Riding shotgun in a porsche 911, soaring up the M90 to Dundee at 110 mph with two large guns in my lap and Fall Out Boy blasting out of the stereo is not a usual start to my weekend. The middle aged driver steering with his knees while drumming on his lap is an even more peculiar sight, if not slightly worrying.
The reason for this excursion was the end result of a weekend beating in the Angus Glens. Although sounding like a euphemism for a homo-erotic jaunt to a remote location in the Scottish wilderness, beating - as I found out - is where you stand in a line with 40 burly, ginger Scottish men and march towards 9 tweed attired men with guns, flapping a flag around to scare birds out of the grouse moors and up in to the air to meet their demise. Morally that's a tricky one; I never agreed with fox hunting but for some reason birds didn't seem quite as important - coercing them towards their death however did make me feel slightly like the Joseph Goebbels of the ornithological world.
The day begins with a 7.15 alarm, which in the summer holidays feels like you've done yourself a huge injustice, then you load yourself in to a van that resembles some sort of military vehicle; it has tracks instead of wheels, quite cool. The next few hours were a blur of 20 mph winds, Danny the head beater screaming at me to "STAY IN LINE....GET FORWARD" and birds falling from the sky like fleshy raindrops. I did hear one of the shooters remarking that his loader was "good to have in the butt," - the butt being the hole they shoot from - but after my earlier mention of homo-eroticism my immature side wouldn't let me emit that little detail.
When I finally got back to the house I had one of those cigarettes where it feels like you've been in a war, gone over the top, made it to the other side and lit your fag off the burning embers of the ground around you. Well, not quite that that excessive, but it was a good cigarette.
I don't think I'm equipped for the beating lifestyle, I've got skinny legs, feel the cold far too easily and can't really understand what any of the other beaters are saying to me. What I did make out however is that they spend the whole year tending to the moors in the hope that grouse, the birds who love those kind of digs will flock to them in time for the shooting season. It's a weird cycle of life and one that I don't really understand the original motivation behind, but it keeps the shooters happy and the beaters in work, so after my surreal venture in to the world of grouse hunting, I'll keep my nose out.