Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 17 March 2013
The abbreviated accident
The grounds of the huge house were backed by a deep and sweeping lawn. At one end was a massive cedar, the lower branches of which came almost down to the grass, and at the far end was a fringe of dark woodland.
The archers had set their butts up close to the woodland, and as the morning progressed, so they retreated further toward the shade of the cedar, giving them shots of over one hundred yards at the yellow discs on the targets pinned to the circular straw bundles.
The youngest of the novice archers was a 23 year-old woman and, frustrated by her lack of success with an ill-fitting practice bow, had borrowed a strange, bow-like contraption from a taciturn lad, who was dressed head to foot in military camouflage. The boy had, in fact, been banned from using this bow by the club chairman, but - being a fireman - the chairman had been called away early, and the lad took this opportunity to play with the outlawed weapon.
The bow seemed to have three sets of strings, and as the girl drew the main one back toward her chin, she was astounded at the ease of the operation, compared to bending the hard plastic of the other.
The little wheels top and bottom of the bow acted as pulleys, and with minimal effort she had shot two arrows the one hundred yards at the target, and both of them had hit with a dull slap, a second after she had released them.
Flushed with encouragement, she loaded the third and final arrow into the bow, took careful aim and released at full draw. It flew true to the centre, and she heard it smack against the gold of the target, but when she looked again, there was no sign of the bright feathered fletch to be seen.
The boy explained that the target was weakest at the centre, and the butt should have been replaced long ago. Her - or more precisely, his - arrow had gone right through, and was then probably stuck in the ground or a tree, somewhere inside the woods.
As the rest of the party began packing up to leave, the boy gave her a metal-detector and instructed her to look for the aluminium arrow in the woods, directly behind the target.
When she entered the cool shade of the trees, the girl did not bother to switch on the detector, preferring to use it as a stick with which to brush away the fresh bracken that might have obscured the missing arrow.
She wandered over mossy banks, stitched here and there with partially exposed tree roots like thick-bodied snakes, when she found a curious mushroom which stood lewdly - almost offensively - upright, it's red head contrasting shockingly with the deep green at it's base. A number of flies buzzed around it, momentarily disturbed by her arrival. She surprised herself by flushing with embarrassment at the sight, though there was nobody else near to witness it.
The voices on the lawn became fainter and less relevant the deeper into the wood she went, and the deeper she went in, the more she gave herself up to the arboreal, other-worldliness of the environment, so absolutely opposite from the nearby bright lawn she had just left. She began to fall into a trance-like state, and started to lose track of not only time, but the reason for ever being there, clutching an incongruous and inactive metal-detector.
At some point, she became aware of a voice calling her name from a great distance, and realised that it must be the boy on the lawn, anxious to retrieve his arrow and go home, so she switched on the machine and began searching for it in earnest.
The detector began to emit an unpleasant and steady, electronic whine and she swept the round end of it amongst the longer grass and bracken, hoping to be able to turn it off as soon as possible and return to the tranquil sound-scape of buzzing flies and bees before she was forced to leave for the archers.
She had reached a slight rise in the floor of the woodland which was riddled with what looked like rabbit-holes, when the detector began to shriek in alarm as she passed it over one particular tussock, so she switched it off and laid it onto the ground beside her before falling onto her knees to expose the arrow.
It's red feathers protruded from some lush greenery, and when she attempted to extract it, she felt a soft weight on the end as it came away from the ground. She involuntarily dropped the whole lot and took two steps backward, then steeled herself before going toward it again to investigate. The voice on the lawn continued to call her name.
In her confused state, she at first thought that - somehow - she must have accidentally skewered a rabbit which happened to be in the right part of the wood at the wrong time, but then something more than logic took hold. Rabbits did not wear clothes.
She was hot and flushed when she - empty handed - reached the boy on the lawn and told him that she could not find his arrow. Assuring him that she would buy him a replacement did not seem to placate him, but she had other things on her mind as she got into her car and drove away.