What is there worth writing about? Is there anything left that hasn’t already been said. Everyone is saying stuff all the time and now it’s just a wall of voices and none of them make any sense. It’s taken me a whole week to work out what the hell Boris Johnson has laid out for our near future and I’m still not quite there. I meant to write a post yesterday but I ended up cobbling together my entry for this years AA Gill Award at the Sunday Times. You may recall that I sent an entry last year about a trip to Birmingham and that it subsequently vanished without trace. Perhaps it was ahead of its time. Perhaps it was crap. Anyway, rather than labour for weeks over it I thought I would change tactic and just cough up 1200 words in one go, quickly edit it, leave it a week, check it again and then just send it in and that way if someone like Kitty Drake (you can just imagine what Kitty Drake must be like) wins again I won’t feel like I’ve wasted too much time. Besides, I’d like to think the quality of my output is consistent whether it’s written fast or slow. Quite what that quality is remains a matter for considerable discussion.
So while we munch over Boris and his total lack of commitment to anything like common sense we are faced not with what people think they should do but with what people want to do. Some of my jogging routes take me around fishing lakes and it struck me some time ago how solitary fishing is and therefore could it not just have carried on?? You turn up, pitch your little tent, sit around for 8 hours drinking Carlsberg Special Brew and glaring at anyone that comes near you (in case they ‘scare’ the fish away), take a selfie whilst holding a less than impressed turbot and then drive into a lamp post on the way home to a family you can’t wait to get away from again. Fishing is about as socially distant as you can get and they should have let it carry on because now the lockdown has sort of kind of been lifted a little bit but not too much and nobody really knows those same fishing lakes are (excuse the word, it seemed appropriate) teeming with human life.
It’s true. This morning’s pantathon saw me stumbling past row after row of cars and vans, all belonging to fishing types. There they were, hunched over their bait boxes at half nine in the morning, preparing themselves for a day that they must surely enjoy on some level but I know would thoroughly bore the balls off me. It is another sport (by stretching the use of the word ‘sport’ about as far as you can go, I’d say) to add to the list titled “Why Fucking Bother?”. It might be alright watching Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse doing it but that’s because they’re funny, but when I must confess that I have never, ever passed someone fishing and found them being sick with laughter. It is generally speaking an activity for the loners of the world, for those who occupy that tangled clutch of spectrums that render them far more useful as far away from other human contact as possible. Fishing is what men teach their sons to do so they can then bugger off and do it on their own.
Much is made of the fishing life and of course the countryside is littered with pubs toilets showing off those awful newspaper cartoons with puffy faced tits in waders blurting out lines like “…..he said it was how big?” or “…..and you should have seen the size of the one he gave to his wife!” etc etc. Some will tell you it is a battle of wills and that in that lake over there lurks a monster of such skill and intelligence that only the finest angler in the land will ever snag him on the end of a line; as if to suggest some brute of a carp, ripped with muscle and covered in navy tattoos, but also busy revising for his maths A-Level and a City and Guilds in electrical installation. Nonsense. Though I expect if you sit by a lake long enough the fish would sprout legs, walk out and steal your car. That’s all fishing seems to me to be about – all kinds of kit and paraphernalia and wasted money all to justify the fact that you’d rather not spend your time talking to anyone else. I’d be so bored I’d be drunk within twenty minutes.
In a pub a work colleague once started telling me some fishing stories and then some other bloke chipped in with a few of his own and before you knew it I found myself with my head in the oven as it felt like that would be marginally more entertaining. But really I don’t mind fishing and I don’t mind anglers. Not once has a single one of them done anything to hurt me and I am very grateful for that. It should be applauded and encouraged for the joy it finds in isolation and the weird way in which it is somehow worth waiting hours to catch something only to then let it go and hope your photo ends up on the front cover of the next issue of Carp World or as November in the 2021 Anglers Wank Calendar. And regardless of what I think I really can’t see any reason why it couldn’t have carried on during the lockdown. Anglers have had centuries to master the art of social distancing; perhaps if we all liked fishing we wouldn’t have ended up is this mess to start with.
G B Hewitt, 17.05.2020