Mike Brosnan 23-08-2006
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 and I in our early teens. He was my best mate.
played and fought like brothers do. He was a born fisherman, and,
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 wielded 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, and we did manage to send a few couples scurrying,
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 and a girlfriend. Now I can't remember the girl's name, but
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 and a late starter. Russell would say, "Why are you interested
girls?" The only girls he was interested in had scales.
On leaving school, I followed my heart into the hills, mountains,
forests, and also to the sea as a fisherman, somehow convincing
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,
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
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 and all, to pull it up over the
out of the tiny haven of a harbour.
Another annual pursuit of his was whitebaiting. 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
Russell died many years ago, in my eyes still a young man, and while we had diverged into vastly different people, I pass
Point with nostalgia, and miss him very much.
Go well my friend, & continue the laughter we enjoyed in our
And, fish the skies.