26 FEBRUARY 2005, Page 46

Q. At the age of 39, I have belatedly realised

that all the time I have not spent riding to hounds has been life wasted. I have no money, hunting has just been banned and my wife does not want me to become paraplegic. What should I do, Mary?

J.D., London SE5 A. If you are really worried about becoming paraplegic, why not go beagling? Most beagle packs are converting to chasing rabbits instead of hares, so you can still get rushes of adrenalin, camaraderie and exercise in the fresh air. Yet many of those who became paraplegic on the hunting field will say it was worth it. If you find yourself still craving the experience and prepared to take the risks, then you can look forward to next season, when hunts across the country will be running National Newcomers’ Week. At this time it will cost you nothing to go out, and many hunts will relax the traditional dress code as you join them in their perfectly legal activities. You must, of course, find yourself a horse — at most 50 quid a day but you may well be lucky enough to borrow one from hunt members keen to swell the numbers during the current emergency. Why not offer to clean out kennels in exchange?