Sunday, 8 September 2013

Peter's day out at Bisley shooting range

Peter precision-shooting
For me it ends in A&E, natch, but this is about my friend Peter Sloper who wants to go to the National Rifle Association open day at Bisley in Surrey.

'I expect we'll only stay for about three hours,' he says.

By chuck-out time, with a slew of top scores and compliments from stocky, jocular gunfolk, Peter is considering taking up long-range precision shooting, joining the Artists' Rifles club, converting a derelict building in the grounds into a house for himself, and inviting friends to attend the imminent weekend of Northern soul, indie, motown and ska in the Bisley Pavilion.

But back to our arrival. We register alphabetically. He stands hopefully with me at the T-Z table. 'No, your name begins with S,' I say, my only useful contribution of the day.

Discarded target
Then breakfast on the verandah: a bacon-and-egg roll for Peter. 'Tastes a bit odd, like army food.' He manages most of it before a peppery shower of Lilliputian meteorites falls out of the sky. Onto our food. Into our tea. What the hell is that?

We walk out to the ranges. We're a bit late because Peter puts on the wrong trousers and has to repair them with needle and thread and then I get lost in the centre of Woking where I was born.

The echoes of gunshots around the sunlit downs make a beautiful looping shape. 'Like ripping air,' says Peter.

Peter asks his instructor, 'Would I be better off in reading glasses?'
Then he scores straight A's. He says he was talent-spotted when he spent a few weeks in the army cadets at the age of 14 but hasn't shot since.

Speed steels

The randomly percussive, out-of-tune speed steels are pure John Cage. You have to hit five pocked metal circles (ping! toing! plink!) in a second or two with discreetly dainty ammo favoured by the Mafia. While Peter is nailing this, I sketch.

I take up a more advantageous position. On a grassy knoll. The boss man, who has Steve Smoothy printed on his polo shirt, moves towards me slowly, avoiding eye-contact, as you would when approaching an animal. 

'It's OK, I'm a blogger,' I say, waving my unconvincing sketch book, guilty of social drawing. He explains kindly that my behaviour looks suspicious.

The place is awash with bars, cafes, eccentrically improvised club-houses and bungalows nostalgic for the Raj.  'Ooh look, there's a mop on that roof,' says Peter.
Can you spot the rooftop mop like sharp-eyed Peter?
Or indeed the architectural influences?
Time for tea in a cafe which displays its hygiene score on the wall - disappointingly not a bull's eye but four out of five. Magnum ice-cream, obviously. The toasted tea-cake is off.
Peter (left)

We don't discover the classic and historic firearms section until it's too late.

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