Monday 25 January 2016

Bucket List Item....Tick!

Back in November I wrote a post in which I noted that the Silverwoods had managed to find some archery and that I was going to join them and fulfill a life long ambition. The post is at

 if you would like to re-cap. At our age we are all supposed to have a mental or written "bucket list"; a list of things you would like to see or do "before you die". I am not sure why it is called a bucket list but my mental one includes plenty of pricey stuff we are never likely to achieve now that we are no longer DINKYs swimming in cash (African Safari, Mountain gorillas, terracotta warriors and Great Wall in China, drive a Mk 2 Escort (preferably red and with a POO 505R number plate) with respectable speed through a Welsh forest stage... that kind of thing). But one item which I should have ticked off years ago is the archery and now it seemed I would finally get this done.

'Playing' in the back garden - lots of bad
technique here (flappy sleeve, 4-finger
grip, stance etc) but I had not yet had
 a proper lesson.
Then along came one of the named storms of late November and made it unfair to leave Liz minding the farm overnight, and then the loss of Theo, then Christmas and so on, so I got postponed until January. We finally made it this weekend just gone. I drove down to the Silverwoods' Saturday lunchtime, met the gang all there. We had a first play and demo of the bows and arrows there - Steak Lady has a nice car-width drive up the side of her house ending in big thick solid gates, where Mr S sets up a serious, woven straw, circular target on a tripod so that they have a mini archery range out there. We adjourned for a lovely curry (Thanks, SL!) and then headed for the proper evening club session in a village near to Portlaoise where club-founders and instructors, James and Tom put a gang of around 17 of us (including myself and 2 other complete, Day 1 novices) through some paces.

None of your bendy yew tree wood
for us. A modern "riser" .
They use a big church hall where 5 archers can stand in line and fire arrows down the hall to either thud successfully into the foam targets or to be gathered up by a heavy drape curtain behind designed to catch and stop any misses. It is all very safe. Your group of 5 fire off a set of 4 arrows each before everyone puts their bow down flat in the floor, once all are ready, the instructor tells you "Go collect". You then get another 4 shots and on till you must stand aside (behind) while the next group of 5 archers take their turn.

'Caging' the balloon north, south east and west
The name of the game at this early stage is nothing to do with trying to hit the bullseye or even the target circle, it is about finding a consistent technique and stance so that all 4 arrows in your set land in a tight group. You can be anywhere on the target board as long as all your arrows hit within a few inches of each other. Beginners tend to see one go low left and mentally adjust up right etc, spraying arrows all over the gaff. You need to learn the correct process and stance (feet just so, Right* arm straight and rigid, left hand with thumb in and main three fingers round string, pull back till your first finger is at the corner of your mouth, breathe, relax, steady and release). You don't aim by looking straight down the length of the arrow with the feathers (fletches) poking in your eye, but rather along the top of the arrow and lining the point up with a likely place on the target. That way, says the theory, if you always line up on the same place and use the same pull and technique, your 4 arrows will all fly the same trajectory and all land together. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Happy Beginner
Ah well, I had an absolute blast and loved every minute of it. I did reasonably OK at the archery but also had a great time meeting people and talking to them. Towards the end of the session James clipped a load of balloons to the targets for a bit of fun and had us shooting at them. I achieved a certain notoriety by missing with all 4 of my first arrows but managing to cage the balloon with an arrow touching in north, south, east and west. The balloon was undamaged but held firm. "Bet you couldn't do that again!" they said. I nailed the thing with my 6th arrow. It was a brilliant day and my heartfelt thanks to the Silverwoods and SL for their hospitality and letting me play. Also to the newly formed "Laois Archery" club, James and Tom. I must now go off and find a more local group (There is one in Castlerea) to save me the 2 hour drive and to practise more and see whether this is something I do, indeed, want to take up properly and even get good at.

I pass the 700 Tweets mark on 'my watch'
The other pastime mopping up all my spare hours last week, you will recall, was the curatorship of the @SmallHoldersIRL Twitter account. That was good fun too but I am not a natural 'tweeter' so I was quite tired of it by the end of the week and happy to hand the account on on Sunday evening to the next man. He is a pig and water buffalo farmer on the Beara Peninsula (I kid you not - the buffalo are apparently the perfect solution to the rough grazing and wet bogginess of County Cork). My stuff seemed to go down well and I was quite popular as a poster. We had plenty of sharing and banter going on. I may take another turn in the future but it will not be for a wee while yet.

*'I am left-eye'd despite being right handed, so I shoot holding the bow in my right hand.

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