“Oi!” said John “The Omnipotent One” Halahan, grinning broadly from his seat on the famous colonial-style verandah of Bisley’s North London Rifle Club, “Have you noticed something?”
The remaining members of the Old Framlinghamian Rifle Club look disapprovingly into their pints as if the OFRC champion rifleman is a gibbering simpleton.
“Where are the Old Lawrentians?” he continues unabashed, a gobbet of foam bouncing gleefully in his goatee.
And he is right. The normally sociable Old Lawrentians – OFRC’s oldest, hardest and most respected foe – have not materialised, so demoralised have they been by the sheer weight of our unprecedented victory.
Lucky for them, actually, since, with our gloating unhindered by any boundary of accepted decency, they would be swamped under a tsunami of schadenfreude.
The bragging rights belong to the OFRC and we don’t care who knows it. Not only have we won the Q Match – the first competitive meeting of the 2005 season – but we have won it by a street, an avenue – a nice big blossom-lined boulevard even.
And all this despite weather bad enough to wash the salt off an old sea dog.
It did not begin auspiciously with practice in the morning in light so bad the targets were as grey and greasy as a vaselined horse blanket, and the team depleted by the loss of two shooters to the clashing county match.
But with a plate of pie on our bellies, the fires of fury had been lit and the eight OF’s took to the 500 yard firing point with gusto.
The beady eyes of team supremos Nigel “Goldeneye” Burnip and James “Accessorize” Mehta are trained upon the lightening targets. Disappointing scores of 46.1 and 46.5 are brushed aside with the usual “tricky wind” excuse. And as usual, it fools nobody, the wind flags as limp as a November lettuce.
However, this was the last bad news of the day. With Steve “Any Excuse” McDowell finally finding some form and swiftly whacking in 48.5, “Beak” Horton slotting an encouraging 44.1 and even Nigel “Cyclops” King for once inconsistently erratic finding a 46.3.
Robin “Rainmaker” Curtis, in his first reappearance at Bisley for 10 years, scores a creditable 45.3 and the ever dependable Brian “HRH” Smith chipping in with 41.1.
Knowing that, with a five man team to score, it may not be enough, the shooters glumly pack up their gear and make ready to fall back to 600 yards.
Yet as we ready to trudge back, Halahan materialises on the firing point, fresh from shooting for London, like a grinning crusader in a revoltingly garish shooting jacket. With ten minutes remaining he throws himself to the firing point and expertly drills 49.6. And as fast as you can say “My work here is done!” he has vanished.
Gleefully we present ourselves to the next task and as the sky brightens the skipper and the Hon Sec find more form and McDowell manages to stave off his usual cowardly collapse. John Horton finds long-lost super skills with a massive 48.4 and Nigel King, not content with his success at 500 brims with confidence at the longer range and finds a 47.4. It might, just might, be enough, decides our quorum of nailbiters.
But wait• Is that the sound of thundering hooves• of clanking armour•.whinneying steeds. Yes! Roaring down the hill towards the firing point comes the unmistakable silhouette of St Halahan. He has been fetched by the Hon Sec, and arrives, like the 7th Cavalry, in the nick of time.
And, as we mere riflemen; we humble servants of the club; prostrate ourselves in awe before the Great Halahan, firing as fast as the butt-marker can raise the target in order to get in before the hooter brings an end to the day, he puts in a near perfect maximum possible score of 50.7.
Openly tearful, we break into a rousing chorus of huzzahs! And cry “For England, Halahan and St George!” We have won by a massive seven points and the five other opposition teams, wilted before our blistering fire, retire to sulk.
RESULTS Q MATCH CUP 2005
* OFRC Medal – Best shot of the day
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OF’s also shooting
The Victorious Celebrate
Some of the vital members of the victorious OFRC (insignificant proles from left) Messrs Rifle, Umbrella, McDowell, Burnip & Mehta. (Front row) His Magnificence the Omnipotent Halahan.