Sunday 22 September 2013

Confessions of an Olde School Specimen Hunter. Act 1, Scene I.

A number of the posts in here will not be fishing related, others, such as this, have some link with fishing but are not devoted to fish capture as such.   There will also be some posts purely to remind me of events in the past, for the future, when my memory of them may have faded, or to allow my lad to read about certain events in my life. 

This tale is true and is fishing related, but no fish will be mentioned, as I completely forget what we caught on the trip in question. This is a report of part of a trip in those bygone days when I was a stupidly mad keen specimen hunter.  I was very successful too back then, but these days I fish for the pure enjoyment of being outside, and to get away from the wife and Eastenders. I still catch more than my fair share of big fish, simply because it is far, far easier to do so these days, than it was back in the sixties and seventies. But size no longer is paramount, I no longer have the same ridiculous level of dedication, and as a result, I enjoy it far more.  But even in those days of olde, events occurred that were at times far more entertaining than the fishing.  Many such events involved disasters, major or minor, either at my expense or to the embarrassment of others.   This was one such event.

I used to have a regular fishing partner for weekend trips.  Let's call him Chris, as I do not have his permission to publish what happened.   His name may or may not be Chris, and only those of you that know me well will be able to confirm that his name was indeed Chris.  The rest of you will just have to remain in the dark, I am afraid.

It was one of those periods when I had a sensible fishing vehicle, a Bedford Viva Van, based on the old Mk 1 Vauxhall Viva.  ( I was later to change the van for various, increasingly impractical, two seater sports cars.)   Chris had a Hillman Minx, and these two cars will enable you to date these events to about 40 years ago, without the need to resort to carbon dating.    Although my van was perpetually steeped in the smell of bream and tench slime, and being oft infested with escaped maggots, and worse, I remained quite house proud about it.   I have always been a non-smoker, and so Chris was never allowed to smoke inside the van.   But Chris smoked about forty Capstan Full Strength a day, and also sported a pipe which he filled with something called Highland Sliced.   Capstan Full Strength is a watered down description of these cigarettes, they being so strong that all of his mates would refuse the offer of one.   Highland sliced had, to my nostrils, much of the smell of burning road tar, mixed with mustard gas.   Both tobaccos are probably now banned by the Geneva convention. 

But a forty a day man would never get all the way to the Cheshire Meres without at least one smoke, and so my van always stopped a couple of time on each journey, at some convenient lay-by or other, whilst Chris reached for his tobacco.   I waited in the van, suffering at times the pounding of torrential rain on the roof of my van whilst  Chris stood outside in the fresh air, trying not to get his tobacco wet.

The tables were turned on alternate weeks, when we would use his car, rather than my van.  It was easier than sharing petrol costs, and seemed the fairest and easiest way to divide expenses.   Of course, it being his car, I could not insist on a smoke free environment.   I could have stood in the rain as he puffed away, but being then, blissfully unaware of the joys of passive smoking, I chose not to.   The inside of the Hillman's windows had become stained, over the years by his heavy smoking, which had left a dark brown deposit , one that threatened within weeks to totally obscure sight of the outside world.  At times I swear I can still smell that car now.   The windows inside had never been cleaned, and it showed. We drove permanently through a 1950's smog.  Anyone else remember those?  The acrid swirling yellow smoke, not being able to see the pavement across a narrow street?  Following the fence all the way to school?  Shadows of other kids only appearing when they were five yards away?  

Returning from fishing, in the Minx one day, late Sunday evening, I noticed the smell of something burning.   It was not a tobacco-like smell and I assumed that something was sadly astray with the car's wiring.  I told Chris that I could smell something burning.   Chris sniffed and replied "Rubbish!".   I repeated my claim, which he again dismissed, saying that the car was driving perfectly well, and in any case, it had been serviced just a couple of weeks before, so nothing could go wrong with it for another six months.  He had said much the same a few days before, when I had insisted he stop so I could investigate a very loud rattling noise. Chris would have happily driven on, in his freshly serviced car, ignoring the noise for the next six months.  We continued only after I had removed a hubcap, to find two wheel nuts rattling around inside it.  The wheel only being held on by the two remaining nuts, both of which I was able to remove with just my fingers. Chris was not mechanically inclined.
But back to the journey:  A few minutes later I again wrinkled my nose, and sure enough, I could still smell burning....but the car continued to work perfectly well, and so I kept quiet...apart from continually sniffing the air, as a reminder to him, or perhaps, more likely, to annoy him a bit.

A mile of so later, I nearly went through the windscreen as Chris unexpected jammed on the brakes, in an emergency stop that would have impressed the most critical driving test examiner.   Chris leapt out of the car, beating away at his clothing, screaming and swearing.    Over the years of heavy smoking, Chris's sense of smell had deteriorated substantially due to its mistreatment with the powerful tobaccos, to such an extent that the function of his nose had reduced to being little more than a shelf, whose only function was to stop his glasses from falling off.    But he WAS still, eventually, able to detect the presence of burning corduroy, when that burning was caused by a plug of glowing tobacco embers that had fallen from his pipe.   A large lump of  Highland Sliced  had slowly been burning its way through the trouser fly area until, having fully penetrated the cloth, it had reached a very delicate part of the anatomy, still glowing merrily, and started to burn its way through the flesh.  The ultra-sensitive flesh of a very vital organ! 

Chris eventually got back into the car.

"Are you absolutely sure there is nothing burning Chris?" I said, innocently.  Had I heard the reply I am sure I would not have been able to print it here.

It was still some twenty miles back home, and I don't think I stopped chuckling for a single minute of that journey.