Back in the days when he served at the highest levels of British government—first as Foreign Secretary, then as Prime Minister—the mild-mannered, somewhat mousy Lord Home was often photographed on the moors of his native Scotland, stalking grouse or casting for trout. It wasn't a publicity ploy; Alec Douglas-Home, as he was then known, was a serious outdoorsman.
He still is. Now 77 years old and retired from politics, he can be found in the fields and streams of the lowlands, pursuing his favorite sports. He can also be found in bookstores as the author of Reflections on Field and Stream (Little, Brown $12.50). It's a chatty, unpretentious, unwittingly amusing little book, handsomely illustrated with wood engravings by Rodger McPhail.
"This short book is written in the hope that it will whet the appetite of young men of today to occupy some of their leisure time with rod and gun," Lord Home writes. His own youth was aristocratic, and he happily recalls the rich variety of game to be hunted around and about his ancestral seat at Douglas: "Grouse, black game, pheasant, partridge, woodcock, snipe, golden plover, mallard, teal, several species of wildfowl, geese, pigeons, hares and rabbits."
Of the game he has hunted, he most admires the grouse: "... the mountain and moorland scenery in which the grouse lives is beautiful, romantic and often spectacular, while the challenge presented to the shooter is incomparable." In the stream, he gives the trout a slight edge over the salmon.
But American readers will enjoy his book less as an instruction manual than as an excursion into a corner of a field that is forever England. Lord Home is veddy upper-class. He rambles on about the touchy relationship between master and servant; he frets about etiquette afield ("Luncheon when shooting always presents a problem"); and he offers an anecdote worthy of the "This England" column that appears in the New Statesman.
"I had one curious and satisfying encounter with a woodcock. We were shooting above a railway cutting when I shot a high woodcock which fell into the tender of the Flying Scotsman. I just had time to signal to the driver as he flashed past, and he left the bird for me with his compliments with the station master at Berwick-upon-Tweed."
Tweed, in fact, would be a suitable binding for Reflections on Field and Stream. Oh, to be in England!