It may have been an exceedingly charitable recalling of the past, though it was more likely an exceedingly misremembered version of the past.
“Ian, I thought you might like to come clay pigeon shooting sometime.”
There was a reluctance to suggest that the person who might have had a chance of hitting the target was not myself but a cousin five years senior to myself, who used to take me fishing with him, and even on the odd walk where he carried a shotgun and I walked behind him.
“I think my best chance of hitting a clay would be if I held the gun by the barrel and stood in front of the trap and attempted to hit the clays with the butt of the gun.”
My sister added to my humility by suggesting that if I was shooting those behind the trap might be in more danger than a clay launched through the air. She was probably right, the recoil of a 12 bore shotgun would probably hit my right shoulder with such strength that the twin barrels would fly upward and the trajectory of the pellets become completely unpredictable.
Country sports were never a successful endeavour, when it came to shooting, even static targets were generally safe from harm. A .177 air rifle was the nearest I ever came to gun ownership; it seemed diminutive when compared to the .22 calibre air rifles owned by friends, but there was consolation in the thought that it had a higher muzzle velocity, though the speed at which pellets travelled at tin cans was fairly immaterial.
An invitation to go fishing rather than clay pigeon shooting would probably have been no more realistic. Many hours were passed sitting on the banks of the Yeo or the Cary without so much as a bite, let alone a catch.
However, the failure to land a single fish did not detract from the enjoyment of the experience, it was about purposeful activity undertaken in the company of friends. There was a fascination and a beauty in the business of fishing. The tackle was old, hand-crafted; a split-cane fishing rod, a simple reel, floats that were made from cork and painted in bright colours. To be “modern” or to have the latest gadgetry were not considered important, though two boys whose father was a very enthusiastic amateur fisherman had fine glass fibre rods and shiny, high-tech reels. Fishing was about cycling and conversation and laughter and story-telling and fresh air and beautiful countryside.
Perhaps clay pigeon shooting might be like fishing, activity for the fun of it – if only it were not so noisy and if only there were not the expectation that one might hit the occasional clay.