Busman's Holidays

The Chief Angler is off for yet another week’s fishing next month – Guernsey, this time, shark hunting. Don’t get me wrong, I have no beef with him going away without me – in fact it’s like a holiday for me when he does. For a whole seven days I can do exactly as I please.

There are no shirts to wash and iron. I can eat my favourite meal - egg and chips - at any time of the day or night, play my piano or listen to C.D.’s at ear-drum-shattering volume with no fear of my anti-social behaviour interfering with Sport T.V. and generally behave in an unruly and undisciplined manner – until he comes back and demands a return to normal routine. I have absolutely no problem with being left on my own.

What puzzles me is his attitude towards these slices of fishing adventure – and he’s not alone. I’ve spoken to other anglers who think the same way. There are occasions when he gets stressed at work and complains that he needs a holiday. When I point out that he’s already had three ‘holidays’ this year he tells me that this isn’t so. ‘They weren’t holidays!’ he exclaims, horrified that I should accuse him of having a good time. ‘They were just fishing trips.’

The fact that these breaks away from home are spent in pastures new, in congenial company, staying in hotels with evening entertainment, abundant good food prepared by someone else, and his days are spent doing what he loves best – fishing – doesn’t appear to be relevant. Sounds pretty much like a holiday to me!

Del Barham's got a big one!

Trouble is, a vacation without fishing doesn’t appear to be an option. A couple of summers ago, with time on our hands and the boys grown-up and old enough to look after themselves, I suggested that we take off for a few days with no particular destination in mind. ‘We can find a B & B somewhere,’ I said. ‘Explore the countryside, visit old buildings, go for long walks, pub lunches……’ ‘Great idea,’ was his response. ‘We’ll just throw the fishing gear in the car and go!’ I gave up. If he thought I was going to drive 500 miles, squished up in a car full of fishing gear, he could think again. Even driving to our local lake is a feat of endurance surrounded by the amount of stuff he feels the need to take along, let alone sufficient equipment to meet every eventuality on unfamiliar waters.

We only ever had one holiday together – and most of that was spent apart. In 1984 I was researching a book and needed to visit the Somerset village where my great-grandmother was born so we booked a week’s bed and breakfast on a farm – a pig-farm - unfortunately we didn’t discover what kind of farm it was until we arrived. The week was doomed before it started despite the farmer’s wife assuring us that we would get used to the unholy stench. We didn’t – it takes more than a week, I’m telling you!

The Chief Angler, and our eldest son, spent most of their time visiting tackle shops and sitting beside the River Parrett trying to tempt large chub while waiting for me, and an extremely bored seven year old, to return from trolling around Record Offices and old churches, to pick them up. I only forgot where I’d left them once – and that wasn’t all due to my lack of navigational skill. Some of it was, I admit. The lanes, stiles and ‘landmark’ cottages of Somerset all looked the same to me and I must have driven at least a dozen extra miles trying to find the right spot. I did eventually, only to discover that they had walked on an extra half mile ‘to a better stretch of the river’ from where I’d deposited them several hours earlier. How was I supposed to know that in the days before mobile phones?

The couple of long weekends spent in Brixham while Himself and his mates were conger hunting didn’t count as holidays, for me, either. The youngest and I spent most of the time on our own and might just as well have been at home, in comfort, instead of roaming around the Torbay Riviera all day - until it was time to wander down to the wharf, late evening, to await the arrival of the charter-boat. We tried to join in but the anglers, who were too knackered from hauling congers all day to be bothered with socialising, just wanted to collapse in the bar, hold a verbal action replay on the day’s events and then, when they couldn’t possibly force any more alcohol down their necks, ‘have an early night because we’re out at 5 a.m.’ I couldn’t wait to get home to sweet-smelling clothes and a room which didn’t contain unwashed fishing tackle and vodka/lager fumes.

Mine's not quite as big as yours, Dad!

This ‘it’s not a holiday’ condition appears to be hereditary, too. Dave, the eldest, now assistant editor of Total Sea Fishing, sea fishes and writes about it for a living. What does he do for recreation? I’ll give you one guess. He goes fresh-water angling. A week, without his partner but in the company of fishing mates, in France on a carp trip, or a few days bivvied up on an English water in search of anything that’ll co-operate. The latter, I can relate to, by the way. Over the past twelve months, or so, I’ve spent weekends in a bivvy, in the company of close friends, enjoyed myself immensely and emerged feeling relaxed and mentally refreshed – almost as if I’ve been on holiday, in fact! Dave insists, however, that his solitary, week long diversions from the daily grind are not holidays. They’re ‘just fishing.’ I blame his father.

So, maybe the Chief Angler has a point. I didn’t enjoy my ‘fishing holiday as a family’ experiences. More like hard work than a welcome break, I reckon. Perhaps that’s how Anglers see these weeks away. I don’t know or even pretend to understand. I’m just grateful that my particular angler no longer suggests that I go along, too. Can’t wait for him to go to Guernsey – I’m going to be on holiday! Now, where did I put that Dire Straits CD?