Guitars & Guns: A Slow Hand For Eric Clapton

Recently, I completed reading Eric Clapton’s autobiography. It was a compelling read that took me only three days to get through. I’m not a particular admirer of Mr Clapton’s music. ‘Layla’ rattles round in my head as one of those tunes that gets deeply imbedded in your subconscious from my pre-teenage years, and I love his album ‘Pilgrim’. Nonetheless, it is the only one of his that I possess, so you couldn’t exactly call me a fan.

I found the book to be a highly entertaining and an outstandingly open exploration of the musician’s history. It takes a disarmingly honest look at a life riddled with unparalleled ups and downs. Mr C has no problem holding the mirror up to himself, and admitting to not liking what he sees. It was well written, refreshingly lacking in ego, and totally absorbing. Considering that prior to picking it up (at the knock down price of $1.99 on Kindle) I had no real interest in Mr C whatsoever, it was an investment I found most enjoyable.

However, within its pages there were a couple of paragraphs I took issue with. I'm going to write to Mr C about them, but since they raise some interesting generic points, I thought I’d blog about them here.

From his youth, Mr C was a fisherman. It’s a very popular pastime in his native UK, and he has found it a relaxing and pleasant distraction throughout his often-tumultuous career. Later in life he took up shooting, which seemed to be a natural extension of hunting. I’m sure many of the rich and famous do. These so called ‘sporting pursuits’ are a feature of the lifetimes of many young souls. What I have a discomfort with is the manner in which Mr C justifies his attitudes to what he does:

Ethically it was never a problem for me, and it is the same with fishing. My family and I eat what I catch and shoot. It is fresh and healthy and we love it. I am a hunter; it is in my genes, and I am quite comfortable with that. I also support a lot of other countryside pursuits, quite simply because I believe they are an important part of our culture and heritage, and need protecting, usually from people or movements of people, who have little understanding of the delicate economic balance of countryside communities, and who have watched too many Disney movies.

It’s ironic that several pages later, Mr C relates the following:

It’s not everybody’s favourite sport, and some people can get quite worked up about it. I remember a few years earlier, with trout fishing, I actually hit a kind of brick wall myself. I was fishing down on the Test [an English river] when I suddenly stopped and thought, “Why am I doing this?” I had caught a couple of fish, killed them and put them in my bag, and I thought, “This is not right.” I was confused because I enjoyed fishing, but it seemed that if I couldn’t justify it to myself, at that exact moment, then I was going to have to stop. That’s when I decided that from then on, I was going to eat everything I caught. I have tried to apply the same principle to shooting, which is all well and good, but it’s a tall order, trying to eat all the pheasant and partridge I shoot. Nevertheless, we try.