Yet this was my life before College, pre- surfing and travelling. Maybe not the ploughing and tractor love, but anywhere we could find a Clay Pidgeon Shoot, myself and my gun toting, country bumkin friends were there. Paid Friday, Skint by Sunday, shooting was my life in my late teens and early twenties, and I was alright too. Making the Sussex County Team, reaching AA Category, and attending National and World Championships were all goals that I achieved. The Worlds were an amazing experience, and I was proud to be overall joint 3rd on the first day, with the eventual winner, a classic Brit by the name of Mickey Rouse. I remember he had turned down a spot in the British Team because they wanted £80 for a blazer and GB Badge, he basically told the selectors to stick it, he entered as an independent and smoked the competition meaning no glory for Team GB. We all gathered that boiling hot day in La Rabat France to watch his last layout, and it was such a great moment to witness.
So today I went to watch my brother Adam, who is, and always will be content living in rural Sussex. I was happy to just watch, enjoy some banter and have a pint or two amongst thousands of young farmers and listen to tales of how everyone shot like the blind leading the blind! However, I was unexpectedly handed a £15k Perrazi Shotgun with strict instructions not to dent it!! These guns are beautifuy made, and admired by many. When I was shooting well, my gun was max £800. So with a very expensive gun, no shooting vest, a pair of Vans on my feet, and sporting a Chunky Brother T-shirt, I was looking as far removed from a former County Team member as possible.
Accompanied my brother around this small shoot, with a feeling of adrenaline I'd not experienced for a long time, I was shaking so much, I'm amazed I could pull tge trigger. It felt strange as I assumed my old stance, my call 'pull' and my grip on a shotgun were still the same and it felt natural. I last shot about 3 years ago, before that probably 20 years.
My first stand went well until I missed my last target, the others were dust!! From here on it went downhill until the last stand where I bumped into two old shooting pals, John Morgan and Barry Anscombe, and this absolutely made my day. Now 80 years old, Barry, a former national team member, was my old Coach, Gunsmith and Mentor, when I was shooting competitively at a higher level. He took me to France for the Worlds and watched me shoot on every layout ( 8 layouts of 25 targets on each) whilst we were there. I'm pretty sure I did him proud beating a couple of the British Team, and one of only 12 people, out of 750 entrants, to shoot a layout straight, 25/25. Barry was there to compete but also eatch and coach his young apprentice, and his smile and praise I shall always remember, a truly brilliant person.
On that last stand, inspired by my old pal, with two tricky targets, one fast 'rabbit, which rolls and bounces along the ground and upon shooting this a target going away from behind my right should. I remembered my coaching all those years ago and walked away missing just two, but the ones I hit were again dust.
I was so stoked, what a great day what a throwback. No bikes, no waves, just banter, shooting, dodgy cheeseburgers, tractors and beer.
Footnote: A 15k shotgun still misses by a country mile!!