Back In The Saddle

Okay, we now have a new Internet connection installed here at Free Market Towers. I was warned not to thrash the British Telecom technicians who arrived to install it, which took some of the fun out of the whole thing. So I yelled at the oaf who does the laundry for screwing up one of my shirts, which made me feel much better*.

Anyway, apart from occasionally dropping the signal, all seems to be well with this latest magical apparatus; so now it remains simply to wade through a hundred or so emails that I couldn’t see before, and get in touch with friends and family to reassure them that I am still alive. Apparently, Daughter got a new puppy…

And there are some catch-up posts below, which I’d lined up in the queue whilst incommunicado. Enjoy.

By the way, I was told that I’m starting to sound more British — not the accent, just in my choice of words and the manner of speech.

Well, pip-pip till tomorrow.


*I do my own laundry here.

Holes In The Ground

Last October, The Englishman and Mr. Free Market had planned a joint visit to the U.S., but only Mr. Free Market made it over The Pond. The Englishman’s excuse for not making it was that he was going to be looking in a hole in the ground. (Mr. FM’s acid comment: “Nothing wrong with looking at holes in the ground, as long as there are dead Socialists at the bottom.”)

Well, this is the hole that The Englishman was talking about:

…and he took me there earlier today, after a liquid lunch [he added unnecessarily]. Here are my pics, taken at ground level:

The trapezoidal outline is the “inner wall” that was probably the outer wall of the barrow — basically, a wooden structure covered with earth and turf, wherein, the newspaper article runs, the dead were buried.

Here are a couple pics of some of the people excavating the site:

Actually, as The Englishman pointed out to me, the “burial ground” thing could be a load of nonsense, for the simple reason that as of today, no human remains have yet been found. The structure could equally have been a communal living area or shelter — but as the digging progresses, there may well be prehistoric bodies discovered further down.

It makes sense that it’s a burial site, by the way; in Neolithic times, dwellings were generally placed closer to rivers or lakes, and this barrow is at least a quarter-mile up from the nearest stream. Also, the dirt mound which surrounded the barrow had the trench on the inside, and not the outside (which would have made it a defensive fortification around the barrow).

I have to say that generally speaking, this kind of stuff holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever. I like history (i.e. written accounts of events and people) and not prehistory (which has no such accounts). The problem is that I love listening to experts talk about their area of expertise — it can be a glassblower, a gunmaker, a liquor distiller or someone who’s spent forty years studying Shakespeare’s sonnets — and along with The Englishman, who is very knowledgeable about all this prehistory stuff, I also met Jim Leary and Amanda Clarke (see the article) who are heading up both this dig and a nearby one (which we visited too). It’s impossible not to be excited when people like these talk about finds they’ve made which could completely change our understanding of this hitherto-unknown time.

Of course, all this was made still more enthralling for me when we passed this building on the way home — a Saxon church built around the time of Alfred The Great:

It’s long since been converted into a house, and I just hope that the owners appreciate its heritage.

And on the right is The Englishman’s Land Rover Defender (full pic below):

Of course, we’re not allowed to own such exquisite vehicles because of OSHA (no “side-protection”, or some such nanny-state bollocks), but don’t get me started on that tangent.

As with so many days I’ve spent here, it was perfect — and I’m going to do it again, somewhere else.

Oh, and of course, I’ve been remiss in not showing the place from which we started off the day’s activities, The King’s Arms in the village of All Cannings:

This is an historic site for me, because it’s where I was first introduced to Wadworth’s 6X Ale.

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…

We interrupt this program…

Kim asked me to drop a note to the effect of… “No internet until Friday at Free Market Towers”…

I am, of course, omitting his 10,000 word rant on British Telecom, but that’s neither here nor there.

Fear not… Kim will return shortly.

-BobbyK


Update from Kim: Okay, BT installed the new cable/router/whatever, and upload/download times are MILES better than the old, smoke signal-based system. It’s not perfect, of course; we’re still at the mercy of

…so the signal sometimes gets inexplicably dropped. But I’m playing catch-up, now: see below for what happened recently on my Summer Sabbatical.

Ambushed

The day after my Lord’s pilgrimage, Mr. FM suggested we take a quiet drive into the Cotswolds, some few miles north-west of FM Towers. He knows that I’m not one for scenic drives just for the drive’s sake, so he mentioned the magical words “in the Porsche” — and needless to say, that was sufficient incentive for me to agree.

So we footled around along English country roads — me oohing and aaahing at Teh Scenery, which is spectacular: rolling hills, forest glades, farmers doing Farming Things, etc. Of course, it being a lovely day (sunny, warm, bees buzzing lazily etc.) there were the usual problems (i.e. cyclists), but the oncoming roar of a 3.6-liter Porsche engine usually had the desired effect of sending them flying into roadside ditches, which is all part of the fun of a summer drive. Then things took a turn for the worse. Much worse.

We turned off the country road onto what can best be described as a farm road and ended up at a series of farm-type buildings. Over the door of one such building was a sign which read, cryptically, “R.J. Blackwall”. What place is this, I wondered, and then we went inside.

 

Rupert Blackwall is one of the pre-eminent Mauser dealers in the British Isles.

O My Readers, I need first to give you a teeny bit of background so you can fully appreciate what was to follow. In the Great Time Of Poverty when I was forced to sell almost all my guns, I found myself, for the first time in my life, Mauserless. Never mind Mauser lookalikes or derivatives thereof; ever since I can remember, I’ve had at least one actual Mauser rifle in my gun cabinet — in fact, my very first gun purchase in the U.S. was a Mauser 98K. Since the Great Poverty, some four years ago, I’ve been without a Mauser — a fact I’d once lamented to Mr. FM, en passant — and only now did his devilment come to light. You see, he’d seen my reaction to the exquisite M12 I’d fired only a week before at the Corinium range and thus, I believe, had schemed a visit to this… this temple to Vulcan’s Dark Arts.

Of course, that’s not how he played it, the foul man; he chatted with Mr. Blackwall — a gunsmith of considerable skill and knowledge, having been trained at E.J. Churchill — about some rifle he was considering for his next African safari, leaving me to wander around the store and browse among (actually, drool over) the store’s wares.

First I saw a matched pair of AyA 20-gauge side-by-side shotguns (which I will need for future High Bird Shooting excursions), but I knew that the cost thereof was going to be silly: and in pounds sterling, still more so. With a deep sigh, I moved on. Until I came to the “second-hand” rack…

..and there it was: a barely-fired Mauser M12, in… 6.5x55mm (my favorite medium caliber of all), at a price that, when translated into U.S. greenbacks, was not expensive at all. In fact, it was… affordable.

Of course, one can’t just buy a rifle and walk out of the door with it, not in Merrie Olde England, oh no. In fact, I thought that I would not be able to purchase any gun, because (as we all know) in the U.S. such things are streng verboten (as I’d discovered when first I emigrated and wanted to buy a gun). Well, no. In the U.S., not anyone can buy a gun, but anyone can own a gun (mostly). In Britain, it’s the reverse. I could buy the gun, but I couldn’t take possession of it — it would have to go onto a British gun owner’s license — until such time as I would leave the U.K. And of course, standing right next to me, with an evil leer on his aristocratic features, there was just such a British gun owner.

All that remained was to give Mr. Blackwall my credit card.

I’ll be “testing” it over the coming weeks at Corinium, once I get a decent scope on it. Range report(s) and pics to follow.

And most important of all, I am no longer Mauserless, so all my old Boer forefathers can stop spinning in their graves.

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.