Having met John, as described last month, Don and I began to encounter him on each and every time we visited the beach. In fact it wasn’t long before John had provided us with his phone number in order that we could consult him with regard to the conditions and 'fishability' of our proposed trips. This has proved invaluable as it has saved us many trips which would have, no doubt, been fruitless. Over the ensuing months, not only were we advised by John, he joined us on a number of our fishing trips. So it was that we began to get the story of John’s life.
Like many country folk John has lived his life in and around the village in which he resides today. He worked on the farm all his life until retiring. Clearly, a careful man he managed to buy his own house of which he is justifiably proud. He is a keen gardener and grows most of his own vegetables. John is of the old school, no political correctness for him. He is used to expressing an opinion freely and without fear or favour. John has an opinion on most things and he doesn’t like a lot of what he sees as modern life. He believes in good manners and being decent to his fellow man. He likes his sport, particularly football. On one occasion when John joined us he had read the previous day about a group of footballers at a race meeting, I think Ascot, whom had urinated on the people below them, they being in a posh box above the stalls. John was absolutely outraged and spent most of the fishing trip going over the matter in minute detail. Not only was he outraged but he couldn’t, for the life of him imagine how such highly paid "professionals" could have done such a thing. His view was, without a doubt, they should be sacked.
In the summer months when the mackerel arrive along the beach in large numbers many anglers are attracted to what, on a good day, can be easy pickings. John likes mackerel fishing and Don and I have joined him on a number of occasions. He has a strict personal rule which would put a lot of other anglers to shame, take only that which you can use. So often, to their shame, anglers keep fishing and catching large numbers of fish only to leave the ones they don’t want on the beach to rot. Not only is it an affront to good practice but it is untidy and yobbish. It really gets John going and he’s not afraid to tell offenders what he thinks. When fishing himself he takes only the amount of fish he is likely to eat for his next meal and a few extra which he provides for a number of elderly people, free of charge, in his village.
Perhaps the most outrageous event during last year’s mackerel season, as far as John was concerned, happened over a fine weekend when the mackerel were of the beach in great numbers. According to John, the matter was set up over the mobile phone network and was, "not on".
Anyway, John was on his usual dog walk when he encountered large numbers of Asian people spread out all along his usual walking route. Not only were there large numbers of them but, "there wasn’t a hands width between them". Of course, as is his way John tried to engage with them but without much luck, "bloody rude they were". This did nothing to endear these people to John and matters took a decided turn for the worse when he discovered, from sources in the angling community, that the people concerned were all restaurant owners from a number of large towns and cities around the south west. Matters went from bad to worse when John discovered that the fish caught were to be provided on the menus of the various restaurants owned by the group. On top of all this when an angler, not a part of the Asian group, started to catch fish several Asians would rush to their side and try and push in, absolute outrage! It is the unwritten rule that a reasonable space is left between fishermen. In addition to all of this when shoals of little fish, (whitebait), were forced out of the sea and on to the beach by mackerel or bass, the Asians were rushing up and down,beneath the lines of everyone, scooping up the fish also for restaurant use. It took a great deal of diplomacy to prevent John telling this community what he thought of them. Even the warning of possible hate crime charges did little to calm his outrage. In all his long life he had seen nothing like it and John was not impressed.
Just last week we heard from John that the mackerel were back and to his amazement there were also good numbers of herring appearing. So, I expect, in the next few days Don and I will be renewing our meetings with John. He is a joy to listen to and a pleasure to be with, a great character, of the like the world could do with a lot more.