to wait in the cold for hours in the anticipation of discharging a firearm in the general direction of a large quadruped that I might glimpse fleetingly through a pine forest.
It is instead to get a certificate to hang on my wall, or a document to keep in my wallet alongside my driving licence and passport. I never got round to collecting my degree from university, so it would be nice to have some sort of meaningful professional qualification to add to my CV.
My general impatience with the waiting aspect of moose hunting has also kept me away from stalking. I am too much of a sissy to be crawling through the heather for hours on end, playing an outdoors version of Grandmother’s Footsteps. For a start, it would play havoc with my clothes and is, I imagine, rather uncomfortable. However, a chance conversation with Emma Willis opened my eyes to new sartorial vistas.
Emma is a powerhouse. Her Jermyn Street store may be an oasis of style and fun, she may bat her eyes shamelessly at her older, richer customers, and a great many pictures show her with a flute of champagne poised between her elegant fingers or those same elegant fingers shaking hands with the heir to the throne. But behind the eyeliner, the champagne and the socialising, there is a tireless determination. She has set up a factory in Gloucester and a charity to benefit injured servicepeople, and she sells her stuff with the ceaseless enthusiasm of a door-to-door salesman on double commission.
As soon as I mentioned rifles, her eyes widened and eyelids fluttered, as she told me how she had been contemplating stalking-specific boxer shorts. Basically, all that crawling around in the heather brings the tweed of one’s breeches into far too close and uncomfortable contact with the skin, and she has therefore devised a boxer short that reaches to the knee.
You and I might call them slightly short pyjama bottoms, but to Emma they are an entire category of sporting apparel and, given the sort of undergarments normally associated with sports, a great deal more dignified for the wearer.