My Retirement Week (9)


A bit of a (12) Bore

I was invited to a shoot this week. Shooting pheasants, that is. I’ve been to these events before, in my previous working life, but it’s not something that ever captured my interest. I will sidestep the debate about the killing of defenceless animals and just note that I wasn’t totally comfortable with the activity – but then, when I think about what went into my McChicken sandwich, I’m not totally comfortable with that process either.

Then there’s all the paraphernalia involved, the equipment, the dress sense, the dogs, the need for a 4 x 4, the sturdy wellies, the teams of beaters needed to drive the birds toward you. It can be frighteningly expensive and somewhat class conscious. This was quite an informal affair though, run by a small farming a syndicate as opposed to a corporate jolly where, if they could, they’d use helicopters to round up and guide the birds toward you as opposed to mere beaters.

There can be a lot of money involved in shooting. Once, on a corporate do, a customer I was with asked one of the organisers how much  a shotgun would cost to buy. At the time, said organiser was driving us in his Range Rover (natch) across some rutted, blasted moor, so he replied by thinking out loud.

“Actually, you don’t normally buy one gun. You’d probably buy two as a pair. And you could probably pick up a decent gun for maybe thirty or forty, something around there.”

I was surprised. That sounded very reasonable. If I could get a shotgun (providing I passed all the background checks) for forty quid then I might consider getting one. Clearly the customer felt the same.

“Forty quid! Surely that’s a bit of a cheap gun?” he exclaimed.

Awkward pause while organiser pretended to fiddle with his four wheel drive shift. “Ehrm, yes that would be. Thinking about it, it’s probably nearer twenty for a decent gun. Twenty thousand pounds”.

You couldn’t make it up, really, not where I’m from anyway. I’ve actually toned this story down from the truthful version for the sake of credibility. Would you believe it if I said that the original statement was “You can probably pick up a decent gun for fifty or sixty, something around there.”  Maybe not, but that’s what was actually said. Fifty or sixty thousand pounds for a gun. And then you buy its “pair” while you’re at it. Of course you do.

Anyway, I don’t go to shoots much. Nor do I go to “gigs” much either, although I would quite like to attend more than I do. This week, I was offered two free tickets to see Simply Red. Suffice to say, had they not been free I wouldn’t have bothered. I’m not a big fan, and “Money’s Too Tight to Mention” for concert tickets these days (see what I did there?) The ticket I was given would have cost fifty notes, and I spent the boring songs trying to work out how much the band would gross from the night. The arena seated 13,000, and it looked full to me. Then programme sales (£15 each) and T shirts, hats, scarves etc.. On that basis, Mick Hucknall can probably afford to buy a shotgun. Or two. Which, I believe, is the proper form.

I didn’t watch much on the box this week because I was caught up in other things. Part of this was reading The Constant Gardener, a John Le Carre novel that was made into a film. I did see that years ago and couldn’t remember a thing about it, other than thinking it was a decent film. Given that fact, the book would be better. The books are always better, providing they come first. And this was borne out, I think, as I swept through over five hundred pages over three evenings.

Having really enjoyed watching the TV series Fargo recently, I’ve started to watch Fargo Season 2 which is currently showing on Channel 4. It’s shaping up to match the first one in terms of the quirky plot and black humour. I’m saving a British crime drama that I recorded a long time ago – Red Riding 1974 – because I’ve just started reading the book this week. This is like Fargo without the quirky plot and black humour. It’s just relentlessly grim, but sometimes we like that, don’t we? It seems to me that a lot of British crime drama rolls about in misery, inflicting violence on innocent creatures, class warfare and miserable weather. Coming to think of it then, it’s a bit like pheasant shooting.







20 thoughts on “My Retirement Week (9)

  1. I have similar ambivalent feelings about game – I eat it, and think it’s delicious, but I am not sure I could stomach actually shooting it, so a bit hypocritical there. Most pheasants are unlikely to live to a ripe, trouble-free old age anyway though as nature is not really like that.

    I cannot believe anyone would spend sixty thousand pounds on a gun! … What do those state -of-the-art military guns cost then? 😦


  2. I’ve hunted a bit for pheasant in the past, but don’t own a gun. Several of my brothers are serious hunters. I cannot believe how high the prices you heard. It must be a difference between the US & UK. A typical hunting rifle in the US costs about $500 – $1000 US. You can find cheaper (and more expensive).


  3. So, not a pheasant-plucker then, Jim? 😉 Not tried pheasant before but have been told it’s quite gamy, so it probably won’t be a favourite of mine.

    I did gigs in a big way a few years back, pretty much got to see all my favourite bands. £290 for a pair of U2 tickets is the most I’ve ever paid – that was a one-off as my boyfriend was a massive U2 fan and had never been to see them. I still go to gigs and also festivals, usually limited to just one a year though.

    Also I agree with you re books and films – books are usually better (with the exception of ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ and it’s movie counterpart ‘Bladerunner’) and I will always try to read the book first before watching the film.

    Glad you’re enjoying Fargo season 2, it is a great series, bloodier than the first one.


  4. Mmmm…shooting, my boyfriend goes shooting but clay shoots. He has never been on a game shoot. In the clay world, you can just go and hire a gun and shoot in a range [easiest way] Pay-as-you-go! That prevents all the hassle of gun cabinets, police visits, etc….
    I had the ‘privilege’ of going to a gunmaker’s shop and it was full of over the top “rich” people with their range rover/tweeds/gun dogs, etc….Oh..and the plumy accent! A pair of wellies for £350 anyone! It was all showmanship and it was so false, most appeared to be from the City and full of BS. Trying to out do each other, it was so competitive, the sportsmanship was lost in the rush to be the best and out do your opponent.
    Proper country people don’t flash the cash and OK, they may have guns worth £30k+ but they are inherited and worth the money due to their provenance. The organiser sounds like a status anxiety person [not a real country person] all money and status driven.

    On the gig front, I would like to go and see more gigs but the prices are getting stupid…I have never had the luck to be offered free tickets…Being frugal sort, I managed to get some £50 tickets to see The Police a few years ago when they toured. A gym colleague of mine said he had been to the same gig, he asked how much I had bought my tickets for – he nearly fell on the floor when I told him – he wouldn’t tell me how much he paid but it was well over £250 PER TICKET! Ouch!


    • Prices for concerts are one of these things, like coffees at Starbucks, where I look at what’s being charged and how busy the place is and think “Is it me?” Am I just tight, getting old, out of touch or the only sane person in the place?


  5. I had to laugh out loud when I got to the real quote bit. 50-60 thousand! Looking up our most popular gun purveyor, Walmart, shows you can get a Remington shotgun for $500. Still more than 40 pounds, and since that’s Walmart’s price, I doubt they come any cheaper.

    I just started Fargo season 2 also. Speaking of dark British culture, I just watched the movie Sightseers. I don’t know how popular it was over there, but it was about as darkly comic as it gets. So dark that it creeped me out, which is tough to do.


    • Haven’t seen that one Norm. My favourite dark humour movie is a combination of American and British culture, An American Werewolf in London. The pub in the movie, The Slaughtered Lamb, is not unlike my local in the village! Beware the moon.


  6. Great read on Purdey’s site.

    “Although it will take between a year and two years to create a freshly commissioned bespoke Purdey, we have a range of new guns which are ready for sale and can be adapted for you.”

    That would explain the price: not cheap.

    I like the last paragraph: “You should always take cash with which to tip the head keeper at the end of the day, and your loader if you have one. Ask your host what the recommended tip is; as a guide, depending on the shoot it’s likely to be between £40 and £80.”


    • On the corporate events, needless to say, I was a “loader”. Another word for that was basically “servant”, as all you were doing all day was loading the guns! And I never got any tips. Purdey have it sown up though – two years to make a bespoke gun. That’s where the ridiculous price tags come from. You could build a car from scratch in two years.


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