Inter-Livery clay pigeon shoot, Holland & Holland, Ruislip

Wednesday 17th May 2017

According to my notes I had to be at H&H by 6.30am so, rising at 5.15 I managed to make myself presentable after the previous night’s revels. The forecast was pretty grim – steady rain all day it seemed and certainly I heard torrents coming down during the night. Still, in this country there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing to make the best of it, so I went armed with an array of coats and cladding so I could adjust as required and, thanks to the painfully early start, found myself arriving at H&H just before 06.30 and was rewarded with a plumb parking spot on asphalt right by the check in and dining tents. Our team consisted of myself, Past Master John Nokes, 4th Warden Adam Bennett, and Liveryman Paul Taberer. Having checked the team in I sent a round-robin text to meet them all inside for breakfast – amazingly it all worked like clockwork and we had our coffee and butties etc in comfort and bumped into old chums – including Archie Smith who was there as a Shipwright of course. A little past 8am we were invited to start shooting – the rain had almost packed up so we were able to wear our team smoking caps – but had back up caps should it start up again. The trouble with shooting here once a year is that it takes a while to get ones eye back in so we all experienced some mixed results with the early ‘birds’ – as has been mentioned in every account of this event before, the Gun Makers’ company enter about eight teams of crack shots, so there’s never any expectation of winning or even coming close, but the upside is that one can relax and just enjoy the day and each other’s company, which is just what we did. The whole day is organised by the ever-busy Environmental Cleaners (Livery Halls Walk; Cricket to come we hear..) and each team of four shoots four-pair at ten birds, plus the ‘flurry’ which is so fast and furious loaders are needed and even then it’s almost too fast to get the barrel up in time. The showers came and went meaning we had several changes of headgear and, frustratingly, no time to enjoy a cigar as there’s no way we could keep it alight. Eventually Adam and I resorted our pipes which, when the rain was very hard, I smoked upside down – an old trick saw years ago – and which works very well. We managed to get through several of the stands pretty quickly, but for some reason some of them became jammed up, we couldn’t think how or why, but it always happens, and can take half an hour to get through – ideal for a cigar when dry – but also gave us ample time to take some group snaps. I was very pleased at one stand (one of the hardest) to bump into IPM Env Cleaner Philip Morrish, old pal of my circuit – he was deputising for this year’s Master and presenting the prizes. He looked very well – ‘do you shoot’ I asked – ‘not blooming likely’ he responded! Well, we finally finished our ‘birds’ – and in the nick of time, the showers were becoming torrents again and John had lost his flat cap – and was refusing to get his new velvet one wet! Back we went to the comforts of the dining tent and a welcome glass of beer (thank you Paul). I spotted Archie seated at his table and flogged him a smoking cap to the great envy of his team mates who swore to have an equivalent made forthwith.. we’ll see.. The buffet always servers a superb salt beef, roast beef and spitted hog – and every year, everyone shamelessly has all three. Once we’d eaten our fill of that and the pud and cheese, we decided it was time to call it a day – no point in hanging around to applaud a parade of gun maker’s, it’ll be the same lot as every year anyway and we all had places to go so we bade our fond farewells and set off into the still sheeting rain – thank God I’d parked so close! Despite the rain, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I hope that we’ll have enough to enter two teams one year..