My dad taught me lots. From him, I learnt never to play snooker with someone who has their own chalk; never to dress in women's clothes for a joke; not to talk to people with "cut here" tattooed around their neck, and not to lend your lawn mower to a Welshman. I've tried to lead my life without breaking his commandments, though I've yet to meet a Welshman who wanted to borrow my mower.
However, there's one piece of advice that I didn't take seriously. Well groomed by a wartime in the RAF, my father advised: never volunteer. I've done it twice, and learnt the hard way. That's why, when the Anglers' Conservation Association come a-calling for its postal auction, it will find a "gone fishing" sign. I'm still scarred by the auction to raise money for the local preservation society.
As chairman, I felt it was up to me to set an example, so I offered a day's fishing. Now I know that any one of you would proffer thousands just for the chance to share a day on the riverbank with the Indy's angling correspondent. But this is a small village. People don't get out much. The prospect of spending hours with some wild-haired tree-hugger proved infin-itely less attractive than having a personalised birthday cake made for your child, lunch at the Commons with John Major, a round of golf with the local estate agent and a set of monogrammed tea towels. Lot 53 even made less than a free MOT at the village garage.
The auctioneer did his best. Perhaps all the village anglers were out fishing. But my contribution made a fairly paltry sum. I can't remember how much because I've managed to expunge most of that evening from my memory, but certainly less than £15. Still, it was all in a good cause. Ha ha, I laughed.
It was two weeks before I discovered who was going to be fortunate enough to enjoy a special day's fishing. I had earlier phoned a friend who runs a private syndicate on the Kennet. He was a star, promising to reserve a prime spot and even offering to bait it up the night before. If the winner was a trout angler, we would have one of the lakes to ourselves.
So anyway, this chap phones up. "My wife's bought me a day's fishing with you." He didn't sound too excited at the prospect.
"Have you fished before?" I asked.
"Yeah, a bit," he replied.
"What do you like to catch?"
"Ah, carp. Have you caught any big ones?"
"Well, not really big. My best is 35lb, and I've had a few 30s, but if you can take me somewhere where I can get a big one, I'd like that."
Things went downhill from there. My best carp then was 14lb. (It's not much bigger now.) What should have happened was that he should have taken me fishing somewhere.
I told him confidently: "Leave it to me. Somewhere we can find a few 40s, then."
And, I have to confess, I never phoned him back.
Five years has passed, and I hope he's forgotten. But if he's reading this, would he like a tour round The Independent instead?Reuse content