Dream 16

Up they come the man and the boys – up they come. Up they come, the man and the boys – stepping lightly, the cuffs of their trousers flicking at bracken and thistles: twill against barbs and fronds. No contest.

Up they come, the man clearly the father, his sandy hair and carefully arranged features would in themselves indicate a certain sureness – in class, its privileges, in breeding – but this is compounded by the boys: versions of himself at 10 and 14, the unformed versions of his face only serving to emphasise how complete and well-made he is. And besides, they move as one – as dancers do in chorus; they move as one and retrievers frolic around their gaiters; they move as one and then there are the guns: a big double bore 12-gauge for daddy, a smaller shotgun for the adolescent, a tiny scaled-down one for the child. They carry the guns as props – broken over their feed arms. Such a congruence of limb and stock and barrel, such a harmony of purposeful acculturation – there should be a Stubbs on hand to paint them, and a Landseer nearby to do the same for whatever it is they might kill. Instead there’s only me with my two younger sons – me watching and paralysed with envy. We had been proud, that morning, putting on our own tweed jackets, buckling on our own gaiters – we had thought ourselves the finest of figs, altogether comme il faut – but now looking upon this spiffing trio, their tweed jackets patently bespoke, the pockets, collars and revettes faced with soft brown leather, we’re exposed for the middle-class cheapies we truly are – and so this strange coincidence of men and boys and dogs and tweed on the morning moor goes unremarked – for we stay silent, cowering in the bracken, knowing our place as they go by, heads held high.