Steve McDowell reports: My Garrett housemaster – a scrupulous Lancastrian of unimpeachable values – used to say to me, on a fairly regular basis, his steepling forehead adding menace to a high octane death stare, that life was all about “standards”.
“Eee, lad,” he would urge, embarking on yet another futile rollocking “Standards!” And he didn’t mean getting a B for jumping more than 3m in the long jump. He meant everything one strives to attain.
And of course he was right. It is all about standards. But what Hugh Kennon never unveiled, perhaps because his innate decency had not allowed his to see it, was that standards can have a downside too.
It was not long ago that the Old Framlinghamian Rifle Club was content with merely giving a good account of ourselves while taking on the varied opposition in the Old Boys’ competitions in which we annually compete.
Now, the bar, to use an athletics analogy again, has been raised somewhat. In the last three years the OFs trophy cabinet bulges with more silverware the Zara Phillips’ Gymkhana Club. In fact it bulges even more than her jodhpurs, but any elaboration on that would probably be treason.
And with that has been raised expectations. We now EXPECT victory, indeed we expect annihilation so comprehensive it makes Little Big Horn look like Queen’s Club. Indeed, questions were asked when, with a severely depleted team and in wind which would propel a three-decker into a fleet action, the OFRC won the Long Range trophy back in May by a mere 3 points. The trophy was ours, but it some way it seemed, well, sub-standard.
This may go somewhere to explaining the ferocious frame of mind in which the OFRC’s huge showing of 11 shooters brought with them to the All Day Championships, otherwise known as the Lizard Goblet, a shoulder to shoulder match against the auldest enemy – the Old Lawrentians.
With a tint of French Farce about it, the day began at Long Range with Nigel “Mr X” Burnip confiding that he had invested in the best competition ammunition available. It began easily enough, with some pretty spectacular scoring. The welcome sight of Sandy “Metronome” Walker cresting the hill, rifle on his shoulder, brings with it same feeling General Grant must have experienced when first introduced to a Mr Gatling and his interesting invention.
Another sight for sore eyes was the debut appearance of Malcolm “Sicknote” Todd, who having held more army ranks than a history book during his long military career, announced that he is now working for the police.
Walker duly obliged with the first of two possibles and the rest of us fawning in our usual awe. Steve “&*%^£*^$!!!” McDowell noticed time was moving and then began to notice what would become the scourge of the team later in the day – the spectre of poor butt-marking.
But with John “The Breeze” Halahan slotting another possible, and James “Captain Custard” Mehta and the ever-reliable “Bish” Horton both dropping only one point each, we were off to 100 yards only four off.
Sadly time was upon us and one or two members of the club were unable to finish their shoot. Sniggering behind our shooting gloves we noticed Magpies adorning the OL’s target. Surely, we mused as the sun began to prove the forecasters wrong, it was in the bag.
But at 1000 the first of 15 misfires showed up. A misfire is a nuisance because it is disrupting and time consuming to deal with. Poor Robin “Sandbank” Curtis, surely the unluckiest man at Bisley, had to contend with the dual horror of most of the misfires as well the appalling coaching techniques of chief grump Steve McDowell. But despite more misfirers than a fertility clinic waiting room, and Sandy uncharacteristically dropping three whole points, we moved off 1000 yards for lunch confident.
Short range, as ever, asks more questions than gives answers. 300 yards may be almost half a mile closer to the target, but it leaves much less room for error. And error there was.
By now steaming hot and as pink as terminal nappy rash McDowell slammed his first six shots straight through the middle of the V-bull and the last four all over the place. Sweat pored into his eyes and invective from his mouth in equal quantities. Interviewed by the skipper afterwards he said: “That %^^$”£”_**^&!! and if I ever $££””%&*, just )(*&%%^$=#!”
Curtis foolishly agreed to be coached by the raging buffoon whose hue was rapidly being matched by fury caused by rapidly disintegrating butt marketing. Halahan dropped five, Mehta, with the aid of a couple of magpies a highly unusual 45.6, only Sandy firing in his usual class, dropping one outside a 3.5inch group for 49.9.
But it was at 600 where the circumstances really began to conspire against us.
Tempers frayed due to the heat, even the resoundingly sanguine Halahan losing his implacability for a moment, his £25 B&Q trolley not coping with the 300-yard tab over lumpy ground, while Johnathan “Bullworker” Cupper sauntered in the sun under the back-breaking burden of his spare trousers.
The butt-markers, surely also cooking, off-loaded a display of incompetence bordering on the fantastic and slowed the shooting down to a crawl. The ammunition really found that at 600 yards it was at its worst.
One after the others shooters fired and raged. “Message Four! ( a signal a shot has been fired and the target not taken down).” Bellowed the skipper.
“No way,” bellowed a disbelieving Halahan at his signalled Magpie.
“)(&^^$£^%@~#!” howled McDowell.
“Shut up, Steve,” yodelled Mehta.
Even Nigel “Iceman” King can be seen stoking his pipe in unusually animated manner.
Gloomily we retire to the rear to sulk and mutter darkly about butt markers and the possibility of goofing it up.
Sandy Walker quietly announces he made 50.7 – the little #&%$£&^).
Fortunately the OL’s faired just as badly and as ice-creams cooled tempers which are cheered even further by the news that we have won by a massive 33 point margin.
It is another treble, a second in three years. Led by the Fergie and Cantona of their era, Burnip and Walker, we have swept away all before us. Again.
We have, on average scored more than 190ex 200 per man at four ranges.
Now that’s what we call standards.
Eschewing normal form, and in recognition of steadiness and consistency the handicapping committee award the medal to Andrew Horton.
OFRC vs Old Laurentians Saturday 2nd June 2007
|Old Laurentians||Team Total||919.60|
McDowell coaches King on exactly the best way to get thrid-degree sunburn
Message Four! Yes, that is four.
Todd: “The secret is concentration, Grasshopper.”
Walker: “It is my destiny, master.”
The skipper’s Treble XXX
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