Wednesday, October 19, 2005

39 days ago, I was... for mackerel from a boat, in the sea, in seriously heavvy rain, off the Dorset coast.

I have always wanted to fish with my father. I've never climbed trees with him, I can't recall running around parks or learning how to ride a bike with him, he didn't teach me to read or read me stories. I've not longed for any of these things and I've never missed them but as I get older, and as he gets older, I've spent some time thinking of the things that would really mean something to us in our recollections of each other. And fishing has come up in that list again and again.

So, when we took my parents to meet the fiance's parents at their home by the sea, I insisted on a fishing trip for myself, the fiance, my sister, my dad and my extremely patient and generous almost mother-in-law. And it was fantastic. It poured and poured with rain, relentlessly, the night before we were due to go fish and it carried on that morning but fearlessly, we dressed ourselves in waterproof jackets and wellington boots and got on the boat anyway. Dad looked the part: he looked like he had just strolled off a Japanese whaling ship and was bringing his intrepid crew to help cut up the oceanic beast he had just harpooned. In my tightly zipped up waterproof coat with the hood pulled in close around my face, I just looked like a condom.

Eveyone had misgivings as we pulled away from shore; just as the shoreline slipped from view the rain really tipped down and we let out our fishing lines a little apprehensively. And damply. But then - we found the fish! Just as we found a particularly thick clump of mackerel all waiting for us to lower our lines, the rain stopped. And oh, what a half hour we had...

My dad was, of course, the first to catch a fish. He kept it quiet as he pulled the line in and only alerted us to the fact he had gotten a big shiny mackerel, all green and silver, once it was safely in the boat. Then it was all action as everyone else got fish on their lines and we were hauling in fish after fish until the rain started again and the bucket was full of 20 mackerel, leaping about and shuddering their blue, silver and green colours in the last flickers of life.

We had a grand dinner that night, and had mackerel left over to take home. Itwas the sweetest sight to see my parents standing side by side at the double sink, my dad gutting and scaling the fish, then passing them to my mum who cleaned them. And thanks go out to my almost-in-laws who organised such as a fantastic and memorable weekend.

Not only did we fish over the weekend but we also managed an enormously fussy and picturesque cream tea in the town's big hotel overlooking the sea. And a trip to the aquarium where my parents eyed the huge lobsters with the practised eyes of Chinese chefs and no doubt were considering what recipe would be best for such big crustaceans. And we walked on the famous cob, which just about completed the weekend of "must do" activities.

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