(Sophie (Barbour), Sophie (Dust PR), Me (in the new Barbour Hawkstone Parka), Mariella (Tatler), Lucy (Country & Townhouse mag) Don’t we all look fab in our Barbour kit? Not sure why my hair is so insane.)
When you are a features writer or an executive fashion editor on a magazine, or maybe even a full-time blogger, you get invited on an awful lot of press trips. Quite often to Foreign. Although on paper this sounds wildly exciting, unbelievably spoiling, and YES-please-when-are-we-leaving, most of them are utterly unjustifiable from a work or time or jetlag or sanity point of view: no one needs to take three days out of their life to watch cabin crew learning to do their make-up in the UAE. (Yes, really.)
So I’ve learnt to say no to most offers, unless I have a strong desire or reason to visit a place, or can extend the trip myself beyond the usual three days for exploring/work purposes. (Which is what I did when I went to LA with Citizens of Humanity back in November, making my own arrangements afterwards, so that I could see friends & take meetings.) Or I am going to learn something new and interesting.
Which is why back in November I was to be found happily up to my hocks in mud in a field in East Sussex, learning to shoot clay pigeons — or skeet, as my American friends call them. I haven’t done such a thing since I was seventeen, when it was quietly agreed that I was utterly useless at said activity, and any participation on my part was to be severely restricted if my parents had to pay for it.
When Barbour asked me to join them to try to learn again, whilst kitted out head to toe in their clobber, oh which I am extremely fond anyway, I was beside myself with glee. And especially when I discovered that shiny new Range Rovers were on loan to drive ourselves down to East Sussex. (I left London early, so that I could arrive via the village in Kent where I grew up, and which I wrote about here.). That car is a joyful beast to drive, and I had much, much fun behind the wheel.
There was a group of magazine editors, one blogger (me), and several beautiful dogs.
We were all looking forward to learning how to shoot clay pigeons, dressed in our Barbour jackets and woolly sweaters, whilst partaking in proper countryside activities.
Like checking our BlackBerries,
(hello Mr Storer, Executive Fashion Director at Rankin’s Hunger (and member of my winning kickass team at the BFC Fashion Quiz, and Mr Michael Hennegan, Fashion & Lifestyle Features Editor on The Sunday Times Style)
eating chocolate cake, (yes, fashion people do eat cake)
and saying hello to the free-range pigs. (These were not for shooting, in case you were wondering.)
We were divided up into teams. I can’t remember our group names, apart from that of the Germans, who had flown over for the trip, whose team name was…The Germans.
The shooting stands were across a field,
with one over the way, through a wooded copse, which we walked through, kicking up dry leaves into billowing clouds around us.
Our team were extra lucky: we only went and scored John Offord, the Manager of the England ‘Olympic Trap’ Team as our coach for the day. Lucky us, poor him. Only one of us, Lucy Cleland, the Editor of Country & Townhouse magazine really showed any prowess, although Mariella Tandy, (the exec retail editor on Tatler), did win a a prize for being most extraordinarily cheerful.
Here I am with a shotgun in action.
And here’s lovely Sophie, who managed to get the shooting stance just right:
Here’s charming John, a true professional, who made us feel both safe and at our ease. He is a properly excellent coach, never showing any impatience or frustration at our collective uselessness. He’s holding a pump action shotgun, which was certainly a new experience for me.
It was getting colder and colder, and as we took our places at the final stand, we could see the bonfire for lunch smoking merrily away.
The Bell at Ticehurst, where we had stayed the night before, brought lunch to the field. I think all country picnics should be accessorised by silver candelabra.
Because we were all finished with the shooting part of the day, there was this to refresh us:
Esquire’s Fashion Director Catherine Hayward never, ever looks anything less than 100% elegant in any situation. (She’s wearing a Barbour International — that’s the one I am always wearing in LLG photos.)
The same could be said for Men’s Health Style Director, Dan Rookwood:
I was impressed that a dishwasher was laid on too:
The winners are announced. Not our team I am afraid. (Apart from Mariella’s nice-ness prize). I believe Mr Storer carried the palm.
And then we all set off for London again. Mikey and I drove back together in my (loaned) Range Rover, gossiping all the way. A most amusing end to a wonderful 24hr escape from London. A huge thank you to Sue Newton and her team at Barbour, and to the wonderful Dust PR team, who are always a pleasure to be with.