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.