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A Fisherman`s Tale

by Yogi Bear 

Posted: 21 July 2003
Word Count: 1732
Summary: More memoirs of a child. It may come over as a little depressing. But I don't feel that when I read it. I hope you enjoy it.

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A Fisherman’s Tale

It was a bright sunny August morning, and as I lay in my makeshift bed at the bottom of Auntie Glad and Uncle Burt’s double bed, I could hear Auntie Glad trying to rouse me. The sun was so bright that I had difficulty in opening my eyes, and I remember thinking that if I were to lie still she might go away. But it was the tone of her voice that pulled me into consciousness and reality. She has something “important” to tell me.

But what could be important, I was on holiday? This was the second summer holiday I had spent at Clacton-on-Sea with Auntie Glad and Uncle Burt. Their B&B in the centre of town was a perfect place to while away the long summer holiday, as well as the odd Christmas and Easter holidays. I spent time helping my Aunt make gallons of reconstituted chicken soup and yellow sticky custard, polishing cutlery and making beds. I also spent many hours with Auntie Glad’s mother who was in her 80s. Although not a true relative, I knew her as Nanna, and she taught me the rudiments of many card games. But there was another more important use of my time in Clacton. Over the years I had become friends with the girl next door. She was the same age as me and while I stayed in Clacton, I tried to spend every available moment with her, and for two very good reasons. Firstly she had a brother! In my short life (I was 10 at the time) I had not had the opportunity to really get to know a boy. His name was Peter and he was one year older than Anne. The second reason was that Anne’s dad worked in the Butlin’s Holiday Camp just along the coast, and we had free passes to get in whenever we wanted.

I sat up in bed, the sun backlighting my aunt as she sat on the edge of my bed. I can’t remember her exact words, but the news of my dad dying caused me to crumple back down into my bed. She hugged me while I cried.

But there were things to do, people to see, places to go!!! Life doesn’t stop just because ya dad dies!

The remainder of the holiday passed without any further events, apart from my education regarding the physiology of the male species (from a distance of course). I sometimes feel guilty that the news of dad dying didn’t spoil the “holiday” for me. But guilt is a wasted emotion and in reality I knew it was coming.

My earliest recollection of my dad was of me trying to clamber onto his lap as he sat in an upright winged chair. He was by the window, and as I grasped his jacket to pull myself up I was dazed by the light steaming through the window. It reflected through the ash from his cigarette, which floated in the air, causing the air around him to be filled with, what looked like tinsel.

He was an old man even then. He was the youngest son of seven brothers, born in1911. His first wife had died, leaving him with a son to raise on his own. Some years later, he met my mother, ten years his junior. She had been brought up in an orphanage and had no family but she had also been married before, and although she never mentions it, I know it had been a very unhappy period of her life. This may have been the reason they decided not to marry – a radical thing in those days. Of course dad’s huge family did not approve of the relationship and saw my mother as a bit of a strumpet, and when I came along when my mum was in her mid thirties, that sealed dad’s excommunication from the majority of family forever.

Dad was a fresh water fisherman, and before he became ill we spent every Sunday during the summer months beside some river or other. It would be an early start and the coach would pick us up from outside the corner shop in Kilburn Lane while it was still dark. The coach would be full of the familiar faces that were also members of the club. The location of the days fishing would be dependant upon there being a local public house for the men to visit at lunch time. And needless to say, the day revolved around the Sunday pub opening hours. Serious fishing took place between 6am and 12 noon, when all activity would cease and everyone (except those with small children) would troop off to the pub. Fishing resumed at around 3.30pm till about 5pm when the judging would take place. The places we visited were very rural, and there would not be any distant sound of traffic, let alone aircraft noise. Lying on my back on the tartan travel rug all I could hear would be the distant song of skylarks over the fields and the gentle sound of the wind in trees and looking up into the swaying verdure.

These were blissfully happy times for me, dad would give me my own line and I would watch like a hawk for a bite. Sometimes the float did quiver in the murky waters and people would rush to either side of me to see what I had caught. I was experienced in how to handle the cold, wet, silvery perch, as it tried to thrash its way out of my small chubby hands. I also remember the camaraderie and the fun we had with the other club members. As you can imagine, in this rural setting the availability of a public convenience was not at hand and women would disappear in small groups off into the undergrowth. I remember one day going off into the woods with my mum and a couple of other women. Elsie, a woman of immense proportions got stuck in the bushes with her knickers caught on the thorn bushes around her ankles, and we all screamed with excitement as someone called “the men are coming….” We all had to tug at Elsie to get her back on her feet and pull her knickers up for her!

I also spent some considerable time with my dad at his place of work. He shared premises with a group of other dental technicians over the Barclays Bank in Edgware Road; he had the biggest room with the best view, which overlooked the main road. I remember the process of making false teeth like the back of my hand, even though the last time I touched the pink impression wax must have been 40 years ago. I had a wonderful time making monsters from the thousands of teeth dad kept in a plan chest. The drawers were only a couple of inches deep, but as big as an A1 plan chest. If you pulled out a drawer hundreds of teeth smiled back up at you from strips of card. I would pull off whichever ones I fancied to complete my monster made of pink wax and plaster of paris.

But times were not always jolly. Dad had been ill for years. First contracting TB when I was about five years old. He had recovered – or so I had been told, but then found out that he had lung cancer, not surprising after the hundreds of thousands of cigarettes he must have smoked over the years, during an age when cigarettes where even thought by some people to be good for you! He was a changed man, his bulky six-foot frame, became bent and frail. I remember one occasion visiting him in hospital, not that long before he died. He was being transferred from one bed to the other and instead of transferring him to a trolley; the staff nurse scooped him up in her muscular arms and carried his now lanky frame to his new bed. He did not remain in hospital, when the prognosis became clear, he returned home, so that we could care for him. He took over my room and I moved in with mum.

Children are so resilient – through the years of hardship, when money was scarce, and my mum and I queued at the local social services in Maida Vale to get money to buy school shoes, it never occurred to me for one moment that my family or I had been dealt an unfair hand. I had always been loved by close aunts, the only ones from the huge family to stick by my mum throughout dad’s illness and I suppose at the end of the day, that is what counts.

When the time came close, I was packed off to Auntie Glad’s at Clacton for a “holiday” and when the news of my dad dying came that sunny morning. It mealy seemed like a punctuation mark in my life. On my return, my old room had been put back to its former state and all his clothes and personal effects had been sent off to the Sally Amy. We were visited one day by my Uncle Bill (a long standing family friend of my parents). I remember descending the stairs as he came through the front door. We greeted each other and I remember him saying to me “You will have to be a big girl now, it’s your responsibility now to take care of your mum” Although only 10 years old I remember thinking, how can he ask me to do this? But I did and I still do.

It took me years to forgive him for leaving me. Mum and I were like two stranded fish in a keep net, forced to endure each other’s lonely company. I only started to think objectively about things in my late teens. Looking back to the time I spent with my father, I don’t actually remember any profound words being shared between us. Profound changes did take place though. I feel I became a strong person, able to handle whatever life decided to deal me. Now all I have are my mother’s reminiscences, and her references to him as if he left us last week. “Darling, do you remember how dad would only eat peas with his Sunday dinner?” “No mum, sorry I don’t”.

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Comments by other Members

Richard Brown at 11:41 on 22 July 2003  Report this post
This humanly warm piece has strong resonances for me. My father died when I was seven and I recall uttering what I suppose was a nervous laugh as I was told of the event. I remember also thinking that it was a matter of no great consequence. I suppose the denial was a form of self-defence but what you describe accords very well with my experience. Interesting though that later in the piece you write 'It took me ages to forgive him for leaving me'. Maybe the message is that the true feelings came after the first shock of the news of his death had worn off.
I'm wondering why you chose the 'fisherman's tale' title. Maybe those hours spent beside rivers are the most potent of the enduring memories but I felt that the main thrust of the memoir is about your relationship with your father and the effects of his premature death on your maturation.
I really enjoyed reading it yet I felt that there is somehow more to be said! There are intriguing references to the boy next door, the teeth (!), the hard times with your mother after your father's death...worth further work? I think so.

old friend at 19:49 on 15 October 2003  Report this post
Hello Yogi, I have only joined in recent weeks so I was not around when you posted your work. However I do hope you look into this site and see this comment. You have a nice straightforward style of writing, without embellishments or obvious attempts to 'impress' with clever language and poetical phrasing. It is not what I would call 'great' writing but it is honest and very readable... qualities that many writers lack.

I do hope that you will continue to write and also tackle subjects that do not appear to be so autobiographical. I am sure that this would be a challenge for you and allow your very nice style to blossom. The best of luck. Regards,

old friend, Len.

Junie Girl at 00:27 on 20 October 2003  Report this post
Hi Yogi,
I am fairly new here and have finally spent an afternoon reading alot of stories. I enjoyed yours very much. Your story is very realistic and down to earth and your feelings and thoughts
made me feel as though I was in your aunts B&B or was present when your uncle told you that it was up to you to take care of your mother.Your writing is clear and truthful. June

Zigeroon at 08:06 on 23 January 2006  Report this post

Hi Yogi

Caught this on the random read, oddly I have just started a novel with a similar title, not the same content.

i really enjoyed this piece. i know its probably old now, 2003, but it had a warmth and depth that resonated with thoughts about people no longer here. Hope you're still writing, will check through the connection above.


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