Friday, 1 August 2008

1980: Something Fishy...

It all began when Sam Pearson returned from a competition prize holiday in Ireland with a large pike he'd caught. The time taken journeying to England had done the pike's personal freshness no favours at all and by the time it arrived at Emmerdale Farm it was distinctly smelly.

Some people, including Dolly Skilbeck, made fun, but Sam was so proud of his catch that he wanted to have it stuffed and mounted above the fireplace as a permanent reminder of his angling triumph.

This was easier said then done. As the fish exuded an increasingly unlovely odour out in Sam's shed, the old man set about trying to contact Fletcher's, the taxidermist in Hotten. The telephone was always a challenge to Sam and he was soon flustered and annoyed.

He shushed Annie and Dolly as he prepared to make the call.

"You haven't started yet!" Annie pointed out.

"Annie, I can't be doing with people talking when I'm on the phone! Oh, now I've forgotten where I was - I'll have to start again... Ugh, now I'm getting the 'Number Unobtainable' signal!"

Finally he got through to the number he required:

"Barbara's Boutique, can I help you?" asked a youthful female voice.

"What do you mean 'Barbara's Boutique'? Are you the taxidermist or are you not?" roared Sam. "No, no - not taxi service, taxidermist, someone who stuffs things?" Suddenly, Sam slammed the phone down.

"Now what?" asked Annie.

"She said she'd stuff me into a pair of jeans any day - the brazen young hussy!"

Annie rang directory enquiries. It transpired that Fletcher's was no longer in business and the number had been Barbara's Boutique since last February.

"Well, they've no right to go mucking about with the numbers like that!" cried Sam.

Annie suggested looking up a taxidermist in the Yellow Pages - but Sam had had enough and went stomping off out. Annie did it instead.

Sam hadn't gone far - just to his shed, where he began to wrap the pike in newspaper.

"This is where you've got to - ugh, ugh!!" Annie broke off to put her hand over her nose, overcome by the fishy stench. "I thought you'd like to know there's a taxidermist in Bradford."

"Too late now, I've made up my mind!" said Sam, busy with the newspaper.

"To do what?" asked Annie.

"You were all against my having it stuffed in the first place! Right, it can go in the dustbin!"

"Don't be so foolish. I've found a taxidermist for you - best thing you can do is to come down and ring him."

"No, Annie, I've gone off the idea," said Sam, rather sulkily.

"Get rid of that fish and you'll regret it tomorrow - you know you will!"

"It won't be the first thing in my life I've regretted, will it?"

"If you don't ring him, I will!"

"Suit yourself!"

"Promise me one thing - you won't throw that away until I've phoned him?"

The fire died. Sam sighed. "I'll phone him. I wish I'd never caught it now in the first place!"

Sadly, the taxidermist in Bradford only did casts and that wasn't what Sam wanted. He was now determined to get rid of the fish and in quite a state about it all, ranting away and doing a great deal of arm waving. Annie had a gentle word with him: "There's no need to take it out on me. Or yourself, now is there?"

Once more the fire died. Annie was quite right - as she so often was.

Sam was now calm and resigned. The pike was going in the dustbin. Matt Skilbeck caught him about to close the lid on the smelly article, and called: "Eh, Grandad - what you doing?"

"What's it look like I'm doing?" replied Sam, rather terse.

"Well, hang on a bit. You want a record of that pike, don't yer? Dolly's got some film left in her camera she wants to use up. Just wait a minute, I'll go and get it."

Sam was most impressed with the idea.

But it wasn't easy to smile for the camera...

Say "Cheese"? Say "bleurrggh" more like! The stench was growing ever more powerful.

"Couldn't you manage to look a bit more cheerful?!" asked Matt. Then he had a brainwave - a group photograph! He went to fetch Annie and Jack from the farmhouse...

... leaving Grandad alone with his pal. Although he wasn't posing for the photograph at that point, Sam still kept the fish at arm's length whilst he waited.

Annie and Jack came out to the farmyard. Everybody tried to look jolly. The fish was now absolutely reeking. "Er, hang on a bit... no, you'll have to get in a bit closer," said Matt looking through the camera's view finder. So, Annie and Jack did. "That's better. Right. Now then, look at the fish... and smile!"

Jack grimaced: "It's not the easiest combination!"

A week or two later, Sam was in the Woolpack: "Oh by the way, Amos, you haven't seen this photograph, have you? You haven't either if it comes to that, Seth."

"What photo's that then, Sam?" Amos asked, a bit dour.

Sam passed him one of the photographs Matt had taken - a particularly good one of him alone with the fish. He'd even managed to dredge up the semblance of a smile.

He suggested the photograph could appear in The Hotten Courier.

"Well, angling's not my area, Sam - I could pass it on, though," said Amos. "It certainly is a big fish, in't it, Seth?" He passed the photograph to Seth.

"Aye, it's a record of skill is that!" said Sam, rather boastfully.

"Luck!" said Seth, quietly.

"Eh, what did you say?!"

"I said there's luck an' all. Anybody can catch a big fish if they're in't right place at the right time!"

Sam and Seth had already had words recently about fishing and the importance of local knowledge. Sam had pointed out that he had been fishing around Beckindale since he was a nipper, and he could give Seth a few years.

Now, with his prized Irish pike catch being ridiculed, Sam was outraged: "Seth, that was skill and nowt but skill! Are you suggesting that my angling leaves summat to be desired?"

"Nay, Sam!" said Seth, innocently.

"Now then, Sam!" cried Amos, fearing verbal or physical violence on his licenced premises.

"All right!" said Sam placatingly - he turned back to Seth: "We'll have a competition - we'll go out fishing you and me and we'll see who catches the most!"

Seth was delighted. But it wasn't joy at the prospect of baiting fish that made him smile. It was joy at baiting Sam Pearson.

On the day of the fishing contest, Sam was all of a fluster. He turned his shed and the hall cupboard upside down in search of his fishing rod - despite Annie's insistence that it was in his bedroom. Finally she went to find it for him and discovered it immediately - under his bed.

Seth arrived...

... and the two set out to prove their angling superiority...

It was quiet down by the river side. And grim. The atmosphere was distinctly hostile. The negative atmosphere mainly came from Sam - Seth was thoroughly enjoying his sport.

Tired after the excitement of preparing for the contest and lulled by the sound of running water, Sam began to nod off.

"ALL RIGHT, SAM?!" bellowed Seth, making Sam jump out of his skin.

"Shut up!" Sam left his reel and went over to Seth: "It's a fishing competition not a bloomin' football match - shouting like that!"

At that moment there was the sound of something pulling on Sam's line. He hurried back over to his fishing rod but by the time he got there the only thing on the end of his line...

... was an empty hook. Seth, of course, laughed like a drain.

Jack arrived to see how the two were getting on. Seth said he wasn't doing badly. Jack went to see his grandfather.

"You winning, Grandad?"

Sam shushed him and told Jack he wasn't doing badly.

"You're about as communicative as Seth!" grinned Jack. "Can I have a look?"

Sam stopped him "Don't look in there! I don't want him to see!"

"All right with me. But he'd not see from there, not with me in between."

"Seth's got eyes like a hawk," said Sam. He looked across at the wily gamekeeper. "Got a face like one an' all!"

Jack took his leave, and Seth grinned at Sam and gave him the thumbs up. Sam glared back. This was war and Sam didn't fraternise with the enemy.

"How about calling it a day then, Sam?" called Seth at last.

"Oh, I don't know, Seth, I can go on for a bit longer."

"Aye, me too, but I've got a bit of a thirst up. 'Ow about it?"

"Fair enough, come on then," said Sam.

"Are you going to show first?" asked Seth.

There ensued a bit of haggling over which man should show his catch first. Finally, Seth did.

"There! I'm glad it's not strip poker!" said Seth.

"Is that it?!!" Sam was incredulous.

"You've beat me this time, Sam Pearson. It's Seth Armstrong, also ran." Seth gracefully accepted his defeat.

"Well, Seth, I'll not keep you in suspense any longer," said Sam, reaching down for his catch. "There!"

And he held up the sum total of his endeavours - a tiny fish to match Seth's.

Seth laughed: "It's local knowledge as does it! Put mine and thine together, lad, and we wouldn't be eating tonight!"

Sam joined in the laughter. "Well, Seth, it's like you said there's a lot of luck in it and today we had bad luck!"

"Aye, What we gonna tell folk, though?"

"We'll tell 'em it were a draw - we threw 'em back, no more, no less!"

"We threw 'em back?" asked Seth, doing just that with his fish.

Sam followed suit. "That's it. And if they keep asking us the same question we'll give 'em the same bloomin' answer!

And that's just what they did.

Amos Brearly told Seth the result seemed like an anti-climax. But Seth replied that there had been the thrill of the chase - "Two souls locked in combat to see who were't better man!"

The reality of the situation was that Seth had thoroughly enjoyed his sport. He'd wound Sam up a treat.

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