My solitary box of tranquility; I visit the location daily, depending on what I ingested. It all started when I was provocatively manhandled by an Irish Nanny in a Wine Bar eighteen years ago. We initially discussed the Seamus Heaney's of this world and after a few sherbet lipped cocktails, we continued the Irish literature talk at the home of Jeremy Irons in Wallingford, Oxon. She was also keen to show off the 'naked lady by the pool' statue, which in my intoxicated state, I misheard due to her strong Irish accent. I learned that Irons was filming in Burma and Sinead his wife was in Ireland with their children - a recipe for mischief, so the Irish Nanny thought. As the evening went into night, we consumed a myriad of chopped fruits accompanied by a concoction of liquors from the acrid, dark cellar; it was an Irish Nanny's place of 'whore-ship'. I refrained from delving down black holes on the premise I was too alcohol influenced to balance my size elevens on the five inch crumbling steps. Ten minutes on, and after another fruity offering, I felt my innards adjusting to a Usain Bolt pose prior to the starting gun. A quivering tightening of the bowels; naturally, I ignored the warning sign and proceeded to eye up the state that was before me, and she was a state, her shoulder length wiry hair imitated a bog-brush, embarking on divorce proceedings from her sweaty scalp. Her peepers resembled the fish in the movie 'Finding Nemo'; her breathe reeked of dog food and her breast fillets were skewed off at different directions.
It was 12:42 am, I started to inwardly panic at the thought of seeing her 'Bridget Jones's', which seemed to trigger a gas tsunami, the epicenter was at the top of my large intestine - I knew time was the essence. Firstly, I had to confirm with doggy-breathe my night intentions involved a solitary bed quarters with a pillow and secondly, I had to get approximate directions to the nearest toilet. The urgency was evident in my vocal tone and she pointed out the rest-room to me. In a last gasp seduction technique; last seen on a 'Carry-On film'; the baby hippo immediately leapt onto my lap. It took my breath away; the doppelganger, included her dog breathe. My squeezed rectum shifted, the agony of the gas build-up caused a sharp stabbing stitch. In my alcoholic haze, I maneuvered the baby hippo off, made an anguished face and did a Victor Hugo hunchback towards the toilet. I opened the door, stumbled in, and bolted it. A majestic toilet fit for a 'trumpeting symphony'; greeted me - the rest-room was acoustically on par with the Royal Albert Hall. I sat down with a relief like nothing I've experienced before. My tear-ducts filling up with relief, totally unaware of my derriere's audio composition - through my tears of relief I stared at the news-printed wallpaper; a 'shrine to the Irons' - there were film reviews, pictures of Iron's with Directors, on movie sets, grainy film stills, his lined face was his wallpaper, posing, shaking hands, posing, shaking hands...... All went a blur, I was at peace. As the occasional popping of gas ended my night at the prom composition - I drifted off, trousers crunched at my ankles, head resting on the soft quilted bog roll beside my throne. At 6:04 am, I was alerted to a rattling at the door. It took me several minutes to get to the door which was nine feet away, not helped by a very numb bum and non-responsive legs, I had to slap myself hard quite a few times to get any feeling back. I left the restroom, unwittingly. Not a word was uttered, I was greeted with a deathly Irish silence; just a look of 'Nemo' disbelief stood before me.
Two months later, an old friend of mine laughingly told me that the Irish Nanny informed her I was gay, because she had heard me pleasuring myself over Jeremy Iron's pictures while she was at the toilet door. We did laugh. To this day, I get blurry snapshots of Iron's restroom; I vividly recall the expensive fragrant scent when I first entered, the softness of the quilted bog-roll on my temple, the egotistical newsprint as wallpaper, documenting everything Iron's had achieved. The room was a remarkable piece of movie history - something I have emulated, in my own restroom - except I've wallpapered the walls with articles that I have written; so I too, can sit down at my own throne and bask in my solitude tranquility, in my favourite place - laughing out loud at my own witticisms.
The Cut: a.k.a. canal, inland waterway. In Wolverhampton, W. Midlands, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, there is a dearth of good fishing waters. The nearest river is the Severn at Bridgnorth and, for me, that was a 20 mile bike ride that included a couple of long, steep hills. There are a few large pools, notably, Patshull and Pool Hall. One alternative, close to where I lived, was the Shropshire Union Canal. The trouble with canals is that they are very narrow and can be frequently disturbed by passing barges and small boats. This particular canal, however, seemed to be less disturbed than most and, at my favorite spot near the Boulton Paul factory at Pendeford, there was a wide place known as The Basin (although, thanks to the local accent, I thought for some years that its name was The Bison, which puzzled me). I could get from my house to The Basin in about 15 minutes on my bike. I would try to make an early start, so as to be on the tow-path by sunrise. Being on a bike, I didn't have room to lug a big fisherman's basket and all my tackle and bait was in an ex-army canvas haversack, with my rod and landing-net tied to the cross-bar. The Basin was very shallow and there was no current, although there was some movement of the surface if it was windy. The only fish in that particular canal were small roach: a half-pounder was considered a big fish! Those roach were particularly nervous and any incautious movement on the bank could scare them off or put them down for half an hour or more. Weather conditions could also put them off, especially if it was unseasonably warm. There was no need for heavy tackle nor was there any need to cast very far. Indeed, the finest of tackle was necessary to avoid alarming the fish, which had all the time in the world to examine the bait. I fished very light, using a single maggot on a #16 hook to nylon, a 2lb breaking-strain trace with one or two tiny split
shot far away from the hook, and a float made of 2 inches of peacock quill. The shot was just enough to cock the float. My main line was 5lb breaking strain nylon monofilament, although it could just as well have been less. For a reel, I used a small fixed-spool although any center-pin model would have done. Long distance casting, rapid retrieving and high stress are not called for in canal fishing. Canal fishing involved a lot of waiting and I needed to have something to sit on. There was an old bottle crate that I found useful. It was tempting also to use a rod rest but that could cause bites to be missed, so I always hand-held the rod. I found it best to fish at a depth that would let the maggot come to rest about one inch above the canal bed. To judge this, I would attach a plummet weight to the hook and adjust the position of the float so that it just dipped under the surface with the plummet weight on the bottom. (Naturally, I removed the plummet before attaching the bait!) Since the split shot were fixed some distance above the hook, the bait was allowed to drift down slowly but the float would cock quite quickly. When a roach did take the bait, it would do so very tentatively and a bite could be sometimes be indicated by the peacock-quill float merely turning around in the water, rather than bobbing or going under. Roach have telescopic mouths and will suck and blow a bait several times before taking it finally all the way into their mouths. Striking had to be done gently but firmly but, mainly, it had to be done at exactly the right time. Fast reactions were called for, hence the need to hold the rod rather than leave it in a rest. The line between the rod and the float had to be kept tight; it’s useless trying to strike quickly if you have a big loop of loose line between yourself and the fish. While catching a canal roach is tricky, landing it is no big feat. A landing net is a good idea, tho
ugh, to prevent having to hoist the fish out of the water only by the hook and line. A disgorger or doctor’s forceps is necessary to remove the hook without damaging the fish’s mouth. Instead of returning the fish to the water immediately, I put them in a keep-net until I was ready to leave, on the basis that a released fish can alarm others in the vicinity and spoil the fishing. Once, I wrapped a small roach in a wet towel and took it home to release in my Dad’s fish pond. It lived there with his goldfish for years until the pond became frozen solid in a particularly severe winter and all the inhabitants perished. Canal fishing is an acquired taste and can be dangerous these days: there have been many instances in the last few years of tow-path muggings. In the 1960s, though, it was relatively safe – you just had to keep away from teddy-boys with air rifles and other nut-cases!
The Farm Ponds are located in Brandesburton, East Yorkshire. If you are on holiday in the area they are around a 20-minute drive from Bridlington or Hornsea. I have just visited the ponds for the first time in many years and here is the rundown. There are actually three ponds here – sorry to disappoint they are not called something like Swallow, Owl and Mallard but ponds 1, 2 and 3! As with all the ponds, Pond 1 is an ex gravel pit. They are not new lakes and are have been fishing for at least the last 15 years (my last visit was actually 15 years ago!). I start with Pond 1 not only because it is, well, first but because it is the one I know the least about having not fished it and not seen anyone else fishing it. It is the largest of the 3 ponds and is known to have Roach and good Pike in it. It is known as a hard venue to crack. I shall now go a bit illogical – I will explain. My intention on this visit to the ponds, as it is on my first visit to any venue, was to find out as much as possible, varying between ponds, even if it meant not catching as much as I maybe should. Having read a couple of reports Pond 3 sounded my best bet at actually catching something. I therefore started on Pond 3, which is noted for plenty of Perch and some good Tench and odd Carp. I pre-baited the peg with a little bread groundbait mixed with some Sweetcorn (for the Tench) and chopped worm (for the Perch – and the Tench if they fancied it). I decided to leave the peg for a few minutes and setup my spinning tackle for a wander down the side of the pond – didn’t get a sniff. On casting my float tackle baited with worm however it was a different story – a Perch a chuck. I didn’t get much sign of Tench but I only used Sweetcorn when I needed a coffee/rest. For reference there are said to be some good quality Perch in the pond – I would imagine a livebait would sort the big ones from the worm snatching smaller brothers and
sisters. Having caught a good 20 Perch I decided to head for Pond 2 around dinner. Pond 2 was reputed to have Tench and some Perch and Roach. I decided to tackle a nice looking peg with a nice patch of lilly pads to either side of me. Again I threw in a couple of balls of groundbait but this time started with sweetcorn to try and avoid the Perch. I only had to a wait a few minutes before my first bite which a few minutes later was on the bank in the shape of a 5ib plus Tench. Not long after I had 2 more large Tench on the bank and a few Roach. From that hectic period my peg went a bid dead as had the whole pond talking to a few other anglers but there was certainly some good Tench potential. Overall then a pretty good visit which showed me the potential of the ponds especially for good Perch (in pond 3) and Tench (in 2). I have no doubt I will be back before long concentrating on one of these species. The ponds are located on the left hand side of the road leading from Brandsburton to Hempholme. Day tickets are £3 are more information can be had from the owner, Mr Lee, on (01964) 542375.