The day to day tales of a target sports instructor on Skye Vol 2
Matt Harrison | May 29th 2017
Every day is different in this job. One day you can be looking after a group of arse kicking (Literally mostly) seven year olds, and the next day corralling an unruly gaggle of hens so as to avoid bumping into a stag dressed as a 6ft goose. I can only imagine the chaos if those two groups had met each other!
In general I would always accept ten hungover stag parties to come along and try axe throwing than just one equivalent hen party. Its nothing personal. In this age of equality the boys have some catching up to do when it comes to their target sport prowess. Its mainly a behavioural thing. Whilst working for the outdoor experience provider that brought me to Scotland I soon learned that scheduling a feisty female instructor to work for the 17 bachelors dressed as Borat in lime green mankinis (It was february in the cairngorms!) was one surefire way to keep them well and truly in line. To put this in context, I have a freelance instructor called William who was once very nearly kidnapped by a small but amazingly organised group of bridesmaids. Having spent a couple of hours with these wifeys I very much doubt there would have been much more than a ripped armadale activities t-shirt and an empty bag of tobacco to prove the lad even existed when they were finished with him!
I believe one of the most unique things about A.C.E Target Sports and this category of outdoor pursuits in general is how inclusive it can be, yes, there is a large portion of the population that find firearms, shotguns, air guns, paintball and throwing axes at pieces of wood incomprehensibly terrifying, However the remaining portion of the population who do want to get involved or who have been convinced by a less terrified partner or parent consist of the aforementioned 7 year old boys and girls, soon to be married men dressed as a goose, soon to be married women and their cronies on the lookout for men dressed as birds, 65 year old blind men who want to beat the instructor and gain legendary status whilst condemning said instructor (yes me) to the scrapheap!
The point is that the client(I hate that word)base is wide and varied and the one thing they all have in common is that whilst they are taking part in an experience with me they all have great time, some do I admit revert quickly to hating everything about it (some, I am convinced, do this purely out of principle) but a few have and do go onto become Archers, Shooters, Throwing axes at wood-ers. I have one boy who appears back on site every now and again and, at age 12 knows more about archery than I have ever been able to teach him! He is a national indoor champion. That makes me very happy.
On this particular weekend, less bathed in sunshine than my last entry. I have had a typically varied selection, The visitors book looks like the signing in sheet from the front desk at the united nations, I have entertained an Israeli stag party, Britain's premier female Spock impersonator (an old friend) and a private tour of foul mouthed american retirees!
In between these welcome visitors I am still racing around attempting to get ahead of myself on the equally varied list of jobs to do in order to keep a public site positioned on the side of a moist Scottish hillside running. Early morning, rewiring the cross-shot clay trap which gave up the ghost last week, mid morning chopping and stacking firewood, late afternoon changing the oil on the van, early evening rewiring the clay trap properly like I should have done the first time! I am certainly not a master of any of these skills but I have become a jack of many, mainly out of necessity!
Tomorrow will be different still, It is the one thing you can predict around here!
Matt Harrison | May 14th 2017
I should really have started this wee blog a number of years ago, as it is I am six ‘seasons’ into my hebridean adventure, running outdoor adventures on The Isle of Skye. I am pottering around at the range cleaning up after one group of target sports parties and getting ready for another this afternoon, it is the middle of spring and I am bathed in magnificent sunshine, given the time of year I am also, naturally, spending a large portion of my day at work playing one man and his dog, chasing ewes and their lambs off the site through the front gate after catching the pair (of whom I have become increasingly fond!) chowing down on the Daffodils which my head gardner, also known as my mum spent a week planting, the wee nipper is extremely loveable and content with allowing mum to do all the hard work while he waits in the sun for her to turn into milk!
Despite the efforts of sheep the daffs look magic, I doubted my mums logic as I was not after the manicured lawn look. I was very wrong.
The day to day stories and anecdotes in the job I have found myself doing are hopefully going to prove entertaining over the future entries, I will regale the stories of the past where appropriate but for now the present, if the last 6 years are anything to go by, things are about to get interesting!
As the day continues I have to clean down a large array of paintball equipment before the scottish sun which has been most welcome for the past few days, bakes the spent paint onto the kit! There is also the potential for my woolen squatters to get the taste for the paint, which is mainly gelatin ( I had a dear accomplice called Ralph who could not resist, to him they were just little balls of brightly coloured bacon!)
The rush to get cleaned up is mainly due to the fact that in roughly one hour, or 5 minutes, or 3 hours, judging by the timekeeping of most of my guests this month, I will be welcoming a small but feisty group of local 7 year olds for an Archery and Axe Throwing Party. I have met these lads before. As in my previous location in South Skye, there is a small enough community to get to know the locals, but not so small that all the names and faces come together easily without a ven diagram! It is not unusual to be shopping in the co-op and around the corner of the aisle peers a curious, mischievous 12 year old face whose name could be on the tip of my tongue providing I can spot in on the school bag before I am rumbled! Its nothing personal, there has been a lot of these parties!! When I receive a phone call to book a party or even just a family shoot, I get the names but I would sometimes appreciate that diagram so I know which faces to prepare for.
I digress, back to this afternoon. My previous experience with this particular group of 7 year old besties is from a Nerf war held a month or so earlier (only that time there was more like 30 of them) I set up Nerf Wars simply as a means to diversify and survive my first Skye winter without the security blanket of Hotel work to pay the bills, it was Nerf or die. Well it took off and I soon learned that no matter what you organise to entertain these kids, they quite often have their own plan in mind, and more often than not, taking it in turns to boot you in the arse and run away is far more entertaining than listening to rules or instructions!
Lack of control may be one thing in an activity with soft foam darts for ammunition, but thats ship cannot fly with ‘sharp’ archery and axes so shortly after the first boot coming into contact with my arse it was time for no more mister nerf guy! These are not bad kids, far from it, they are a pleasure to teach and I understand they are just excited, I have never been tempted to don the ear defenders usually reserved for clay shooting! So after a safe fun filled, couple of hours with a few popped balloons and plenty of haribo (yes it always helps to add sugar into the situation!) I made sure I showed them how it's done just long enough to lose in a competition and send them on there way and hopefully if I have done my job correctly give the parents a nice quiet night with the kids exhausted!
Time to clean up again, first job to pick the haribo tangfantastic out of the gravel in the picnic area before the sheep get a whiff, oh too late they are all over it already!