November 2012


There was, alongside Words On Water, more angling on Radio 4 this week.

On Wednesday, self-appointed expert in absolutely everything, Count Arthur Strong went fishing, taking his split cane rod and Intrepid Black Prince up to Spiggy Lakes.

With my wardrobe starting to look a bit shabby, if not downright holey, I threw a load of clothes out recently. Or rather put them in the textile recycling. This created the need to buy some replacement apparel and I was determined not to just buy in a load of high street clobber, but instead be a touch more select with my purchases.

Since watching Jaws at the cinema a few months back I have become, I admit, mildly obsessed with the sayings of Captain Quint and so a themed T-shirt bearing the quote “You get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing” was a compulsory, and compulsive purchase.

More reminiscent of a custom bike shop, than anything piscatorial, I’d love one of these Streatham Fishing Club Ts, but alas they are presently unavailable.

What are available and equally bespoke are Vintage Hiking Depot tops. With a nice feel and quality, there won’t be too many people this side of the pond sporting one.

They are available here.

Umm.

Yea.

What he said.

Following on from the post before last – a name I was surprised to find amongst those revered by the traditional angling tribe was that of Jack Hargreaves.

He was a television presenter that I recall well from my youth, but at the same time know very little about. This was no doubt because my father would not allow his programmes to be on in the house. So the most I ever saw was a minute or two.

Such ire was exceptional, even for my father who regularly watched TV programmes featuring people he disliked and, rather than change channels, would spew forth futile Alf Garnet-like rants about them. But Jack Hargreaves was beyond even this.

The general vein of this excoriation was that he was a “bullshitter” and not just that – the old man seemed to actually like bullshitters – at least the ones that he sensed didn’t themselves really believe the line that they were peddling. Hargeaves was something worse, a bullshitter of a townie pretending he was a countryman.

I have no idea myself having never seen more than a snippet of ‘Out of Town’, and being too young to judge even if we had been allowed to watch it. He starred in another programme, ‘How’ which we could have watched when the Old Man was at work, but we thought it was rubbish. My dad might have tolerated that one though, because it also featured Fred Dineage (a man with a ridiculously dodgy comb-over who was often on Southern TV programmes) who he loved to watch seemingly solely so that he could call him a w***er.

One specific incident sticks in my mind with regard to JH and that is when he was on some programme or other. I can’t believe it was his own, so he must have popped up and caught the Old Man unawares. He had a ferret and claimed that as a young man he would go to church on Sunday morning with a ferret in one pocket and rabbit net in the other and do a spot of rabbiting on the way home.

“Bullshit!” said the old man, rising rapidly into a boil of raging disgust. “You’d never catch a rabbit on your way to church, never mind on the way home.”

Whether this is true I don’t know. I guess there is an optimum time to snare rabbits, but it did cross my mind that if my Old Man (and his dad) had got up at the crack of dawn to go rabbiting it might have more to do with them not getting caught by the landowner, than it being the best time to catch bunnies. I did seriously think he was going to kick the telly in until having reached a crescendo of expletive abuse, he grabbed the remote, hesitated as if considering throwing at the screen, and then changed channel.

As his anger subsided, he turned to me. ” Do you remember that c*** when he judged you in that fancy dress competition? What a c***!”

I do recall the occasion and do struggle to understand why the old man was so cross because I won and took home a really good model JCB. Maybe I just won my age group and not the grand prize – I don’t know and probably now after his stroke neither does the old fella.

It was a good costume and later won prizes when my siblings wore it. From the ground up it consisted of some very long thin grown-up’s boots. They were vintage even then – the sort that fastened above the ankle via buttons and eyes. Next football socks, one blue, one red. Then a pair of grey adult trousers, cut off just below the height of my knee and held up by braces. The gaping waistband was held out in a hoop by a circle of wire, and they were decorated with multicoloured patches. On my top I wore a bright t-shirt and a waistcoat. My head sported a battered top-hat from which a blousy crepe flower danced on a springy wire stalk.

Obviously I had my face made up to look like a clown, though I don’t know exactly how. I do recall my round nose, made from a ping pong ball and held on with thin black elastic, because it was a long way from comfortable. It was horrible to touch too as it was coloured red by smeary red lipstick. For the first effort my father had used car paint from the garage where he worked. Apparently it had looked great initially, but had then slid into mush as the paint reacted with, and then dissolved, the ball.

But the piece of the costume that my father had spent most time on was a squirty flower. The petals were made from red and white vinyl and the centre was the nozzle from a car windscreen washer. This was linked via tubing, presumably of the same source, to a bulb from a bicycle horn, hidden in the trouser pocket. It was quite effective, though good for only one decent squirt before refilling was needed. I remember my father’s regret that he could not get a bigger bulb and that trials with a water-filled balloon instead proved unsatisfactory. Nevertheless it would have to do.

“When he gets close give him a good squirt” my dad instructed. “He” was Jack Hargreaves who was judging the contest at the village fete. Well I won my prize and was delighted, but my father’s disappointment was palpable. I had not drenched my assigned target. Not through lack of nerve on my part, I should add, I was more than prepared to carry out the hit, but the flower had a four foot range at best and he just never got close enough.

In hindsight I suspect the illusions wrought by television played a part in my father’s distain. Thanks to the edit suite a shot of Hargreaves casting would shortly be followed by one of him playing and landing a fish. The Old Man was convinced of a more blatant deception. As far as he was concerned there were a number of “proper fishermen” downstream who were hooking the fish which they’d immediately hand over to be filmed being brought in.

But apart from the fish fakery and the bullshit I think what grated most was the mellow theme music and opening scenes of a gently plodding horse-drawn-trap which painted the countryside and its past a golden mellow colour – the Old Man knew from generations of experience that the lives of the rural poor were seldom anything approaching golden.

More “humourous” van signage.

Drainage companies seem to really go for this.