I am never ill.
My husband has many ailments of various natures and can catch a cold in two seconds flat. He is, however, one of the funniest men I have ever met and is comically aware and very self- disparaging “God Bab! Hark at me! Never stop complaining! I must be one of the illest men on the planet, chavvie! There’s always something wrong with me!”
My Father couldn’t miss a cold. If any one of us brought a cold home, he would start with the very noisy throat clearing and then by practising his coughing and hacking until he gave himself a bona-fide sore throat. Much flourishing of the handkerchief later he might actually raise a real sneeze. To know him was to love him, however.
At the moment, my husband has a Bad Back and some cuts and grazes. He has a sinus infection and a bit of a wheezy chest. He needs new spectacles and his ankle plays him up in the damp. He is not yet 40. He is consistently assumed to be older than his years. Rather gratifyingly, I am consistently assumed to be 10 years younger than my real age. As I am older than he, this works just fine (especially for me). While I languished in full time education until adulthood, he started his life as an adult at the age 12 – outdoors – so he has had rather a hard paper round.
But here’s the thing. His various ailments and the fact that he considers himself to be an old man now, at 39 years matter not at all when there is fishing in the offing.
A slipped disc, a broken ankle? Matters not a jot when the fish are calling.
Let me take a moment to talk about fishing.
My husband is fishing mad. It’s the only thing he likes to do. He likes river fishing, lake fishing, beach fishing, sea fishing, all day and all night fishing. In the honeymoon period I used to go to the lake with him. He would set me up a rod and I could do quite well but then I made the mistake of getting wine involved and forgot how the reel worked, so made a series of blunders that infuriated him and he wouldn’t shut up about it. So now if I go coarse fishing, it costs a lot in magazines, takes a chair and a bottle of wine to get me there. Mostly though, I just enjoy the peace and quiet back at the ranch. The girls sometimes come up for a chat and we sit out if dry and in if wet.
I love fishing if it means fish as food. I absolutely cannot see the point of lake fishing, but I am not a fisherman, and the fish are not good to eat. A Jack Pike from a clean river is delicious served with a buerre blanc….. I caught a little four pounder and was so proud. I went fishing from boat in The Canary Isles once. It was fantastic fun, not least because we caught fish to take home. We caught Bonito and a huge Tuna. The Bonito were delicious. It was only a small boat holding about 6 tourists and two local men to show us what to do and reel in anything larger than a minnow. As I remember, we had reels but they just used line and some rubber finger guards as protection. I got lots of help and attention, because most of the passengers were busy being sick, but I have my Dad’s sea legs. With hindsight, perhaps being platinum blonde and twenty something might have influenced. But that was many years ago. Things have changed.
I hitched a lift from the Canary Isles on a 40 foot boat. We sailed down to the Islands of Cape Verde and fried for breakfast the flying fish that had landed on the deck during the night. Once on the Iles, I bought magnificent, unknown fish from the rowing boats on the beach to cook in the improvised fire pit in the sand outside our shack by the sea. Crusoe style baby!
The happiest days now are the mackerel days. I used to love to fish for mackerel with my dad from his boat in Cornwall. Mum and I would gut and fillet the fish, throwing the carcase to the swirling screaming seagulls then cook them in the little galley, then we’d eat the lot before we reached land!
When the warm currents bring the mackerel into our shallow waters, we pack up rods, a knife, pan and camping stove and buy bait and fresh bread and butter on the way. The beach is stones and the shell is very steep. The wind never fails to howl, so I gather rocks to make a wind break and set up my little kitchen behind them. Constant casting and reeling in takes its toll on the strongest of arms, but as the boys haul and cast and haul and cast, they are rewarded with a hot mackerel sandwich within 5 minutes of landing their fish. Now that’s a taste they shout. A garfish next boys. Heaven! Once we caught a little lost Skipjack Tuna far from his home and almost never seen off our coast. Rare here, but plentiful further away, so we ate him too. And quite tasty he was say the boys.
I can’t bear killing and not eating, it seems so cruel and pointless so we limit the amount we catch – when you get in the swim, the fish fairly throw themselves on the hooks, and it is hard to stop such good sport. So what we can’t eat on the day, and we can eat a lot, we take home for a cook up in the yard with any neighbours who like a yarn, a beer and some fresh, fresh fish round the fire.
So that’s the fishing.
There are many good reasons for sharing a beer and a chat round the fire. Our fire, their fire, anyone’s fire. Always a tale or two and a laugh. And the chances are it’ll end up with someone falling over or a fight. Never a dull moment.