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by Phil Thornton
The allure of angling has never appealed to me but paradoxically I�m fascinated by fish. Not catching em, not even eating them - although I�ve always had a soft spot for me dad�s finny addy poached in milk and served on a thick slice of white bread dripping in butter - just a general interest in all things fishy. Then again when we were kids, the only place you could fish was the local pit known as Figure 8, which contained about five tiddlers and was soon drained to make way for a Catholic school (the scousers ruined everything by us!) and the Bridgewater canal. Now back in those days, the Bridgey was an appalling, filthy grey sludge that served as a general deposit for shopping trollies, general household and industrial waste and the faeces of various mammals and Widnesians. That said, the cut was lined with anglers every weekend, who were so desperate to escape from their missus and kids, they�d sit next to a shit stinking swamp all day in the vain hope of landing a two pound perch. I�m not being sexist, but surely it�s no coincidence that fishing is almost exclusively male past-time.
There�s always been something kinda sleezy about the fishing community though. By us, most of the hardcore anglers were either alcys, junkies or pervs (or all three) as it provided them with an excuse to fuck off at unseasonable hours of the day or night and hide behind hedgerows with boxes of maggots. God knows what they did with them but they always took an unhealthy interest in us young lads as we passed em, asking em �if they�d caught owt.� Most of these fellars were content with a shitty rod and a six pack of Tartan bitter, a wrap of cheap wizz and a few issues of Mayfair but some whoppers had those massive carp poles, big fuck off catching nets that would�ve fitted basking sharks inside and complicated tent cum Arctic expedition bivouacs for extra pose points. The most these nobs ever caught was a stray pike but they were tooled up like Ernest Hemingway after Cuban marlin. They weren�t satisfied with a quick wank to a made -up story in a plod mag but were �serious� anglers. I despised them.
Then my cousin�s boyfriend Tony, who for some reason we called Ned, asked my dad if he could take me to Lymm Dam to do some fishing. Ofcourse he could, he replied even though I didn�t even want to go. It got me out of his hair for a day. So we sat on a patch of dirt for what seemed like several centuries watching a float that resolutely failed to dip below the waterline. It began to make me go trippy, the float began to disappear as the waves wobbled blue and purple reflecting the sky. So when �Ned� went to buy us a cup of coffee and instructed me to keep my eye on the float in case we got a �bite,� as soon as he was gone I went behind a bush and attempted to pick off sparrows with various stones. He returned suddenly and was angered at my lack of dedication to the cause of catching beasts from the depths, so to assuage his anger, I pretended that I was taking a shit, which cheered him up a bit and when we got back home, the twat couldn�t wait to tell my aul fellar that I�d gone behind a bush �to do a turd� as he charmingly put it.
Digression - I hate that word; turd. Turd�s such a disgusting word. Turds always remind me of that play called Shuttlecock where this kid is getting battered by his adopted dad, who played the fellar who was George and Mildred�s neighbour in the comedy spin-off classic� George & Mildred� This kid is so scared of this bullying bastard that after being locked in his room, he does a shit and hides it in his bedroom drawer. The dad comes in and asks why the drawer is locked and winks because he thinks he�s discovered his adopted son�s porn stash. When he discovers the realistic looking tv drama turd, he twats the poor kid as if he were a �shuttlecock.� My dad didn�t batter me like a shuttlecock, he just laughed along with Cockney Tony but there ended my angling career.
Many years later in the post-punk holocaust that was the early 80s, my mates got into fishing and every summer would cycle out to places miles out into the country such as Dunham Hill and Sutton. They�d load up on cheap cider, lager, weed and Santana and Marley tapes and sit out all night attempting to catch carp. It always night fishing for carp which made it more exciting apparently. However, I never joined em. Didn�t smoke weed, didn�t dig Carlos or Bob, didn�t buzz off hooking 30 lb fishies. In retrospect, I missed out. Just as I discovered too late in life that the whole point of betting on the horses is not to actually win money but to sit supping ale all day with your pals, so the end product of angling is not so much to catch anything but merely to escape from your mundane daily grind and indulge in various substances. Beats being sat at home watching World Of Sport I suppose.
When we were on holiday in Rhyl, I used to be fascinated by the trawlers coming home every evening with their loads and always wanted me dad to take me deep sea fishing but the tight bastard would never tip up to take us. This fascination with trawlers continued to the present day, which is why it was great to see the BBC�s �Trawlermen� series back for a second instalment. The day to day travails of Peterhead�s fishermen as they brave the north sea to bring home prawns, cod and other slimey creatures for the frying pan is a joy to watch. In an era when too many young kids� ambitions extend no further than to be famous or get rich, it�s refreshing to see 17 and 18 year old lads who regard being a trawlerman as a calling, as a noble and rewarding occupation in its own right. The genuine joy at hauling in a good catch and risking their lives to do so, is a humbling sight.
Ah, the simple life of a fisherman has been much romanticised. Everyone from Jesus to John Lennon liked to use the fisherman�s life as a metaphor for peace, tranquillity and existential purity. In reality their life has always been a dangerous, unpredictable, frustrating and usually unprofitable way to make a living. Yet, when Jimmy Buchan and his crew drag those huge nets in and the wriggling, heaving mass is brought below to be gutted and the crew are all smiles and know that they�re in for a decent weighing in back at port, something inside me profoundly envies them. Still hate those twats sat by the canal though.
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