Friday, 25 September 2015

So long and thanks for all the fish!

One of the funniest and most imaginative books I have ever read is The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The sequel "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" is equally good as is the last book in the series the title of which I have chosen as the title for this post.  This post title was suggested by my son Daniel who thought I should blog about my experiences fishing when I lived in Gibraltar where Daniel was born. So here goes......

One day whilst working as a draughtsman in Croydon for the government I heard that they urgently needed a draughtsman out in Gibraltar. I phoned staff management Thursday pm, Friday am they said they had checked my file and I met the criteria and I had to let them know first thing Monday morning if I wanted to go.  I went home to Rosalind and our two young children (Jason and Rachel) and shared the news.  We sat down with a blank sheet of paper and listed the pros and the cons.  On balance we decided that we should go, but having found out that there was not a branch of our Church on the Rock and the border with Spain was closed we decided to fast and pray to know if that was the right decision.  We got our answer and so Monday morning I made the call and a couple of weeks later I flew out by RAF Britannia as the advanced guard leaving Rosalind behind with lots to do!

So having sketched in the background, now to cut to the chase which involves fishing.  There I was practically surrounded by the sea having brought my sea fishing tackle with me.  So I started fishing from the North Mole (a mole is a big quayside) using slivers of cockle on size 4 hooks and the result was that I caught small fish.  When I spoke to the locals they all said you should have been here 10 years ago, before the Spanish started over fishing the area at night with lights and nets!  So eventually I got fed up with catching, gutting and eating the little fellers so I decided to focus on sailing and squash.  It was not to be as a few evenings later I was standing in front of my naval officers house when a Moroccan chap walked past with a couple of pieces of long bamboo sloping over his shoulders.  What really caught my eye were the two large sea bass hanging out of his tackle bucket!  Wow!  So this chap armed with two pieces of bamboo which he lashes together with a safety pin on the end to make a rod and line wrapped around a coke bottle as a reel is catching decent sized fish.  And there am I with a fibre glass rod and a super Mitchell fixed spool reel catching sprats!  So I resolved to study how the locals fished.

The next morning, a Saturday, saw me out early driving round the Rock looking out for a local  person fishing.  I had nearly given up when I spotted a car parked at the back of the Nuffield Services Swimming Pool.  Sure enough there was a Gibraltarian fishing off the wall above the sea.  I didn’t think much of the location but I pulled in 20 yards away from him and started setting up my tackle.  He had a rod out and I watched him retrieve, bait up and cast quite a long way.  Then he wandered over to chat. When he saw the size of hooks I was using he laughed and told me that was why I was only catching small fish.  He very kindly went to his car and came back with a huge steel hook.  He then showed me how to put a whole cockle on as bait.  He even said you can leave half the shell on as the fish will crush the shell and swallow the lot. By now I was convinced I was dealing with a mad man! Suddenly his rod nearly jumped into the sea and he was sprinting to grab it.  Tightening the drag he gave an almighty strike and battle commenced.  The fish was stripping line off the reel so he re-tightened the drag and then asked me to hold him by his belt as he climbed on top of the sea wall.  For what seemed like an age the struggle went on until the fish, still not seen, was swimming back and forwards right in front of us.  What happened next really surprised me as he gave me the rod saying hold onto him and then running to his car he stripped off to his Y fronts (underwear) grabbed a snorkel, face mask and flippers and ran to the beach where he could get into the sea.  Then he swam round to me up on the wall and grabbed the line where it entered the water.  The next thing he upended and swam down. All I could see were bubbles, flippers and his bottom!  After a minute or so he surfaced and waving to me started to swim towards the beach where he had entered the water.  I followed walking along the wall, feeding him line so as not to slow his progress.  Sadly I fed him a bit too much line and it snagged a rock and stopped his progress, he realising what had happened swam back to free it.  The next thing I saw was him diving down under again and there was more bubble, flipper and bottom activity. Eventually he started swimming towards the beach again and I followed being more careful in terms of controlling the line.  When we eventually reached the beach he staggered out of the water with a 28lb grouper hanging from his right hand, held by fingers in its eye sockets. To try and hold it any other way risks serious cuts from its sharp fins and gill plates.  In his left hand, and trying to climb over his head was an 18lb octopus!! He spotted that when he swam back to free the snagged line.

I did manage to take a photo of Johnny with the fish and octopus but sadly I haven’t been able to find it.  We became good friends after that and he taught me how to catch decent sized fish during my stay in Gib.  That transformed my experience there.

Monday, 14 September 2015

For whom the bell tolls, know this it tolls for thee!

This is not mine, but it is what it feels like to me!
Went with my daughter Rachel to the Royal Marsden Hospital to get the result of my latest CT scan. I was pleased when I realised I was going to see the top lady consultant, Dr Mary O'Bryan, rather than one of her support team. I thanked her for delaying my chemo so I could attend the family holiday. She kindly let me show her pictures of the family on holiday at Center Parcs and then she got down to business. She said that the CT scans showed that the chemotherapy was not stopping the cancer from spreading and sadly there was nothing more that the Marsden could do for me. 
Wow, there is nothing quite like calling a spade a spade! 
On reflection I was not all that surprised at the scan results, as I had felt pain-wise there was a deterioration, but I did think there might have been a plan B! Dr O'Bryan made it quite clear that there wasn't a plan B that involved treatment at the Marsden and that I should look to support from the Hospice for pain control etc.  Both Rachel and I were a bit upset at this news as there didn't seem to be any room to manoeuvre and we appreciated Karen, the specialist nurse, who popped in to see us and offer her condolences.
Rachel agreed to phone round her siblings with the news but later that day I called them as just speaking to them cheers me up. The following morning I Face Timed with Dan and Holly in the States. If I call them at 09.00 it is 01.00 their time and they are usually up! Dan really cheered me up. He told me about a colleague who's wife was ill with lots of pain until she discovered the medicinal use of marijuana! Apparently it's legal in WA. I was wondering if I could get the doc to prescribe it for me, that and a Jimmy Hendrix CD. 
Then Dan said that an advantage of knowing that your death is fairly imminent is that using modern technology you could arrange to speak at your own funeral! I must say that might appeal to me. Maybe I could even sing and play the guitar? No on second thoughts knowing my ability I think that might be pushing it a bit too far!
On the positive side I am getting slightly better at managing the pain some of the time. People calling, e mailing and visiting help a lot, not only is it nice to have contact and hear their news it also distracts me from thinking about myself. When my neighbour Rick drops in we end up laughing our socks off and a few days ago an old friend Beverley came right out of the blue and brightened up my day.
I enjoyed watching the last night of the BBC Proms Saturday night and I said to Rosalind that this is probably the last time I shall be able to watch it!  A sobering thought!
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading the posts, I am amazed at how much it gets viewed all over the world. I really appreciate the kind comments and it reminds me that I have so many good friends. I truly am blessed.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

When I am famous!

Desert Island Discs is a very long running programme on BBC radio 4. It was invented in 1942 by Roy Plomley. The format is simple, a famous guest is asked to select eight records they would like to have with them if they were stranded alone on a desert island. Then they are asked about their life and why they have chosen the records, excerpts of which get played. It is interesting to hear their life stories and why their particular choice of music is important to them.
So in anticipation of a call from the BBC I thought I would prepare my list of records!
1. I Get Around (Beach Boys). This appealed to me in my teens and reminds me of when I saw the Beach Boys live at Tooting Broadway. Years later when I use to drive mini buses full of teenagers to summer camps playing it over the vehicles sound system always got everyone in a holiday mood.
2. MacArthur's Park (Richard Harris). I enjoy the tune and the imaginative lyrics, most famously lost love being likened to an iced cake being left out in the rain! It is long, loud and emotive.
3. Morning Mood, Pierre Gynt (Grieg). This is used as the opening music to the film "The Vikings" and it enhances the amazing scenery of the fjords. Every time I hear the opening bars I can visualise the beauty of the fjords.
4. Rainy Days and Mondays (Carpenters). Almost any one of Karen Carpenters songs could be chosen. I have selected this one because it reminds me of when I would stand at the bus stop on a wet Monday morning and sing it (quietly) to myself. It also reminds me of her untimely death.
5. Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flak). Being a romantic I enjoy the lyrics and would play this, via headphones, whilst working at my drawing board in Gibraltar taking care not to be spotted by my boss!
6. Come, Come Ye Saints (Mormon Tabernacle Choir). This was the first LDS hymn I really got to know. I like the words "And should we die before our journey's through, Happy day! All is well! We then are free from toil and sorrow, too; With the just we shall dwell!"
7. Telegraph Road (Dire Straits). This was introduced to me by Clive Mormon, a splendid fellow who I helped to develop his career as an engineer. I have played it a lot over the last few months usually late at night when I can't sleep. The lyrics are meaningful and clear and the guitar riffs amazing.
8. Jerusalem (as sung at the last night of the BBC Promenade Concerts). I find this inspiring and always try to watch the last night of this amazing British institution.
After the music has been introduced and played the presenter advises that you are stranded on the island with copies of the Bible and the works of Shakespeare and you can select one other book. This is a no brainer for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so I would select "The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ."
You are then asked as to what luxury would you like to have on the island, my choice will be no surprise as it is Salt Water fly fishing tackle! Equipped with that I would not want to be rescued! Hey ho we can but dream!