Picture the scene if you can.
It's Saturday afternoon, it's been a long and hectic working week and I've had nothing like my usual amount of reading time,so when the men of the house lit me a fire and then departed on their various outdoor pursuits for the afternoon I could see a whole vista of uninterrupted reading time sprawling ahead of me.
Today I had planned ahead and decided it would be total immersion in Daniel Deronda by George Eliot, that's possibly the nearest to heaven I can get right now.
But then I remember, Bookhound has left me book he's sure I'll love.
Alright I'll give it half an hour or so.
On Fishing by Brian Clarke.
Make that five minutes.
Oh good grief, not fishing, what I haven't absorbed by osmosis about fishing isn't worth bothering with.
I know all the names, Dame Juliana, Skues, Oglesby, Heddon, Taylor, Venables, Walker, Buller, (good friend of Bookhound), Falkus and have met a few of the ones that haven't died (obviously) and though I know of one fisherman who certainly reads this blog you never know there just might be another one and I'd hate them to miss this book.
Brian Clarke is the fishing correspondent for The Sunday Times and has caught every fish everywhere as well as writing one of Bookhound's favourite books The Pursuit of Stillwater Trout ( I know it does seem hard to comprehend).
Mrs Clarke a woman after my own heart with her quip that "a fishing book without words is much to be preferred to a fishing book with words" when Brian was puzzlingly sent a blank book which he then realised he was supposed to use as a Fishing Journal.
However Mrs Clarke has let the side down a bit I must say because after twenty-five years of similarly osmotic absorption she suddenly realised she was "contaminated but not infected", and perhaps she'd just give this whole fly-fishing thing a go.
Now I've held out for thirty-two years and not succumbed yet, in fact I may have built up an immunity.
Anyway off she went, bit of casting practice on the lawn and thence to the River Test with an 8ft rod (even I know this is all good and special, no expense spared, Brian meant business). At this point Mrs Clarke shoots up in my estimation because if you're going to do it catch a whopper and wave it at them I say, and that's exactly what she did and then proceeded to dramatise the catch with Shakesperean prowess and then added an extra half pound to the weight for good measure.
Brian had to have words.
'Look here,' I whispered later. "That fish.That was blatant exaggeration. I know exactly how much it weighed to the ounce'
She looked me in the eye and smiled.'I know you do' she said.'But you're such a good teacher. I learned ages ago that in fishing, the truth is far too rare a commodity to be used all the time'
I looked at her first in horror, then in amazement, finally in relief. Here was an angler as to the manner born. The next twenty-five years looked safe.
I have to own up I had a great afternoon with this book and secretly I can report that now I know even more than I did before.I shall bide my time and drop it into the conversation, there's bound to be one.
Actually I think I can safely put my hand on my gills and say that you don't need to be even vaguely piscatorial (look at me) to enjoy it. Brian Clarke is a gifted writer with the ability to make even the ordinary of interest, except most of the articles and essays in this collection are far from ordinary.His descriptions are magical and every one of these makes absorbing reading.
Were it not for the fact I was nicely tucked up by the fire I could probably have agreed to a river bank excursion that minute, just to look of course.Nothing has yet convinced me to don a pair of waders because I don't think they'd suit me and nor do I want to stalk the little blighters down a stream, but I do have an even better understanding, were it needed as to why the men here love fishing so much.
"Sometimes, when sitting out there by the river alone, especially at dusk, I begin to fold into myself and my thoughts. Then even thinking fades away. I seem to liquefy, to melt into the physical world shawled about me, to dissolve into the water's curlings and slidings...I go, though not consciously, to some other place.
Later, as if unprompted, the world takes form again, sounds seperate and become distinct again and I loook at my watch. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, an hour. I do not know where I have been, but it has been somewhere deep down and I suspect far back, perhaps near that place where everything began."
The secret is to start them young.
Bookhound fished as a child and all ours have, here's a little Gamekeeper, who first went fishing when he was seven having asked over Sunday dinner whether what he was eating could catch fish.
He'd been grass casting in the garden for months and was mad keen.
"Let's see" said Bookhound and took him down to the River Tavy that afternoon where the little GK almost caught his first fish.It was a true baptism, he was so overcome with excitement he fell in head first, was only just retrieved by his hair, broke his front tooth and his rod was swept away. Perhaps not a good idea to start on the second fastest flowing river in the country.
For some reason he's been a keen fisherman ever since.
I know I joke about it but you do have to be thankful for a pastime that is almost (but not quite) as therapeutic as many of us find reading, and then you can but hope that suitably wisely self-counselled perhaps they return home full of good intentions about painting the bathroom.