Thursday, 12 January 2012
THE WONDER YEARS
I think like most anglers, my earliest close encounters of a fishy kind involved a small net and a jam jar but being a stickler for the naked truth, can recall a time even before that when my fascination with fish was to play an infectious part of my life.
It began in West Sussex, where my father being a tractor driver on a large farm estate, we lived in a tied cottage.
One day, I was deemed old enough to accompany my father to work where it was his task for that day to operate a J.C.B dredging a small stream/tributary of the River Arun that meandered it course through the estate. It was before any governing agricultural laws and Health and Safety requirements but I think however, more of a way I could be kept an eye on, lest trouble invariably found me like a hidden magnetism as it so often did during my youth, not dissimilar to my clothes and the soil.
I recall sitting besides him in the cab that day, marveling at the many levers and fascinated by his ability to control the machine like an extension of his own limbs to the task in hand.
I did venture outside the cab within my fathers watchful eye, to explore the insects, larvae, frogs newts and inch long elvers which had been removed from the stream. I would, with the aid of the bucket, rescue them returning them once more to whence they came but only after I had loomed over the bucket like a giant aqueous deity for long enough to satisfy my curiosity.
It was to be not just a one off experience but somewhat of a regular occurrence during weekends or school holidays either in a tractor cab or beside him walking across fields whilst he tended irrigation pipes or mended fences.
It was however, despite being out of school term or at a weekend, an opportunity for my father to pass on lessons in rural knowledge, an education that would hold my attention unlike history or algebra for instance.
At my fathers side, I would learn names of trees, recognise their unique silhouettes, leaf patterns and bark,
distinguish cowslips from primroses and foxgloves from bluebells. Discover things I could feast upon and plants to refrain from touching like nightshade and fungi, and spotting wild animals and birds and learn their tracks and trails.
Added to his, and a myriad of surrogate teachers evening classes, the likes of Jack Hargreaves, David Attenborough and John Wilson, I would ingest information whilst warming for bed in front of a log fire before making the sleepy journey upstairs.
This extra curricular activity would etch on my soul and be the very basis and foundation to which I would distinguish peace and harmony in comparison to the hustle and trauma of growing up pains and everyday life.
As someone once famously penned " give me a child until he is 5, and I will give you the Man".