I was really lucky – it was a beautiful spring evening for my bow’s maiden voyage. So far, from the moment the clocks had gone forward, the sun had appeared to shine, and the archery outdoor season had nocked-off to a great start.
The fantastic weather had inspired others to turn up early, and the field was almost already set up, something I was quite pleased about. I knew very little about how to set up outside, and my last attempt had got me into trouble. Ted had told me that women should stay out of the way when men, who knew exactly what they were doing, were the only ones who’d possibly get it right. I hadn’t taken him seriously, and had just blown him a kiss as one of my previously erected bosses fell over. Cath had started laughing and Ted had got the hump and stomped off for a sulk. Sweet Peter, in between laughing himself, had told me that blowing kisses wasn’t exactly the sort of conduct that was expected from an SAC member. I’d then got the hump and had stomped off to sulk with Ted. After I’d broken the silence with a ‘hello Gorgeous’ and he’d replied ‘what’s up with you, Beautiful, lost your glasses?’ we’d become the best of friends for at least ½ an hour.
I parked the car, opened the tailgate, and proudly extracted a shiny, new bow case.
“Hello, what do we have here?” Steve made me jump as I’d not noticed his standing behind me – I was concentrating too much on not taking chunks out of the case too early on. “Won’t need help with the container door anymore?”
“Nope, I took the afternoon off to buy this!”
“Spending Richard’s money again, were we?” Steve queried annoyingly.
“It wasn’t again! If you recall, I paid for Richard’s course, his membership and the Club Do.” I got really wound up when someone insinuated that I didn’t pay my way. “As a matter of fact, I won the money for my outstanding contribution to organizing the works computer system’s electronic filing archive!”
Steve looked as if he’d wished he’d never opened the subject. “Err, that’s nice for you, and them – probably.”
I wished I hadn’t flown off the handle so fast.
“Let’s hope I’ve got the right thing as I went on my own.” I tried to sound humbled, but wasn’t going to say sorry. I never could understand how people could think that I was dependant on Richard paying. “Do I look like a high-maintenance lady who can’t afford to pay for her lifestyle?”
“Well, perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but, well – yes!” Steve had somehow managed to give me a back-handed compliment.
“Young Barbara!” John L leapt out of his partially-moored motor car – somehow he always left it at an angle so it looked like a boat tied up with one rope and never the right one. “What have you got? Whered’ya go to get it? You didn’t say you were going! If I’d known I might have been able to get some time off from doing those flammin’ papers at 6:00 in the morning. I’m worn out! John L pushed his glasses out of the way and rubbed at his tired eyes.
“I took Neil’s advice and went to over to Wallingford this afternoon.” A precious half day’s leave had been used up, but I was thrilled that my prize money had covered my purchases.
“Good selection over there, and were they helpful?” John L started to wake up with any suggestion of new kit as he, too, was having to use the club’s gear and like me was blaming it for all his problems.
“Yeah, nice place, it was easy to get to and find as well. Only thing I wasn’t able to do was to shoot for long as they’d got a corporate day running in their hall and I could only get in by persuading the guys they needed a coffee break.”
“But did the bow feel right?” Steve queried, his curiosity getting the better of him, and making him risk another ear-chewing.
“I tell you, I suspect anything would feel good after the club bows and the mauling they must have received over the years.” I said, perhaps a little unfairly. “I tried a few. There was one I really liked, but it didn’t have international limbs. I tried a Hoyt like Paul’s, but that seemed to feel a bit clumpy in my hand. I tried the 2 Petrons they were really trying to push, but the one I could manage didn’t have international limb fittings and the S3 was a bit too expensive for me. Yeah, I then tried an Aerotech – fantastic! But when I saw the price I nearly died – I couldn’t possibly have afforded that unless I could get a buyer for Richard’s body.”
“Tried the Antiques Roadshow?” Queried John L.
“You’ve got a point, but they had an issue with his provenance.” I laughed, “Things as old as that are not supposed to still be able to move and chat up other women!”
“You’ve also got a point about the beginners’ bows,” said Steve. “We have been talking about buying some new ones, especially in the middle weight range as more adults seem to want to take up the sport – or is it the fact that the children are getting bigger these days?”
“It’s when the policemen get younger you’ve really got a problem!” John L had to say it before I did. “Come on, young Barbara, let me help you carry some of your stuff. Don’t want to scuff it or get it dirty.”
Between us, we carefully took my new and treasured possessions up the slope onto the field, then in order to return the compliment, I helped John find his club arrows (easy), Club riser (not so easy) and club limbs (impossible) as he’d remembered he’d put them in a different box and the string hadn’t remained wrapped around them.
“ Marion said to me that as I was going to do archery on a regular basis, I should go off and get my stuff as quickly as possible.” John chatted on as he launched into the box where we’d located the riser to try and find the sight ring.
It had been a source of amusement to the club – and John – that as a married couple they would nearly be the perfect archery team. On one side we’d got Little John (well named, John was well over 6′) and ‘Maid’ Marion . All they needed was a son called Robin.
“So, ignoring the money bit if I’m being undiplomatic here, what’s the problem? I heard Liz offering to go with you and make sure you didn’t get ripped off.”
“Barbara, it’s not that easy.” John’s rich brown voice responded as he struggled with the over-shortened club bowstringer, the one of many knots. “It’s the time. I don’t like to let them down at work, I like to take my holiday as holiday with Marion , and there’s so much to do in the house at the weekend! That’s why I’m so darn tired all the time and don’t shoot very well.”
“I know, I’m in the same boat. It’s just that this time, buying my own bow became more important than anything else. I knew that Richard wasn’t interested anymore, so I had to do something off my own bat. Winning that award at work and then winning a recipe competition seemed like an omen – and now was the time!”
The moment I opened the new case I had a Coat visitation.
“What arrows have you got? Oh, they’re the same as mine. Yuck, don’t like the fletchings, did you actually choose those colours? The Coat looked with a large measure of distaste at the pink and orange I’d acquired.
“I wanted red and white. The bloke in the shop said that pink was the closest to red he’d got and then he’d run out of white in that size.” I could see the Coat’s point, but at least I never get them muddled up with anyone else’s stuff – certainly no-one would be daft enough to pick orange and pink as their colours.
“So, what has Barbara got here, then?” John T, the newly-elected Equipment Officer for the club peered into the case. “Why, it’s a little baby Win & Win!” He was chuckling as if it was a baby in a pram, and it might as well have been for the amount of people who’d gathered around to see what I’d got.
Phil, as usual, swept aloofly by as if not wanting to be seen with the common rabble then in a semi-gallant gesture loftily threw his coat on the ground.
“You’ll need somewhere to stand it so it doesn’t get dirty!” He said and issued one of his rare smiles.
In an equally gallant gesture I handed him his coat back. I didn’t want Jonathon, still peering out from under the current blue persona having an identity crisis if he spotted Phil’s green (wouldn’t you know it?) model.
“Thanks, but no thanks, Phil”, I informed him. “I don’t want you catching a cold, it wouldn’t be terminal. Please catch something a little more worth while like Bubonic Plague.”
I actually didn’t want him getting grass in the lining. I’d done the same last week and had to vacuum the entire house after I’d shed bits everywhere and I wasn’t about to inflict that on his lovely wife, Sue.
“Actually, John, as you know about archery equipment, could you help me out here?”
“What’s the problem?” Queried John T, as politely as ever.
“Well, it’s the way the limbs slot in. I’m not used to this international fitting and without the string on, the limbs seem to be very loose and it rattles.”
John slotted the bow together and, taking the thing by the handle, gave it an almighty shake. Nothing happened, nothing came apart.
“When I put it together at home,” I continued, “I must have done something wrong as the bottom limb slipped off when I went to put the string on. It didn’t do any damage other than bruise my leg, but once bitten, twice shy.”
“What sort of limbs are those?” Jenni had picked up one and was examining the pearlised black finish. “They are very pretty and I haven’t seen anything this colour before! It looks really lovely with the black handle.”
“They are Scorpia limbs – 24-26lbs but I think it’s a short handle” John had got hold of the lower limb and was examining the dovetail end. That bit had got the writing on. “Used Scorpia limbs – did they tell you that?”
“Yes, the handle’s second hand as well, I was told it’s an old WinAct that’s been re-sprayed.” I responded. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford the new version.”
“Too true!” Neil had got hold of one of my arrows, and was doing the inevitable Neil of examining it closely and twirling it around to see if it was straight. “If it is a WinAct, it holds 2 world records. You’ve done well to pick one up a short secondhand model as most people, once they’ve got one, tend to hang onto it. But it doesn’t look like a WinAct to me. The only other thing it could be is a Sidewinder. I’ll have a look through some of those back catalogues that Melanie’s always telling me to throw out and see if I can find it.”
“Have you got the string?” John T asked, “I’ll set it up for you if you’re nervous.”
I happily handed John the rather gaudy purple and white string which was on the bow when I’d bought it. John carefully strung the bow, then just as he was about to take the tension off the stringer reversed the procedure and removed the purple sting.
“Have you got a spare string? I think the problem you had before was a little bit to do with you, but the loop at the top of the string is much too big – and that could make a difference with limbs which are so narrow as these are at their tops.”
I handed John the spare I’d had made up that day. I’d listened carefully to all the advice offered and had got spare strings, spare fletchings, spare nocks and even the right glue.
John happily strung the bow this time, then gave the string a ping.
“There you go, no problems now! I suggest you see Liz about getting that loop closed up a bit, she’ll know what to do.” John said sweetly.
Liz, if she ever could be, was slightly miffed – and it wasn’t about the string.
“I’d have gone to Perris with you. It’s only a short time to wait until term is over.” Liz sniffed. “And I like helping other people spend their hard-earned money!”
“I know you would, but after being able to shoot outside last week, and having to grovel every time I wanted a club bow I really thought it was about time I did something for myself. This week was the only space I’ve got in my diary for a month – that’s with everyone else having time off to cover their children being off over Easter.” I justified my making a move without her kindly offered help.
“What you should have done was to go to Chiltern, try all the bows on offer, then when you’d found what you wanted phone Tony at Perris and he’d have put it on order for you.” Liz explained patiently.
“But I wanted the bow now – I just couldn’t wait any longer!” I remonstrated, “and besides, the club bows just don’t work for me outdoors. I’d like to be able to hit something occasionally.”
Liz nodded with sympathy.
“I know, there’s really nothing like having your own stuff, but I would have saved you some money and time – and enjoyed myself!”
“Here’s your bow.” John T handed me the fully strung version. “It looks really nice. What you want to do now is to go out and enjoy it.”
How right he was. I savoured every shot, every movement and sound the bow made and fell in love with the evening. All too soon the light – it was only early April – faded and there was a mass vote to move indoors and shoot for another hour. Inside was almost as wonderful. Shooting at 15 yards I got 3 golds – it was on the big outdoor faces but nevertheless it was something I’d never achieved before. John L did the same with the club bow. At that moment we both felt we could outshoot the world.
I simply couldn’t wait until the next opportunity to shoot. I kept opening the case, checking everything was still there and I even nicked some of Richard’s special car polish to treat the riser to an extra shine. On the Sunday, I must have shot myself into exhaustion, but I was still getting high on the sheer power of the thing and just how beautiful I thought it looked – shiny black riser, shiny and the distinctly cool black pearlised limbs.
Then one evening the handle grip creaked and fell off.
John T assured me that all I needed to do was stuff some bluetac in between the handle and riser – on no account to superglue it on as it was supposed to be flexible as to if you wanted to put a custom handle on, or move the factory built version for comfort. I so, so carefully put the layers of blutac in, scraping away the remnants that threatened to smear the face of my black beauty. It worked. The handle stayed put, it felt good. Then the lower limb fell off.
Once again, it was a lovely evening, just before Easter. I nocked the arrow, got more or less into the right position (funny how all that training of lining up, relaxing your grip etc. goes out the window when the equipment compensates for defects), drew and there was a loud thump. Nothing too violent, but the lower limb had disconnected in exactly the same way it had when I’d first set up. This time the limb had missed me, but the recoil had badly chipped the riser’s paintwork. I rapidly dismantled the bow and packed up.
As usual the willing band of helpers assembled to see what had happened.
“I can’t tell you what’s gone wrong if you won’t let me see.” Phil finished his end, and stood annoyingly whirling one of his arrows around over his shoulder.
“It’s going back, this is the second time this has happened!” I was distinctly unhappy and didn’t hesitate to show it.
“Put the thing up again, I’ll take a look. If you are worried about hurting yourself I’m happy to do it for you.” Phil said pleasantly, and stopped whirling the arrow.
“No, really, I don’t want anyone being hurt. I’m waiting for my last bruise to fade and wouldn’t forgive myself if anyone else – even you – got hurt.” I wasn’t happy, so as Phil was in the way he got the venom.
“Up to you!” The standard Phil phrase sounded as he shrugged and stomped off.
John T waited until Phil was out of earshot. “Would you like me to take another look, Barbara? I did wonder about the limbs being right for that riser. You’ve already had some problems, so why not put your foot down and ask for some Win & Wins? That way you’ll know they’ll be compatible, even if they take the Scorpias back as part exchange.”
“I know they look nice, but I was never really happy with a set I tried.” Jenni smiled at me sympathetically. “You get yourself some nice Win & Wins, girl! Smile nicely and I’m sure they won’t bother about upgrades – they’ll just make an exchange.”
Later investigation at home showed nothing. I hit the phone the Tuesday following Easter, explained as well as I thought I could (still aware of being a learner and not actually knowing what I was talking about) and the shop said that I should bring the bow back so they could take a look.
You know what it’s like when you’ve put up with toothache all over a Bank Holiday, sold your soul and used up all the favours to get a dentist’s appointment and then the pain goes? Back at the shop, we couldn’t get the thing to disconnect unless we took it apart properly or seriously shook it. However, the new guy I saw said that the limbs were second hand, and that could be the problem, so I could have new ones and see how I got on with those. I didn’t even ask about having another type of limb as the guy was so helpful, however, to prove a point, I put the bow up twice in the shop, rattled it, and everything seemed fine.
I took the thing home, tried the same exercise, and this time the thing didn’t want to come apart at all!
I tried my neighbour, Steve, who used to be treasurer of the Club to see if he could make sense of it. He managed to get the lower limb off, but the upper one resolutely stayed in position. He suggested that perhaps after shooting it might free up a bit.
It didn’t. After shooting, I couldn’t shift the upper limb at all and was far too proud to ask for help again. Paul suggested I try some candle wax, so once back home I carefully rubbed melted wax onto the buttons. I don’t know if it was the heat change or if the wax actually worked, but the top limb finally parted company around midnight.
But then, every time I went shooting, I had to go and grovel to get someone to help me take the thing down. Neil told me that his mother had never managed to master taking her bow apart, but even he somehow found mine rather difficult. One night I struggled with the thing, then handed it to Mark Collins who was one of those people whose strength was deceptive. He gave the thing an almighty heave and the limb, plus a large section of what looked like a fabric washer that was supposed to cushion the thing in place ripped out. He looked worried about what he’d done, but I was simply relieved that I could actually transport it in the case. However, the washer must have been critical as when I put the bow up again, the limb wouldn’t stay put!
I was on the phone to the shop the following day. Once again, they insisted I bought the thing back in person, so this time I went – prepared for a battle as they weren’t very helpful on the phone – in the middle of their busiest period on the Saturday afternoon. After a half hour wait, I explained the problem, said I wanted either a replacement or my money back as I was getting slightly – ever so slightly – cheesed off.
I was then required to wait another hour until the manager got back to approve the required replacement/money back. I waited another hour and half and found that doing reasonable and doing nice wasn’t working. With a large audience I verbally tackled a new guy who’d just walked in the door. He made the very serious mistake of suggesting that I cut something to the same size as the washer, then glue it in.
No chance – having been through too loose, too tight, I wanted just right, especially as I’d spent around £350 for my starter set and at that price I expected it to work. Forget bodge it up, I wanted something that I could take out of the case which worked without me having to – pardon the expression – fart around with it.
In retrospect, I felt rather sorry for him. On one side he’d got a group of six guys armed with 6 new compounds all looking to make a serious upgrade, and on the other side a family of four wanting the full Monty and inevitably Dad not wanting the basic kit like everyone else.
In the middle of this, he’d got Barbara the Warrior Queen ranting and raving like Boudica – have chariot, will plunder and not a helpful Roman Centurion in sight. The assistant seemed to find it quite funny, and after 10 minutes of “negotiation” (unreasonable/unpleasant and positively hormonal on my part) was told ‘give the lady whatever she wants – within reason’.
Triumphant, I wanted a new riser. The other one had lumps taken out of its lovely shiny black paintwork when the first set of limbs had disconnected. It also had ripped out the fabric washer and as far as I was concerned it didn’t work. Forget the idea of giving me that re-sprayed, second-hand red one as well; I wanted new and in a different colour so everyone could see I’d got something new. Yes, that silver one over there looks just right!
I was also starting to distrust the limbs; I’d remembered John T saying get yourself a set of Win & Wins and at the same time I wanted to go up a couple of pounds. I thought this was reasonable – brand new riser for a used one, and a set of new limbs (the originals were, after all, used) upgraded and from a more expensive range. I even made my point and once again put the bow up and down twice whilst in the shop, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shop manager so relieved to say goodbye as when I walked out the door. It was only halfway down the road that I realized that although I’d sweet-talked them into putting my sight onto the new riser, I’d left my arrow rest on the old one, and hadn’t purchased a replacement.
No, I was not going to go back, and I rang Quicks the moment I got home, ordering a brand new magnetic rest plus a button – I just had to have a new toy.
Then I couldn’t get either of the new limbs to detach and it was getting embarrassing. I started to believe it was something to do with me, I’d got it wrong and was a total idiot – but even so, Steve over the road couldn’t shift the things either – and as anyone who’s ever met Steve before will tell you, he’s not a small bloke.
A fully assembled bow does not fit happily into a Ford KA, it’s like trying to ram a reluctant tom cat into a crate when it’s realized that this particular journey will result in a trip to the vets’ and an end to its love life. But it was the only way I was going to get to shoot, some help in dismantling the thing, and if all else failed driven back to the shop again.
John T enthused over the new limbs – I’d appeared to take his advice – though more out of necessity than any other reason and they shot very nicely. However, then end of the evening came and the time to take the thing down again arrived.
To my surprise, the top limb came away after a short struggle – there was hope. The lower limb, however, resolutely refused to shift.
“Give it to me – there’s a knack to these international fittings, but I don’t get problems with my Hoyt – told you I’d save you time later!” Liz happily took the bow off of me, pulled, rattled and tweaked but couldn’t budge it.
“I can’t promise anything, I’ve got a dodgy knee (a geuine cycling related injury – Paul) and still got that septic toe I told you about last week!” Paul looked suitably pathetic. “Don’t look at me like that – I’m but a weak and feeble man alongside you and your weight training!”
“I don’t see what difference your knee would make when using your arms.” I remonstrated with Paul, “but please, could you try? If you can’t I’ll have to ask Old Grumpy.”
“I’ll ask him for you.” Paul said in a resigned voice after he’d failed to shift anything and limped over to Phil.
Phil grinned broadly, had a quick snigger on my account and pulled.
He failed; thus proving he was, very occasionally, human.
“And I thought with those muscles you could shift anything.” I had a little smirk and snigger back.
“What have you been doing to it? Did you check it in the shop?” Phil ignored the shot about muscles and started to make excuses.
“I did check. I had a problem to start with then managed after I was told to press at the top and pull with the other hand.” I went deep into defense mode.
“Grab hold of the end.” Phil thrust the riser end into Paul’s hands.
“I can’t pull too hard, remember my knee!” Paul laughed, then had to stop and keep all of his breath as the two of them heaved with the effort to part the limb from the riser.
Liz and I couldn’t stop laughing – and the darn thing was still stuck.
“I don’t see why you are finding this so funny, it’s your bow and my knee’s killing me!” Paul gasped between tug-o-war heaves.
Phil gave a final heave and Paul detached himself from his end, grabbing his knee and looked particularly agonised.
Phil glared at the joint. “I wouldn’t normally do this unless it was my own bow.” With that, he karate chopped the middle of the limb, pulled and the bow finally behaved and came apart.
I was thrilled and went to grab the riser and limb back, but, perversely, Phil promptly went to re-assemble it with that silly ‘I’ll pay you back for this’ smile on his face.
“No, don’t be silly!” I argued, “I appreciate what you’ve done, but whatever you do now, please don’t put it all the way in again.”
Paul coughed violently as I’d just said something that his grubby little mind had totally misconstrued.
The comment went straight over Phil’s head, or in his upright, correct and gentlemanly stance had chosen to ignore it. He continued, and I heard the joint latch together again.
“There you are!” He handed it back.
Furious, I snatched it back and heaved at the two components. They parted easily.
“You should have trusted me,” said Phil.
“You should have come with me to Perris!” said Liz.
“My knee hurts,” groaned Paul.