… camping in Moffat?
Across the table eyes roll, a fleece is drawn tighter as an imaginary shiver at the thought of a night under canvas in Scotland racks the body.
Of course we can son, we would have done at the weekend, but for your father being poached in olbas oil, cauterising his catarrh. They must have enjoyed themselves.
They did like Moffat; we hadn’t been for a while. It’s another of those high streets that bucks the trend, changes little over the years, always busy. There are no out-of-town retail parks nearby, no superstores to draw the locals away. And it has The Moffat Toffee Shop, which as well as walls of jars of long-forgotten treats sold by the quarter, stocks a fine range of single malts, and small-batch gins.
Before we got there though I turned a familiar corner. The bookshop’s still there. Of course we can go back to Moffat.
But we hadn’t been invited, Boy Urchin only. The logistics of life on a Saturday morning meant we all went, together. One car left in town as the 20 mile path between football fixture and drama class drew us together. A quick snack as we went replacing the energies lost in the morning activities.
We stayed a bit longer, drawn by hot coals, sizzling sausages and fine company. On the barbie, wrapped in foil, stuffed with as much lime as the gin drinkers were prepared to concede; and splashed in as much chardonnay as… – you get the drift – there steamed a sizeable rainbow trout.
We knew it to be fresh, for we arrived back from the bookshop just in time to see it netted. You don’t just jerk the rod up, you wind it in, slowly… he told us, expertly.
The fly pond was busy, all snaking orange lines and people dressed for army manoeuvres merging in with the trees and the hills in the background. It was a different story at the bait pond. Teacher and pupil had it to themselves, other than a shivering spectator.
The trees were still, but a chill rippled the waters as the swallows swooped low. On our return we noted that hats and gloves had appeared. We had headed for the high street just as the float was disappearing, camouflaged against the silvering waters. All around, it seemed, fish rose, leapt even, for the flies the swallows left behind. Ever increasing circles confirmed the pond had life, and they were active.
That fine trout we saw hauled out in the net joined another already in the bag. A third was added, bigger yet, before the chill gave way to warm coals.
And that trout seemed all the tastier, not because of the lime or the wine grudged by the girlies, but because from stabbing the worm, twisting it on the hook, through casting and watching, playing the line, drawing it in and netting, it was all his own work.
He seemed quiet after the priest delivered his abuse, happily joined in the cleaning and the gutting; but preferred the sausages and burgers.
It was all the work of Boy Urchin. The feel of the rod in the hand for the first time, the jerk on one end of the line, etc; all bar the eating.
After guitar lessons the following day he confirmed that fish scales had the edge on the musical version. Every boy should have a Favourite Uncle. And Girl Urchin found The Fairy Shop.
Yes of course we can go camping in Moffat. Just don’t expect toasted mallows squished between chocolate hob-nobs.