#guntradeheroes 1 – gamekeepers show their thanks to NHS

From out of the murk of Covid-19 coverage looms that rarest of things, a positive news story about our industry. Caroline Roddis shakes off her disbelief to tell us all about it.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started it was touted as ‘the great leveller’. No matter whether we were rich or poor, the disease was going to reduce us all to the same level—each one of us a small, lonely, isolated human being, each one suffering from an equal level of disadvantage.

No-one among us would be allowed out, no matter how hard they  tried—something demonstrated most clearly, with the appropriate level of accompanying schadenfreude, when the private jet of a young Croatian billionaire was turned back from Cannes despite his attempt to bribe the locals into letting him carry on with his holiday. Him, his friends and a group of ‘young female escorts’, that is, who were I’m sure all longstanding members of his household.

With all movement grounded we were all truly in the same boat: all stuck at home and, when we weren’t donning masks and working for the good of the local community, we were all going to be sitting quietly and hoping for the best.

The boat for some of us, though, was bigger than it was for others. Some people’s boats were literal boats, mega-boats in fact, and were kept floating off tropical islands so its owners had no chance of catching a nasty pleb disease.  

Did you know that the sixth largest megayacht in the world is owned by David Geffen, founder of film company Dreamworks? I certainly didn’t, until I read headlines like this one: “Billionaire David Geffen sparks fury with his ‘tone-deaf’ Instagram coronavirus post assuring the public that he is safe and self-isolating in the Caribbean on his $590 million superyacht.”

Geffen’s snaps of his enormous boat sitting smugly in beautiful waters, with the accompanying message hoping everyone was keeping equally safe, wasn’t quite as snappy as saying ‘let them eat cake’, but there’s no denying that publicly posting your well wishes for the world while staying as far away from it as possible is still pretty ill-conceived. Not a guillotine-able offense, perhaps, but the evisceration he received on social media came pretty close.

Don’t worry about not having a floating palace to get you through these tough times, though – we’ll all be fine because Donald Trump is going to inject us all with disinfectant.

This is vintage Trump in terms of its sheer ridiculousness, with the President reacting to a presentation on disinfectant with an observation that not even a primary school child in a science lesson would have gotten away with: “Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside?….almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on the lungs.”

Thing is, though, as crazy and obviously life-threatening as Trump’s idea sounds (and, for the avoidance of all doubt, it is), and as much as it will now forever reappear in my head when anyone mentions US exports of chlorinated chicken, it’s worth remembering that this is one of the few offers of free health treatment that Americans will have ever received.

Free healthcare, and free expert healthcare at that, is a miraculous thing and it’s not at all surprising that one of the key points the country is rallying around at the moment is the NHS.

It looks after us all, no matter who we are, and now in turn we are trying to look after it. Not the idiots I see drinking in large groups in parks where they think no-one can see them, mind you, but the rest of us.

Everyone, from schoolchildren to record-breaking nonagenarians, is finding creative ways to express their admiration for the National Health Service, in such numbers that it’s impossible for the media to cover every one. It was particularly wonderful, therefore, to see the inspired effort of two gamekeepers in this respect recently making it into a wide swathe of the national press.

As ITV News reported, “Gamekeepers in the Scottish Borders have decided to show their respect for health workers by mowing the letters ‘NHS’ into a hillside. Head Gamekeeper Jamie Goodall and Tom Wilson, at Greenlaw Moor, realised how much busier the roads near their ground had become with emergency vehicles during the Covid-19 crisis.

“Whilst carrying out agreed heather cutting, the pair were spotting eight or nine ambulances at a time and decided to express their support for the passing crews.”

Like many people in our industry I can’t start reading a story about heather without flinching, because normally what follows is written at best with little understanding of conservation, and at worst with a less than discreet bias against shooting.

It was joyous, therefore, to see publications from ITV to the Sun and the Telegraph reporting the issue in a matter of fact way, and highlighting this wonderful gesture made by hardworking members of our community.

While the gamekeepers’ giant NHS letters were literally hard to miss, we cannot underestimate the work that our valued organisations, such as the Countryside Alliance, are doing to highlight stories like these to the press, and we can only hope that initiatives like the Country Food Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal also gain the publicity they deserve.

At a time when people across our industry, like so many others, face myriad hardships – not least the increased spate of attacks on shoots while the police are occupied elsewhere – we need all the good news we can get.

In this column I normally have plenty to say about the ills of the media, not to mention social media and the people who dwell on it. My views haven’t changed, but now more than ever it’s time to seize the positives, while people have time to watch clips of different shooting pursuits, to research the hobby they always thought about taking up but never had time to, and to simply sit outside and re-evaluate their perceptions of the world around them.

It is still a tough environment, and god knows it’s a tough world at the moment, but we can hope that the community spirit built through this crisis survives and brings us all that little bit closer.

Well, we can hope it lasts until those gamekeepers have to get back on their mowers, at least. 

#guntradeheros

Do you know anyone who works in the gun trade and has done something brilliant to help support frontline workers during the fight against Covid-19? If so, please let us know so that we can celebrate them in our #guntradeheroes campaign.
@guntradenews

‘Shooting In The Media’, is an opinion article in which journalist Caroline Roddis explores topical issues.

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