Tuesday 14 July 2015

Memory Line

One of the quirks of my personal history is in a period when I was running with the foxes I had the experience of grappling with a sturgeon.

So the story of the SNP rising in righteous anger to stop the English chasing foxes when at the same time they haven't quite got round to it themselves opens a dusty file in the archive of the mind.

The foxes I was with were not of the species vulpine, one or another, but a breed of humans who may well have had a dash of neanderthal, that is a rugby football touring team derived from regular clubs which took the name foxes and awarded ties accordingly.

The sturgeons in question were large slippery beasts that took some dealing with and could give you endless trouble.  This is not a reference to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, perish the thought.  It was the big fish that arrived frozen in railway vans that had to be moved onto the platform and into the vans of fishmongers.

The Grimsby Fish was one of the two major trains that arrived on the night shift and meant real work.  The other was the paper train when all the news and journals for the day had to be off the train and into the vans well inside the hour for a major city and district.  But there were a lot of men from the wholesalers to work with us.

There was less urgency with the fish, and no help from the fishmongers,  but on a cold night you did not want to be long in the vans and to be back by the stove in the Parcels Office with a stiff brew of tea on the go.  If the foreman could be distracted for a few minutes, Old Charlie would add a good shot of rum.

It was in the week after Christmas when one night brought us more fish vans than we liked to see.  Each of us had a van.  The ordinary fish was in boxes, iced and not difficult to move but long and tiring.  I had the bad luck to have the van in which there was a sturgeon.

It was a big one and worse it's box had failed because it was heavy.  The detail will be spared of my groping and handling in the struggle against the inevitable.  Also, it was a bitter night with ice on the surfaces of the dock.  So when the box fell apart and the sturgeon escaped my clutches it skated along the platform and onto the lines.

As this was the age of steam the lines at that point did not just have ordinary day to day muck, but cinders ash and other detritus of trains at that period, notably from the lavatories.  So the sturgeon had to be got off the lines and cleaned.  The water came from puddles and old coal sacks were used.

A couple of nights later we asked the fishmonger who the sturgeon was for.  It seemed that it was a prize dish as one of the courses in the Lord Mayor's New Year Banquet at the Town Hall at which there were eminent guests, people who had appeared on TV.

Being Scottish in origin, at least he claimed to be, he was piped in the feast, according to the local newspaper reports which made much of the Hogmanay business and the dishes on offer.

As for the foxes the old Denny Willis, a Scot popular in Glasgow, routine is the nearest I have got to foxhunting, it must be near fifty years ago that I saw this in Scarborough.  You need a particular sense of humour to fully enjoy this one as well as being live in an audience.

As for sturgeons, it is a fish I have never eaten, for some reason.

No comments:

Post a Comment