Park Life: The one that wanted to get away

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The Independent Culture
ENTHUSIASMS FADE easily when you are eight and, thankfully, my son Darcy seemed to have forgotten all about fishing in the excitement of Christmas and the holidays. It's not that I am particularly averse to this pastime - I try to encourage any interest that involves no violence, television or computers. But though dangling a line over the side of a boat or reclining by a stretch of cool water as the sun goes down may be summer perfection, matters are entirely different in the depths of a wet English winter. Few activities could be less alluring than huddling next to a green tent beside an urban pond on a grey day.

So I wasn't about to remind Darcy of his love of fishing, for a few months at least. But I reckoned without Greg, an electrician, jazz fan, Chelsea supporter and angling enthusiast who lives round the corner. Greg had dropped by to fix a couple of light sockets, and we were speculating on why so many electricians are keen anglers, like the father of Darcy's school friend who sometimes takes the boys out for the day.

All this talk reawakened the angler in Darcy, and in the days that followed he took up the refrain, "Dad, when can we go fishing?" I stalled for as long as I could. "You may not mind the cold, but the fish won't bite in this weather," I insisted, as if I would know. But last weekend I ran out of excuses, so we set off on The Fishing Expedition.

First stop was the angling shop, where Darcy spent a sizeable chunk of his personal savings on rod rests, floats, some hooks, some line, and a punnet of wriggling, pink-and-white maggots. We picked up some tips from the bloke who runs the shop, admired the photographs of regulars posing with their biggest catch in the front window, and pocketed various brochures advertising fishing courses and "Father and Son" family lessons at a lake near the M25. So far, I thought, quite a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Then, wellied and wrapped up against the elements (and me with a magazine to pass the time), we set off on the five-minute walk to the pond in our local park. My expansive mood came to an abrupt end, as it tends to, with the words, "Dad, can you set up my rod?" So I began the achingly tricky task of fastening on the hook with fingers that appeared to have swelled to twice their usual size.

Now came the float - another bodged job - followed by the weights, tiny split lead balls that have to be bitten on to the line. I lost a couple, but managed to avoid swallowing them. Finally, Darcy was ready to cast, and I rewarded myself by taking a perch on a park bench and opening my magazine. "Daaad, the geese. Oh no, I've caught one." And there was a big fat goose, which had swum over nosily hoping for a slice of stale bread, now tugging one grey foot that was attached to Darcy's line. I grabbed the rod and pulled. The goose pulled. The line broke.

As calmly as I could, I repeated the whole setting-up process, then returned to my seat and my magazine, while Darcy cast once more. "Daaad, the geese are back..." I was still reading my first paragraph as I sprinted, shouting at the top of my voice, back to the pond. "Dad, why are you swearing at the geese?" Darcy inquired, hugely amused at my stupidity. As if they would understand!

For once, I thanked heaven for the early winter evenings. "We'd better go now - it's getting too dark to see." Darcy had only had about five minutes' fishing, but it had taken us all afternoon. Perhaps it's time to book one of those Father and Son fishing lessons.