`This shotgun certificate,' said one man in a voice of doom, `has not been signed'

With the grouse-shooting season well under way, there must be hundreds of sporting weapons in transit between England and Scotland, and a good many of them surely travel by air. All the same, I thought it worth a check, before I flew from Birmingham to Aberdeen, to see how British Airways would prefer my shotgun to be carried.

A young woman fielded my inquiry. Over the telephone line I could hear her turning pages, and nearly a minute passed before she said: "You should unload it first."

"A very good idea," I agreed. "What else?"

"If possible, it should be broken down."

"No problem."

She then confirmed that the shotgun should travel inside my suitcase, and that the cartridges should also be inside the case, but in a separate container. That was how I had things arranged as I picked up a friend and headed for Birmingham airport.

A go-slow on the M42 delayed us, and we reached the airport with little time to spare. I therefore dropped my passenger and all our luggage at the door, and asked her to check mine in while I skimmed off to the long- term car-park.

Back at the terminal, I found chaos threatening. My suitcase had been checked in - and out.

"The gun can't travel inside it," said the girl on the desk accusingly. "Anyway, the police will have to check it."

Time was now extremely short. I was ushered towards a security room at one side of the hall. I urged my companion to go through into the departure lounge. Minutes ticked away.

My mind flew to a similar scene in Warsaw, where an appalling customs official straight out of a James Bond movie had threatened to impound my rifle. Orange-haired, black-eyebrowed, and apparently in a furious rage with her subordinates, she had several times boomed "Dokumenti!" in a menacing baritone, when suddenly she seized the weapon - which was only in a canvas cover - and hurled it down the steel luggage chute.

I began rehearsing sarcastic asides about the speed with which guns were handled in Poland. At last two police officers appeared, sauntering towards me.

"Sorry!" I said cheerily. "Misunderstanding." As I unpacked the gun so that they could check its number against my certificate, I explained about my telephone conversation.

"This certificate," said one man in a voice of doom, "has not been signed."

Ye gods! The certificate was new, a replacement. This was the first time I had had to produce it. Did the copper realise that failure to sign the thing was in itself an offence? Apparently not. I signed rapidly.

"Any ammunition?" he asked.

"Yes - in this bag."

"That's got to travel separately. You'll have to pre-board it."

What the hell did that mean? No time to argue. Departure was now five minutes away. The suitcase was checked in once again, with the gun inside, but the police took the bag of cartridges away.

At the security desk I caught up with it again. More questioning. Two minutes left. One of the staff began trying to force the bag into an orange- and-black envelope, which split. Another envelope, larger. This time the bag went in, and the envelope was taped shut.

"You'll have to sign," said the man, rooting about under a counter. "Here, Fred - where's the pre-boarding book?"

Several people started hunting. A minute to go. "So do I take it with me now?" I asked.

"Oh no. We pre-board it for you."

When I inquired how I would get the package back, somebody told me to ask one of the stewards on the aircraft for it at the other end.

At last the book was found. Fred began laboriously entering my name and details. Hopping from foot to foot, I signed and shot forward to the departure gate.

The flight gave me time to regain my composure; but when, as I was leaving the plane, I asked for my package, the stewardess said I would find it in the baggage area. Sure enough, there it was sitting untended on the revolving belt.

I found it hard to see what all the fuss had been about, but I decided that on my return journey I would leave the remains of my ammunition behind.

The Scots check-in girl was good sense personified.

"Is the gun broken down?"


"Any ammunition?"


"That's fine, then" - and through it went.

I did not let on that my cartridge bag now contained a brace of grouse. There was no knowing what might have happened if I had declared an item which, though not explosive, was certainly putrescent, and probably in breach of at least 250 Euro-regulations.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions