Cliff takes a tongue-in-cheek glimpse at 21st Century angling holiday venues
‘This is gonna be great!’
Wayne was in the passenger-seat of his father’s BMW turning to address his mother and younger brother, Shane.
‘It will be if you can keep clean for five bleedin’ minutes!’ said the lovely Tracey, Wayne’s mother. ‘I didn’t spend all day Saturday traipsin’ round Lakeside lookin’ for your holiday clobber just to take home a sackful of muddy laundry!’
Wayne’s dad, Jason, quickly interjected on hearing the ‘M’ word… ‘Trace…Trace…It ain’t that sort of place!’
The kids giggled at dad’s impromptu, unintentional verse and he glared at Wayne for a second or two before the penny dropped.
‘Oh, alright…very funny, I’m a poet and I don’t know it. Now can I talk to your mum?’
Young Shane apologised from the back seat barely able to stifle his laughter ‘Sorry, dad!’
‘You will be, young man!’
Jason meant nothing by the threat. He was pulling back into the inside lane, head turned, and took the brief opportunity to have a fatherly ‘pop’ at his boy. Eddie Stobart flashed him back in and Jason raised an appreciative hand.
‘Good old Eddie!’ he chimed.
‘Do you know him then?’
‘Do I know who, Trace?’ queried Jason.
‘That Eddie bloke – the lorry-driver’
Jason raised his eyes to the electric sunroof, then a little further to the Heavens. It was going to be one of those holidays….
Two minutes of uncommon silence ensued, then Wayne – awkwardly unfamiliar with the phenomenon – piped up to ask what his dad had meant, ‘It wasn’t that sort of place’.
‘Oh, yeah…where were we?’ Jason retraced his thoughts and the conversation ‘You said it was gonna be great, yeah?’
‘Then you said, Tracey, it will be if he can keep clean for five minutes…right?’
‘Oh, and then you said something about mud’
Wayne and Tracey agreed.
‘And then…oh, yeah! I remember now! I was saying it ain’t that sort of place!’
‘Right!!’ came the chorus.
The car swelled with mirth then settled just as quickly as the huge wheels of an Italian juggernaut thundered by just feet from their straightened faces. Even Shane knew when to shut up when it came to motorways. Once the ‘Vehiculo Longo’ had distanced itself from the ‘Beamer’ Tracey pursued her husband’s comment.
‘So what do you mean?’
Jason caught her eye in the rear-view mirror. ‘Well, Carper’s Paradise ain’t like that…it ain’t got all mud and slosh around the place, has it? They could hardly call it Paradise if you had to clonk around in wellies all week, could they?’
‘I should bleedin’ hope not’ responded Tracey who then remembered that the brochure was on the parcel-shelf, behind her head. She riffled through its expensive glossy pages until the asterisk she’d made in blue biro suddenly presented itself. ‘This is it…Leviathan Lodge we’re staying in, ain’t it?’
The silence told her that it was.
‘SITUATED JUST YARDS FROM YOUR OWN PRIVATE SWIM ON LEVIATHAN LAKE, YOUR LODGE IS FRONTED BY A GENEROUS BARBEQUE AREA AND A GENUINE YORK-STONE PATH DOWN TO THE WATER: YOU DON’T NEED WADERS OR WELLIES AT CARPER’S PARADISE!’
‘We can wear our trainers!’ blurted Wayne, but dad came back at him like a shot.
‘Yeah, but don’t you scuff ’em! They cost ninetyfive quid a pair!’ The warning was lost in a cacophony of blaring horns as Jason swerved back over the white line to his own lane.
One mile from the automatic gates to Carper’s Paradise a garish placard announced to the largely mystified great British Public YOUR FIVE MINUTES FROM YOUR FIRST FORTY.
‘Nearly there, dad! I can’t wait!’
Wayne was almost headlong in his seat, straining at the safety-belt and stretched like a sprinter six feet from the ribbon.
‘Steady on, boy, steady on’ urged Dad, ‘let’s not rush everything, we’ve got plenty of time and, anyway, places like this should be… savoured…a little reverence puhleeze!’
The traffic-lights ahead were red and Jason shifted down through the gears, grateful for the pause. ‘Do you realise, my lad…’ His chest swelled with some sort of misplaced patriotism and his eyes gazed into infinity ‘It was here that Dave ‘The Animal’ Williams had the first ‘80’ to be caught from British waters…’ He continued dewy-eyed in the manner of Alf Garnett before a portrait of Her Majesty. ‘…story goes, as the fish was haulin’, Williams held the back of his hand to the running braid…he very nearly lost it, you know’
‘He nearly lost the fish, did he?’ said Tracey
‘Nah! His hand!’ came the wide-eyed reply.
Minutes later, the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ containing Jason, Tracey, Wayne and Shane sat purring eagerly at the hallowed entrance to Carper’s Paradise; the tall wrought-iron gates featured a brace of impossibly large mirror carp, one on each side, nose to nose. The vehicle-recognition camera atop the yellow brickwork read the registration number and the gates noiselessly parted and swung back to admit the family to the ‘Ultimate Fishing Holiday’. Jason followed the arrows painted on the flecked red tarmac.
On reaching reception, they were greeted by a green-uniformed young lady proffering an enormous smile and a clipboard.
‘Welcome to Carper’s Paradise! My name is Kerry and I’m your Personal Facilities Manager for the week! You’ll be the Hamptons, yes? You’re booked-in for six nights in Leviathan Lodge, Leviathan Lake, which is situated to the left of the main boulevard just beyond the Crazy Golf…You can’t miss it, there’s an enormous fountain in the middle that’s shaped like a leaping fish!’
Wayne glanced back at his smiling mum then returned to Kerry; she continued chirpily… ‘Here are your keys. In your accommodation you’ll find a fully-fitted state-of-the-art kitchenette, a modern living-room featuring plasma TV, and a superb bathroom with Jacuzzi’ Wayne interrupted her flow.
‘Is there a Play-station?’
‘Naturally, young man! And if you look in the DVD console you’ll find Virtual Bass-Fishing and a Distance-Casting simulator!’
‘Nice,eh, Wayne?’ said his dad.
‘Wick-ed!’ exclaimed Wayne ‘Let’s go!’ Jason palmed the gearstick.
‘One more thing!’ Kerry hadn’t completed her spiel ‘Right at the end of the boulevard you’ll find The Bivvy where you can purchase drinks, snacks, or even a four course meal during the evenings. Wednesday and Thursday are karaoke nights and on this Friday evening a mystery carp-fishing celebrity will be hosting a debate entitled ‘Rigs – Could we make our own?’ I do hope you enjoy your stay at Carper’s Paradise – Tight lines!’
The Hamptons drove off to find their Haven, eager to explore the site, then to wet a line in search of Monty, Leviathan Lake’s largest inhabitant.
After unpacking, the kids amused themselves in cyberspace whilst Jason and Tracey sat-out on the patio drinking tea and surveying the poplar-sheltered carporium before them. Bow-waves the size of the Severn-bore pushed in all directions as commons, mirrors, koi and grass-carp mopped-up the pellets remaining from the mid-day feed.
‘Come and look at this, kids!’ shouted Jason ‘Never mind all that cyber-carping…come and see a real carp-water!’ The pair was there in seconds, saucer-eyed and open-mouthed at the sheer number of ‘whackers’ on display.
‘I bet that’s Monty!’
‘Nah! That one – he’s bigger!’
‘That one’s even bigger!’ Jason chuckled indulgently and went to stand by his boys.
‘You’ll know when you see Monty…he’s got a tag with an ‘M’ stamped on it attached to his dorsal!’
Shayne and Wayne were beside themselves with excitement and pleaded with their dad to take them down to the swim. With feigned reluctance, the biggest kid of them all drained his tea-cup and shepherded his offspring down the spotless flags to their purpose-built fishing station. It mirrored the description in the brochure perfectly; built-in rod-pods, adjustable sun/sleep beds, rain-canopy, night-light and a small fridge containing a dozen cans of strong lager.
Jason marvelled ‘Wow…they think of everything….what about bait?’ Wayne had made a lightning ‘recce’ of the area when they’d first arrived and was proud to point out to his dad the Boiliemat fifty yards down the bank and to the rear of ‘Stone’s Swim’.
‘Stone’s swim, eh? That’s a lovely touch, dedicating a swim to Peter Stone. Hey, has this swim got a name?’ He took a few paces to the waters-edge and stooped to read the gold-blocked inscription in the marble kerb. ‘Wow! Walker’s Pitch! Here, Trace! We’ve only got Walker’s Pitch!’
‘That’s nice, Pet’ came the disinterested reply. ‘Look, I’m just off to have my hair done. See you later’ Tracey tottered off in that peculiarly female manner, hands fanned at the shoulders, knees knocking above short, quick steps.
‘Let’s have a look around, kids!’ beamed Jason, and off they went to inspect the other swims. The next one up honoured none other than Yates; then Bailey followed by a luxurious mosaic-floored promontory called ‘The Hilton’.
‘They’ve put so much thought into this place, Wayne’ explained Jason, ‘right down to honouring the early pioneers – like this guy, Jack Hilton. People like him busted a gut for a bloody thirty in those days! Wow…what must it have been like? They’d camp out for days on end at some God forsaken pond in the middle of nowhere waiting for a bit of silver paper to tell them when they’d got a bite – though Richard Walker did invent a crude bite-alarm for fishing a place called Rodmire’
Wayne listened in awe to his father’s description of angling-life in the olden days…‘What did that Stone bloke do, dad? What was he famous for?’ As Jason spoke, he slowly lowered himself onto the contoured marble bench gently taking his son down with him, hand on shoulder.
‘He was a great all-rounder who made the headlines of the time with great catches of bream from the Thames, and chub from lakes! You didn’t used to find chub in lakes!’
‘And Yates?’ Wayne wanted to know.
‘That’d be Chris Yates! He held the carp record at one time – a fifty-one pounder would you believe! He still fishes a lot but he also does a lot of writing; very descriptive, they say. He wrote The Compleat Angler, you know’ The youngster didn’t hear the last bit, amused at the thought of his own P.B being equal to the record at one time. He snapped back into reality.
‘And that Walker guy? What did he do?’
Jason felt the hand of responsibility on his shoulder and the words of Crosby, Stills and Nash came to mind… Teach your children well. He drew on his roll-up, faintly aware that the situation really called for an old briar, sweet-smelling wisps curling luxuriantly over the seasoned bowl. The words of wisdom were about to issue forth when Wayne’s elbow jabbed sharply into his ribs.
‘Dad! No smoking, remember?’
‘Oh, shit’ muttered Jason as he pinched-off the glowing tip and furtively pocketed the evidence. He swivelled easily on the polished stone bench and was relieved to find nobody within sniffing distance. Wayne reminded his dad about Walker.
‘Oh, yes. Richard Walker’ said Jason reverently ‘The father of modern angling. The great man passed-on to that great Carper’s Paradise in the sky when I was about ten years old, but his achievements impressed me so much – even then – that I still remember them’
Oblivious now to all the bow-waves and piscine depth-charges that rocked the lake, Wayne drew closer to his dad for enlightenment. Jason sensed his responsibility and realised he’d bitten-off more than he could comfortably chew.
‘Yes…Walker. The Cambridge Don who invented the lawnmower, the Herring Bite Alarm, the Arse…’
Jason’s drivel was cut short by the sudden arrival of an outstretched hand followed much later by six feet of sartorial excellence; with unblemished Barbour jacket, pure white Arran crew-neck, creaseless cords and brown brogues heavy enough to die for, he was straight from The Observer colour supplement.
It was enthusiasm rather than strength that threatened to break Jason’s knuckles but the pain soon died away and he learned that the grip belonged to none other than the Managing Director of BritCarp PLC.
‘Wonderful to have you with us! Hampton, isn’t it? Jason Hampton?’
‘Yes’ said Jason nervously ‘And this is my eldest son, Wayne, the initial fruit of my loins’ Roger Beckwith OBE maintained the smile as he regarded the boy but Jason’s remark had extinguished the light within.
‘Ye-e-s’ He drew the word out apprehensively and re-presented his hand at waist-level ‘How do you do, young man?’
‘Dad was just telling me about the father of modern angling, Richard Walker!’
‘Ah! Walker! Yes! exploded Beckwith, his exuberence failing to conceal the worry in his eyes ‘Fine man!’ He leaned forward in mock confidence ‘Bloody good lawnmowers, I heard’
Jason nodded his approval eager to convey his knowledge of angling history then added ‘and what about the Arseley bomb?’
Again, the light in Beckwith’s smile grew dim, leaving an expressionless row of teeth. ‘The Arseley bomb! Yes…tremendous piece of equipment! That was one in the eye for the peace-mob, eh?’ Jason and Wayne were understandably mystified by the comment but without so much as the briefest pause the flustered MD turned 180 degrees to take them under his waxed cotton wings.
‘Now look here, chaps, have a bloody good time. There are more big fish out there than you could shake one of your rods at; when you pull in a good ’un just press that button – there it is, see – and the official Paradise photographer will be round with his camera in a jiffy – he’ll put you in our Hall of Fame!’ Ignoring the question he could plainly see playing on Jason’s lips, he blustered on. ‘There’s a fully-heated, Olympic size swimming-pool over there, snooker, bar-billiards, a gym, badminton and a genuine Finnish sauna. .The Taj Mahal will deliver to your swim free of charge on orders over £20.00, there’s a resident hairdresser – Rupert – and a shop that sells fishing… things back where you came in’ He hadn’t inhaled for minutes it seemed and Jason feared he’d never get his question in. Eventually though, Beckwith’s red blood-cells craved more oxygen and Jason seized the moment.
‘Tell me, Sir, did you have to get permission to use these guys’ names?’
‘Which guys?’ asked Beckwith.
‘These guys!’ Jason pointed way down to their left and swung his arm like a pendulum. ‘Bailey, Stone, Yates, Walker, Hilton…Did you have to get their consent?’
Beckwith perceived the question as extraordinarily naïve. ‘Why on Earth would any of them object, Mr Hampton? They nearly took my fingers off when I handed them the contract for signing!’
Was this a wind-up thought Jason, becoming very agitated and not a little embarrassed at the possibility of looking a plonker. His deference evaporated in an instant. ‘WHAT CONTRACTS?’
‘Why, the sponsorship contracts, of course!’ blurted Beckwith ‘Walkers Crisps, Baileys Cream, Stones Bitter, Yates Wine Bars…and The Hilton? What a catch that was!’
Beckwith marched off, one arm swinging, the other behind his back. He’d reached the Carper’s Wives Tanning Studio a hundred yards away before his mutterings and the occasional guffaw were lost to the gob-smacked anglers.
That evening, the male element of the Hampton family started their fishing in earnest. By consulting the information lectern they learned that the swim was eight feet deep for a distance of thirty yards; the middle section which Wayne was to fish then dipped deeply to fifteen feet. Either side of this trough the lake-bed rose sharply to form two shallow areas. Jason fished to the right, Shane to the left but with little enthusiasm or commitment; the youngster was given to distraction and a desire for occasional strolls along the bank.
There prevailed around Leviathan Lake that evening something of a party atmosphere – nothing too disruptive, but the laughter that floated across and the regular chinking of bottles being placed on the stone flooring suggested greater merriment to come. However, at this early stage the majority of anglers were largely occupied with spodding the recommended areas with the boilies recommended on that days ‘Carping Update’. The A4 sheet further aided the anglers with advice on anti-ejection rigs, repairing an inflatable, buzzer-volume enhancement and other handy little hints.
With the onset of darkness came the night-lights, the random – almost enchanting – illumination of Leviathan Lake. The daytime antics of the anglers on the opposite and adjacent banks had held no special fascination for the Hamptons but now, starkly silhouetted as figures on a Chinese lantern, their movements were irresistibly watchable. Jason and the kids remained in the dark, Shane the only one, apparently, appalled at some of what he saw. Just nine years of age, the boy winced repeatedly, covering his eyes and ears each time he witnessed a 6oz lead being winched to within 9 inches of a rod-top, held aloft on outstretched arms, then viciously projected into the lake – seventy yards short of target.
‘I’m going to bed, dad’ he announced, turning Jason’s head in surprise.
‘You’re on holiday, boy, you can stay up all night if you like!’
‘Nah…I’m tired, g’night…’ Shane’s words were clearly non-negotiable and a mystified dad watched his youngest son prop his rods against the canopy and make for the lodge.
Around one-thirty, a number of the ‘big-fish men’ decided to turn-in for the night and by two the entire perimeter was in darkness beneath a heavy blanket of mist; long-gone was the monotonous thumping from the disco, the teenage squeals and the rasping from the distant Go-Kart track. Now, way past the witching hour, only ear-piercing bite-alarms and the whirr of automatic wind-ons broke the silence…
By morning, Jason had had a couple of little commons to 22lb and Wayne was mercilessly ribbing him about ‘live-bait -snatching’; Jason would retaliate by reminding his son that he’d hardly broken any records either – just the one ‘32’. ‘Yeah, but at least I’m in The Hall of Fame!’ laughed Wayne ‘come on, let’s go over and have a look!’
After breakfast the whole family strolled over to The Bivvy to find a baseball-capped but otherwise motley crowd pointing and jeering at the photographs which made up the roll of honour – the most recent addition being that of Wayne and his ‘32’
‘She’s doing well!’ remarked a tall, thin guy with a ring in each ear ‘look, here she is last week at 31-3’
‘And down here’ came a voice from the front ‘a month ago at 29-4!’
The crowd mumbled approvingly.
‘She was only a low twenty when she went in’…‘Tremendous growth rate’…‘Could be a whacker this time next year’…..‘I wonder who’ll have it next time!’
The family was silent. The fish wasn’t special. Neither was Wayne. Shane was though, his mum thought…that perch he’d winkled-out of the canal was very special. She recalled how he’d come running in one evening covered in mud and scratches, a four inch stripey nosing the wall of the jam-jar. She laid her hand on Shane’s shoulder.
‘Do you remember your…’
Shane interrupted, quick as a pike-strike ‘my perch?’
‘That was brill!’ said Wayne ‘remember its spiky fin?’
Jason looked on, listening, astonished at what he was hearing.
‘But what about this?’ he implored, his index-fingertip pressed firmly on the frame of the ‘32’.
But nobody was listening.
‘You can cut yourself on them!’
‘Pike won’t eat them!’
‘Course they will!’
The surge of enthusiasm from the boys was for the memories of a digit-length tiddler in a jam-jar.
‘Anyone for Paradise Pizza?’ enquired Jason, but the rest of the family were engrossed in talk of perch, unconsciously forming a tight family knot and heading for the exit.
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