Article - Coarse

The Diary of a Lake - Part Nine

By Mike, added on 03/10/2007

Stardate Captains Log: 15/9/2007

Floating Crusts & Flying Pizzas

Once again I was onboard flight FR4242 heading homewards to Nantes. We had just passed over Dinard, the tell tale signal being the nose dipping down, starting our descent.

In my hands I was holding a book. I had just finished it. I was clasping it very carefully, looking down at the green binder, thoroughly engrossed in thought. Every once in a while you pick up a book & realise you have come across a classic & as you read through it, you get completely drawn in. If you want to be taken back to your childhood & those vivid memories, get hold of a copy of The Fishing Box. The chapter titled The Frogman is, well, extraordinary. It was originally written by French writer Genevoix, more recently translated by Dexter Petley. I think you should be able to get copies from the Medlar Press in Shropshire. While we are talking books, another book I read six months ago was Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. I have heard some people say that the content of some of this book had a real impact on their lives. I know a folk song was written, inspired by the detail about some of the First World War battles & conditions living in the trenches. It is not very often a book has such an effect on me.

We bounced onto the runway at Nantes & taxied to our stand. The regular faces were around & about this little airport, but all I wanted to do, was head home & see three smiling faces & hear those words ‘Dad’s home’. Not long after the greeting hugs were done, Sally gently advised me that I had another job to do & pretty sharpish too. Ellie’s dwarf rabbit Poppy, was molesting Matthew’s huge 4kg rabbit Jenny. Poppy was apparently knocking seven bells out of Jenny. The hutch was about thirty yards from the gingerbread house were we slept, but during the night Sally kept hearing the dull thumps & bangs as Poppy was tearing out Jenny’s fur. Tomorrow I needed to make another hutch.

My sheltered timber stash was next to where I kept some of my tools, plus my screw & nail supply. This meant I could work under the shade of the poplars & spruce trees. I loved working here, dappled shade with the ever refreshing scent of pine. I figured on a days work to build the new hutch. I had enough timber, nails & fixings, wood glue & chicken wire, so I set to work on yet another fag packet La Morinais masterpiece.

Click to enlarge

I really enjoyed making the first hutch, I was doing it for the kids, & every dad cherishes those beaming faces when they first see something ‘new’ & ‘exciting’. This felt more like a chore. I wasn’t doing this for the kids, I was doing this more for the benefit of the rabbits i.e. one nasty rabbit with ‘small persons syndrome’. After first tea break, I returned with six or seven chunks of yesterdays hardened baguettes. Just through the spruce trees was a platform, a walk way heading out over the weed bed in the shallows. To the left was the boathouse. A strong wind from the west would quite often push the carp into this bay in the late afternoon, evening time. Today wasn’t a windy day, but a light steady breeze was rippling the surface. Just enough to jostle the leaves & strands of weeds laying across the surface.

I broke up the first piece of baguette & tossed out about a dozen pieces out onto the lake. I didn’t aim anywhere specific, just a good toss & let the wind & the weight of each piece, determine each landing place. I didn’t throw too hard though, not past the edge of the weed. The wind would have quickly swept the bread away & into the side by the boat house. Each piece landed amongst the surface weed, enjoying its ride getting bobbled up & down on the waves. I returned back to the task of the hutch.

The hutch frame was taking shape & you could now at least see what it was going to be when completed. I picked up another piece of baguette & stole another respite. I walked out onto the platform, breaking up the baguette into smaller pieces as I walked. When I looked up, preparing to toss in the pieces, there was no bread in the water. Instead of looking for carp, I instinctively glanced behind me, looking for a cheeky Moorhen. There wasn’t one. I scanned the surface left to right, looking for the resident mallard population. They weren’t here, or even in sight. I tossed out a dozen more pieces, waited a few minutes, then returned back under the shade of the trees. More hammering & banging & it was lunchtime. Before I set off for the gingerbread house, I picked up another piece of the surface hardened baguette & set about the same routine. Again, out on the platform, all the bread had gone……I muttered quietly ‘they’re here’. It was time to tread very carefully on the boards. I tossed out the new supplies & quietly retreated for lunch with the family.

Over lunch, during the conversations & usual laughter, I was starting to hatch out how I was going to finish the hutch & also make a cast off the platform, out across the weed. I had some tackle already set up in the boat house. So the best plan would be surely to get the tackle out onto the boards now, then everything would be in place for a cast at dusk when the wind dropped & the kids were going through the bed preparation drill.

During the afternoon, every hour or so, I crept back out onto the boards & tossed in a few more pieces of baguette. Each time all or most pieces had disappeared. I waited a few minutes each time, but did not see one piece sucked beneath the surface. I needed to get back & finish the hutch thus buying some well earned time to make the cast later.

Click to enlarge

After a lovely meal, made & served up by the lovely Sally, I slinked off out of the gingerbread house. I had put on my ‘creepers’, a soft pair of black trainers which were great for creeping out onto the boards undetected by residents below. Once clear of the house, I started to run towards the corner of the lake. I stopped running & slowed to a jog when I reached the poplars. I walked the rest of the way, down through the gap in the trees. Out on the boards were my rod, net & the last section of baguette. I had hidden the bread under the landing net; a) to stop it baking dry & b) to keep it from the ducks.

The wind had dropped now & this part of the lake was now in the shade of the setting sun, round to my right. I broke off a piece of baguette about the size of a match box, dunked it briefly in the water, then lobbed it out. It landed twenty yards out amongst an area of Water Hawthorne leaves. The next part was the hardest, trying to get into a comfortable sitting position on the boards, without making any noise. Move slowly, nice & slowly, take your time & ok, we’re down comfortable. The swim was alive with carp, I was surrounded. Once I hooked a fish, that would be it for tonight, they’d be gone, spooked. So I had one chance. I could see the weed moving about, the leaves spinning & lifting as the carp passed by, but I could not see their size. I would have to take pot luck, just leave the bait where it was & whatever fish took the bait, took the bait, big or small. A small patch of weed lifted & sank back down, just five yards to the right. The fish disappeared. I watched, on guard, looking all around the bait, nothing, no signs. Shhukk & the bait was gone in an instant. The line snaked out & I struck. The water was only three foot or so deep, so the bow wave ran out & round to the right in a large semi-circle. As the hooked fish ran right, the rest bolted left or straight outwards, heading away from trouble, eight to ten fish in all. It was a clearly good fish & fought hard. The fish started to tire, wallowing & swimming in small circles near the surface some twenty yards out. The line from the rod tip to the fish, was now resembling a washing line. The fish had charged through a lot of soft weed, most of which now filled the space between us, dangling in the air like old wet socks.

Do I take a chance & put the butt end of the rod on the boards, while trying to disentangle the clump of weed at the rod tip, or do I keep cranking with the line juddering through the rings. I kept cranking & luckily the fish was tired enough not to go charging off again. Netting the fish was exhausting; the carp was surrounded in a huge mass of soft weed, where it took a long slow haul to bring it to the net. Once over the net, I dropped the rod & hoisted the net up with both hands, there was that much weed amassed all around, I couldn’t lift it with one hand.

I pulled away as much of the weed as I could, with the fish & net still in the water. I popped out the hook, collapsed the net, rolled a few turns around the arms & lifted the mass aloft. Safely ashore on the mat, I pulled away the last strands of weed & the days prize was revealed. One of the main reasons I had taken on this venture, was to do here, what I felt I could no longer do, at the lakes I used to fish near where I lived in Staffordshire/Cheshire. Here it was at my feet…. a 30lb carp taken on floating crust.

Flight FR4243 was not so good, that meant leaving my family again for a few days. Why do we always insist on carpets at airports here in the UK. They always look so grubby & that ‘freshly hoovered room’ type pong they give off…pooaar. Even better now, with tighter security. You have to take your shoes off & put them through the scanner. So ten thousand people a day at Standsted, now get to walk across that same carpet in just their socks – oh yes, lovely. So know you’re thinking ‘I was waiting for a plane once & I took a nap, on that same soft carpet’ …oohh we can’t believe our good fortune. Last time through though, things were looking up - I discovered showers at Stansted. Maybe I could take a spare pair of socks too.

It was Wednesday afternoon & I was hungry. I was due in West Ealing at 5pm. I came out of the rat hole & emerged once again in the autumn sunshine, on the pavement outside Ealing Broadway underground station. It was only 3.30. I decided to stroll along the Broadway, heading east towards my destination, stopping along the way for a bite to eat. I stopped outside Pizza Hut. I peered in through the glass windows. Being mid afternoon, the place was relatively quiet, so I went inside. I was politely shown my table for one & handed a menu. I ordered the meal deal for one; any starter, any small pizza with two extra toppings, any desert plus any soft drink. Not bad for £8.74. I then quietly sat, minding my own business, Billy-no-mates & waited for my garlic bread to arrive.

The restaurant was split into two halves, a low level, where I sat facing the window, then a higher level, up a few steps & behind a dividing wall. To the left of me on low level, were two guys I reckon in their twenties & one lady who looked middle aged, sat also on her own. Just the four of us.

My garlic bread arrived, four pieces in all. I was just starting the first piece, when a very large lady came waddling down the steps from high level. She was extremely overweight, but also appeared extremely drunk. She first tottered towards the empty tables by the entrance door, then worked her way round low level towards the middle aged lady. She’s looking for scraps I thought. She was too, she was hunting for any food in fact, which she could get her hands on. She changed course at the middle aged lady, now heading my way. She stopped at a table next to me, which had yet to be cleared. She grabbed at the pizza crusts & tried stacking them in her folder arms. More of the scraps dropped onto the floor than stayed between her arms, but she didn’t seem to notice. She just kept going, building the size of her stash & occasionally stuffing some of the cold food into her mouth. Then she looked at my table ‘oh no, how the hell do you handle this. Some drunken food fiend looks set to get her hands on my garlic bread. Just sod off & leave me alone in peace’. Because she stumbled into the chair on the other side of my table, she almost came sprawling across it. The chair went over but somehow she managed to stay on her feet, while at the same time keeping hold of her stash. I put down my first unfinished piece of garlic bread back onto the plate, hunched over my meal & placed my arms down either side of the plate. I came for a quiet meal, but now felt like I had to guard it, to prevent it from being stolen from beneath my nose. She made a funny face then backed away. She swayed as she went & meandered back up to high level.

The garlic bread was lovely. You just can’t finish it either without licking your lips. While I waited for my pizza (cheese, tomato with sweetcorn, green chillis & pineapple), some shouting started up on high level. It sounded like some young teenage girls. Then I heard what sounded like a lady’s polish voice in retaliation (the drunken woman). It sounded like some kind of standoff between the two parties, but whatever was happening up there, was escalating. The shouting grew louder, the group of teenage girls screaming uncontrollably towards their victim. There seemed to be no letting up…the shouting continued.

My pizza arrived. The waitress just whispered quietly ‘enjoy your meal sir’ before retreating to the security of the bar area. I picked up the first of the four pieces, it was bloomin’ hot, so I balanced the crust on upturned fingers & started half munching, half slurping at the dripping cheese. There was a squeal, some very unsavoury language, then a triangle of pizza came flying across the restaurant. It was an impressive shot. It flew all the way from high level, across low level, then hit the wall just in front of the middle aged lady. The fielder must have hurled it like a Frisbee, because it spun as it flew. It must have been hot too, because the melted cheese glued it to the wall for a few seconds, before it fell to the floor. The middle aged lady immediately got up & walked outside without either finishing her meal or paying any bill. I looked at the two guys on low level, I guess to see how they were reacting to the breaking mayhem. They were still eating, but speaking quietly, clearly not wanting to get involved.

Things upstairs were now sounding as if they really were starting to get out of hand. A man in a pale green Pizza Hut shirt & dark green tie appeared. He looked of Greek or Cypriot origin & to his credit, wasted no time in heading upstairs, straight to the conflict zone. I doubt if he was expecting the girl’s shoe flying towards him, but his reactions were impressive & he made a duck just in time. The shoe passed over his right shoulder & bounced off a table, a couple of tables to my right. They were now fighting up on level one. Quick decision time; do I abandon the meal & make a break for the door, try & help the manager & intervene, or climb under the table until everything had died down. I looked down at the three pieces of sizzling pizza in front of me & picked up the second piece. It really was delicious, so I carried on eating as if situation normal.

Things were turning nasty, more staff came to assist upstairs, then the first girl was pushed out the door, out onto the busy street. Then the next, then the next & the next. The manager then locked the door. Oh, this is interesting, I’m thinking – I come for a quiet meal where I’m taken hostage & locked inside Pizza Hut. After a few minutes, the group of unruly girls were all reassembled outside, hammering on the large windows with their hands & their shoes. No doubt because of the wild behaviour & the ‘interesting & educating’ language, a crowd of onlookers soon gathered. ‘I’m gonna get my brothers & cousins man, then we’re gonna come back & ……’n kill you man’. One girl was in a real rage & continued the barrage of abuse towards the manager. Back inside, things soon calmed down. I was munching away at my last piece of pizza & the two neighbouring guys were talking normally again. I clocked the manager on the phone, the police I suspected. I ordered dessert; Hot Chocolate Fudge Cake.

When the dish came, it was huge. I fully recommend you try it, if not already done so. I was just about half way through when a large gang of about a dozen youths appeared outside. Some of them were peering in, trying to give the staff some kind of scary stares. The rest seemed to jostle from one foot to the other, displaying; 'hey look at me man, I’m lean, mean & looking for business, know what a mean’. They stormed the door & came bursting in rushing past me, heading for the bar area. The manager & some of the staff came to meet them head on. There was lots of shouting. Everyone was shouting & no one was listening. So when no one listened, this meant shout even louder.

Over the usual London relentless drone of traffic, I heard the police siren whaling away. The white police minibus stopped outside & five police officers in came rushing in. They headed straight into the scrum of the scuffling & the proceedings immediately came to a halt. I looked outside & felt like I was some sort of a stage within a theatre. I scooped at the chocolate sauce, been watched by a hundred onlookers. I licked my lips, put down the spoon & walked out. I figured no one had the slightest bit of interest in me & my bill, so considering the entertainment, I walked out.

I got about fifty yards down the pavement, then suddenly started laughing to myself. I had to cover my mouth with my hand, preventing people thinking I was just another one of those loons, which seem to loiter & crop up everywhere down here.

I don’t know what it is or why, I have my own reasons. But many people in London seem to have a very short fuse indeed, ready to blow at the slightest upset. What the fight in Pizza Hut was all about, I don’t really know. It seemed to me, to be just a run in between a very drunken lady & a group of teenage girls. Why it had to escalate in the silly way it did, maybe I missed something. I often do that!

I just need to go fishing. Oh…& no, I haven’t been back to Pizza Hut.

This site is optimized for Internet Explorer 6+ and Firefox.