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.

Not Vulnerable Enough

Let’s suppose for a moment that you find yourself in a perilous situation, and have to call 911 — only the responding officer deduces from your accent that you’re Black, and therefore not worthy of immediate assistance. Imagine the furor if this was made public.

Now try this, from Britishland (RCOB* Alert):

“Increasingly, as we go forward we will look at things like trying to assess people and crime on the sort of threat, the harm, the risk and people’s vulnerability.

“It’s absolutely feasible that if my neighbour is a vulnerable elderly person who has experienced a particular type of crime, that she gets a face-to-face service that I don’t get. So we triage things, we assess people’s vulnerability.

“Vulnerability can manifest itself in a number of ways – people with learning difficulties, a whole range of things, some people for whom English isn’t a first language.

“That’s about how we get those resources focused on the things you can make a difference with. But also, as demand grows, you have to have a way of controlling and triaging.”

Now as any fule kno, what this Plod is really saying is, “If you don’t increase our budget, we’re going to have to look at foolishness such as this, because crime is on the increase and we’re stuck with the same resources.”

Nevertheless, do you think for a moment that he’d keep his job if this were the U.S., and he’d made comments similar to those with which I opened this post, just to argue for a bigger budget?

Yet he’s not going to get fired, because I’ll bet that a whole bunch of people over here are just going to nod, and say, “Well, we’ll just have to accept this.”


*For my New Readers, “RCOB” stands for “Red Curtain Of Blood”, such as that which comes over your eyes when you read foolishness like the above.

No More Instant

I suppose I should be grateful to Starbucks for one thing: they brought the concept of “brewed coffee” to the U.K., even if it was only their shitty burnt water. Now, of course, you have chains like Costa (excellent) and Caffé Nero (not-so-excellent), but I was struck by the fact quite forcefully when I ordered “filter” (i.e. not instant) coffee at a breakfast kiosk in Edinburgh’s Waverley Station last week, and it was quite acceptable. I was also reminded of that when at lunch at Fortnum’s a couple days back, I ordered an “Americano” (diluted espresso) and was served a lovely cup of coffee. In fact, you can order an Americano just about anywhere — which is a hellacious change over what used to be Instant Coffee Country.

It’s not Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme coffee, but it will certainly do.

And Costa is pretty much ubiquitous — I think there are more of them than Starbucks, which is a relief because their coffee is better and about a third the price of Starbucks’s overpriced shit. Just about every larger gas station has a Costa dispensing machine, which makes traveling less of a caffeine-deprived nightmare, and in the towns, there are generally several Costa outlets.

Sadly, there are no Keurig machines in Britishland that I can see — certainly, none in the houses / apartments where I’ve been staying. Mostly, it’s the Nespresso option which is fine, but Nespresso seems incapable of making coffee that isn’t hair-raisingly strong, which I can only overcome by making two large cups of coffee from a single pod. I miss my trusty Keurig, and my Krispy Kreme Regular.

But it all beats instant.

Ah, London

Been in London nearly 24 hours as I write this, and I still haven’t heard any English spoken in the streets — well, apart from some homeless crone who screamed insults at me for not giving her any money; she was British, judging from the invective. Sadly, I had forgotten to bring my riding crop from Free Market Towers, so I just kicked her a couple of times and went on my way.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The words of Samuel Johnson come to mind whenever I visit this place, and now that I’m here, I’ve become a London groupie all over again. Man, I love this place. Yeah, it’s hectic, full of strange people, the traffic is horrible (despite the stupid congestion charge which was supposed to end congestion, but all it did was fill the streets with noxious fumes from mopeds and scooters) and it has a street layout that can reduce strong men to tears.

Don’t care. Love the place anyway.

I’d skipped dinner, having had a pie earlier at one of the stations en route, but then I got really hungry at about ten p.m. Oh boy… would anything still be open? Silly rabbit: within a block or two from my hotel (the Fleabagge Inne, near the station) I had a choice of the usual crap (i.e. Mickey D and BK — not) but also Italian, Indian (duh), Middle Eastern (double duh) and that was just heading east down the street. All those restaurants were not only open, but full, and I was just about to turn around and see what lay in the other direction when… wait a minute: was that a Turkish restaurant? Indeed it was: “Best Mangal” managed by Erhan Poyraz, open till 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and a table for one was available after about a minute’s wait. Oh yes indeed: lamb doner with about four spicy sauces, and cups of Turkish tea (which I love) followed by a little complimentary dessert of baklava and basbousa (because I’d waxed poetic to Erhan about the delicious lamb). Total cost, with tip: £12. I think I’ll go back there tonight, if I can wait that long.

Were it not for the fact that I’m walking everywhere — and sheesh, London is a big city — American would need four seats to carry my bloated ass back to Dallas.

London is the greatest city in the world. I need to hurry up and win the frigging lottery, because Mr. Free Market was telling me of a nice little 2-bedroom flat he knows about that’s just come on the market: “It’s in a decent neighborhood, dear heart: nothing but absentee Arab royalty, Russian oligarchs and Chinese diplomats. You’d have the place to yourself most of the time, and you’re just a skip away from Lord’s. It’s an absolute steal at £1.75 [million].” Unfortunately, the word “greatest” can also be applied to London’s real estate prices

Don’t care. If I had the funds, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Just not where I’m surrounded by the aforementioned wealthy scum. That’s not for me, oh no: I’d get a place where there’s a decent chippy around, and where I’d be surrounded by wealthy British scum, like Mr. FM. His town house is nearby.

Journey Across No Man’s Land

…begins this afternoon, wherein your Humble Narrator leaves the warmth and comfort of Hardy Country for the metropolis of Londonistan:

For no reason at all, I’m starting to miss my Springfield 1911…

Anyway, I’ll be spending a couple-three days here and crossing two items off Ye Olde Buckette Lyste (details to follow) before heading north to Scottishland to check off yet a third: the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh.

Quote Of The Day

From the Department of the Blindingly Obvious comes this realization from Simon Heffer of the Daily Telegraph:

“This Tory Party is not a conservative party.”

As we say in Texas: “Ya thank?”

What gave you your first clue, Simon? The announcement that the government was going to end combustion engines in cars without having the infrastructure planned to accommodate millions of electric cars? That people can decide for themselves what gender they are, and change their documents accordingly, with the Tory government’s approval? And, and, and… [300 examples of (not-very) Conservative Party policies excluded]

Let us never forget that British citizens were disarmed of their handguns by the Conservative Party, not Labour.

The Conservative Party in the U.K. would be, if seated in our Congress, a party of well-left-of-center Democrats. They couldn’t conserve rainwater in a bucket without spilling most of it.