June 8th 2006
Mentioning Atkins Down The Roadâ€™s arsenal of weapons the other day reminded me that my friend is a dab hand at shooting rabbits, his skill with the twelve bore shotgun having provided dinner for The Trouble and I on numerous occasions, and that he spends quite a good deal of his leisure hours engaged in making the local population of rabbits a bit less abundant in the heather and gorseâ€“strewn countryside that surrounds the little town in which we live.
Unfortunately some of the surrounding countryside, as well as the heather and gorse and rabbits, also contains farms, and it was at one of these farms that Atkins once, in addition to bagging a rabbit, also bagged a large pig that happened to be careless enough to be directly behind the rabbit when he let rip with his shotgun. It was a complete accident of course, but conscious of the fact that the farmer might not take too kindly to the premature slaying of one of his porkers Atkins hopped it from the scene of the crime without further ado.That might have been the end of the matter but apparently someone had seen the dastardly deed and reported it to the farmer. Subsequently the farmer, seeking compensation for his loss, had challenged Atkins about it. Naturally Atkins had denied all knowledge of the matter, telling the farmer that at the time of the alleged incident he was with me, some ten miles away, on a fishing trip. He knew that the farmer would waste no time in calling on me to confirm his alibi, so once the farmer had departed Atkins called me, told me of the escapade, and asked me to support his story. I agreed of course.
I am not a great fan of farmers, I don’t much care for the way they are always pleading poverty whilst availing themselves of the very latest in 4 X 4 off road gas guzzlers – as Atkins himself succinctly once put it, ‘You don’t see many farmers riding around on a bike’ – so there was never any question that I wouldn’t back up his deceit, and in doing so get him off the hook.Until the time the farmer came knocking on my door, at about ten-o-clock in the morning a couple of days later later, I had scarcely stopped thinking about poor old Atkins shooting the pig. I just couldn’t get it out of my head and had several times burst out laughing at the image it conjured up. When I tried to read my book the words just disappeared to be replaced by a picture of Atkins shooting the pig. I even tried watching a play on TV, Martin Clunes in some nonsense or other, but even then I kept getting this vision of a pig on the screen every few minutes, a situation not helped by Martin Clunes I might add, an actor who has taken on an increasingly porcine-like appearance of late. That morning at breakfast I was still chuckling about it. The Trouble asked me what it was I found so funny and when I told her she couldn’t stop chuckling about it either, and set me off chuckling again. Consequently when the farmer called, in an 06 plate Range Rover of course, I could barely keep my face straight. The farmerâ€™s face was very straight, but then he’d just lost a pig. He came straight to the point. “Do you know a Richard Atkins?”“Ah,” I replied immediately, “You mean Atkins the pig shooter.”Why I said it I will never know. I certainly didn’t want to get Atkins into any more trouble than he was in already. The only thing I can put it down to is that over the last couple of days I’d thought so much about Atkins shooting the pig that when his name was mentioned I immediately associated it with his pig shooting exploits. Anyway the upshot of it was that I had to tell Atkins that I’d accidentally shopped him. He was quite livid as could be well understood. However after I offered to go halves with him on the compensation demanded by the farmer he came round a little, but our friendship remained a bit fragile for some time after that and I had to work hard to get it back to its former solidity. There are times â€“ such as when I have to ride around in a car accompanied by an inflatable rubber woman – when Iâ€™m not at all sure I should have bothered .