I have never been much of a linguist, my Franglais remains fragile, my Latin lounges somewhere between comatose and lethargic. And after 25 years of marriage, I still understand just one word of my wife's native language. "Tanga", or in more extreme circumstances "Tanga tanga". I have strong suspicions that the word means "stupid", or when repeated, "Very stupid". I hear the word(s) quite often, and it invariably seems to be when she is speaking to me. But maybe I have completely misinterpreted the word, and it is actually quite complimentary? Take today for instance:
I have never been much of a gardener either, but have been lucky, in that my garden is full of shrubs, and so apart from digging the pond, I can honestly say, that in twenty eight years, I have never threatened it with a spade, nor have I thought about forking it. But now bring ALDI into the equation. They have been selling bulbs this week: crocus, daffodils, tulips and so on. You have to plant them in holes, because leaving them on the surface, in or out of the packaging, just does not work...especially in the kitchen. Onions are different. It is hard going using a "dibber" to dig holes, and I often used to hear my father complain about the task. But today, seeing brownie points on the horizon, I extracted the centre pole from my angling umbrella, and tackled the back lawn. I dibbed and I dobbed ( Not sure, but I think, maybe, that might have been wolf cubs points rather than brownies) and after a good 10 minutes had planted just..... five crocus bulbs. And ALDI, sadists that they are, have been putting no less than fifty bulbs in a packet, and selling them for just £1.39. So the wife bought FOUR packets. Only 195 left to plant. A couple of days work in old money. Another type of bulb flashed in my head: an idea! I direct this brainwave at all the gardeners out there, a tip from one obviously destined to be greater than Percy Thrower: namely myself.
The tip: Throw away that dibber, get rid of your trowel, and dig out your Black and Decker. Fit a one and a quarter inch wood borer, and point it at the lawn. That's me, being green.
In next to no time I had 195 holes in the lawn, each fitted with its own crocus bulb, and I had nearly filled in all those holes by dribbling in compost, when I heard the words: "Tanga tanga!", quite loudly. Quite obviously therefore, the word actually means "Genius". I admit that the lawn has gained something of a look similar to Wayne Rooney's head. The moss is now dotted with little round dark pits of soil, but unlike Wayne's head of hair, surely it will all grow back properly by Spring, and look very healthy? I mean, think about it, if Wayne suddenly, next April, were to sprout a host of golden crocuses, or daffodils if you really must, then surely even he would look quite good? Almost decorative. And I believe he frequently gets well watered. I will leave you with that image and move on to the confession.
Although now an expert gardener, I sometimes can do some pretty damn stupid things when fishing. In the days when all stillwaters had a close season, the soonest anyone could tackle tench was June the 16th, midnight. The 16th was glorious to angling, in the same way that August the 12th is glorious to grouse shooting. For days before, preparations would be made, and prayers offered to the Gods for a good bit of cloudy, rainy weather. On the 15th, people would queue up outside the tackle shops. Removal of the close season has destroyed all that tradition, tradition which was often in vain, for mostly the middle of June would be hot and sunny, and quite useless for tench fishing. The water that I and Chris used to fish for tench was boat fishing only, but because we were friendly with the game keeper, he allowed us so set up the boats on the lake, the previous day. They were staked and tied down solidly, so as to provide a stable platform from which to fish, some fifteen yards out from the bank, the other side of a thick reedbed, in about two feet of water. The punts were to be home for a week. The weather, at 3pm on the 15th was awful, brilliant sunshine, beating down on us, my hay fever starting to make my nose itch and my eyes water. We spent much of the afternoon and evening bemoaning the sun, prebaiting and waiting, but as 11pm and darkness approached, so did a bank of cloud. Thick cloud. Very thick cloud. Our hopes of great catches were raised rapidly as the rain started to fall. Prospects looked so good for the next day.
"Bloody Hell Chris" I said, "I have never seen such dark clouds. Looks perfect. I can see nothing at all."
Chris replied, nonchalently "Well, if you were to take off your sunglasses...."
Now I am short-sighted, and have been, probably, since I first left the womb. I quite definitely do not remember seeing that midwife in sharp focus. But in the close season, before the trip, I had invested in a pair of ultra cool, very dark, prescription polaroid sunglasses. And I was wearing them. Without the glasses it was pretty damn dark, but with them....blackout! The trouble with wearing glasses from necessity daily, is that, with sunglasses on, you forget that you are not wearing your normal daylight pair. But those clouds were getting darker still, and so I donned my waders, hopped over the side of the boat and waded ashore, intending to take a short cut through the wood and back to the car, in which I had stupidly left my normal spectacles. Short cut? Bad idea! The rain got heavier, much, much heavier. Torrential became an inadequate description, as the clouds thickened yet more. The wood was not only full of boggy ground, soaking wet ferns, but there were trees as well. I had the choice of a) wearing the dark glasses, and being able to see nothing at all, but all of that nothing would have been in perfect sharp focus. Or b) taking the glasses off, and being able to see exactly how completely dark it really was, but with very blurred vision. This dilemma had a severe effect on my orienteering skills. My promise to return to the punt, Cinderella style, by midnight, was badly broken, and my clothes were also in danger of being reduced to rags by the rain, mud and random attacks by vegetation. So I spent nearly three hours crashing about in the woods, bumping into trees, falling into bogs, tripping over brambles, fighting through invisible but very aggressive nettles, whilst trying to find my car. But the pollen count was falling and my sneezing diminished as the rain proliferated. The rain that became so heavy, my waders actually started to fill up as the water ran down my neck, back, front and just about everywhere else. Getting part filled waders out of deep bog in a midnight monsoon is not easy. It was very nearly daybreak when I eventually got back to the punt, bruised, saturated, annoyed, and swearing like any modern Liverpudlian teenage girl, but without the accent.
As luck would have it, Chris had no bites during darkness, and it wasn't until I was back in the boat, dripping wet, that the floats first started to move. The day's fishing did go quite well, and we had a fair few tench, maybe as many as twenty. I would have to go back through my logs to check exactly what we caught, but it is not relevant to the post in any case. Doubtful if many were much above five pounds, as, in those days very few people ever had a fiver.