Younger in the field
Finding herself classed unexpectedly as a sex columnist, Eve Jones wonders how to spice up her limited tales from the riverbank
I’M not sure what the appropriate reaction should be when someone unexpectedly introduces you as a sex columnist. I was at a party recently when I was introduced to the host. “Eve’s just started writing for The Field.”
“Oh, of course,” he said. “You’re the new sex columnist. The last one got married and had children. Well done.”
Right, well, um, hang on. Not really. Am I? It’s not so much that I mind, more that I was taken by surprise, because as with most fieldsports I don’t especially consider myself an authority. Also, I had planned to write my next column on fishing, which left me with a slight conundrum. I mean, I’m sorry, but fishing ain’t sexy, is it? Fishing is maggots and Spam. It’s waders and waterproofs and weeds. It’s midges, bites and wet white-bread sandwiches in a sweaty Tupperware box so far as I know it. And I’m definitely yet to read Jilly Cooper’s Top Rods. Or Coarse. Or The Gillie that made Husbands Jealous.
Granted, I have limited material. I used to work for a local character, odd jobbing, housekeeping, that sort of thing. He had a fishing lake and I used to do the rounds collecting tickets. The customers were… interesting. George from Milton Keynes was my favourite; he wore a particularly snazzy shellsuit. I had a rogue pack of hounds that would come with me to put the willies up any little toe-rags who tried not to pay: a collie, Ruth The Tooth; terriers Mollie Malone and Maggot; and rottweilers Steak and Grub, for the muscle. Nine times out of 10 it would be a Spam catastrophe but I wasn’t going to mess with the jaws of Maggot or Grub. It was every man for himself there.
No one ever seemed to be having a riot, except George. They took it terribly, terribly seriously. As did my brother, who I remember banished me from his fishing trips when we were little. He used to trudge off with a rod across the fields to Benfield’s Pond with his mate, Eggy, and leave me sulking. I expect he took me once or twice and I talked too much, or squealed at the bait, or cried about the fishhooks or something. Dad tried – there’s evidence, I’ve seen a photo – but he’s blotted it from his memory. I seem to remember taking the dog with us because he was the only labrador in history to hate water so much he tiptoed around puddles but the blasted creature jumped in. Uncle Paul offered to take me when others wouldn’t but all his fishing tales seemed to start, “Now, I was down the river an’ I’d ’ad a couple of West Indian woodbines, if you know whar I mean.” So I suspect he’s probably a more chilled fisherman than most.
I was more your rock-pooling sort of child – and let no-one tell you that rock-pooling is not a sport. How many winkles or shrimps you can catch in a bucket is a serious matter when you pitch yourself against a clan of seasoned Welsh relations at Rest Bay in the summer. One day we were all at the seaside together when a great shoal of blobby jellyfish or squid or some other miscellaneous white and squidgy creatures had washed up. My grandad, the world’s most incorrigible tease, was scooping them up and throwing them at us on the rocks. It all got very Famous Five at that point and my cousin David came to my rescue by lobbing a great wobbly globule at him, which thwacked him on the back of the head. We roared with laughter. Kids one, adults nil. Ya boo sucks, etc. The next day he was in hospital with his neck in a brace. We had to go and stay with Aunty Julie, which I thought was just great because she had apple jam and we got to sleep in bunk beds.
So, thus far, nothing very sexy in the fishing archives, I’m afraid. No salty seadog affairs or fly-fishing flings. Maybe it’s the get-up. No breeches or pink coat, no rugged moorland knitwear to unravel. Fishing gear all looks terribly... rubbery. Which, I suppose, is quite fetishistic if you’re into that. I saw fishhooks put to some pretty freaky uses when I researched a piece on Torture Garden for Tatler.
Saying that, my all-time most romantic moment ever almost involved a fish. I was in Patagonia, on a ranch called Ranquilco. I’d ridden into the mountains with a British couple and AN ACTUAL GOD. A 6ft 5in Californian guide who’d fashioned himself as a gaucho. We tethered the horses, built a fire, cooked puchero and drank red wine until the small hours. Then we slept under the stars by the riverbed on our lambskin pellóns, him curled around me, his collie puppy in my arms (no, seriously, this happened, it was like a flipping Mills & Boon).
When the sun woke me, I looked to the river where he was fishing for breakfast, waistdeep, casting out a tin can on a line, gauchostyle, bronzed, beautiful, his brow furrowed in concentration. I gazed at him, convinced this was it, The One. Then he emerged, confusingly, wearing the tightest pair of black budgie smugglers imaginable and was, sadly, fishless to boot. The furrowed brow was down to having left the mate at the ranch so we had beer for breakfast while I silently pondered the wisdom behind his fishing undies.
So, again, fishing outfits? Sex appeal could be worked on. Or is that unfair? Remember, I’m new to these things but, as always, am open to offers of education. For the good of the column, naturally.
Fishing ain’t sexy, is it? It’s maggots and Spam, waterproofs, waders and weeds…