71. Catch of the Day

I was thinking about the different ways people catch fish and how the techniques can be similar to how someone finds a partner.

One person takes the boat out to tried-and-tested deep waters, casts a net and waits, sometimes for a very long time. The haul sure is good, but needs sorting and sifting to find the gems. They can afford to be picky, and work on instinct, chucking back those fish that are just plain wrong, not ready or too small.

Other people are happy to find the perfect spot, sit with a rod and wait for hours for the fish to come to them. A pond may yield a smaller catch than a river. The patience and luck needed to lure one, plus the skill and strategy required to reel in a keeper could take a lifetime to master. Everyone has stories about the ones that got away, and can wistfully remember the fleeting, hectic rush. Occasionally, they catch something totally unexpected and throw it right back in. But then, everything doesn’t always have to make it home with you. It might still be there next time, when you are less surprised and have had time to prepare.

Not everyone is there for the fish. Some like the patient, solitary routine of watching the sun set. Choosing a spot where the fish are biting to just enjoy the ego boost of a catch and release. A cold drink and the change of scenery in the fresh air. The pursuit, the promise, the potential. Some days they nibble. Some days, nothing. Future tales told, embellished, exaggerated and elaborated on, are the best some people ever get.

One tip though, when you land a catfish or a shark, you need to throw it right back in without a second thought. You won’t be able to fish for anything that you want to keep if your hook is stuck in one you don’t like.

Preferences for bait are as varied and different as techniques for landing. Watch out for the squawking seabirds who will try to steal your haul.

The only thing really left to worry about is whether it tastes as good as it looks. If not, well there are plenty more…

red yellow and black bouy on body of water during daytime
Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com
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27. This is No County for Old Men

*Another love story for Valentine’s Day.*

His latest girlfriend is about twenty-three. They are always around twenty three. He’s got vinyl older than his last girlfriend. He’s lived around here for so long that he does worry that he might have dated one of their mums once.

Still blinking from the harsh light, straight out of University, or disillusioned with trying to make it at whichever field they’re in, he’s the saviour they all claim not to be looking for. They love his experience and maturity. The financial security. His tastes are more refined and he is calmer, more serious than most men their age. Their inexperience means he can teach them about relationships. Their energy for life keeps him feeling young and he doesn’t  feel threatened by ambitious women like younger, more insecure men do.

Whenever one of his friends finds out how old young his latest girlfriend is, there is the usual back slapping and shouts of, “you lucky bastard! How do you do it?” Followed by his reply of “that’s how I roll!”

 But the party always ends. 

alarm-clock-clock-time-minute-39900.jpegHe doesn’t even bother arguing anymore about “the next level.” What good would it do? Someone compared him to Don Draper, who only likes the beginnings of things, which was probably true. Brutal but true. If everyone could just be honest about things, life would be so much easier. For him.

They never seem to worry about it ending badly. It never usually does. They do the talking. He believes he may as well say kind words because he doesn’t want the whole relationship to be judged on how it ended. Some of the words said to him though, were like a knife in the belly.

His favourite time is always the minutes, hours or days between the first kiss and the first time you have sex.  He certainly couldn’t be blamed for wasting someone’s ‘best years’. He told them from day one, he wasn’t the babies and marrying type. It lasted as long as it did and that was that. He was often her first relationship and she was his last one. He was never surprised at how many of his ex-girlfriends married or had babies with the next man they went out with. He didn’t think there was any difference between ‘settling down’ and ‘settling’. As long as there were women out there who wanted to go out with him, he would continue to date them. Simple.

Most people only ever need one person in their life for all of their life. But when there is so much choice out there, how on earth was he to know when he’d found a woman who  was the closest to ever being ‘the one’, when she wasn’t even perfect? There was someone once who he could have seen himself growing old with, or rather, see her grow older. He was almost twice her age. The decision to leave was too difficult for either of them to make and he decided it on a coin toss. He knew he was always going to regret whichever choice he made. She doesn’t know that though.

He still haunted her on social media, under a pseudonym, in case he accidentally liked a post of hers from three years ago. It ended because she wanted children, and yet, eight years later, she still hadn’t had any. So how was that fair on him? They could have had that time together.

Six months after his brother died, he began to feel restless. Something in his life just didn’t feel right. He was dealing with his grief, but his girlfriend, although rock solid in her support, had started to question their future and the “life’s too short; we should just go for it” conversations were becoming more frequent.

It was true. You only got one life and he knew what he had to do. He liked several posts from the ghost and followed her account. When she followed him back, he sent her a direct message asking if she would like to meet him for coffee.

16. Rugby is a Man’s Game

One summer, I temped where my dad worked. It was a huge, grubby, Victorian ‘factory’, which although still impressive, was a fading reminder of its glory years from back in the day. It was almost in the middle of this once-thriving Yorkshire market town, and was where real blokes with dirty fingernails and steel-toe capped boots bought a paper every day on the way to work, read it back to front, took all day doing the crossword and drunk their brews in double figures. It was a 24/7 operation, so you were assigned red shift or black shift when you joined, and there was always two of everything (such as children’s Christmas parties) so all shifts could always be covered. Some towns didn’t have this industry as a back up after the miners strike so we considered ourselves lucky.

Greetings always went something like this.

“Ay up cock.”

“Nah then t’old lad. Hahz tha doin?”

“Champion bud. Champion. Misses sez she’s sin your lass dahn t’chip oil”

(Translation. Hello friend. Hello friend. How are you? Fine my friend. Fine. My wife said she saw your wife in the fish and chip shop.)

The ratio of men to women was about 30 to one, so shares in Lynx went up whenever a new woman started. I’d been there a couple of weeks and one or two had already tried their luck practising their cringeworthy chat up lines on me. I didn’t blame them. It was a game. I was a single student in her early 20’s, who drank pints and smoked roll-ups. It was flattering to be admired like that for a change, the way some of them tried to coax a blush from me, and the amusing banter was cheesy or borderline rated 12/Carry on Film at best. I was well aware that the sort of chatter that was said out of earshot of us women was less respectful though. I heard the odd snippet here and there like “up and down like a bride’s nighty” or “I gave her a face like a painter and decorators radio” and “imagine having a go on that” but I was only going to be there for two months, anyway. There was no rutting and they kept their hands to themselves. But the attention did wonders for my ego and confidence.

One day, I happened to mention to my dad that Chris from the rugby team had asked me out.

“Which one’s Chris?” He enquired.

“The one with the black hair. You know his uncle Steve. He runs that pub. Remember, he was at that wedding.”

He pauses for a few seconds, thinking. “Oh yeah, I know him, He’s alright he is. Are you gonna go?”

“Yeah. I said I would. But I don’t want to be a rugby team bet.”

My dad chuckled, then said, “But you already are a rugby team bet.”

My dad always got straight to the point. No mucking about. Whenever someone had some gossip, they knew they could ask him direct and he’d tell them if he knew what was what. He’d say something like, “That’s got round quick. I only started that rumour yesterday.”

Friday night came and I met Chris in the pub. He was a great date. He got there before me, stood up when I arrived, greeted me with a peck on the cheek, and got the drinks in. He was attentive, charming and funny. He looked freshly showered, not over-groomed and smelled amazing. In his early 30’s, he clearly exercised regularly, so had the tight torso of a footballer and no hint of a dadbod. If I had to describe who he looked like, I would say a cross between the football managers Mauricio Pochettino and Marco Silva. He sported a recently-cut short back and sides, with a tiny bit of product for shape. Face freshly shaved and moisturised, it was just at that point where you can kiss a man before his stubble starts growing and your own face gets grazed to shreds. “Pash rash” it’s called.

There was enough spark for mutual flirting, but we both knew that it wasn’t going to go anywhere. We just weren’t into enough of the same things, and I was going back to College soon, but it was nice to spend time and have a few drinks and a laugh with someone. Maybe a kiss. Nothing more. No awkwardness at work. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

“So, who else was in the running then to ask me?” I asked, after my third drink.

“Wh..what do you mean?” He scratched the back of his head.

“Nah, I can’t ask you that. Ok then. How much was I worth? It’s alright. You can tell me. I won’t be mad.”

“Fifty quid”

“Fifty quid. Is that all?”

“Well, some of the lads wouldn’t put in.”

“Why not?”

“They’re scared of your dad.”