From The Privvy – Chapter Five

Transatlantic Reunion

The next season at the Rookery has never arrived for me, my apprenticeship finished at the same time as my marriage and I went to Canada to work as a contract draughtsman. I was met at Toronto airport by Tony, my mother had stayed in contact with his mother after they had left Hong Kong so it had been arranged that I could stay at her house until I got myself sorted out. There were other people staying at the house, one of them a young actor called Dan Akroyd. After watching his nightclub act I offered him some advice that fortunately he ignored completely, I told him he would do better to get a proper job! Half of Tony’s family were involved in show business and one Sunday his aunt Dawn arrived for a barbecue with her friend Bill. He looked very familiar but I couldn’t place where I had seen him before. While we were getting organised Dan and Bill tried to amuse everyone by miming a slow motion gunfight in the swimming pool, obviously another minor talent I thought. As they got out of the pool Bill climbed onto a glass coffee table and started to do a tap dance, there was a loud crash, he fell through the glass and I finally recognised him. I imagined his thoughts at that moment might have been " Beam me up Scotty" a line I had heard him use a thousand times.

The social life I had walked into in Canada ensured that I had little time for fishing but I did manage a few hours every now and again. I caught carp, bass, catfish, salmon and trout from the Credit River. One afternoon I met an Italian immigrant who was carp fishing from a dam wall. His bait was dough balls, these were small balls of paste that were boiled until they went hard, he told me that by using these he only caught the larger carp. There was no secret, they had been using them for as long as he could remember. He also told me that some anglers put secret ingredients into their dough balls but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I thought back to the hard balls of peanut paste I had seen at Pokfulham reservoir and made a mental note to try hard baits at some time.

The carp I caught in Canada were all commons that looked like wildies, they weighed up to about eight or nine pounds but I did hook a monster one evening in Grenadier pond. It was while we were having a picnic and someone threw the corner of a sandwich into the water. A pair of huge lips appeared round the piece of bread and with an enormous slurp it disappeared. I found an old rod and reel in the boot of a friend’s car, tied on a hook, baited it with another corner from a sandwich and cast it to the same spot. The same pair of lips appeared, the bread disappeared and the line started to move along the surface. I struck and an irresistible force slowly dragged the line from the reel. The fish swam straight out and kept going until it had pulled all the line from the reel, which was only about fifty yards. It then flattened the rod and the line broke somewhere near the hook. Funnily enough this incident didn’t inspire me to try and spend more time at Grenadier pond, there were just too many other things to do. One problem with fishing in Canada is the winter, the snow starts to fall sometime in October and sometimes doesn’t stop until May. This leaves very little time when the still waters are free from ice.

Shortly after this I was invited by an architect with whom I was working at the time to spend a weekend hunting and fishing at his cabin up north. I bought a sporterised Lea Enfield 303 and some high velocity ammunition and off we went. The Saturday was spent walking around the woods and lake shore, we didn’t find any bears to shoot and I was glad, I didn’t really want to shoot anything anyway. The owner of the gun shop had told me that the bullets I had bought had a muzzle velocity of 2.400 feet per second, that’s just over 1500 miles per hour I think. He also told me that if you didn’t hit a bear in the right place the bullet would lodge in its skin and make it angry!

After dinner, I got my fishing tackle and walked down to a small beach on the lake shore, I was going to try spinning for bass. As I came out of the woods onto the beach I saw something that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and gave me a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. No more than five yards in front of me was a bear, it looked as big as an elephant and it had seen me! It turned and looked straight at me, I did the only thing that I could think of doing, I dropped my tackle and ran for the cabin as fast as I could. If I had had my gun with me I would have dropped that as well. Canada was, and probably still is, a place where you could always find something to fill your time, I liked it so much that when I could no longer renew my work permit I came home and applied for immigration. I didn’t ever go back thuogh, I felt that it was probably better to stay in England. So I bought a house in Ashford with my girlfriend and got a permanent job as a draughtsman.