Spring is here, spring is here, life is skittles and life is beer!
Doesn’t it just fill you with joy, the spring weather? The dappled sunlight through stretching trees, the burst of green on brown branches, the smell of freshly cut protestant.
With the good weather comes the need to do things outside. It was for this reason that I agreed, as some of you may have seen on my Twitter feed, to go shooting last weekend.
I know what you’re thinking. And I apologise in advance. But let me be clear from the start:
- I didn’t kill anything (physically)
- I’m not one of those. You know what I mean – the sort of person who casually drops into conversation that they’re off on a ‘shooting weekend’ as if it were no different from a spa break or a trip to Aldi for cheap terrible wine.
The word ‘shooting’ is largely equivalent to the word ‘supper’, in that it’s normally only used by people who still labour under the belief that it denotes wealth and good breeding. And I don’t much care for that sort.
An example – I read a blog post recently by a certain socialite who documented just such a ‘shooting weekend’. There was sweet FA written about the hows and whys and the wherefores of shooting, it was just pic after pic of people strutting around as if they were in a Racing Green catalogue. The whole thing screamed “look at me! Look at me, I am rich, rich people go shooting!”
There is nothing impressive about putting on a wax jacket and having access to weaponry, okay? I have a top hat and a scythe; I WIN.
As a result I was a little dubious about the excursion. But it was for Lee’s 40th birthday (the boyfriend of my dear friend Kat), so I couldn’t miss out. I trudged dutifully along to Greenfields Shooting Grounds in Canterbury for a day of slaughtering clay pigeons.
Lee, if you must know, is a shooting machine. He has been practicing since he was little and his family took him out beating*. He doesn’t even have to look, he can just fire a gun in the air and an eagle will plummet to the ground. The rest of us were less experienced to say the least, but who doesn’t like firing a gun on a Saturday?
I overcame the first hurdle: the news that I couldn’t shoot while drunk.
I put away my lunchtime tequila, and joined the girls’ group for a couple of hours’ shooting at five different stations, accompanied by a professional instructor.
Each station had a different ‘trajectory’ for the clays – straight up, rolled across the ground, overhead, away from you and across the sky. They are designed to mimic the movements of the many birds and animals one would encounter in the great outdoors, so that you can practice how to murder them.
I was already confused when approaching the stand, as I am right-handed but left-eye dominant. I spent so long trying to work out which eye to close that the gun thought I was coming onto it. (The trick was to shut my dominant eye so I would not pull left). I was nervous; this was the first time I’d ever fired a gun. From what I had read in books and such, I knew to expect the butt of the gun to ‘kick’ into my shoulder, and that the noise would be more of a crack that a bang. I practised aiming, and then muttered the immortal words: “Pull.”
Instructor: “How did you find that?”
Me: “Uh, yeah, fine. It’s alright.”
Inside my head: “Ohhhhhhhhhhh yes! YES! This is what makes life worth LIVING! Come and get me, you motherless dogs! This is my bombstick! It’s CHINATOWN!”
I blinked up at the instructor. “Hmm?”
“Are you okay, you’ve been shouting in Spanish for the last three minutes?”
“Huh. I didn’t know I could speak Spanish.”
All jokes aside…wait, no that’s stupid. SOME jokes aside, it is an immensely enjoyable sport. That first time you smash a clay in the air feels like God having an orgasm. There are very few outdoor activities I can do (even walking is pushing it), but I was secretly smug to hear the instructor encouraging me and say: “very well done, you shoot well”.
I can’t see myself ever going shooting in the wild, as it were. Not because I am squeamish, I just don’t think I can justify spending an afternoon rampaging through the woods slaughtering pheasants and then stuffing them with foie gras, truffles and champagne on the basis that ‘it’s just nature! We’re hunter gathers, we need this to survive!’
Also, I am a realist as a meat eater but I’m not excessively cruel and have no interest in killing living creatures for sport. In hindsight, this may come as a shock to the rest of the group – and the shooting club – after I failed to hit any clays on the ‘chase the rabbit’ trap and then hurtled onto the field and started smashing clays with the butt of the shotgun while shouting “not so tough now, you fucking fucks! Die, die, die!!!” Also, on the last station, I was so determined to hit more clays that I ended up fighting with the instructor for the gun until both of us were crying.
In the end, it transpired that despite my incredible firing skills, I was not top of the girl’s group. But I was a respectable 3rd, with an impressive final score of 15!….out of 50. Well it’s still more than any of YOU! And at least I beat Kat, but I can’t tease her about it. She’s too lovely, it’d be like picking up a kitten by the scruff of the neck and shouting “I control the milk!!!” in its face.
It was a shame that my beau missed out on the fun – he had been invited but was already booked to slap bass with Green Diesel in Ashford. This disappointed me as a) I think he would have enjoyed the boy bonding, b) he would have been good at it, but mostly c) I would have been better at it than him. Not having the evidence of this means that all my strutting around the house and musing “yeah, you just gotta follow it, catch it, kill it” have resulted in zero jealous flounces.
If you’ve never been shooting, I’d recommend it. It is good exercise and instantly makes your penis bigger. Especially mine.
Here is some video footage to prove it (without penises).
*beating means flushing pheasants and grouse out of the undergrowth so people can shoot them. It doesn’t mean that Lee’s family took him out, gave him a gun and told him to hit people with it.