Feet at Five Past Two

Continued from below.

Eventually, I joined the shooting club. And eventuallier, after many socials and almost as many hangovers, I actually attended a session and got to fire a gun. It HURT. The club was new, and the guidance from other members on how to hold a gun was well-meant but a touch inaccurate – at a cost of nine shots (and sadly far fewer broken clays), I became the owner a rather magnificent Mulberry bruise on my shoulder, with the accompanying agonising ache included completely gratis.

Third year started and long story short a local instructor with more than a little experience in instructing women agreed to coach us for free. The idea of a semi-proper gun fit and proper tuition was wonderful, and I started attending regularly. For the first time, I learned how to mount the gun and how to stand (feet at five past two; 12 o’clock is where you’ll break your target) and I fell swiftly head over heels in love. The combination of intense concentration and natural instinct provides a steady satisfaction and an adrenaline rush all at once – a heady combination if there ever was one. All this is performed with a beautiful, often handcrafted shotgun, with intricate engravings and a gorgeous walnut stock. I love all things mechanical and all things wooden (no double entendre intended). I don’t know how a beautiful, natural, intricately grained, softly rounded and smoothed piece of wood can’t ignite a spark of pleasure in a person.[1] I like knowing how things work and the logical processes behind them, the effects of forces in nature and the workings of science and mathematically-rich mechanics that make things happen – and the gun-and-cartridge combination is a perfect example of it. And in me, all of the above combined to a love of shooting.

Through speaking to the instructor and learning about the shooting world, I came to realise that the Fellowes/Archers lifestyle DOES exist. Real people live and breathe it. The sloe gin and champagne, the cigars and hipflasks, tweed caps and drinks before dinner. Admittedly I also realised that it is tougher and harder than the Aldridges’ 15minutes a day quite conveys. The hours are long. Chickens, horses and dogs, not to mention livestock, require constant care and attention – they don’t care if you’re tired, sick, if it’s Christmas or if you’re in the mood for nothing but a private pity party under your duvet. They need walking, feeding, tending, grooming and general dedicated attention. The solitude of harvest sounds to me both wonderful meditative and soul-destroyingly lonely. You’re at the mercy of the weather for most of your working day, and funnily enough the animals (and crops) don’t care about the weather either – bad weather, hot cold wet or overly dry, simply increases the workload. In fact, farming life in general seems very suited to the mediocre grey English day that I’ve grown to look upon with disdain. But even in gentle England we have some extremes of weather – or extreme enough to cause extra work and discomfort.

But it also seems to promise something more; please forgive me in advance for the slightly purple prose here. It appears to promise a chance to spend much of your time outdoors, in one of the most gently beautiful countries in the world, a landscape full of subtle intricacies and delicate beauty (this particularly appeals right now as I currently work in an office with no windows, and at this time of year often barely see daylight). Fresh air, and hard work that makes you tired – a good, fulfilling sort of tired, a tired from being up and about from 6am, working hard, moving around, not from sitting at a desk all day. And though I’m sure not everyone living the ‘country life’ is lucky enough, it seems from my outsider’s perspective that there’s an abundance of good, proper food and drink. Country pubs serve vastly better food than city pubs. All of it appeals to me, and I sometimes wonder now whether I might even one day be happy as a housewife in that sort of life (something I’ve always very strongly objected to); a busy one with a proper homemade home. Or maybe I could just work from home… Or just enjoy my weekends. However it ends up, my adventure of leaving city life began with the shooting of a gun, an education complete with silly little faux pas and many demonstrations of my sheer naivety to accompany it (and I’m sure more to follow,) and my plan is to document those embarrassing/ funny/ educational moments here.

[1] The love of nice bits of wood is I’m sure is also at least partly genetic; as evidence I’d like to site the living room furniture at my parents’ house. Photographs to follow.

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