Philip Moss wonders if this is his last ever contribution to Gun Trade News after finding himself responsible for an all-too-familiar ‘fracas’ over some game fair cider
I write this with a heavy heart. By this I mean I am sad, not that I believe for a moment all the nonsense about fatty deposits, which my GP is always warning me about. I am sad because this could be the final time I write for GTN.
The last month has been difficult. After a hard winter of lookers, not buyers, the British Shooting Show proved a false dawn. Just because you have one good show, you delude yourself into thinking that all shows are going to be as good. The problem is that shooters will always spend more at a specialist show than the general public will at a game fair or country show.
All traders like to blame show organisers when takings are down, but I cannot subscribe to this view. Thoresby Park and Henham Park shows were well organised and both attracted a good crowd. It’s hardly the show organisers’ fault if the public don’t feel able to buy. I firmly believe that the General Election is partially responsible for spreading uncertainty. Punters who are worried about the future are not punters that wish to spend.
Things came to a head at West Country Game Fair where, again, punter-spend was down. I consoled myself by spending too much time sampling Nick Radclyffe’s wonderful array of Foxdenton gins. An original breakfast, you may remark. I’m afraid the process went on far longer than just breakfast and continued throughout the day. The addition of some of Roger Wilkins’ finest dry cider mid-afternoon (delivered by the redoubtable Ray) anaesthetised me from the pain of not taking money.
I cannot recall much detail about the end of the show on Sunday, or packing down, or the drive back to the hotel so generously contributed by Gun Trade News to all its travelling columnists. On Monday, I awoke with a dreadful ‘post-show migraine’ but still managed – brave little soldier that I am – to drive home.
While all of this was going on, Colin, the editor of Gun Trade News, had decided to claim his feudal right to some time off (a very reasonable week per decade, I understand). A hapless sub-editor, Mr Teisin ap Sinamon, was drafted from Blaze Publishing’s Welsh language department in to help fill the gap.
Imagine my surprise when on Wednesday I receive a summons from Gun Trade News’s publisher, Lord Stanton. It’s on his black-bordered letter heading, which indicates that this will be no laughing matter.
When I get there, I was concerned to find that Mr ap Sinamon had brought his lawyer and Lord Stanton had brought his axe. My head spun as the series of events was related to me.
Apparently, upon my return to the hotel on the Sunday night, I ordered Mr ap Sinamon to find me some cider. He returned some minutes later with several bottles. I examined them and rejected them on the grounds that they contained “that fizzy Irish piss in a bottle.” A short but forthright exchange of views took place. I maintained that apples didn’t grow in Ireland “because the weather was too stupid.” Mr ap Sinamon countered with his experiences last summer on a guided tour of the orchards of County Mayo. I then spelt out the words D-R-Y C-I-D-E-R and sent him off again.
Some minutes later re returned with something medium-sweet in a can… in a can, for God’s sake! As you all know, I am a columnist of boundless patience but why, after a hard day’s gin sampling at a busy West Country Game Fair, should I be expected to drink ‘medium sweet’ cider? I mean, it’s intolerable.
As it was related, I then roundly abused Mr ap Sinamon for a) being a sub-editor b) having a silly name c) being Welsh…well, nearly – but then I remembered that I’m Welsh too d) having red hair e) being short f) having no dress sense g) not ‘knowing me’ h) ‘not being the boss of me’ i) being Welsh… I’d forgotten my previous reason for not using this j) for having an odd name… repeated because I do remember quite liking this one at the time.
As surely as main course follows starters, the verbal abuse was followed, according to Mr ap Sinamon’s lawyer, by physical abuse. As Lord Stanton placed his head in hands, the lawyer described how, after I had thrown several unsuccessful punches in Mr ap Sinamon’s direction and had concluded an altercation with the lift door and a flower display in the reception area of the hotel, I finally managed to punch his client in the mouth, inflicting a wound that needed medical attention by the St John’s Ambulance people from the show who happened to be staying in the same hotel.
Apparently, it was at this point that the hotel security staff and a passing terrier became involved. For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to make it clear that it was the terrier alone who attempted to have sex with my knee while I was being held on the floor. The security staff behaved with restraint and decorum throughout, regardless of what I apparently shouted at the time.
“I really am at a loss as to what to do with you,” said Lord Stanton. “Since you started this column some years ago, we have had to put up with your drunkenness, inability to meet deadlines, lies, political incorrectness, bail payments, incarceration in a secure unit for your safety, cider-smuggling, standing for Parliament, pretending to be a policeman, the incident with your terrier and that Vietnamese pot-bellied pig at The Royal – have I mentioned public drunken-ness? – biting a policeman and your soiling of my private lift… but assaulting a colleague? I mean, where is it all going to end?”
I muttered something about medium-sweet cider but could see that it was hardly sufficient justification for my actions. I thought about asking for examples of these obviously false charges but decided not to when I saw the large file with my name on it on the desk in front of Lord Stanton. For once, it looked like the game was up.
“Now, I’ve spoken to Mr ap Sinamon here and his lawyer,” continued Lord Stanton. “They have agreed not to take this matter to court if you…”
To be continued…