Always imagining my father had gone back to work on 27th December, I was surprised to learn that even in his years in the Royal Navy the leave might amount to the best part of two weeks. Perhaps naval air stations take a while to wind down and a while more to wind up again.
In childhood years, I know what he might have done in the spare time: gone fishing.
Fishing occupied many hours in those childhood days. Both my grandfather and my father were keen coarse and sea fishermen, fishing in the rivers around our home in Somerset; going to West Bay in Dorset to beach cast lines far into the water; standing on the harbour wall in Lyme Regis, hoping for flatfish; trolling for mackerel in open boats off the coast.
I strove to follow in the family tradition. My great grandmother gave me money for a sea fishing rod when I was ten. when I was fourteen, I received for Christmas the first coarse fishing rod I could call my own, until then I had borrowed one from my father.
In teenage years, I would have cycled with friends to the River Cary, on the moorland north of our village, or would have cycled from my grandparents’ farm down to the banks of the River Parrett. Not once did I ever catch anything, perhaps I was using the wrong tackle, the wrong bait, or fishing at the wrong time, or in the wrong place. Perhaps it was just a lack of patience, a lack of willingness to sit long enough on a river bank.
There have been moments when I have wished I had been the sort of person who might have spent countless hours using that fishing rod.
The night fishermen one meets late on beaches seem the most contented. Being able to walk down onto the beach for a night’s fishing suggests there is no other demand upon one’s time; no need to be anywhere in the morning; no need to worry that someone might be looking for you, or that someone might phone. To be a night fisherman means freedom, not a worry in the world.
To sit on a beach watching, feeling for a tautness in the line; slowly winding in the baited hook and weight before once more casting them deep into the surf; pushing the handle of the rod deep into the firm sand and sitting down, waiting to catch sight of movement of the rod’s tip; seems a pastime of perfect contentment.
Fishermen have no worry about stories on the evening news, or any other of the ugliness that surrounds us.