I went for a walk the other evening. I tend to do this quite often, mainly as I have young children and being out of the house is preferable to being in it.
That said, I have always enjoyed walking, though I don’t do it as often as I once did on account of my toe.
I have – and it’s difficult to write this sentence without sounding like an 89-year-old – arthritis.
Slightly embarrassingly – because this doesn’t sound very manly or exciting – it is in my big toe. I went to the doctor about it two years ago. He confirmed it was arthritis and said, in the manner of someone who had booked a round of golf and had to be there in half an hour to tee off, ‘let’s see how it goes’, while pushing me out of the door and putting a nine-iron in his bag (I thanked him profusely for his incredibly helpful advice and made a mental note to book an appointment with a different GP should I ever be struck down by a serious illness).
Two years on my toe has become increasingly troublesome, to the point where I now sleep with my right foot dangling off of the bed (which reminds me of a great joke I saw at the theatre the other night, in a show called Early Doors. “I’ve got gout and I’m taking Viagra each night for it.” ‘I didn’t know Viagra helped with gout?’ “It doesn’t really, but it keeps the bedsheets off your toe”).
Anyway while I was out for a stroll I came across a reservoir I never even knew existed – quite a feat given I have lived at my current address for eight years.
It was Sunday night, about 8.30pm, and there were half a dozen tents set up on the bank, each containing men fishing.
All these chaps looked the same – they were dressed in khaki pants and thick jumpers, and wearing the type of hat that if worn in, say, a supermarket would cause fellow shoppers to edge away and wonder who the nutter in the weird headwear was.
I was quite intrigued by all this so, naturally, stopped for chat with one of them.
‘What are you up to?’ I said, which perhaps wasn’t the brightest question to ask someone sat by a reservoir with a rod in his hand.
“Carp fishing, pal,” he said, which was a little confusing as I’m fairly sure he’s not among my friendship group.
I asked what the tent was for.
“For sleeping in,” he replied. “Came here Friday and staying till tomorrow. But I’ve got a camping stove, a packet of bacon and a fishing rod … what more does a man need?”
Well, a new hat for starters, and – judging by the quite distinctive odour wafting towards me – a lengthy shower.
He began to attach something still wriggling to the end of his rod, which reminded me of my own brief dalliance with angling at the age of 10.
An elderly neighbour gave me his fishing equipment, which included a pot of maggots.
Unfortunately the night before my trip I failed to properly secure the lid of the maggot pot and awoke next morning to the screams of my mother, who seemed rather alarmed by the sight of 5,000 maggots crawling around the living room.
It took us 13 days and three Dysons to get rid of them all.
That was the end of my fishing career, which, in later life, I’ve regretted because whenever I see someone fishing on a riverbank I get a pang of jealousy.
It seems so relaxing, standing there without a care in the world, whiling away your day, watching your rod bob gently up and down (that isn’t a euphemism).
It must, though, be a little frustrating at times.
‘Do you catch much here?’ I asked the body odour chap I was standing with.
“Well, sometimes you just sit around and get nothing,” he said. “But I’ve had three so far so it’s not been too bad.”
‘What, in three days you’ve caught three fish?’ I blurted, unable to keep the disdain from my voice.
‘That’s an average of one fish every 24 hours – you must be absolutely rubbish,’ I thought, though what I actually said – because he was a big bloke with a tattoo on his forearm saying ‘Satan’ – was ‘that’s great, well done’.
He told me that as soon as he caught a fish, he threw it back.
“Club rules,” he said.
Which seems utterly bonkers. Surely the best part of catching something is sticking it in the frying pan and guzzling it down?
When I returned home from my walk, partly out of interest and partly because Mrs Canavan was watching a television programme about a woman giving birth (it involved a very sweaty female and a lot of screaming, not unlike a Maria Sharapova tennis match), I looked up the reservoir on the internet and found it was home to an official fishing club.
Better still, there was a long list of mysterious but exotic sounding club rules. “No nuts of any description unless ground down, no high oil-based pellets, no fixed lead rigs, no lead core of any type, no bent hook”, and, my personal favourite, “all carp must be photographed over a cradle.”
It went on and on and the rules got weirder, like “When stalking anglers must have recovery sling to hand” and “If a fish becomes weeded up a life jacket must be used.”
The only rule I truly understood was rule 15.4b, which read: “No excessive drinking (max 4 cans) of alcohol”, though whether this is aimed at the anglers or the fish it did not state.
It all sounded so exotic and exciting that I’ve sent for an introductory carp fishing pack.
This time, for the sake of Mrs C, I will ensure that if I keep a pot of maggots in the lounge, the lid is closed a little more securely.