Scummy park, Aliens, Existentialism and A Valuable Life Lesson.

I started this post originally by writing about hunting and the difference between hunting for food and hunting for fun. I ended up with an additional 1000 words than what’s below but to summarise, to hunt and kill a creature for pleasure and to go against the natural equilibrium of Mother Nature means you are a prick. There, I’ve said it.


But then I wandered onto the subject of fishing. I understand fishing with the intention of eating your catch. Nothing wrong with that, unless it’s a koi carp from the neighbour’s pond. They don’t appreciate it.


Catching a fish, pulling it from the water with a hook through it’s mouth only to unhook it whilst it’s suffocating, throw it back in and hope to do it again to an even bigger fish is something I just don’t understand.


“Ah but the fish don’t feel it. They don’t feel pain!” is a response a hobbyist fisherman has said to me before. How the f*ck do you know? Just because it doesn’t scream, “AAAHHH, F*CKING ELL!!!! I’VE BEEN TRICKED AGAIN! THERE’S A F*CKING PEICE OF SHARP METAL THROUGH MY MOUTH. AAAAAHHHHH!!!” No they don’t make a noise at all. But who’s to say that they don’t feel it?


It’s like aliens coming down to this planet but they only communicate through subliminal telepathic waves of common consciousness between their far superior brains. Something far beyond anything that us mere, simple, lumps of meat could contemplate. So a couple of aliens, let’s call them Brian and Steve. Brian has bagged himself a human. He’s currently sticking needles into the human’s eye. The human as you would expect is screaming in agony. But Steve turns to Brian and says, “Well there’s no form of communication, I don’t think they feel pain.” Brian says, “Great! That makes it perfectly okay to catch them, stab them in the eye and then put them back. We’ll call it a sport. Steve, we’ve just invented humanshing! Put it back and we’ll try and get a bigger one!” “Try Ohio,” says Steve.


But I admit that I have been fishing before. Although in my defence, I was only about Seven years old and driven by intrigue. My uncle Colin was an avid fisher. He loved it. I didn’t understand and so I wanted a piece of the action. When my mother said, you should go fishing with Colin, I jumped at the chance / invited myself whether he really wanted me to go or not.


In the week leading up to the big event, I looked forward to going fishing with my Uncle Colin. “I’m going fishing with my Uncle Colin,” I would shout to my classmates with an excitement you’d expect from a child who was going to Disney Land. I was clearly expecting great things from the exhilarating and adrenaline pumping activity that is called… fishing. My classmates looked at me like I was on some sort of “happy” medication.


The night before, I stopped at my Nan’s house. This meant sharing a bed with my Nan, which I didn’t like because she always fell asleep before me and snored. Nasal strips hadn’t been invented then and I’m not sure how my elderly Nan would have felt to be told by her Seven year old Grandson that she breaths like a walrus in the night and should try this plastic strip from the future!


4AM I was awoken with a little shove from my uncle Colin. I’d been warned of having to get up early, and I thought I got up early some mornings at 6.30AM but this was still dark. Still dark dark. Not dark with the early signs of the sky growing lighter as dawn approaches. No this was dark man.


Cold and a little disorientated I drank the cup of tea he had made me, got dressed, had the slice of toast he made me and snuck out of my Nan’s house. We were on a mission. A mission of extreme importance. A mission to… fish. Why so early? I wondered if Colin was excited like I was on Christmas morning. But no, we had to leave early because it’s better for fishing.


Deckchairs, rods, a big box on a trolley carted behind us as we headed out. We must have been venturing off to a distant body of water to catch the mighty beasts known as…. fish. But no, in a matter of minutes, we had reached our destination. The local park at the bottom of the road. This park in an industrial suburb of Birmingham called Oldbury, was not a place of natural beauty. West Smethwick Park had a big pond and a little pond. It had ducks, a couple of football pitches, swings, roundabouts and even a zip line type thing which today, would have health and safety going mental because underneath them, they didn’t have modern synthetic materials designed to cushion any fall. The ground can provide great encouragement towards not falling off. This park also had it’s fair share of litter and graffiti which included swear words and detailed phallic diagrams.


But at 4.30 in the morning, all of this was not visible. Because I discovered, thanks to Uncle Colin, that fish work nights.


We got our spot and Colin set us up. It must have been the best spot because we beat others to it. We were the fishing equivalent of Germans and sun loungers on holiday. With the skill of a pro, he got the rods ready with hooks and bait and a little rest thing that the rod would lean on and then positioned the deck chairs for us. I took my seat and Colin cast the lines into the water. I wanted a go but he wouldn’t let me. “What do we do now?” I asked. Clearly I was keen to see some action. I’d gotten up at a time I didn’t even know existed, we were the only ones in the shitty park and that must have meant that all of the fish were ours for the catching. “We wait and watch the float,” as he pointed to the brightest thing in the whole park apart from my enthusiasm, the luminous float gently bobbing on the slightly scummy water. This was to be the signal should we get a fish.


So I watched this fluorescent orange float and waited, and waited, and waited for what seemed like a long time but had probably been about three minutes.


This was fishing.


Telling a seven year old to sit and stare at a fluorescent orange blob on top of the skanky water, in the dark and stay still is unnatural. It’s like telling a dog to not salivate when there’s a piece of food in front of it or tell a cat to not be a selfish b*stard.


It doesn’t help when your Uncle Colin isn’t the most talkative of fellas.


This was fishing.


Nothing happened. Nothing happened at all and I was losing all sense of time. Dawn had broken and there were more cars driving past nearby which no longer became a distraction because when you’re sitting in the dark staring at a fishing float and wishing you were actually still forming part of the family snoring chorus with your Nan, the sound of a car and the sight of it’s lights passing by was a break from the monotony. Now the cars were just another piece of the monotony.


Then the extraordinary happened! Colin’s float dipped below the water. With lightening reflexes he grabs his rod and yanks it back whilst winding in. But there was no fish. It must have gotten away. Time for fresh bait and recasting the line into the murky waters of West Smethwick Park’s large pond.


Heart in mouth stuff. This, my friends is fishing.


I started to watch the scummy water and take in the various bits of litter floating on top. I would watch an old crisp packet sailing and think about where it had come from, where it was going. Had it been cast away by an inconsiderate youth walking through the park? Had it escaped from a bin bag that had been ripped open by hungry foxes or really selfish cats and had the breeze carried it down streets, under cars where it finally landed in the large pond of West Smethwick Park to eventually gently pass by a Grumpy Young Boy and his Uncle Colin who was glaring at a fluorescent float. When a seven year old is asking existential questions about a used crisp packet, you know he’s bored.


Then my Dad turned up to see how we were getting on. I remember being happy to see him. Perhaps he was coming to rescue me. He wasn’t. “Are you on a break Dad?” I asked. It was after all mid morning. “No, I’m on my way to work.” It was just after 7AM!


I had lost all concept of time. But was it any wonder? This was after all, fishing.


My Dad’s visit was brief. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t go back to my Nan’s, she was probably stretched out like a star fish in her bed without me there. I couldn’t get home. I was stuck and besides, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful to my Uncle Colin who had after all, introduced me to the white-knuckle intensity that was….fishing.


After another three hours, we packed up. Our haul for the day? Nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. But as a seven year old I learned a valuable lesson. That with the art form of scummy park based fishing, there are no guarantees. Well, perhaps, except for boredom. Oh, and it wasn’t Disney Land!


Fishing. No thanks.


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