Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles may have started a new sport ... mushroom hunting!

By Robert McNeil

Could at least one royal personage be joining the 21st century? And could it be the one normally accused of being an old fogey?

Charles Windsor, giving his occupation as prince, has caused muted uproar by eschewing the chance to shoot wildlife and go mushroom-picking instead.

In this, he’s to be congratulated but, as you shake his hand, make sure to whisper in his flapping lobe: “When you went mushroom-picking, did you have to wear these ridiculous green gaiters? Also, you looked a right jessie carrying that basket. Get it sorted, your alleged highness.”

Most of us have a soft spot for Charlie boy and, whatever the arguments for and against the monarchy, he seems at least a decent bloke who thinks about things and — as is the usual outcome of thinking about things — gets himself in a state. I’ve never thought about anything in my life and it’s never done me any harm. A-wibble, a-wibble.

I must say that, among the sophisticated comments people often leave at the end of articles online, I liked this one about Charles’s mushroom-picking: “It’s all go, isn’t it, your highness?” Ah, the cynical mob: don’t you just love ‘em?

No one loves a hare-courser. They’re twisted individuals, whose hobby is the mauling of wild things. To its credit, the Northern Ireland Assembly has banned the ghastly pastime, and normal citizens have enjoyed hearing the howls of the usual suspects as much as the usual suspects enjoy the howls of mangled hares.

No offence to anyone but, if you enjoy hare-coursing, you should be under 24-hour police surveillance. There’s no excuse for it. In decades of listening to the arguments of politicians, academics, lawyers and other charlatans, I found the limp rationalisations of the ‘sports’ sadists the most contemptible — by a country mile.

In these days of singularity theorems, quantum tunnelling and wormholes, rural supremacists still babble inanely about the rest of us not understanding the country. Watch my lips: there’s-nothing-to-understand. Or, if there is, it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Ironically, for folk who also like trapping, they walk into every trap set for them. I remember running what was ostensibly a defence of fox-mangling. The worzels walked right into it, whooping and cheering. It was actually a defence of bull-baiting from the 19th century. Same arguments, same tosh about ‘tradition’, the mantra of the dodgy through the ages.

In truth, the turnip-snorters dread the spotlight on their sinister world. Well, in my ideal world, freedom would be maintained by having a tank (no, not a septic one) on the corner of every field, and mass arrests of citizens wearing Barbour jackets.

I’ll just read over all the above. On reflection, I take back everything about rural dwellers. For the truth is, the evidence shows most country folk — wise, noble people — oppose coursing. Indeed, when fox-mangling was still legal in Scotland back in the dark ages, most hunt supporters were wealthy frauds from the city. It’s the same with shooting — the worst, well-off urban trash from England, Sweden and Holland (for some reason) come to do battle with the mighty grouse.

Well, I say this: let them pick mushrooms. Only, without the jessie basket and loony-looking gaiters.

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