I'd spend countless hours going cross-eyed, watching my float for signs of a bite, and a disinclination to choose between freshwater or sea angling, meant I could be crabbing off a local pier or trying for trout from lush lawns belonging to a friendly hotelier. My stepbrother, Tony, was his Chef, and my chance to cast a line in the River Avon was a perk by proxy.
Two memories from those days come to mind. The first, when I shared the same perk with Ollie Kite (see clip below) and how he was fascinated with the sweet-dough bait Tony had prepared for me. Secondly, and oddly, the vision of another boy, younger than me. He stood shivering next to his father, reluctantly casting out and reeling in. Suddenly, the winter stillness was shattered when the boy sneezed. A long trail of mucus streamed forth from his nose, got caught in the cold breeze and wrapped itself around his two skinny legs.
Events took a darker turn when I naïvely accompanied a school pal and his brother to a tributary of the River Test, early one morning. A little light poaching was what they had in mind. I had plenty of time to consider how daft I'd been, whilst laying low until the bailiff's heavy footsteps receded. Weeks later, taking a short-cut across country, I was surprised to find myself outside the bailiff's cottage. Fixed on either side of a weather porch, bleached Pike skulls emerged from the walls, like limbless, predatory ghosts. The bailiff had a fearsome reputation and, although I was pretty sure his collection of trophies didn't include any schoolboy-shaped skulls, I just kept walking...quickly.