The Essence Of Englishness

I stopped Paola as we walked along an old disused railway line. A lot of railway lines have been reclaimed by nature, or by nature loving people since the mass closures of lines and stations in the 60’s. The railway line we were on has an old iron bridge that once safely guided old steam locomotives across the river Avon. That’s where I stopped her, as I’d spotted something as equally English as a closed rail line.

Below us was a fisherman, with a bent rod. He’d caught something, and it looked like it might be sizeable. Fishing is one of mankind’s oldest skills. It still brings out the hunter in us. The battle of wits between man and beast, and the struggle for survival – to eat or to at least not be eaten. The fisherman managed to bring his catch close to the bank and scooped it up in a large landing net. He’d caught a pike, a carniverous fish that roams many of England’s natural waterways.

He used a pair of hook pliers to free the bait from its gut. He weighed the beast –  10 pounds. And then, very gently, he released the fish back into the water. He wasn’t for the dinner table. He was freed, unharmed and ready to fight another day. Which is very un-English. We’re normally very quick to kills things. We’ve spent centuries shooting, cutting, strangling and bludgeoning living things all around the world. It’s rather what we’re known for, really. But when it comes to fishing, that’s not always the case. Which could be regarded as rather eccentric. And eccentricity is very English.

Between landing and releasing the fearsome creature, the fisherman asked me to take a photo of him and his catch. It really was a very good catch indeed, and well worth recording for posterity. He handed me his camera. The battery, alas, was flat. But I always have my shiny new Samsung Galaxy S2 in my pocket, with it’s 8mp camera at the ready. I snapped and sent the resulting image by text, and he has proof of his catch when telling the tale of his battle in the pub later in the evening.


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