Memories of home-made midnight feasts in late afternoon
Saturday 19 October 2002
I do so hanker after days of old - I know life was terrible then if you didn't have money –
plus ca change – but in my imagination I would have money, you see.
I do so hanker after days of old. I know life was terrible then if you didn't have money – plus ca change – but in my imagination I would have money, you see. And I'd be constantly invited to country house parties. The sort where you go fishing, but stop for chats and drinks and snacks (all carried and served by someone else). I know that some people love fishing alone, but I like solitude with company – and the picnic basket – never very far away.
Most fishing trips aren't like that (although I do try to recreate that country house atmosphere). There's maybe two of you with sandwiches and flasks all held together in quite ugly, but functional, bags. And you have to serve yourself. That said, I have had some wonderful riverbank feasts. My first was courtesy of Lainston House where a picnic was provided in a hamper and there was proper food on plates and a table on which to eat it all. Then there have been various fine picnics on the bank of the Coln, provided by Mrs and Mrs Cotton, often involving home-made pork pies that always makes the heart sing. One such picnic was particularly splendid as we ate it among the meadow flowers and it was all a bit moving. Then there was the time some years ago fishing with Oliver Edwards when we had a barbecue involving lots of sausages, then berries and cream. Most recently Charles Jardine cooked up a smorgasbord of delights one lunchtime. This meal was all the finer for knowing I had caught more fish than he (he triumphed by the end of the day, but at lunchtime I was still champion).
And, just last summer, I was invited, thanks to lovely Dave of the Launceston Fishing Club and Bob, Endsleigh's fishery manager, to Joel's Corner Pool on the Endsleigh beat of the Tamar. Endsleigh is a hotel in Devon, the sort that instantly makes you lower your voice when you enter the lobby made of all wood and poshness. We drove down to the river and stopped right at the beat. No traipsing across fields. Lovely. On the shingle beach there was a fire going with perfectly sawed logs puffing black smoke into the afternoon air. Bob was already there setting up a kelly kettle and a barbecue to celebrate the arrival of the seatrout. There were various other people, men, women and children. (I realised with some sadness that I'd never been fishing with children before.) All manner of food was coming out. It was like an Enid Blyton midnight feast, except it was still late afternoon.
Added to this the beats were magnificent. I fished one methodically and – considering my Spey casting ain't that great – not at all badly. It was lovely to be fishing alone, but able to hear people not far away; not to mention the smell of food cooking. After about an hour of fishing, I got out and made my way back to the shingle beach. Would I like a drink or a snack? Yes please. I had a good chat with the others, one of the women and I lamenting the lack of women's size waders (she'd had hers made for her). Then I went off to fish the beat further upstream. By this stage it was getting dark which was prime time for the seatrout to start biting. Unfortunately, being the girl that I am, I was getting cold. It was at that moment Bob called out that dinner was ready so I got out, all creaky from the cold and standing still for so long and scrambled up the bank. A fine seatrout was on the grill that I left for the non-meat eaters among the group, while I attempted to establish a national record for eating sausages in waders. The children were fishing on, quite oblivious to hunger, cold or water depth. One had caught six brown trout.
This being summer it was about 10 o'clock. We all chatted merrily. I watched the boys fish with some admiration. What determination they showed. Before we knew it, it was really late and pitch black. My boyfriend, always more intrepid than I, had gone back in the river further upstream and had caught himself two seatrout (both of which went back). Everyone had gone now except for kind Dave who had stayed to show us the way back on to the road. We switched on our car lights to take off our waders, our fingers slightly stiff with cold. Hundreds of bugs flew into the dusty light of the tail-lamps, which took us by surprise and we must have swallowed half-a-dozen as an impromptu dessert. Somehow it didn't matter; after such a perfect evening's fishing, nothing much did.
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