Even with Jack Hargreaves’ weekly invitation to do something “Out of town” I was never going to become the world’s greatest fisherman. The fear of maggots (I’m sure there’s a long word ending in “phobia” for that) being the reason.
I had several ponds nearby on Wandsworth, Clapham and Tooting Bec Commons where I could have pursued an angling hobby.
I had a mate who invited me to go fishing. This sounded good and so, armed with a bucket and net I’d bought a decade earlier with “Bognor” emblazoned all over them, I called round.
We entered his kitchen; he went to the fridge, opened the door and pulled out a tub. Would we be taking some raspberry ripple with us, or some haddock paste sandwiches to eat as we sat on the banks of Wandsworth Common ponds looking for stingrays? No, these contained maggots.
I thought of the culinary errors which could occur having a tub of maggots in among foodstuffs: the tub containing mince could remain in the fridge as the errant tub was used to create a shepherd’s pie; mistaking it for Neapolitan meant the addition of hundreds and thousands would create utter chaos in the bowl. Plus, going round to a mate’s house, their mums never asked “have you a maggot allergy?”
I assume, if you do this far out to sea, where the fish are much larger, the conversation is going to be: “I think we’re going to need a bigger maggot!”
When you left a school fete, which I did during many a summer from my Balham and Tooting schools, the very least you’d want to leave with was a goldfish. Or a coconut – although, in most of the fetes I attended, the coconuts tended to live longer.
You’d take your prize-winning goldfish home, in its plastic bag, only to establish that your flat was a flat and not an aquarium and thus, not set up for any form of aquatic creature.
You would leg it to the local pet shop – where, when you mentioned your plight, discovered that the overnight increase in the cost of fish tanks had far out-paced the rate of inflation for the past two decades!
In addition to the tank (you had the water, which, if you hadn’t, the pet shop owner would have willingly sold you some with a price similar to that of petrol in the early ‘70s); you’d be flogged daphnia and hydra (which were neither great aunts you’d long forgotten, nor a US detective team). But, the pet shop salesman wouldn’t have done his or her job if he’d not sold you a pretend deep-sea diver.
Fish have a memory span of four-seconds, but why a deep-sea diver? Make them feel at home? No, because they are freshwater fish, and few make it to the depths of the Mariana Trench.
If I were to get a goldfish now, I’d have a replica of the Mary Rose; a book to improve memory loss and a statue of Johnny Weissmüller to stop the fish from slacking.