Saturday, 11 June 2011


We have been enjoying the May/June edition of Skirmish magazine (Dragoon Publishing, ISSN 1466 8068), particularly Terry Underwood’s article. Ostensibly about time he spent at the Downland Museum for a weekend making longbows, much of it is actually about his struggle with the bureaucracy of couriers to get his 6ft 4in stick and piece of string in a padded bag back to Jersey, after the airline substituted the plane he was supposed to travel on with a smaller one that couldn’t take his luggage.

First carrier: “It’s too long for us to transport by air.”

Second carrier: “Our local carrier cannot take this as it’s an antique.”

“It’s four days old; you’re just collecting it from a museum.”

Next carrier: “We can’t transport a weapon of war.”

“It’s a piece of sporting equipment.”

Carrier: “Has it got arrows with it?”


Two days later, carrier: “We’ve been to collect it and we can’t transport it, as it’s strung.”

“The string is looped at one end and secured at the other with a bowyer’s knot; it’s not strung as such.”

Anyway, the museum unpacked it, folded the string up separately and repacked it.

Another day, another carrier: “We tried to collect it, but the documentation is incorrect.”

Up to this point nobody had mentioned the need for a customs declaration, Jersey being outside the European Union. The saga did end eventually with his stick arriving in Jersey, but it made us wonder who is paying whom not to collect it on all the failed attempts. We can understand police firearms departments stringing (geddit?) things along, delaying issuing certificates and struggling to find all manner of reasons for not doing their jobs. We wrote a book about it, published recently; you can read all about it here.

In police firearms departments, finding a reason not to do something is, paradoxically, a form of job creation: expanding the work to fill the time available, and trying to look important and essential. Happily, and at least in part because of our book, they’ve been rumbled. There have already been some high profile redundancies of unnecessary bureaucrats. Now the government needs to make the rest of the savings that are possible by garnering all the firearm and shotgun certificate-issuing duties into one national office, with a mandate to act lawfully at all times. That would save a fortune, with no risk to public safety. If they do sort the bureaucrats out properly, the main loss will be that we’ll have less to write about. We might have to try taking a gallery rifle or two to Jersey—that might get enough bureaucrats hopping about to be worth an article. Or a book.