Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shots and stags

Up early and drinking some excellent coffee before we were joined by Matt Hindley and Tom Larowe, also from Minnesota like Craig, and cabbed off to The West London Shooting school where we met Graeme and Matty boy. The club house made me feel I was in a PG Wodehouse story, with lots of gun toting coves dressed in country garb, and a taxidermists dream of dead animal heads and game birds adorning the place. The day started in earnest with sensible bacon rolls and coffee, before we went out to shoot.

Alone among us, I had never shot a weapon before in my life so was not expecting much from the experience. We were split into two groups of three - I was with Craig and Tom and were taken to various stands from where clay pigeons were frizbeed into the air. We were all given caps and eye protectors as bits of the clays were showering down from the sky all around, plus earplugs. Interestingly, in the smallish shooting grounds a pheasant, kestrel, geese and so on mooched about happily seeming happy that they were completely safe. Odd.

I surprised myself by shooting my first clay and did reasonably well thereafter. After we had shot from the five different stands all of us reconvened, and were split into groups of two. Each pair was assailed by clay pigeons (which the most Wodehousian instructor referred to as Germans) and we were scored on how many we could hit in this melee. Matt Hindly was my partner (and the best shot of the day) and we were the best pair. I had, completely unexpectedly, enjoyed blasting bits of clay from the air. Who would have thought it?

From there a light lunch back at the club, before we went, via Matt Hunt's house (where I said hello to his astonishingly ugly cat called Gremlin), to a Hammam in a London hotel. Here we were joined by Robbie Rae, who observed that only Matty boy could arrange a stag party where we pay to each other naked. I sumoed about amongst the more slender gentleman into the Hammam, which was about 45C and full of steam. Sweat poured off you within seconds of entering. After a good bit of this and splashing yourself with cold water and exfoliating with towel mittens containing olive oil soap, we were then given half hour massages (entirely properly) by three young ladies, who advised us to drink lots of water afterwards.

Then on to champagne, where we were joined by Simon Casson, Matt Hindley's cousin, and eventually a taxi to The Guinea Grill, and joined by David, who lives near Matty Boy, for a few more drinks and a steak-based meal. I had a steak and mushroom pie.
Lots of really nice conversation. Really good to see Graeme again, whom rather mortifyingly, I spilled wind over. He gave me a good tip on the phenomenon of choking in sports, and changing your inner voice which is being critical and feeding you negative messages. You have to try to pinpoint where the voice seems to speak from in your brain, change its sex and relocate it. Talking to Graeme too about shooting, a matter he knows about.

Eventually the night broke up and Craig, Tom, Robbie and I taxied home. Tom and I staying with Craig.

Actually the day was excellent fun, and all the protagonists got on very well, and many praises were rightfully sung to the excellence of Craig.

Mel still up when we arrived home, and so to bed. I don't like stag dos as a rule, but really enjoyed this one. A splendid bunch of gents.

Below inside the Wodehousian world of West London Shooting School. Me getting ready to blast stuff. Craig talking to our instructor, as smoke curls out of his barrels. Simon, who on the way from the hotel, paused to play Stormy Weather nonchalantly on a grand piano.

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