Row, row, row the boat- – –

Dame Katherine Grainger is at it again. Speaking sense that is. Supporting the athletes that is. Addressing the bullying culture so prevalent in sports that is. Wonderful. Everything that I read about this Dame fills me with joy. And, it seems she’s getting backing where it matters. That’s maybe easy of course, as so many sports have been found to have this dreadful bullying culture, where athletes are afraid to speak in case they get kicked off the team, that people know that this sort of thing is going on. And athletes are speaking up. Not enough, because they are still frightened if that’s not too strong a word, but it’s moving in the right direction.

So this morning there’s more good news. Coaching staff are going to be issued with guidance on the “Four golden threads of a positive and winning sporting culture.”

These are: inspiration, integrity, the pursuit of excellence and respect. This last one, in my experience, is sadly lacking with athletes being treated abysmally, often. But they are frightened to say anything. As I’ve said.

Row, row, row the boat merrily down the stream. In the right direction. Not round and round in circles. I hope some in ivory towers take a moment to ponder their style. They won’t of course as they know it all! God help us. Oh no. We have Dame Katherine Grainger pulling hard too. Phew.


Sunday afternoon. Having a day off. But, as ever, so many things jump out.

Here’s a quote from a magazine. I’ve changed some of he words a little just as an amusement. Then I’ll tell you the truth, or the full story.

”A lot of shooters didn’t shoot with much confidence and you didn’t fancy their chances, whereas xxxxx would hit one after another – bang, bang, bang -and you thought he was never going to miss.

Part of his secret was that he spent hours PRACTISING, PERFECTING HIS TECHNIQUE.” (My capitals of course.)

”often the secret to successful shooting is getting the basics right.”

How often do I make comments like those above?  Constantly I hope. If not I’m being lax.

So, who’s words are these? The rocket man. No, not Elton, but Ronnie O’Sullivan. Whom does he refer to? Steve Davis unsurprisingly. All I’ve done is substitute shooting words for snooker words. But the message is the same.

I asked a young lad last week how much dry training he had done in the week since I last saw him.

“Yes, I did some on Wednesday night.” Shocked, I asked why only on Wednesday . He replied that that was the night the club was open. I was at pains to point out that it was an every day thing. Constant. Unrelenting. Vital. Important.

So, referring again to Steve Davis’ training, it matters not what the sport is, you have got to put the hours in. I often comment to the shooters, and particularly shooters resident in sunny Scotland, that they are unlikely to shoot 20,000 cartridges a year, a number often regarded by many coaches as an absolute minimum, but that they can certainly do 20,000 dry mounts per year. Add to that visualisation, imagery -call it what you will – and the hours all build up – as, naturally, do the skill levels.

Anser Anser?

But what is the question?

Goosey goosey gander,

Whither shall I wander?

Upstairs and downstairs

And in my lady’s chamber.

There I met an old man

Who wouldn’t say his prayers,

So I took him by his left leg

And threw him down the stairs.

And so, what prompts all of this avian commentary? Well, yesterday, not far from home, a field of stubble was absolutely covered in geese. I’m not actually sure that they were greylags as, despite the numbers, I couldn’t get a proper look at them. They may well have been Pinkfeet. They of course are Anser Brachyrhyncus, which makes the title somewhat redundant, if on the same theme. Then we come to the question of shooting. Are they quarry species? Certainly. Are you allowed to shoot them with lead? Well, as I recall, that is somewhat country specific. My knowledge, as with so many things, is limited, but we in the land of the Scotti, can shoot them in fields with lead shot, but not so over water. In the land of the Angles, as I recall, it’s a species specific matter and goosey goosey ganders, and perhaps for all I know, all waterfowl, must be shot with lead free ammo, regardless of venue, for want of a better word. I’m afraid that I have no knowledge of the Gauls or the Gaels over the water. Back to seeking Ansers!

As to the little rhyme, there is so much to it naturally, the suggestion being that it refers to Catholic Priests hiding from their pursuers. More kvestions than ansers again zaichata.


OS. Double O day. Olympic Opportunity day for the uninitiated. If any of you are uninitiated that is. Surely not.

Anyway. “Sanenigma.”




”Station 8.”


”Itisso. ‘Simpossible.”


And so on. I could fill several pages. What can a chap do? Grasp the various bulls by the horns and walk out that, sometimes very long, path to the middle for diddle. And commence slaying that particular dragon. To mix several metaphors. It’s all very well me saying “Its no’ that hard.” But that means little and the way to deal with it is to get on.

Pin eight is the iconic peg. It’s what defines ‘limpic skeet. Some may recall some years ago there was a suggestion, was it a rumour?, that pin eight was going to be removed from the discipline. Thankfully, sanity prevailed. And it’s still there for us to enjoy.

Crying, screaming, wailing, out they come.

“I can’t hit this. Lemmego. I don’t want to do this. Heeeeelp.”

”Shutup and shoot ya weed. Get on. Gun there. Look there. Let the bird come out of the hole three metres and then belt it. Do it ya pest.”

I’m sure I’m not allowed to speak to people like that nowadays, so the above may, or may not, be a true representation of what goes on. But all I can say is that all, yes all, of the great unwashed, were hitting the target very quickly. It may be that I am a wonderful instructor. It may be that, in fact, it’s actually not very difficult, but success came quickly. Indeed if they could all hit high one with such efficiency, so quickly,  I’d be a happy boy. But of course happy I am.

It has been pointed out to me that some, perhaps many, of you will struggle with the title of today’s episode. Sigh. What is the nation coming to?

So, to pamper to that lot, spit, you need to look up Winston Churchill’s statement on how he perceived Russia. Without going over the score, I imagine if you google Churchill & enigma & Russia, something will come up. How you cannot know is beyond me.


”I may not be able to come. I am waiting to hear from dofe.” So, cryptically, WTF is dofe? I’ve heard of POTUS. Well, of course, everybody has heard of POTUS, but who has heard of dofe? Is dofe more important? Probably not! If you were waiting to hear from POTUS you probably would not be coming to NSC to shoot OS.

”WTF is dofe?”

Back comes the reply. Wait for it. Duke of Edinburgh! That’s pretty important, so I can understand waiting to hear from him.

Yes, I know it’s not chooky (as he is know in Scotland. “Chookyembru” to give him his full Scottish title.) himself who will be calling. A minion. A servant. But still nice to be in the Rolodex. If anyone remembers them!

World Champion?

The question mark is asking if that is your goal? Or one of them anyway. And what prompts that you may ask? Well, I was reading “Clay Shooter” a free magazine, (deep joy) that I picked up at Auchterhouse yesterday. It was about the last one, although I see it’s the November issue so it must be quite popular.

I must say, and it’s a dreadful confession, that I rarely read shooting magazines as, being very old, I sometimes feel that I have waded through enough mires of guns, cartridges, chokes, specs, vests, blah, blah, blah. But I do accept they have an important place and I also accept that I should subscribe to more and treat them as my trade papers. But I don’t. Funnily enough I still buy books on shooting matters. I would say that as with so many things, one tiny piece of information gleaned from those same mires can make a huge difference.

But I digress. As usual. What prompts all of this above? Don Brunt interviewing David Radulovich. I have met Don, in the days, as I recall, when he was a photographer. People will remind me of the name of his company, but it was based around his initial “DB” and it may have been Double Barrelled or something. No matter. I, until yesterday, had never heard of Davie lad.

There was much impressive stuff about this young man’s career, not least and impressive number of cartridges he must have banged. Handy to have a supportive dad who was an Orthodontist in America. But what I picked upon was, to me, a vital point about his progression. I shall quote :

“David writes a journal after each event, noting down how he felt that day and what his key decisions were. He uses these notes to design his practice sessions.”

Now that is what differentiates this lad from so many. How often do I bang on about training diaries? Here it’s is straight from the beautifully toothed horses mouth.

Learn zaichata. Learn from the great ones in sport, not just shooting. Learn and go forward.

Five Live.

I end up listening to the above radio channel as I tootle to and fro in sunny Scotland. It’s almost totally about football. A lot of it is utter tosh, but, as with any cesspit, there may be a salmon in there somewhere.

Today’s gem was a comment regarding Zola. Not Émile. That would be so startling as to cause a major meltdown. Momentary musing after writing this as I began to wonder if Dreyfus (look it up and you will understand the link) was a Major. However a Captain he was. But I digress.

The snippet this morning was regarding Gianfranco Zola. Same last name as Émile but different in many other ways – except, perhaps, commitment.

The contributor, I forget who he was, had played with Zola at Chelsea. He held him up as the perfect example of the proper professional. Arrived before everyone else. Warmed up. “Put the cones out,” which is obviously what was needed for running around, commenced training on his own. Perfecting movements, practicing shots, placing balls, dandifying dribbles. Giving everything 100%. Ah, if every sportsperson and, in particular, every shooter would approach their training sessions in the same manner, how wonderful life would be. As far as I can see, quite a number arrive late. They are not fed and watered. They inevitably have forgotten something. “My mum never put it in” or, “My mum must have taken it out” which is a bit much from a 37 year old – slight exaggeration – they stand and chat rather than warming up and as for goals and a training diary, ha, ha, ha.

Now, one of the many points in this missif is that perhaps the shooters need role models -as opposed to bacon rolls – to see how a professional goes about his trade. If you have the chance, watch the Italians -there is a thread here – at a World Cup getting ready to shoot. What’s the thread? This Zola is Italian too. He has an OBE which I haven’t got to the bottom off but I shan’t grudge him that. What is it they say? Forza Italia? Forza Scozzese will do just now. Look at yourself. Are you in any way like Zola? If not why not? Do you care?

I hope so.


Or wondering? Wondering where we are going. Reading a bit lately on nutrition – see “Grub” below – to assess current (or currant!) thinking. I go on about it daily, largely to no avail and really, my main concern is that shooters can get through a day, or two, of competition. Incidentally, I write this on 8th November 2017 and it’s just been announced that women will again shoot the same number of targets as men in ISSF competitions. So two days for all. Probably fairer and it satisfies the current gender equality debate. Thus, feeding matters. Or, in my view, maintaining blood sugar levels matters.

To digress slightly, I quote Susan Kleiner – “It’s really about your goals for training.” This may come from her book “Power Eating”, but it’s hardly a world shattering comment. I only include it to focus people on what they are doing and where they wish to go. When I am running a “Double O” – Olympic Opportunity – day, people pay lip service to goal setting. Few, if any, have them written down, which distresses me as I feel that they are just, as I said above, wandering. Few, if any, have them on their bathroom mirror, car steering wheel, gunstock, whatever. Few, if any, have photographs in their training diaries (training diaries ha!) of emotive subjects. Medals, heroes, podiums.

So, obviously, training encompasses the full gamut of desires. May I quote a real hero? A man who pushed the boundaries in many of the sports he took part in. A visionary. Pete Livesey by name. Look him up.

”Training is an activity directed towards improving one’s level of performance in a chosen activity and the problems of training lie in discovering the most effective means of achieving specified results.”

Cogently put Pete. Rest in peace. The rest of us have to get on and learn what we need to do.

Must go. The range calls. As ever.


Not Robbie, although he is always worthy of a mention. He is a double B Grubb, just to confuse things. This leads on to the highly esteemed (by some anyway) “Double O” – Olympic Opportunity – days and the variety of topics discussed thereon. Grub, or to be highfalutin’, nutrition, features, of course. As does hydration. Which is more important? Well, poor hydration manifests itself more quickly. But low blood sugar is maybe – and I will be guided by greater powers here – more challenging. Shooters might realise they are thirsty, by which time it’s too late, but do they know or appreciate, if that’s the way to put it, the manifestations of low blood sugar.

So, I moan – in a nice way – about eating and drinking. New shooters, I mean new to the Double O days, are generally, dare I say, uncultured. They don’t appreciate what to eat and drink, and when. And, in sunny Scotland, due to tiny numbers, competitions, as they are loosely called, are over quick. None of this two and a half hours between rounds, and managing all of that.

But what prompts this missif? Well, the different views on what to eat. I think I could safely say that in GB, or Scotland anyway, we have been asked to focus on a high carb diet. Lets say 60% carbs with 20% fat and 20% protein. I have disputed that for many years as it certainly didn’t suit me -and I’m pleased to see that in modern thinking this is being challenged and reassessed. Some nations actually place a lot of importance of a protein rich diet. You have to learn what’s best.

What then does the new, enlightened, shooter do. Have a bacon roll on the way to the ground? Have a coffee when they get there? In the midst of bacon, egg and chips, someone says, “You’re on.” A quick wipe round the plate to get the most of that wonderful mixture of egg yolk and tomato sauce on the buttered roll they were enjoying in the side, and off they go to do battle. But not everyone. Some eat sushi. Helpmagod. Some bring food from home. Some bring drinks from home. Some go to the “healthy eating” aisle in the supermarket and are seduced into buying something with “Energy” or “Fitness” on it. Some bring a Mars Bar. Some seek guidance from whatever quarter and start on the long road of learning what works for them.

Many and various are the supermarkets we have had to discover in our travels seeking decent food for proper athletes to burn in their performances. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it was dire. Some countries, not maybe always where you would think, had very limited stocks. Pieces were often made up in the hotel in the morning, occasionally arousing the ire of the maitre d’ as a veritable production line of Scots got the pieces made for the day.

Enough rambling. Look to your tummy. Maybe, some of you, look at your tummy. An army may well march on its stomach and so should an athlete fighting for success.

Force Platform?

Excersised (should it be exorcised?) on the question of  trap shooters, in particular, wearing what I shall call weight lifting shoes. I believe those who know may have different names. That generic title will do.

Assuming, dangerously, that these shoes are designed to facilitate those who lift weights, drive the power movement down through the heels, what are the benefits to a trap shooter? I know they have a “lift” – for want of a better word – in them, and thus raise the shooters heels, tipping them forward which could be a good thing. They, possibly, help facilitate a good shooting position. They also, probably, surely, keep the feet flat for a start and then the rotational movements commence from the ankles upwards. There will (?) therefore not be the rolling movement – in the shoe – so often observed, and what actually prompted this question.

Also, very obviously, there is a change in the shooter’s gait. We can all see that as they clump along the layouts. It’s akin to, in the olden days, which I recall clearly, young horses getting their first shoes, or a shaped shoe to, again, alter their gait. Now that must be uncomfortable – I would have thought. The answer may be to get them strapped into the idea and the shoes ASAP. I did speak with a young shooter this morning who was accustomed to wearing them in the gym, but who found them unsuitable on the range. He did admit that perhaps he did not give them enough of a test. Possibly, one answer is to start wearing them in October and try them over the winter when competitions are not quite so imminent. One questions whether, in Scotland, one can strap snowshoes on comfortably?

I do know that, amazingly, knowledgeable people read this column so, no doubt, I’ll know a lot more soon – as the tosh I write is quickly remedied. But in a good way.

On the subject of force platform, I recall in Germany once upon a time, on yet another training course, Vessela Letcheva, who, most won’t remember was an Olympic gold and silver medalist, was there delivering mental and, exhaustingly, physical training. One day, in the lab, Vessela was wired up to all sorts of things but kneeled on what I think was called a “Force Platform” but it may have been a Scatt (?) machine. Stable, beyond stable, she fired a shot. The machines hardly quivered. When the first shotgun shooter stood on it, the technicians screamed loudly as they probably would have broken it.

What does this prove? Certainly not that all rifle shooters are stable, as, manifestly they are not. Not all shotgun shooters are unstable either, despite the propaganda delivered from some sectors.

We are but mere mortals.