Friday, December 28, 2012

Fly Fishing With The Old Man

I looked forward to my first day of fly fishing eagerly. My dad and I had spent many, many days fishing the local rivers and lakes with float tackle and ledger rig ever since I was a small boy. I took my first fish, a 3/4lb Perch with my second ever cast, using a built cane float rod, from The River Wharf at Kirby Sands. Parental pride went out the window pretty quick that day. “You jammy bugger! I fished every night for 3 weeks before I caught anything.” It was alright. I loved my dad all the more for his honesty.  Indeed, the bond that grew between us as we fished more and more cannot be over stated.
I would spend hours, I’d like to say in the shed but the truth is the old man kept his rods in my bedroom, admiring his fly fishing set up. An Allcocks Ariel reel and a Mytre Hardy – the less expensive line – rod. I was fascinated by the line, the flies, dry and wet, even waders. I loved it all and I longed for the day when I would be judged ready to fish with it. In truth, I felt that fly fishing was the only true form of fishing. I could be a right little pretentious sod at times and I’d read all the fishing books in our local library, most more than once.
When the big day finally arrived we’d been holed up on a rain soaked caravan site in the Lake District for the best part of a week. The sun had broken through early and dad said he thought today was as good a day as any to learn. I’d cast with the rod before. I was blessed to be brought up in a house that had a really big garden and while the other kids kicked a football around I’d take out my old man’s rod and reel and cast around above their heads anytime Mum and Dad’s shifts meant they’d both be at work together and I was left home. I wasn’t bad at casting; they both worked a lot.
My dad had been given the heads up on a short stretch of river from a local he’d befriended over pints in the village pub and we followed the directions written on the back of a cigarette pack, the old man monitoring the tenths of a mile ticking off until we came to a gate at the side of the road to our left. “This is it lad. Get out; open the bloody gate before anyone sees us.” There was nothing unusual in this; we were always doing things he didn’t want anyone to see. Our garage was stocked with tools that would make the local council blush. Our garden walls built with fine old cobbles from when they tore the roads up near the hospital, all acquired under cover of darkness, after I’d done my homework.
We turned off the road, locked the gate and drove a short way down, out of sight from the road. I could already hear the river. We were traveling light; just the one rod and we made it down the steep bank to river edge. The old man took note of what he termed ‘the lay of the land’, pointing out the debris high in the tree branches left over from the rain induced high water. He picked a spot out in the river at the edge of the fast water, selected a fly, waded out and then put on what I thought was a master class in fly fishing. His casting appeared effortless and almost silent save for the seductive sound of line cutting through the air. He placed his fly in the same spot time and time again. His face a study in concentration and the spark of mischief I loved so much dancing in his eye. He pulled back firmly on the rod sending it up right into the air. Then the tip bent and the fight was on. He let the line run out as the fish speed first up river then down. “Rainbow,” he said with an air of authority, then he cracked a smile. I loved that self-depreciating humour he had. Two minutes later I held a Grayling in my hands. “What’d I tell you son? Grayling.”

I returned the fish to the river and watch him cast again. “Another five minutes and it’s all yours.” His next cast got hung up in an overhanging branch. “I can get it dad, stay there.” I crept down the bank mindful to hold onto the branches as I went. I felt my foot sink then the sky went black.
“Jesus! Get under the bloody water!” I felt his hand pushing down on my shoulder and then the river enveloped me. I gulped down a lung full of water as the current took me downstream.  I tried to swim, unsure what was going on. I stood up on a gravel bar. Looking back up the river I could see my dad, about 25 feet from me packing up his gear standing on the bank. Beside him an angry cloud of wasps circled, oblivious to his presence.
In the car driving back to the caravan we surmised I’d managed to put my foot through a wasp nest, they’d immediately swarmed around me and dad, far from trying to drown me, had saved me by pushing me under and down the river. Amazingly, I’d only been stung twice. Later I learned it could have been much worse.  Dad speculated that the wasps were probably drowsy as a consequence of the river flooding and probably covering their nest.  I never forgot my first day fly fishing.


Anarchy in the UK, well Bradford....

He smells of glue.

Of itself nothing remarkable. 

A few do I’m sure. But they ain’t that close. His is fresh. It’s still fucking wet. And on his chin. And he’s got long hair. And it’s damp with sweat. And he's wearing a bright yellow jumper. And those creases in his face mean it's clear he's had way too much adhesive next to it.

And of the thousand or so people that decided to watch Crass tonight he’s next to me.

This is a ‘March For Jobs’ gig. I'm not marching. I’ve got a lift coming later. I’m 11.

And at this moment, I have no options. I’m stuck.

And this bloke is breathing Evo all over my head. And I just want to get in. We’re shuffling in. The coppers are watching like we’re a threat to society.

I’m no threat. I'm at school. I not looking to start a riot or set about destroying capitalism. I just want to get away from glue-boy.

And eventually I do.

And we’re in a venue that isn’t used much. And after Annie Anxiety has screamed at us for a bit the Poison Girls are on. And the crush starts.

And I may be the novelty young one (it got me some wonderful ‘presses’ against women when I was far too young to be having them at Brannigan’s, the Palm Cove etc) but this ain’t good.

Bit fucking mad to be honest.

Very mad. And scary. 

I’m getting crushed. They’ve got tables on their sides to keep people back. And they’re not moving. And it hurts.

And then someone is grabbing me.

And I’m up.

And watching the Poison Girls. Sat on the edge of the stage.

This is good.

It’s loud. I don’t even like them that much. But I’m right by the band. And they’re ‘grown up’. And 'real'. And 'into' what they're doing.

And I just want to take this in....

'Bombing cities, pulling switches, we won't do your dirty work.....'

And then Crass come on. And I know it’s all a bit earnest even at my age. But they’re fucking good. Because they mean it. Not many that do.

I’m only 11 but I know what they’re on about. And the saddest thing is that even at 11 I know it won’t work.

‘The problems that you suffer from are problems that you make.....No one ever stopped the church by pulling down the steeple, you'll never beat the system by bombing number 10'

We’ll all forget it as we get older, that sense of wanting to change things. Things get in the way. Exams, jobs, bills. And people with glue on their chin.

Matt H

Camel Safari

We set off in our hired green Renault Twingo, which my Mrs inexplicably referred to as a ‘Twingo with a twango’. ‘Thank fuck I’ve only hired it for four days or there might be cause to use the medical card thing after I’ve smashed her in the face with the king size bottle of Malibu after sun’ I thought. The Twingo with a twango had a foldable roof, which we had removed, letting the early morning Lanzarote sun warm our pink barnets on the way to the camel safari.
When we arrived we paid and were each given a shot of hooch, which took the hairs off the inside of my nose when I breathed out. A group of ten people went through this ritual and then we were led to the camels. Me and the Mrs were put on the first camel in the train of five and off we all set off up into the hills guided by a bloke tugging on a rope which was tied to our camel’s noggin.
After about ten minutes we were surprised to see a couple of policemen up in the hills that proceeded to stop our guide and ask him for some paperwork or other. There was a bit of a heated discussion between the three of them and the guide ran off. The coppers chased him for as bit, but the little fella was too quick for them and he was away over the rocks. When the policemen returned they were properly pissed off and came over to me and the Mrs on the lead camel and asked us had we been drinking. She replied that we had had a gratis shot each before we had set off on which the copper produced a breathalyser and asked me to blow into it.
“Why?” I asked,
“Because we suspect you of being drunk in charge of a camel” he replied.
“Everybody else has had a drink why don’t you breathalyse them instead!” my Mrs shouted, clearly agitated.
“Blow into the bag!” he shouted.
“Do one Elvis” I replied.
“What’s your name?” he asked as he took a notebook from his pocket.
“What’s your second name?”
“What hotel are you staying in?”
I gave him a blag name and when he had finished writing he said that we would have to go with him back to the police station where I would be charged with obstructing a police officer in doing his duty and that they were going to obtain a new guide as the previous one was an illegal immigrant and that’s why he had legged it. As we waited sat on our camel my Mrs whispered to me,
“After three, leg it. One – two – “
“Nah love have a minute, we’ll sort it out when we get back to the office”.
After about 10 minutes the new guide arrived and took us back to the start point, where we got off the camel and were escorted to the office. In the office there was an oldish bloke and two young lads who had been walking past us, backpacking when all of the kafuffle was going on. One of the lads pulled out a small video camera and one of the coppers said to me,
“Smile please; you have just been on German Candid Camera”.
Why was that king-size bottle of Malibu after sun in the car just when I needed it most to knock fuck out of the five nuggets in front of me. I’m not sure if it ever got aired on German TV as it wasn’t particularly funny. Although it might have been if my Mrs had of legged it as she was proposing to.

Paul B

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Face Down

As the Christmas party was thinning out a bit in the garden, I wandered up to talk to Wes and hit another rich seam of polish vodka.   He had small claw shaped holes on his face that were filling with flecks of blood. I'd missed his mauling by Katie, his wife.  She had just left.  People passed shots and tried to decide what he should think it all meant.  

I remember looking through to a brightly lit room and seeing Ann & Claire and Andy (in an orange wig) dancing like all lives everywhere depended on it.  Johnny was involved in the affray.  After a period of time which could have been hours I became one of them, as did the remaining ten or so casualties.  

It had been light for maybe a couple of hours and Ann had demonstrated some less well-known falling over moves to an eager audience when we decided it was time to leave.  We 'walked'.  I managed to keep her upright and moving in broadly the right direction only through full physical effort, combating a left lunge with a right brace and so on.  I must have taken my eye off the game by the time we were on our street.  Anyway, she went off the other way with a vengeance, I couldn't hold her and the only way to protect her head was by swivelling her round as she went down. With both my hands trying to hold her I plunged face first across the gravel of the pavement.  

There was a fair bit of blood from superficial cuts and grazes across the right side of my face.  Drinking tea, speaking and especially smiling all hurt.  I will tell the people in Newcastle that I had a mountain-biking accident. 

Paul F

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Question Of Sport

We used to talk about it lots. We used to talk about all kinds of things lots. A few of the boys had Staffordshire Bull Terriers, they used to talk about dog fighting. Young wanna be toughs who'd be more likely to pat their dogs to death than let them tear each other apart. No, they had the dogs but it was all part of an image, a facade, nothing more, those boys loved those dogs make no mistake about that. I knew of dogs ate better than I did.

One lad reckoned he'd seen two dogs fighting a badger. He was full of shit. I'd never seen a badger and that's still true to this day. I think he'd seen it in a book, or on a TV documentary. He knew all about it.
"They break the badger's jaw first to make it a fair fight." A fair fucking fight where they break your jaw first? Christ!
 "And then they let the two Staffs loose on him and they work as a team. The farmer, when he's digging the badger out, he shoves sticks down his wellies 'cause if the badger takes hold, he'll not stop biting until he breaks your leg. If he hears the snap of the sticks he'll let go." Our champ could never quite explain why, if the badger was such a fearsome creature, the farmer wouldn't just shoot him never mind, dig him out, break his jaw - with a club, I imagine - and then risk two good dogs.
"Sport, mate, sport."