It happened to me just the other day as I was toiling away laying a slabbed seating area from which to sit and enjoy a small wildlife garden that I've been invited to design and build. Why the hell I should be entrusted with this venture I have not the foggiest of ideas, probability being I was the last resort, certainly the cheapest aka free. As I lent on a rake wondering how many other places in that I could possibly ache I caught the faint but distinctive call of gulls high above me in the vivid blue sky and suddenly I was not in that garden but a hundred miles away on the western edges of the Welsh coast.
There were three of us there that day, my brother, Eddie Yates and myself. We were fishing in a secluded bay 'bout hundred yards offshore in a boat called the 'Lord Baltimore'...a terrible name but distinctive and I'd never rename a boat once christened, something's just don't feel right.... Her lordship was a cracking boat, a sixteen foot long Falmouth bass boat, and she rode the waves like she was made from the sea. And yes I know.... her lordship and she, well that's another thing that's an unsaid rule a boat is always a lady to me, no matter what name she carries.
Anyway I'm meandering once more, back to the distant memory. As mentioned the three of us were there that day, pink from the sun and absolutely sick and tired of pulling doggies off the sand some thirty feet below us into the boat and having the hassle of unhooking the writhing little buggers to chuck them back to the mill pond calm sea. I'm bloody sure we were just hooking the same fish over and over again! We'd tried different baits from rag to lug, from squid to mackerel, Christ I even think that I tried half a stale pork pie out of desperation....all to no avail as doggie after doggie were hailed aboard. Stubborn bastards that we were we refused to quit and carried on until the light began to fail, myself and Pete brought our tackle in and made ready to head back to the jetty and the promise of steak n chips which would of course be washed down with the odd pint or three of finist grog.
But we'd not figured on Mr. Yates being even more stubborn than an Ass that's taken stubborn pills! Whilst we'd been making ready for the off, to the point of hauling the anchor from its sandy slumber, young Yatesie hung over his rod murmuring sweet nothings to something he'd snagged on his clever mixed offering of all baits available, well apart from the stale pork pie which had long found a resting place in my by now rumbling stomach. As he slowly reeled with proclamations of 'this is different' being uttered to our 'just cut the bloody line' the sea had darkened under the ever more gloomy sky as night chased had the sun over the horizon. We peered over as the beginnings of the terminal tackle came through the water's surface but couldn't make out what kept the line taught. Finally our thinly stretched patience snapped and together we grabbed his rod upwards expected the slithering of yet another doggie to be flapping around on the deck....oh bugger!
From three would be hunters in their boat, lords of the oceans deep, the scene now takes a turn to be more like an Ealing comedy of yore. For in the prow of the Baltimore there is now about twenty to thirty pounds of very pissed of Conger eel and our three
So there is now twenty to thirty pounds of still pissed off Conger eel now slithering but in a downwards direction towards the stern of the boat. Fortunately the prow of the boat suddenly slaps down on the smooth black surface of the water causing the only ripples to be seen and the eel's downward slither is brought to a halt, unfortunately the reason that the prow does come down is that our three would be Ahabs have thrown themselves overboard and are now clinging to the sides of the boat for dear life, which in my case was certainly true because I couldn't swim in them days and health n safety, err life jackets, were an optional extra which we'd opted out for the lure of a rather nice Shakespeare ugly stick and mitchell beach castor combo...I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of that choice at that precise moment in time....oh thrice bugger!
Thing is the sea of night takes on a whole new feeling, more dark (obviously) and brooding and the fear of the unseen grows large in the mind, especially when you're hanging on to a boat listening to the slithering of a pissed off eel and wondering if his older brother is lurking somewhere below you. The arguments were tossed back and too between us, each laying blame and each refusing to clamber aboard and eject the eel. Talk turned to sea monsters, sharks, the movie Jaws and unseen tentacled thingy ma bobs all in efforts to scare one of us to face the task in hand. Suddenly Pete shot torpedo like into the boat and after a few seconds of cursing, whimpering and what sounded suspiciously like the sound of a pissed off eel been smacked overboard with an oar....hang on 'eel overboard'...two more human torpedoes emerged from the water and crashed into the boat. After a few moments to catch breath and collect our wits I asked Pete at which point did the tales make being in the water the more fearful choice? To which he replied 'the point when something grabbed my leg!'. There was a stony silence for awhile whilst we all digested this statement, well stony until Mr. Yates nearly peed himself with mirth and between gasps for breath he managed to blurt out that he'd grabbed Pete's leg...just for a laugh.... A couple of hours later the three were dry, warm and repleat with steak and the odd vessel of grog.
A flutter of movement catches my eye as a Dunnock bobs around the recently placed log pile which will form the backdrop to a wildlife pool and the spell is broken. I turn, bending, to hump the next slap into place and just for a moment I thought that I could taste the sea air once more, yes it's funny how the mind works.
Till the next time, take care..