In Here: Once you squeeze the trigger and let fly with a real bullet at the target, you get a little shiver like the one you'd get between the time when Keanu Reeves walked in through the door and when he started talking
The UN conference on women, as you are probably aware, is going on in Peking. Among those present are Lynne Franks, first lady of PR, Anita Roddick, first lady of the loofah, and Hillary Clinton, president of America. I'm not there because no one asked me. I probably wouldn't have been able to go anyway, because I'm too busy baking cakes and washing my pinny before I rush out to my evening workshop in radical protest song technique. Still, I don't suppose that there would have been that much point in going, as the chances of my meeting an eligible bachelor, marrying him and achieving the status of motherhood would be pretty remote.

Anyway, I think I've already sorted out what women really want, apart, of course, from adequate contraception, enough money and lots and lots of shoes. What we want is guns. Apart from the amount less nonsense we'd have to put up with if every bloke knew that there was a ducky little pearl-handled revolver in our handbags, popping off a few shells at the weekend is quite a cathartic thing to do with your time.

While the final preparations for the all-singing, all-dancing, all-Weaving- for-Peace Peking celebrations were being plumped and primped, some other pretty serious stuff was afoot at a place called the Mayfair Gun Club, which is, appropriately enough, based at the south side of London Bridge. A group of people called the City Women's Network are learning to handle the recoil from a four-inch .357 double-action revolver and a Magnum 44, the most powerful hand-gun in the world.

I've always wanted to be Clint Eastwood. I got the cheroot chewing down to a fine art years ago, though I have to admit that the poncho suits my squashy bits rather more than the brown drainpipe-legged zoot suit. And though a jolly nice little grey monkey used to chew my ears in Micronesia a few years ago, I do draw the line at orang-utans. But still, I keep trying. It was interesting, though, to find out that I am not the only woman in the world to harbour this fantasy.

The City Women's Network is a sort of undercover Masonic organisation that doesn't keep out Catholics but does keep out the hairier sex. Networking was one of those ideas that the Americans invented, because it had never occurred to them that friendships worldwide have always had a certain nepotistic function. I don't know if you've ever been networked by an American woman, but it's quite a frightening experience, a bit like an interview. If you answer all questions correctly you receive a business card. Otherwise all you get is a cold, if immaculately padded, shoulder.

British networking is an altogether more subtle affair. The 30-odd members who had gathered for this particular shooting match hardly seemed to be checking each other out at all. In the club room under a working railway arch where even the relentless bang-bang- bang from the shooting range was occasionally drowned out by the clatter of British Rail's last piece of rolling stock, the conversation never rose above the most civilised of murmurs. If anyone was excited, or looking for a business break, they sure as heck didn't let it show.

The whole exercise, though, was treated with consummate seriousness, as though it was one of those horrible initiative tests so favoured by oil companies. I was, to be honest, there for a bit of a laugh, and to work off those childhood resentments about my brother getting to blow bunny rabbits apart while I struggled with a Knitting Nancy. Of course I sat up straight and listened to the safety lesson ("always carry the gun by the barrel"; "keep your finger off the trigger except when you're shooting"; "don't look down the barrel to see if there are any bullets left"), but some people were taking notes. Notes. Here we were with some of the most fearsomely competent weapons-handlers in the country, who could probably be trusted to gently turn the gun barrel down the range if anyone started gesticulating, but notes were still taken.

We were divided up into groups. The first group marched downstairs. The door banged shut behind them. Soon after, in the distance, a couple of salvos rang out. I felt a bit queer and decided, as always, to make a job of it. "I wonder if we'll ever see them again?" I asked the woman next to me. "I'm sure it's perfectly safe," she replied. "I could do with a stiff drink," I said. She looked shocked, "I don't think you're allowed to drink and handle guns." Well, tell that to Sergio Leone.

Then it was our turn. The others hadn't come back, but like trusting babes we trooped through to point the guns at our own reflections in a mirror. I've never stared down the barrel of a gun before. As an experience, it wasn't really up there with, say, staring at Keanu Reeves. I'd been enjoying the idea of myself as pistol-packing chick, but there's something slightly creepy about holding such a slick instrument of death when you get there.

But once you actually squeeze the trigger and let fly with a real bullet at the target, you get a little shiver like the one you'd get between the time when Keanu Reeves walked in through the door and when he started talking. There's a little blast of air from the explosion and your hand kicks upwards, and suddenly there's a perfect circular hole in the bull. Well, OK, not in the bull. In the foam rubber to the right of the target, to be precise. But boy, what a kick.

While we reloaded, the range fell quiet. From the booth two down from mine, a voice rang out, clear and confident. A woman in a print dress was pointing a Magnum, sleek, gleaming grey steel, down the range. "You've got to ask yourself," she said, steely-eyed, "if you feel lucky. Well, do you, punk?" and loosened off a round.

Damn. I was going to say that

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