Learning To Shoot Again

As Longtime Readers will know, I am reasonably proficient with most firearms: more so with rifles, less so with handguns — and hardly at all with shotguns.

Of course, I’ve fired many, many shotguns of all descriptions: Browning A5s, Berettas, Franchis and so on, to name but some. But except at, shall we say, bedroom range, I would not consider myself at all skilled with a shotgun. Certainly, I’m out of practice: the last time I shot clay pigeons was in 2005, at the Royal Berkshire Gun Club in these here British Isles. And come November I’m going to be doing some High Bird Shooting with Mr. FM (who is astonishingly good at the activity), so to avoid embarrassment, some instruction was obviously needing to be acquired.

So the very day after the Great Mauser Incident of 2017, Mr. FM took me to the Barbury Shooting Club in Wiltshire to get some shotgunning lessons.
These are the shotguns used on the day: my little side-by-side Kestrel 20ga, and Mr. FM’s o/u Berettas.

My instructor Derek was a gem: endlessly patient, highly knowledgeable and quick to both criticize and praise.

“That’s the naughty end of the gun, Kim, and here’s what you’ll be aiming for.”

“Shoot the clay, Kim, not the tower.”


“That probably scared the bird, but no more than that.”


“That’s better. A few thousand more shots like that, and you’ll be close to average.”

Suffice it to say, Mr. FM noted at one point that I was hitting about three out of four clays, so at least I wasn’t making a complete fool of myself. His strike rate, I noticed, was very close to 100% — I think he missed maybe three clays all day, with far more “pulls” than I had. (This is why I can’t shoot enough; I refuse to look stupid next to him when we go to Portledge.)

I have absolutely no complaints about the gun. “My” Kestrel shotgun was a delight to shoot, and is far more accurate than I can shoot it. And yes, I was wearing a glove on my left hand, and the black thingy on the barrels is a leather sleeve — both designed to prevent blisters from a (very) hot gun barrel. This was very much necessary because after about a hundred rounds of 20-gauge delight, I had no blisters. I did, however, have a fist-sized bruise on my shoulder.

Don’t care. My next lesson can’t come soon enough. And I’m no fortune-teller, but I believe I can see several practice sessions coming before November…

OMG Lord’s

So scratch this item off Ye Olde Buckette Lyst. Yes, I went to watch England play South Africa on Day 2 of the First Test match. Here’s the Grace entrance (named after the 19th-century cricketer, W.G. Grace, sometimes called the father of cricket).

Here’s the view from my seat in the Edrich stand. The Members’ Pavilion is the brick building on the right.

I’m not going to describe the action on the field, because it would be incomprehensible to most of my Loyal Readers (and the Brit Readers would have seen the highlights already anyway).

Some impressions of Lord’s.

1.) The ground was full to the brim, but for some reason, Lord’s has not worked out how to manage crowds. Lines into the several (not many) pubs, restaurants and snack bars were long and service was slow. Given that most of the people are there to watch cricket, and the breaks in play are short, this means that a huge number of people are going to miss parts of the match, and they did.
2.) The seats are all padded, and very comfortable. Compared to most all-metal seats in U.S. baseball grounds, at Lord’s you sit in comfort (a huge plus when the game starts at 11am and finishes after 6pm).
3.) With the exception of some visiting fans (Seffricans, ’nuff said), the crowd are fairly well-behaved, despite an astonishing amount of booze served. (Seriously; you may buy champagne by the magnum, and take it back to your seat.)

On this specific day, my fears of rain interrupting or even ending play were completely unfounded. It was sunny, and searingly hot (temps around 95F). I got sunburned — blisters-on-my-skin sunburned. Not to put too fine a point on it, I burned like a British person. My Afrikaner dad is doubtless spinning in his grave that my neck is in fact red.

Here’s one thing I noticed: the women who go to cricket are, with the exception of the Seffrican chicks, all impeccably upper-class. How did I know? By the way they looked. I did not see a single tattoo on a woman, all day — and in the heat, let me tell you, there was a lot of womanflesh on display. Here’s a representative sample:

When I later commented on the non-tattooed women to Mrs. Free Market, she remarked dryly, “Well, cricket’s a sensible game, isn’t it?”

My kinda people.

Despite the heat, despite the loud Seffrican spectators, despite the long lines to the service areas and despite the lousy play of the South African team, I was at Lord’s.

Words cannot express my pleasure, and my gratitude to the Free Markets for making it possible.

Again With That Cricket Thing

So yesterday afternoon I went once more to watch Mr. FM’s Son&Heir play for the local village cricket team, which, as before, was played in an atmosphere of utter class, fine play and good sportsmanship. The weather this time was far better, though:

…and after Our Lads thrashed the visitors (aided by a splendid knock of 50 not out from FM Son&Heir), we retired to the local pub, with the usual fare:

…and unfortunately, the usual consequences. (I’d write more about the day, but I have hobgoblins playing rugby in my head.)

Tomorrow (weather permitting), I’ll be at Lord’s to watch England take on South Africa in the First Test, to take that particular item off my Bucket List. Report to follow.

On This Special Day

This will be the very first July 4th I’ve ever spent outside the U.S., and I find myself with mixed feelings.

Of course, Over Here the day is nothing special, and given the reason behind the day’s festivities, I hesitate to rub the nose of my host country in the loss of its greatest colony. Still:

I miss the 4th. I miss the parades, the patriotism, the July 4th TV shows and the Revolutionary War parades that are all over the place. So, from all the way over The Pond, and from one of your most grateful adopted citizens:

Happy Birthday, America.

Y’all have a hot dog and some BBQ for me today. And if anyone says anything ugly about the U.S.A., I give you my full and unconditional endorsement to kick his ass.

Not Since 1971

Last night was the cricket match between the local team (for which Mr. FM’s Son&Heir plays) and a team from one of the neighboring villages.

The previous night had seen the rain bucketing down and more was forecast for the evening, so I quite expected the match to be called off. Not so; these lads from Hardy Country are, well, hardy, and the match started promptly at 6:15pm — shortened because the light was terrible (low, ominous black clouds), and they only expected to get a couple of hours’ play in, even without any rain.

I expected to find a dodgy little field with bumps and lumps all over the place; instead was a pitch I’d have happily played on myself, on the outskirts of the town — and in fact, it had won a prize for “Best in County”. Here’s the clubhouse (complete with advertising hoardings, alas, but someone has to pay the bills, I suppose):

The visitors took the field, clad in traditional white

…and the game began:

I’m not going to go into a ball-by-ball account of the game, because it will be largely incomprehensible to the majority of my Loyal Readers and in any event, I need to get that second cup of coffee into me. One incident, however, had me in stitches of laughter.

One of our lads, a strapping fellow named Stan, hit a towering six (home run equivalent) clear over the road and over one of the neighboring houses, as marked:

Someone among the spectators wasn’t watching, and when the cry of “Six! Six!” went up, he asked, “Where did it go?”

“Over the house where the Angry People live!” came the response, and I fell over laughing, because I knew exactly what they were referring to.

You see, the people living in said house were among those tools who move into a place where some activity is going on, and then proceed to complain about said activity (e.g. people who move into a house in an airport’s flight landing path, and then complain about the jet noise). And thus it was with this bunch. They’d bought a house next to a cricket pitch, and then were somehow surprised when cricket balls began raining into their front lawn during a cricket match. (To be honest, it’s a hell of a distance — the pic has foreshortened the distance between pitch and house — so it’s never actually raining cricket balls, but over the years, I guess it does add up.)

The irate home owners had once even called the police to complain. (The rozzers showed up, looked at the pitch and the cricketers, said, “Nice shot,” and left, no doubt after telling the Angry People to stop being dickheads, very politely of course.)

Anyway, our lads won in a nail-biter — the match was decided on the very last ball — and so the inevitable celebration followed at the local pub (both visitors and home team drinking their pints together in utterly convivial fashion). Here was my contribution, one of several:

Mr. Free Market himself was unable to attend — some capitalist stuff about making money and grinding the working classes underfoot — but I kept him abreast of the match via text. So I sent him the final score (along with his Son&Heir’s contribution, a doughty 27 not out — i.e. he was still batting when play was called), and then after telling him that our lads had won, I sent an afterthought:

Actually, cricket won.”

Complete sportsmanship, applause for good play regardless of which team performed them, and only one fielding error in nearly three hours’ cricket.

As the somewhat cryptic title of this post states, I hadn’t watched a live cricket match since 1971 — a Test match between South Africa and Australia — but I’ll be at the next village match on Wednesday evening, and two days later I’ll be at Lord’s to watch South Africa play England.

“Happiness” does not begin to describe how I feel.

Living Conditions

A couple of people have written to me, asking under what conditions I am being forced to live, here at Free Market Towers. While Mr. FM of course insists on a reasonable degree of privacy, Mrs. FM did okay these shots of their “little place in the country” [sic]. Here’s the front aspect:

Over on the left of the picture is the Annex, in which are tucked my mean quarters:

Pure hell, I tell you. This morning I had to wait for at least fifteen minutes after ringing down for coffee. I’d speak to Mrs. FM about it, but I think there have been enough staff floggings of late. We’ll see how they do tomorrow. Here’s the Guest Library, which lies just underneath my bedroom:

Absolute squalor; but I’m only a guest from the Colonies, so I can’t complain too much.

In the meantime, I’m off to lunch, pie and sausage roll again, washed down with 6X, lovely stuff. Tonight, if the rain holds off (a dubious prospect; it’s pissing down as I write this), I’m going to watch Mr. FM’s Son&Heir play cricket for the village team — it gets dark here at about ten p.m., so there’s lots of time. Afterwards will be spent in the local pub either celebrating their victory or consoling them in defeat. Or if play is washed out, we’ll just go to the pub anyway. Whatever happens, there will be 6X involved.

Thank goodness for the time difference, which enables me to sleep off my hangovers before posting.