Number Forty Five June 2007
A few nights ago, I was searching through the Ladybird Book of Long Words, when I came across the word "obsession" (to be taken over, to go the extra mile). Well now what I want to know is at what point in taking a hobby does the normal bit become an obsession?
Of course, many people can be clearly seen to fit into this slot - sailing around the World single handed in a small rowing boat must seem even to the hardest of seasoned sailors just a tad bit obsessive, but there are thousands of normal people that can at some point in their lives be taken to the point that what they started off with as just a little hobby, grew and before you can shake a raspberry cane, its taken you over.
When I was around the age of five I was introduced to the gentle art of fishing. Most of my early life was spent fishing the long pond in King's Lynn with many of the boys that lived around the ponds. The ponds that we fished contained all sorts of fish but there were rumours that a very large pike had been seen by a friend of a friend that he had seen it take a whole duck off the surface one morning as he sat there fishing on his own! This rumour was like music to the ears of Mike - one young lad that fished the pond. This monster of the deep just had to be caught and he wanted to be the one to do it. In the long summer days of that year, we would fish from early in the morning until it was almost dark, but that wasn't to be for Mike as he lived just a stones throw away from the pond and it caused him no problems to start fishing before dawn. Throughout the summer Mike fished the pond for the monster pike but even after putting in many long hours, Mike failed to even get a bite and started to disbelieve the rumour.
A few weeks later, just before we were all to return back to school from the summer holidays, an old boy that regularly walked his dog each day around the pond and across the old railway line which carried over the bridge that ran from the pond to another area that we as lads fished on occasions. News from the old boy and his ageing dog was that on his daily walk he had spotted a rather large pike and when asked, "How big was it Mister?" his arms extended to at least six foot and beyond by the aid of his walking stick and the dog's lead, thus he was able to give us boys an idea of the size of the monster. "Where did you see it Mister?" It was at this time he curled his top lip and smiled and slowly replied, "In one of the old cooling pools owned by the Electricity Board" - this was right down by Kettlewell Lane - just by the great old willow tree. The old boy knew that this was an area that was out of bounds to us boys. A friend of ours was caught there a few months ago and told us he was chased by a big old bloke with a large stick, so after that we kept well away. Mike even at this early age had moved from just a boy that went fishing to a boy that was obsessed with catching this pike. He had gone through the normal bit in his life and the search for the pike had turned Mike's fishing into an obsession. Mike's pike monster hunt was now back on but also the lads that were involved in the capture of this monster were starting to think pike day and night - we were beginning to get obsessed too.
It was decided
one day that if we were going to have a chance of catching the monster,
then we would have to find a way of going to the cooling pools without
being caught. I went with Mike one cold September morning to take
a look and work out how we were going to fish for the pike. We
climbed up the large willow tree that hung over the pool as far as we
could and, as we looked over the pool, we saw a large dark shape just
below the surface. This made us freeze in our tracks. We had
just spotted the monster of the deep. The very thing that Mike had
been fishing for all that summer and there it was, just a few yards
away. But the problem was because of one of the brick walls of the
cooling pools, there was no way that Mike could cast a bait for the
The harness that had been constructed for straps that had been removed from the bottom of an old armchair and quickly stitched up by Mike's older sister held his lower body as if he was on a parachute. Attached to this was a long rope that we managed after a few attempts to get over a high branch of the old willow tree. Mike was now ready to be pulled up by the aid of the rope and the strength of his friends, but I might add at this stage, most of the ground crew had decided that this all had a feeling of a disaster waiting to happen. It seemed only after a few pulls on the rope that Mike was swinging about twenty feet in the air, and with his fishing rod in his hand, he was delighted as he whispered down to us lads below that he had spotted his quarry around fifteen yards away. There was only going to be one chance at this, so with a gentle swing, the bait intended for the monster was plopped just in front of the monster's nose - just perfect, and this was indicated by a thumbs up.
It was then that the monster of the deep that has around six hundred teeth made its move! It slowly picked up Mike's bait and started to swim away. Mike seeing this, decided to strike, but looking back, maybe a tad too early, as he tried to set the hooks in his attempt to catch the fish the stitches on the harness that his sister in her haste had sewn up for him, started to come undone! With it came the disaster that the lads had predicted. Mike at one moment was in his glory twenty feet above the ground, was in one split second heading head first into the cooling pool. As the harness departed from his body Mike hit the water in an almighty splash, only to see the pike head off down the river. As for the monster of the deep nobody ever saw it again, and Mike decided that on this occasion the pike had, until the next time, won.
It was many
years later that I was out fishing for pike - the weather one can only
describe it as fit for neither man or beast, snow, hail, wind was the
order of the day as I made my way along the bank of a Fenland drain
miles from civilisation - the type of place if you fell over and was
hurt they wouldn't find you for weeks. As I managed to walk along, I
spotted a lonely figure in the distance fishing as I was for pike. As I
got nearer to this lone pike fisherman that I thought must at least be
as mad as I was on this freezing winters day. "Mike. it's you, how are
you old piker, what the devil brings you out on a foul day like this?
Tell me you are not here for the same reason I am fishing in this
weather is because some bum put the rumour around that there is a thirty
pound pike in the river" It was at that time Mike's face that was as red
as a beetroot, and covered in snow smiled, "Yes, you might be right" I
could see straight away by his smile that he was thinking of the summer
all those years ago and the pike that got away. Then he said,
"Maybe the rumour was from the old man with the walking stick and the
dog." As we stood chatting on the river bank on this bitterly cold
Winter's afternoon, the light was just starting to fade, I said to Mike,
"Well old mate, we had better start making tracks for home. By the
way, how is the wife?" "Oh, she hasn't changed, still watching that damn
telly, Emmerdale blinking farm, Coronation Street, and that other one
Eastenders. Can't stand them. You know what I think is the
matter with her indoors - she's obsessed!"
Stella of HOL would like to thank
Colin for allowing surfers the chance to enjoy so many great recipes
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