Younger in the field

The Field - - Front Page -

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…

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