Manual Labor

I have often advised young men to get a trade before going off to college — and more especially so if they are unclear as to what career they choose to follow. There’s no point in getting into debt when a well-intentioned degree in, say, Languages does not result in decent job prospects, and even worse when you realize that your career preference is not really congruent with your degree — a youthful desire to become a recording engineer transforms into a real desire to become a doctor when maturity comes into play. (And note that I’m not even talking about worthless degrees in nonsense such as Post-Modernist Poetry or African-American Studies.)

In fact, I’d counsel young men to join the Armed Forces if they still haven’t made their mind up about their career by age 19. (My good friend Doc Russia is a case study in this scenario: shiftless yoot at 18, USMC for a few years, med school and now a respected doctor.) The military has a wonderful way of crystallizing one’s thought process and compelling maturity.

Now comes this little snippet from Over Here:

Electricians are earning as much as £3,000 a week as they cash in on a chronic shortage of skilled workers across the country.
That amounts to £156,000 a year – around six times the average wage and more than the £150,000 earned by the Prime Minister.
Plumbers and bricklayers are also benefiting, with wages rising by as much as 10 per cent in the past 12 months.
Plumbers can earn as much as £2,000 a week, while brickies can bring home £1,125 – more than £50,000 a year.

Of course, this should come as no surprise. I recall some years back when Reader Mark C., at that time an executive at a large corporation in the oil exploration / development business (think: Bechtel, Asea Brown Boveri, those kinds of companies) was bemoaning the fact that he was unable to find enough warm bodies to train as welders and oilfield technicians, even when after a two-year apprenticeship, newly-minted workers would have an internationally-portable skill set that could command a starting annual wage of over $75,000 — for a 21-year-old.

The same is true for carpenters (rough, finished or cabinet-makers), electricians (light- or heavy current) and many other such trades. All you need to do is look at the progress made by that Jason guy on the Holmes on Homes TV show — a raw, inexperienced kid with nothing but a strong back and willingness to learn; three years later a qualified construction project manager who could start his own business and make a small (or even large) fortune. Don’t even get me started on the pro electricians, plumbers and such who featured on the show: even for Canucks, they must each have made a fortune, and were worth every penny. (As I recall, Holmes used a young Polish plumber, an immigrant who could barely speak English, on his earlier shows; by the end of the third season, this same kid had his own business with lots of other kids now working for him, and spoke perfect English.)

Compared to that, a drama major or Womyn’s Studies professor look quite insignificant — which they should be.

I’ve said before that my late father always told me to work with my brain and not my hands. Considering that he started off as a welder / boilermaker and ended up as the owner of a civil engineering company, it was the worst advice I’d ever got. (He went to night school at the Tech while working his day job, and eventually graduated with a civil engineering degree. Not bad for a farm boy.) He always told me to get a degree — any degree — because I could always fall back on that if my chosen career as a professional musician didn’t work out. What he should have said was, “Do a trade apprenticeship — any trade — and you can always fall back on that if you decide that being a lawyer sucks.”

I often wonder what would have happened had I done a few years’ carpentry right after leaving school. Whatever I’d finally become, I’m pretty sure that there would have been far fewer periods of abject poverty in my life.

Shootingham, U.K. — Part 2

There are a couple of shotgun ranges at Royal Bisley; the first is all competition-Olympic style, with traps, skeet and sheltered shooting positions:

Long Siberia isn’t at all like that.

Essentially, it’s in the middle of a forest, with only a few open clearings to shoot from. There is no cover for the shooters, no doubt because the Brits need to practice standing in the chilly rain and trying to shoot fast-moving birds flying over the treetops while water is streaming into the eyes — you know, having fun. (An aside: Mr. Free Market has informed me that having fun at Bisley is very much frowned upon, because shooting is Serious Business, don’tcha know.)

I had more fun than a sex maniac in a brothel with a Gold Card.

Granted, it wasn’t raining, so we could leave the rain gear (wellies, Barbour coats etc.) in the Range Rover. But OMG what an experience.

Basically, one walks through the forest until a clearing opens up to a shooting position with clay activators and such. The positions are tailored to reflect the kind of birds one would be shooting: driven high birds, grouse, pheasant etc., all with the flight characteristics thereof: low skimmers, high fliers and everything in between. I’ll shut up now, and just let you take in the fun. (All pics taken by Mr. FM, with my eternal gratitude; I was having so much fun, I barely took any.)

…and let me tell you, those lil’ thangs were moving, Bubba.

got ‘im:

All in all, I think we shot from over half a dozen shooting positions. Best of all, towards the end, I was hardly missing — and when I did, I knew immediately why and where — but as Mr. FM dryly commented, “Nothing like trigger time, dear heart.”

All good things must come to an end, and eventually Mr. FM dragged me kicking and screaming away from this wondrous place.

So massive was my pout that my friend and host had to calm my raging spirit at this fine establishment on the world-famous River Test trout-fishing stream:

A perfect ending to a perfect day…

 

9/11 Reminder

We are taught the Christian virtue of forgiveness — well, some of us are, anyway. But when you’re faced with some of the most ghastly acts of wanton wickedness, I’m afraid that Christianity needs to take a temporary vacation while we root out pure evil. Here’s a brief reminder, lest we have forgotten:

Kill them. Kill them all, whether they’re Al-Qa’eda, ISIL, Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, whatever they want to call themselves — kill them all.

Then, when these barbarians have been removed, we can get back to building civilization.

 

Shootingham, U.K. — Part 1

So last night I spent the evening with The Englishman and Reader John M., doing pints of 6X, plates of fish & chips and in general doing what I’ve become accustomed to doing of a Friday night, with the usual consequences.

However, my trip back to Free Market Towers was by a different route because of road construction on the normal one. That I got back at all was a miracle, because The Englishman’s sole directions were:
“When you get out of the village, turn right till you get to the main road; then turn right, and keep turning right until you get back to Devizes.”
Reader John’s suggestion was equally helpful: “Watch out for some of the corners.”

Okay: a trip in pitch darkness along unfamiliar, narrow country roads, no map/GPS, half-inebriated. As it happened, both sets of instructions were brilliant, because I drove straight home without getting lost once. (That might be the first time ever, along a strange country road in Hardy Country.)

At Free Market Towers I encountered Mr. FM, back from a few days’ hard work of evicting widows from their ancestral homes followed by demolition of the latter and construction of glass-walled skyscrapers in their place. (I think that’s what he does for a living, but there’s also some terrorizing of subordinates and glad-handing of Chinese tycoons in there, so I can’t be exactly sure.)

Anyway, I was greeted with a glass of whisky and the words: “We leave at 10 tomorrow. Okay?”

I had forgotten, in my evening’s carousing, that he’d scheduled a day’s shooting for today. Oy.

So this morning I woke up, only mildly hung over, and off we set off in the Range Rover, along the standard leafy lanes of outstanding beauty and vistas of… oh hell, you know the rest.

On and on we went, through various counties, villages and towns until we finally arrived at our destination:

I’ve never been to Bisley before, and I didn’t really know what to expect. What I never expected was to find myself in a massive area (several thousand acres, Mr. FM estimates) devoted entirely to shooting. In other words, Kim’s idea of heaven. To give you an idea of the extent of the place, here’s a map which shows most (but not all) of the ranges and buildings (open in a new window to get the full-sized pic):

The problem, of course, is that Bisley isn’t open to just anyone — you can’t just stroll in there and ask to be given a slot on any of the ranges: oh no, that wouldn’t be British. Instead, you have to belong to a shooting club (approved by the Home Office, don’t get me started), and they will then schedule you a day, time and slot where you can shoot with other members of your club. Being British, of course, each club has an exclusive club house of varying degrees of grandeur, starting from 1930s-era Kenya-style mansions:

…and Shanghai-type establishments of the same vintage:

…all the way down to modest cottages:

…and there are even rental trailer-homes where one can spend the night if doing more than a day’s shooting:

Bisley is almost, in fact, a self-contained town — hence the title of this post. There are restaurants, parks and, of course, gunsmiths/shops such as Fulton & Son and William Evans:

…which contain the usual items of gunny exquisiteness:

But on to the ranges.

There are lots of long-distance ranges (one out to 1,300 yards), and I’m not going to list them all; but here’s one, just to give you an idea. A club was shooting at the 1,000-yard mark:

There are .22 ranges, medium-distance ranges, Olympic-distance ranges, shotgun ranges, and so on — all over the place, and all of which made a certain visitor’s trigger finger itch. Which is why after a quick lunch of bacon-and-egg sandwiches, Mr. Free Market took us off to where we would be doing our shooting — clay pigeons, as it turned out. Here’s the road we drove down:

…and tomorrow I’ll give you part 2 of this adventure, at Long Siberia.

Still Hot

I don’t know why the Brits persist in calling the DWI/DUI offence “drink” driving — as Dennis Farina notably said, “You guys invented the fucking language; why don’t you speak it?” It’s drunk driving, FFS.

Anyway, I see that Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher has been banned from driving because she was three times over the limit. Don’t care; she’s still a total hottie:

Volunteers for the job of Kirsty Gallacher’s chauffeur: the line forms to the right, over there. No pushing and shoving.

 

Required Reading

Mr. Free Market lent me this book, and if you read no other non-fiction works this year, this should be the one you do.

Marshall explains, in fine detail, what underlies the political (and even socio-political) goals of most of the world’s nations. It should be a required textbook in high schools or failing which, in college-level Politics 101 courses.

Do I agree with everything he writes? Hell, I don’t agree with everything that anyone writes —  but as I was reading it, I found myself nodding in agreement a lot more often than not. I’m going to buy my own copy as soon as I get back home.

No need to thank me: it’s all part of the service.