Swinging the Lead
The sea is a big place, with many places to hide things away from man’s prying eyes. It also holds many fish that men seek to sell as food.
My friend was a fisherman like me and had his own boat that he took to sea on his own also. The fishing was good and in those days the sea still held an abundant supply. The fleet we both belonged to only ever sailed as far as we needed before starting to trawl. My friend was adventurous and tried other grounds further out to sea and with luck found a piece of clear ground with no snags to tear his nets. At the time the government was building Dungeness Nuclear Power Station and had a couple of huge cranes working on site. Using these as a mark he had no difficulty finding the right place to fish. For over a year he alone fished this area, catching fine lemon sole, Dover sole, skate and plaice. A lot of the times his trawl came up with only fish but at times he caught a considerable amount of huge stones and on the odd days what you would describe as ingots of heavy metal. These pyramid slabs of lead he threw to one side along with all the coal that all the boats caught and took home for the house fire. All the lead he accumulated he sold to the other fishermen who melted it down and turned into weights for their trammel nets.
Tony lived in a village five miles from the sea and the pub he used often got rather warm in the summer, and the landlord had the habit of leaving the door open. One day while my friend was having a quiet evening’s drink, a gust of wind slammed the door closed, making everyone jump. “You need a clear stop,” one of the customers said, and Tony instantly thought of the heavy little ingots he often trawled up. “I have just the thing,” he said. “Next time I come I will bring you a lovely doorstop.” True to his word he took the latest acquisition to come up in the trawl to the landlord, who marvelled at the weight. Over the course of the next year the little solid doorstop began to shine with the cleaning lady giving it a good polish once a week. Having lain for so many years at the bottom of the sea, it had a considerable layer of grime on it and the salt water had formed a near resistible tarnish. Meanwhile the building of the nuclear station was progressing and with the removal of the high cranes, Tony could no longer find his favourite fishing grounds.
That summer it was very hot and his local pub had the door open more than ever. One day the landlord was startled by a customer slamming the doorstop into the polished top of the counter.
“Don’t leave that there. Someone will nick it!”
Rye’s Own December 2008
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