Saturday, 29 August 2009

Beautiful Rural Decay: Three Farm Photographs

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Friday, 28 August 2009

Bullet Points: Three Days of Hunting

  • Today I went to a public library and downloaded seven-hundred-odd meg of a Linux operating system to a memory stick while a lot of kids mucked about around me on the computers and when I got the memory stick home I discovered that I'd made a cock up of transferring the file and so the damn thing wouldn't burn to disc properly.
  • I haven't eaten any rabbit today.
  • I haven't gone shooting today.
  • It's pouring down with rain here today.
  • I did go shooting yesterday.
  • I missed.
  • Twice, I missed.
  • I did find another puffball - but not, it seemed, before a whole lot of little burrowing insects had found it first.
  • I did see an adorable baby cow in a field and I wished I had my camera with me.
  • I did also clamber through a small hole in a prickly hedge in a blind panic when a herd of cows surprised me by suddenly coming into the field where I was quietly stalking.
  • They scare the crap out of me, cows, they really do.
  • I went out shooting three days ago and I did get a rabbit (after a particularly satisfying bit of stalking and shooting the complexity of which I'm afraid I lack the stamina to describe right now) and I cooked it with rice, veg and some Saffron I found in the cupboard and, afterwards - although I scoffed the lot of course - I did slightly wish I hadn't put the Saffron in since I'd forgotten that, as well as the nice colour that's produced by the addition of this stuff to food it also adds the taste of Saffron as well and that, I discovered, is a taste I'm not that keen on.
  • Hopefully, tomorrow, it won't rain.
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Monday, 24 August 2009

Air Rifle Fieldcraft: Breathing and Shooting

I took what felt to me to be a 'good shot' a few days ago. It was late afternoon and I'd just spent a while leaning up against a fence post and watching as the wood-pigeons came home to roost. I'd got up and walked across one field - patting a passing Labrador on the way - and then through a gate and down along the side of another. As I walked, I found that I was looking through a gap in the hedge at the bottom of the field at the land stretched out beyond and, squinting a little, I noticed that just visible in the green of the distant grass were two tiny patches of grey-brown.

I stepped sideways so that one clump of the old hedge would shield me from sight and kept on walking. There was a dip in the ground over the last dozen yards so I ducked down into this cover, dropped into a semi-crawl on my hands and knees, and managed to get to within ten yards of the hedge without the rabbits - perhaps another fifteen yards beyond in the next field - being able to see me.

Lying flat and raising the scope I saw that my approach hadn't gone completely unnoticed as the rabbits were sitting quite still and alert, holding their heads up high above the grass to look around.

I could have snatched at the shot but I decided - in the hope that an accurate shot in a few seconds time might yeild more than a quick but wobbly one right then - to take a moment or two and steady my breathing.

Looking through the scope I watched as, with each exhalation, the falling pressure of my breath lessened the push of my shoulder against the rifle stock and caused the cross-hairs to rise on the target. The sights climbed with my out-going breath and reached their peak in the momentary pause before the next inhalation which, increasing my shoulder pressure, would again force the reticule down.

In the cycle of two breaths I made tiny adjustments to my support of the rifle so that the peak of the sight's climb on the next exhalation would hopefully leave it paused - in the stillness before the next breath - on the head-shot aim-point just back from the eye and beneath the ear of the still-motionless rabbit. As my breath left me and the sight rose I tightened my squeeze on the trigger; the shot gave out much as I'd wished and the rabbit disappeared.

I scrambled through a gap in the hedge and made for the place where the rabbit had been and found it, to my surprise, head-shot and dead right there. I stood for a minute or so almost baffled at how well the shot had gone and pleased that, once again, I'd managed to get some food for the next few days.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Philosopher Alain Badiou is Rabbit Shock.

Speaking recently the famous French philosopher, Alain Badiou, said:

My father was an alumnus of the École Normale Superieure and agrégé of mathematics: my mother an alumna of the École Normale Supérieure and agrégée of French literature. I am an alumnus of the École Normale Supérieure and agrégé, but agrege of what, of philosophy, that is to say, probably, the only possible way to assume the double filiation and circulate freely between the literary maternity and the mathematical paternity. This is a lesson for philosophy itself : the language of philosophy always constructs its own space between the matheme and the poem, between the mother and the father, after all.

Someone saw that very clearly, my colleague, the French analytic philosopher Jacques Bouveresse, from the Collège de France. In a recent book in which he paid me the horror of speaking of me, he compared me to a five-footed rabbit and says in substance: "This five- footed rabbit that Alain Badiou is runs at top speed in the direction of mathematic formalism, and then, all of a sudden, taking an incomprehensible turn, he goes back on his steps and runs at the same speed to throw himself into literature." Well, yes, that's how with a father and a mother so well distributed, one turns into a rabbit.

Back in the day when I had a brain and could read, his books Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil and Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism
had a big impact on me. They are, I'd suggest, essential reading for philosophically-inclined, melancholic rabbit hunters.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hubert's Cookery Tips: Cooking Rabbit with Olive Oil?

I'm no gourmet; I don't haunt delicatessens in search of edible exotica or loiter in puddles of my own drool beside the doorways of fancy restaurants. I don't really do posh nosh.

I do, however, regularly buy olive oil and, when I can afford it, I'll spend extra to get a bottle of oil that has a bit of taste to it. The furthest down the 'extra' road I ever got was a bottle of Nunez De Prado.

I came across it because I'd spent most of a day walking around the giant halls of the Tate Modern gallery in London and I was knackered, blitzed with high culture and very hungry. Wildly against my better judgement and heedless of the real state of my bank account, I decided - the hell with frugality! - to have a snack in the Tate's own swish restaurant.

I ordered the cheapest thing I could find and a devastatingly stylish waiter appeared bearing a tiny plate which was artfully adorned with one pink, glassy rectangular block (which turned out to be pressed hock of ham), one purple blob (a beetroot puree of some kind), a hand-hewn chunk of bread, a small pile of sea-salt flakes - and a circular pool of pale green oil.

All of these peculiar components turned out to be individually delicious but the star was - to my surprise - the oil: it was just unbelievably rich, complex and delicious. I was astounded; I had no idea that a simple thing like olive oil could get so good. I consulted the menu again: "...Nunez De Prado Oil". O.K, then.

When I got home I tracked down a supplier on the net, bought a bottle straight away and, for a few months after it arrived, every salad I ate was a feast and every dull boiled bit of veg - when garnished with a few drops of this stuff - positively shone on the palate! It was wonderful stuff.

It ran out, of course, and, because it's about twelve quid a bottle (about a fifth of my weekly income right now) I didn't buy another one. I did carry on using olive oil for almost everything I cooked, though - only I'd use Tesco 'Extra Virgin' at about a tenth of the cost.

This brings me - finally - to rabbit.

For months now I've been cooking rabbit with olive oil and I realised - yesterday - that I have finally developed an opinion regarding the merits of this which I am in a position to share with the readers of this blog. It's this:

Don't cook rabbit with olive oil.

Why not?

Well, even basic olive oil, I've decided, is just way too strong for rabbit. Rabbit - I've finally understood - is a delicately flavoured meat and a feisty, noticable oil like this just gets in the way, interferes with, clashes with the flavour of the meat - and then hangs around afterwards.

It's just not good.

I'd been suspecting this for a while but, since I'm a bit slow on the uptake - in this as in most things - it's taken a while for it to percolate through my bonce that something might be amiss in the kitchen. The last rabbit I got, by way of experiment, I cooked with sunflower oil only - and it was a huge improvement: there seemed to be space, this time, for the flavour of the meat to sit with the thyme and the rosemary; it was altogether fresher and less cloying than when cooked with olive oil.

Well, yes - that's quite enough Fanny Cradock impersonations for now, I think. Back to shooting stuff.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Puffballs and the Scope again...

Two days ago, after missing a couple of rabbits and feeling thoroughly fed up with my skills using open sights, I found a puffball mushroom in the fields and carried it home. It's very odd and entertaining to cut one of these things up and include it in the makings of a meal - like cooking with expanded polystyrene:

The pasta dinner that it provided me with, however, was tasty and very welcome - the cooked puffball having a pleasant texture and a creamy, buttery flavour:

Today, I bolted the scope to the Weihrauch again, zeroed it with an ease that surprised me and - wincing at the extra weight on my still-painful, bike-fall-knackered wrist - from an impossibly uncomfortable half-crouching position behind a willow tree at the edge of an old damson grove, took my first rabbit for a month with a head-shot at fifteen yards.

I'm cooking it in accordance with the 'use what's in the cupboard' recipe so, today, that means with rice, the last of the puffball, cabbage, carrots and onion - plus thyme and rosemary from the windowbox. It's bubbling away on the stove behind me as I write.