The little fishing boats are laced to the timbers of the wharf. The sun glistening on the water as it gently laps against the barnacle encrusted piles. The poignant smell of the sea It is paradise.
Our fishing lines are angled into the water. Russell gets a bite, he shouts, “ it’s a big one, a barracuda I hope . “ He always gets more fish than me.
This was a typical day in the lives of Russell & I in our early teens. He was my best mate. We played & fought like brothers do. He was a born fisherman, & while I had more eclectic interests, he was one eyed about the fishy arts. There was no wharf, bay, or cove, in The Otago Harbour that we hadn’t welded a line or spear. I just loved the sea.
One of the few diversions from this pastime for us, was sneaking around the sand hills at Green Island Beach, attempting to be peeping toms. This was fun, & we did manage to send a few couples scurrying, or more correctly,, us.
One holiday we extended our watery interests to building our own canoes, calico stretched over a wooden frame, covered in thick paint. We camped together with these on the Brighton River. Camping nearby was Valerie Hodges, a girl from my class at South Intermediate School, with her family & a girlfriend. Now I can’t remember the girls name, but I know I fell violently “ in love “ with her. I’m sure she didn’t know though. Apparently it’s hard to believe,, but I was once a shy boy, & a late starter. Russell would say, “ why are you interested in girls, “ The only girls he was interested in, had scales.
On leaving school, I followed my heart into the hills, mountains, forests, & also to the sea as a fisherman, somehow convincing my rather strict mother to allow me to escape convention. On the other hand, Russell’s mother said to him “ you must get a safe job with the government, “ so he reluctantly took a job with The Post office. While he did well, & rose in the ranks, he was an unhappy man, soon becoming an alcoholic, his only respite at every opportunity, escaping to the sea or river to fish.
Moving on, he met & married a safe Presbyterian woman who greatly disapproved of his drinking. Jane helped him to get that under control, but the strain seemed too much, as he had a mental breakdown. Recovering from this, he was never the same, but his saviour was that they bought a batch at Shag Point on the coast, north of Palmerston, with a dinky little fishing boat, shed, hand winch & all, to pull it up over the rocks out of the tiny haven of a harbour.
Another annual pursuit of his was white bating. He had a special spot on the Shag River. I remember many a jolly time when, on my way home from the wool sales in Dunedin, I would call in to his caravan, always parked in the same place. “ Have a beer” he would say. I would sample a couple of his proudly made home brews. Yes,, he still had the odd tipple.
Russell died many years ago, in my eyes still a young man, & while we had diverged into vastly different people, I pass Shag Point with nostalgia, & miss him very much.
Go well my friend, & continue the laughter we enjoyed in our boyhood days.
And, fish the skies.