Regrets? Cliff Hatton has had a few; but then again, too few to mention...
I dunno though; it might be cathartic to pour out a little of my soul’s contents – if only as a warning to today’s tranche of young carp-trapping nutters. I emphasize here the degree to which it is possible for young men to become so profoundly besotted by the pull of angling because such fanaticism can actually have a less favourable side. When fishing fills every waking and sleeping moment of your weekends and every evening from Monday to Friday you’re clearly missing out on other stuff. This ‘other stuff’ may not seem important to you now because, well...what could possibly be more important than the gargantuan chub you saw in the shadow of the bridge last Saturday? And what fun could you conceivably derive from doing something other than fish next weekend? Does fishing get to you like this, matey? It did me...
Even when I discovered girls I couldn’t wait to introduce them to the delights of crusting for carp; it barely occurred to me that an evening at the flix just might be more appealing to a young lady keen to experiment with make-up and her big sister’s perfume. I exaggerate not one iota. I wasn’t able at that time of a young man’s awakening to even consider the possibility of something more appealing than the crisp, clear ‘cloop’ of a crust-chomping carp...now that was ecstasy!
I’m told I was a good looking young fella, and strolling down the Memory Lane of my various photograph albums I can of course see the truth of this. The thing is – if you’re presently like I used to be – you’re just too in love with fish and trees and golden dawns to consider the possibility that you might be seen as desirable...you’re oblivious to a girl’s compliments and subtler suggestions and you blindly take them fishing at your members-only lake as if to do them a favour: “We’re allowed to take a guest but it’s a fiver for a ticket... don’t worry though” You give her a roguish wink, “I’ll say you’re my sister”.
Do you tell the girls in your life something like this? Really think about it. Perhaps you plan your dates around your fishing activities: an afternoon stroll in the park so that you can be settled-in at the lake before dark, or something along those lines? And who’s top of the pops at the moment? Which singer or band is all the rage? Do you download their music, buy their CDs and DVDs but readily turn down the offer of a concert ticket because it’s for Friday night and you’ve got a date with a big ol’ common?
This was me all over, and today I regret quite bitterly my dismissal of The Hollies visit to town; my turning down tickets for the Stones, the Animals, CLAPTON, the Small Faces and...Oh! What a fool I was! I’ve recently made up for some of my misspent youth by seeing Jethro Tull a couple of times but...well...Ian Anderson’s bald now, and the one-legged flauty thing is clearly something of an effort for the ol’ boy: why didn’t I snap up that ten bob ticket and get down to the Ship and Shovel for 7.30pm on Wednesday 11th August 1967? I could’ve taken Elaine, the well developed girl who did Saturdays at the greengrocers. She wore stockings and a tight jumper and had something of a...well, I was told she could be quite friendly.
But what did I do? I spent all of the previous evening knocking-up bait and went fishing on the Wednesday while all my fifteen and sixteen year old pals were getting an under-age high on Watney’s Red Barrel and The Witch’s Promise – LIVE! Likely as not they left the pub with a mini-skirted dolly and headed for a little privacy at the back of the shops while I sat beneath a damp umbrella with a cup of lukewarm tea and a Penguin. That said, it did seem right at the time, and I suppose it must have been right because that was what I really, really wanted to do. It’s only now when I reflect on all those rejected opportunities to see the Yardbirds, the Zombies, the Pretty Things and The Who for less than a quid that I see the error of my ways.
Occasionally I was able to tempt a girlfriend to the gravel pit but it never worked very well. As always, the prospect of mixing romance with carp fishing was very much better than the reality; yes, it was possible to fit two on a bedchair for a kiss and a cuddle but the faintest buzz from the Heron would see me standing breathless over the rod in an instant and my loved-one on the dusty deck with a bed-chair on top of her. There was nothing – simply NOTHING – that could have stopped me springing-up as if from an ejector seat to address the briefest enquiry. It was in the DNA I’m afraid, Christine...
So what’s to be done? All I can do is to check out which of the less successful groups with an average age of 75 are still earning a crust in the clubs. They’ll be indistinguishable from their audiences but they won’t know the words so well; they’ll milk their greatest hit for all it’s worth, take their bows and walk off dodging the odd set of corsets, and I shall be left wondering what could have been.
But then, I’ll never forget that 15lb mirror and the 5lb tench...the weekend it never stopped raining and the time Tony Corless fell in the drink...
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