This weekend the weather has been diabolical. It's been so bad that our annual Air Show didn't quite take off. Oh, the planes were up there, all right, we could hear them, but as for actually seeing anything much â€“ forget it. Rain and wind rattled window panes, had birds and squirrels clinging on to trees for dear life during particularly violent gusts, made venturing outdoors just a tad uninviting and only offered promise to those of a strange persuasion.
My family went fishing. One was endeavouring to keep a bivvy anchored to the ground while he tried to outwit a decent sized carp at the same time. Another, with tendencies towards rubbing salt in wounds, went for a mile hike along an exposed sea wall in search of bass, mullet or anything else daft enough to be taking aquatic exercise given the weather conditions.
The youngest hedged his bets and gravitated between the two â€“ using up a whole tank of petrol in the process â€“ while he considered which way to swing. Eventually, (and sensibly in my opinion) having witnessed the suffering of his kin, he decided not to bother at all, drove home, dumped the car and walked to a nice, warm pub for a nice, cold pint.
Somebodyâ€¦â€¦.anybodyâ€¦â€¦.explain to me why they all came back blank but happy. Don't bother telling me about the youngest. I can understand why he was blank â€“ he'd had five pints â€“ but I'd really like to know about the others. I can't make sense of it at all. Email me if you think you know - firstname.lastname@example.org - and I'll publish any findings on Anglers' Net.
Carp & Chips, anyone?
I nearly had an accident a few days ago while driving through our local shopping centre. Outside the fishmongers was a large blackboard crying out a sinister and chalky message. 'CARP,' it declared. 'Â£2.60p per pound.'
The youngest, having read the notice too, let out a muffled whimper as I braked just in time to avoid the car in front. I rang the fishmonger as soon as we arrived home.
'Carp?' I said. 'Do you know that you are likely to be lynched by the carp angling fraternity? Do you realise that they give these creatures names? You could have Billy Two Scale, son of Hell for Leather on your slab.'
The fishmonger was almost apologetic. 'We only stock them on Jewish holidays,' he said. 'And they are 'specially farmed for us. They're not out of anyone's lake.'
Maybe not, but left to grow they could have formed the basis of someone's obsession and carp anglers, irate and mob-handed, make the aggressive wing of the 'anti' brigade look like the Nolan sisters. I hope the fish shop is insured.
Or even Carp for lunch?!
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall came in for some flack when, during one of his T.V. 'live off the land for free' programmes, he caught, subsequently cooked and consumed a nice, plump mirror carp. There were howls of protest, from carpers countrywide, that this kind of anti-social behaviour should be allowed. I was puzzled at first but then the penny dropped. The only explanation for this outcry must be that carp, to carp anglers, become familiar They are akin to pets, given names, revered, respected and loved. Folk who keep pigs or lambs as members of the family have a similar way of thinking and wouldn't dream of eating their friends, despite the fact that these animals are generally accepted as more often seen on a butcher's slab. Even dogs, are consumed in various parts of the world.
Being partner to an all rounder who goes sea fishing almost as regularly as he sits beside still water, I am called upon to cook and eat the fruits of every sea trip and very tasty they are, too, so I've often wondered about the possible culinary value of a fine carp. I hasten to add that it's only a mild curiosity. For obvious reasons, I wouldn't dare consider carrying my fantasies through.
Our local Chinese take-away proprietor positively slavers over photographs of recently captured specimens which are shown to him with pride as one or other of my menfolk wait in his shop for their supper to be prepared. To my anglers' horror, Mr. Fong offered me a recipe for carp, steamed in a wok with scallions, fresh ginger and Thai fish stock, which I politely wrote down and discarded immediately we had left his establishment.
Carp are eaten, as a matter of course, in the Eastern block countries and all points Oriental and they used to be eaten in this country. The Victorian Mrs. Beeton offered recipes for stewed or baked carp, so there's no surprise, really, that an extremely hungry T.V. chef should fry one to a crisp at the riverside.
Anglers are worried, apparently, because Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall seems to be advocating the cooking of carp and they imagine that the stocks in our lakes and rivers will be sadly depleted as a result of the rush of would-be consumers. There is, however, no cause for alarm since, fortunately, Mr. F-W. is not a dedicated carp man and doesn't understand the way of things. It's all very well him telling others to go out and do the same but you've got to catch 'em first, before you can cook them. Judging by my own anglers and the ratio of blank days to fruitful ones, we'd all starve, wouldn't we?