It might seem hard to get too excited about a cartridge bag but that’s only if its bought just to hold cartridges on a shoot, even though that’s what it’s made for! I’ve been shooting for a number of years now and until a few weeks ago never owned one. Instead, I have used a Barbour wax leather Terras bag which I originally bought as a useful bag when fishing or walking the dog! I never saw the need to go and buy a new bag to do something I already had covered. At the end of the day a cartridge bag is just that, a bag to hold cartridges. As with all things, there will be expensive cartridge bags and less expensive ones. Brand name will be the main driver behind the cost. A specimen from Purdey could set you back in excess of £400 but one from Jack Pyke may cost as little as £50. They do the same thing however and do it well.
Some of you will be aware that I keep bees. As our latest podcast proclaims, I am but a keeper of bees and as it’s my good wife who is the bee keeper (having been stung!). We have harvested the benefits of being apiarists for a couple of years now. The most visible of these benefits being honey, but equally important is also our health and well-being which comes free when interacting with nature. Over the last two years we have collected a small amount of honeycomb, but not enough to do anything with it. I had toyed with the idea of turning it into beeswax and use it on the butts of some of my guns but hadn’t got around to it. Turning honeycomb into beeswax is a relatively straight forward process. Firstly, you need to melt the comb and filter out the impurities and dirt that is intermixed. I use a Sainsbury’s vegetable bag (they sell them for 30p), in which I place the honeycomb. I drop that into a pan of boiling water. The wax then dissolves and passes through the mesh into the water leaving the impurities and dirt behind in the bag. Next, I discard the bag and pour out the wax and water mix into a plastic container. Once cooled, the wax will set at the top with the water below. You can now peal the wax off. If it’s a lot of wax, it will likely still have impurities contained within it. If that’s the case, then you can run this through a second boiling and separating process before filtering through something like a coffee filter to remove the dirt. I didn’t need to do that this time as I had such a small amount of wax.
You now have the wax, but you still need to turn it into a wax polish. This is achieved by mixing one-part wax to one-part Turpentine. I use original Turpentine, not mineral spirits. Mixing them is again done in a pan where you have again melted the wax. Once mixed, pour into a container and leave it to set. That’s it, you’re done. Nothing complicated and only mildly messy. What’s this got to do with a very special cartridge bag? Well, it’s down to the random nature of when two or more events happen at that ‘sliding doors’ moment. Making the beeswax from our own bees was the first event. The second one is more about people than animals.
As we make our way through life most of us gain a number of friends. True friends are hard to come by, but acquaintances we acquire in abundance. The sign of a true friend in my opinion is a person who will do anything they can to help you, regardless of how it impacts themselves. Obviously, there are things they won’t be able to do but they will try to assist, without a thought for anything in return. Now, as you read further, I want to be clear that I don’t see myself as the true friend in this story. I see Stephen as the true friend even though he was responding to a deed I did for him. To explain, a few months ago, Stephen, was going through a bit of a rough patch and, whilst he wanted to keep the issue to himself, he confided in me. He knew how he was going to resolve his issue but needed some logistical support. This was something I was easily able to provide. I didn’t have to think about it. It certainly wasn’t going to have any impact on me so why wouldn’t I? I am content within myself, that I would have helped Stephen regardless of any personal implications because I count him as one of my true friends anyway.
I don’t see Stephen very often. We live in different parts of the country and both lead busy work lives. It was some time ago now that I had provided the assistance he required and pretty much forgotten about it less hoping everything was going well for him now. About a month ago I happened to be working near where he lived so dropped him a line. I was kindly invited for dinner on the weekend and happily accepted the offer. As one does, I turned up on time (well ok, a day late but that was down to a slight miscommunication!) and brought a few treats for the kids, and flowers and wine for the important one! Stephen just got my companionship! It was a really pleasant evening and a great distraction from a particularly stressful week at work. As I was about to leave, Stephen handed me a present wrapped in colourful Christmas paper. It wasn’t a Christmas present however; it was his way of thanking me for helping out with the logistics I mentioned earlier. When I unwrapped the gift, I was speechless as I looked at a beautiful leather cartridge bag. I was stunned by the very kind gesture. To me, the help I had given previously, didn’t warrant anything more than a ‘cheers mate’ let alone expensive shooting accoutrements. One instruction Stephen gave me before I left however was that I had to wax it before I used it. You can see where this is going now!
It was a few weeks later before I was back at home where my beeswax was sat waiting for something to be applied to and I had the time to use it. As I applied the wax polish, I was reminded of the hours I had spent bulling boots in recruit training, but on this occasion, I thoroughly enjoyed applying the protective coating to the leather in my hands. It didn’t take as long as working on a pair of boots to a mirror like shine for a parade, but it meant a hell of a lot more. The bag to me now represents true friendship. The fact that its polished with home grown beeswax adds to the very personal nature of this new addition to my shooting ‘family’. It will accompany me on all of my future shooting trips and when I take cartridges from it, I’ll always have a thought of who gave it to me and how my bees keep it weatherproof! It’s no longer just a cartridge bag, it’s a memory that will always be with me.