Camping, fishing and prospering.

In 1961 I invested in a tent and all the necessary camping kit for our holidays. In our brand new two tone Ford Cortina Estate we tried it out early in the year - too early actually, for it rained and it rained. We had difficulty locating a farmer in Wales good enough to let us pitch in his field. Erecting the thing in the rainy darkness and sorting ourselves out for the night should have put us off camping for ever. We were not happy bunnies. But it didn't.

From then until about 1968 camping was our holiday thing, most often in West Wales at a place called Shell Island. I understand it is now a recognised and fully equipped camping ground but in those days we were one of a very few of farmer Workman's 'guests'. You could get there across a causeway only at low tide. (One trip across we noticed a damn great salmon trapped in a tidal pool. One for the pot after a good deal of splashing and crashing around with a bait digging fork.) When you knocked on the farmhouse door and checked in we would go to our usual corner of a field, pitch up and dig our sanitary hole (pitching the special little latrine tent around it). Looking back, we seemed always to arrive with very little money but very high hopes for the bass fishing. But with a lot of happiness in anticipation of joining up with the same group of families each summer.

Oh, those beach parties! We would take it in turns to tend a fire and turn over it on a spit a small pig or lamb - and/or the bass and mullet we had seine netted from the edge of the sea! Glorious. One of our good companions was a Professor Mike someone from Aston University, and his family, and then there was the unforgettable Norman Bush and his family of two. 'Bush' was right. He had the biggest, most luxurious growth I'd encountered up to then. I don't know what Norman did for a living but, sitting around the beach fire, kiddies fast falling asleep, his pretty wife would sing folk songs for us. She had, literally, the voice of an angel (or Joan Baez).. You know how it is when you experience close up at first hand something so perfect, so fine that it stands the hairs up on the nape of your neck?

As a little boy and all the way up to my first job at Boots the Chemists I had been obsessive about angling, both freshwater and sea. (Reference my prior blog, the one entitled 'Fisherboy') Now a well married family man aged twenty eight, the opportunity and the obsession re-emerged. Perhaps selfishly, for Joan had only limited interest in it, fishing went along with camping as the thing we did - pretty well exclusively - on our family holidays. There was a spot on the beach at Shell Island at the end of a range of rocks uncovered by each night-time rising tide where the bass would patrol. They couldn't resist the clam bait we dug out of the estuary mud. I can tell you one thing - for me, barbequed bass is much tastier than barbequed mullet or any fishy restaurant offering with the possible exception of pan-fried Dover sole. One summer holiday we were given the use of a small speedboat. Totally unsuited to angling but what the hell. I caught a forty pound tope (small shark) which we tried to barbeque but which proved a disastrous waste of a fine animal. Pride can be a false master. I should have let it go.

When our second son Stuart arrived on the 29th of December, 1965 , in a Solihull maternity hospital, he might as well have been born with a fishing rod in his hand. We took him, Robert, Julie and Karen to Shell Island many times until the girls decided there were more important and/or more comfortable things than camping. I remember the friends with whom we caught up each year used to call baby Stu "Me-og" (my rod) because that was his constant refrain as he toddled around looking for his miniature fishing rod. He would stand on the pebbled beach casting his line with stone attached into six inches of seawater, gazing with total conviction in hopes of a catch. 

I could occupy several chapters with these holidays and one day, should I decide to expand these blogs into a full blown autobiography I'll do so: I'll remember the wonderful sound of rain on canvas as you're snuggled together in your sleeping bag; chiselling our family name into a boulder close by 'our' site (it must still be there); being up to my fully clothed chest in the sea, spreading the net, feeling the fish hits and dragging in the nest with much shouting and splashing. I so vividly recall that first cup of tea in bed, the barefoot excitement of children running around on rain-soaked grass; the simple freedoms and the sense of adventure that went with them. And seeking and finding seabirds eggs - and letting them be - and of course those barbeques beneath the stars. All of it truly wonderful, and no less for the looking back. 

There were other holidays of course; I remember South Wales and Pendine beach and Cornwall's Bude where I my feet got so sunburned I could hardly dear to drive the car home, and Mevagissey, fishing the end of the pier in company with others of my angling obsession. There, the taste of pasties and salty lugworm fingers, smoking Hamlet small cigars forevermore, for me, associated with Jacques Loussiere's Air on a G-string.

Meanwhile my career was developing as fast as my family, but calling a halt to the latter.  We decided enough was enough of wee babies, however enchanting. Our girls were promising to develop into young ladies and the boys were progressing from squeaky infants into angel-faced little nursery primary  / nursery schoolboys.

In late 1967 I was promoted from area sales manager to national sales manager. Another house move. Today the whole U.K; tomorrow Europe; after that the world ... why not? I thought.


1 comment:

  1. For some reason I haven't had a single blog update from any of the blogs I subrscribe to. So glad to see so many new posts to read! I'm off to browse and enjoy.

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