Christmas Special. mickthechippy's "A Winter Tale."

Peter

'Mugger'
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Given the time of year I feel it's appropriate to bring this back to the top over the Christmas period in tribute to Mick and to give Members & Visitors both new and old a chance to appreciate his gift for telling a tale that is sorely missed.

Having sat awhile and raised a glass or two to Mick this evening I came across this tale of his from 2009. One of his very best in my opinion and kind of appropriate now.
It was split into several episodes in another thread to keep us all on tenderhooks as he added to it piece by piece but I feel it deserves pulling together in its entirety so that those who haven't read it get the chance. ;)


Michael Pearson
aka
mickthechippy

mick the chippy.jpg

4/10/1958 - 25/12/2021
A Winter Tale.

Twas six nights afore Christmas when I see I'm first, he was there, where the stream forked, down from the railway bridge below Tonford.
It was a cold un, the pups paw prints shone darkly on the frost rimed grass, it was Old Blue that had come upon him as he beat the rushes for the rats that lived there, my pup stood back with his hackle set and tail up, and a low growl dripped from his set teeth, calling the white dog back, I walked pass, throwing an apology for the terriers behaviour in the direction of the parka clad figure at the waters edge, the little bugger seemed to have taken against the old boy and kept the fierce on until the bend in the river obscured the angler from view.
The figure had raised his arm in acknowledgement of my words then had carried on with his pursuit, kept it in mind all the way to Nickle Bridge and the return to the tarmac road, probably on the deadbait for the pikeyfish that haunt that stretch, bloody cold though for sitting still.

The street lights and our destination beckoned, "The Hop Poles" a local hostelry for a quick nip and a bit of a warm before the tramp for home. The brass door knob to the public bar gripped my hand with tendrils of ice as I twisted it open and Dog and Man entered, the smog of tobacco smoke, coal fire, sweat and beer parted as we reached the bar, "Alright lad, yours and the dogs?" "Please; Ta, Thanks;" and coin exchanged owners as the cider nip and a bowl of Bovril passed over the stained mahogany counter.
Peering around all the barrels were full, coins in the centre with dominoes and cards surrounding them, Old Tommo beckoned and the privilege of sitting with the cantankerous old sod was taken up. Dipping the Bovril next the stool, I got the tin out and sat down, proffering the bacca to Tommo first, tin taken and pipe fillin, "Bin darn stream ven, owt on?" he spoke in his old mans Kentish, "One fella mate, by the fork, piking"

"Woz ee go like?" came the reply, "dunno? pup took to growling at him so didn't speak, just passed by"

"See I says, woz ee go like?"

"Black parka an a cane rod Tommo, Deadbait piking"

"ee would, sonyway ee Knows, ee ketch?" "not when I passed" says I, "you know the matey then?"

"I does an yur Know him too, the ratdog ready seen him, just yer let me know iffin you see him ketch." that was that and the old sod turned to the fire, Kent's finest slipped like golden nectar past my tonsils and little Bas was licking the glaze of the bowl, couple of smokes rolled, glass and bowl set on the bar, button the coat and off home.

"Jes yur let me know iffin he ketches son", followed me out the door.

Couple of days later, the pair of us was nippin through The Westgate Gardens on the way to Mothers, Lil Bast and Me had been on a hunt for our dinner, chucking a worm for the brownies in the gravel run below Millers Field, score was Blue 2, Michael 0, little bugger had chewed on a coupla Gudgeon whilst wading/swimming along side of me. Met up with Odgey just as we were passing the willows opposite Toddlers Cove, kitted up with a spinning rod, his intent was to dangle a line from hiding in the bushes and hope the keeper didn't spot him, "You'll get caught ol pal," says I "He's on the prowl by the boat stage"
Discretion being the better part of valour he falls in step with us, the White dogs darting in and nipping his ankle for fun and Odge daren't kick his arse as I woulda chucked him in, I'm giggling at his discomfort, and he starts babbling about Sea Trout, and he'd tell me iffin I stop the dog eating him.

Intrigued, I call the terrier off and ask him to explain himself. "Theres a biggun just above the brick bridge to Bingley Island" says he, "Four pounder if its an ounce"

"You ain't telling me no porkies" says I, "I'll set him on your Nads iffin its romance"

"Nah" says He, "I see it earlier, won't take Maggie"

"Cheers Odge," says I "Sic Balls Blue". He hollers "You said" as he's pursued up the path by the 14 inch, fourteen pound Russell, always amazes me how people run when a ratting dogs at their heels, kicking their feet up high. Laughing I whistle him back and with the Thanington yobbo's curses ringing after us, we turn on to the road bridge and over onto the far bank, we will take a peek, have a go for the silver one then cut through Cow Lane up to Materfamilias for a butty and a cuppa, iffin she ain't gone off to the bingo by then. Well blow me down and tickle my toes, he was right and he was wrong, there was a silver one there, an it would go better than four but it weren't no Sea Trout, only a Rainbow,

"We're here" I says to my mate, "Shall we have a chuck?" tail wags and the hound lays down at my feet, wand put back together and out with the freelined lobbie, twitching past the nose of old spotty its attacked by a dace, jeez bloody thing, letting it take it down stream, I shook it off twenty foot past the quarry and repeated the exercise again and again and again, time passed and no luck, the fish was drifting across the flow and it was getting dark, pups getting fidgety and wants his dinner, so back in strip down and off upstream to the Three Arches, cut across the water meadow, over the Ashford Road and up Hollow Lane to Ma's house. Set too and trampin, a splashin noise distracts us and across the stream there was the old boy again, Fish on this time, good un by the way the cane was showing a bend.

Pups growling again, "Leave it you sod" and I pokes him with my toe but he ain't having it, teeth up and snarling, I put him on the lead,

The matey in the parka is having a fair old struggle and the rods a creaking and the line a singing with the brute power of the fish, We stood and watched over ten minutes before the net dips and the river shark is netted, kin ell thinks I that's the biggest Pike I ever seen out of the whole river, most of the fish was out the net, just the head and upper part in safe, the old boy swings it in and onto the bank.

"Nice one, well caught," shouts I.

The fella lays the rod down and starts unhooking, from what I could see the baitfish musta been a pound or more, he's up and got the scales on the net, "Hows it go?" black parka turns then, and its the first time I get to see his face, he's Albino or if not, really fair, then his eyes catch mine, deepest blue you ever did see, I felt fear then, as his reply come over the water,

"Thirty nine, four"

His voice was cold, singsong like but with a crows craw to it, cut into you like a knife, "ell him, Thirty nine, Four"

I was off, even the pup was in a hurry, tail down and whimpering, we almost run along the bank, didn't stop to turn until I was under the span of the railway bridge, bugger that, he looked like a ghost, and he musta meant Tommo when he said to tell him.
I'll pop up "The Poles" tomorrow, gotta see Mum bout this. The glow of fairy lights from Mums window had never looked so inviting as pup and me turned up the alley, done the mile or so from the water meadow in a fair quick time, Old Blue was panting and the feet were hot in my boots, not bothering to brush the rivers mud off, we entered the kitchen, Mum was there, at the cooker, baking, "Mother" I dropped as way of greeting,

"Michael, Boots!!!"

"Sorry Ma, I got the wind up"

"Keepy and boggy Marsh (the local bobby) after You then?" noticing the rod in my hand, "Nah! gotta get you on the water them two, It was a matey I seen, looked like a ghost, see him down to Bingley Island, is Dad in?"

"Bingo, cuppa, You Hungry?" boots off, at the table, tea made, I starts to recount the above tale, "Your grandad went to school with him," she replies, "Funny fella, I always thought, He was a watercress man when I was a girl,"

"That's a while back Ma" as I ducked under the swing of her palm.

"Fancy some cake with that?" warm rich fruit cake with hazelnuts appeared on a plate, a chunk the size that could sink the Titanic, and a bowl with the cuttings and crumbs for the white dog under my chair. She's off and fiddling in the cupboard, pups nipped up to my lap now and helping me finish off africas rations, as she comes back with an Album in her hand, "Its in here, I'm sure, want some more?"

"Let that go down first then some of that lemon meringue will do a treat, What's in there?"

"Photo or two of Grandad and Mr Thomas, on a AFS jolly" says she, looking at the grainy pictures of times past, we ploughed through the book, Ma had a story to tell about each one, till finally a page turned and there they were, My Mums Dad, and a not so old Tommo resplendent in full Auxiliary Fire Service uniform with the rest of the stations crews, taken on a sunny day in 1940, "Lot of brave Men there" says Mum, "Some of them boys never made it through the Blitz, Germans bombed the town a lot in 42, some of my schoolfriends and neighbours died in the big raids, that's Grandad and that's Mr Thomas."

I felt a glow of pride as I looked at them lads, some hardly older than their teen years, some big fine upstanding Men of Kent in their prime, My Grandad and Tommo, "Bloody Heroes Mum" I didn't avoid the thick ear for swearing then, Its a No No at home, In comes Pa, time was getting on, "Didja win?"

"Coupla Sweats he replies, "What she showing you now" Tale retold and the old fella smiles, "Best you tell him tomorrow then, about how a big lunk like you and a fierce dog legged it from a fishing ghost" he's chuckling as he sits in the comfy chair and on with his slippers, "You always had a imagination on you son, seeing things and bogey men, next thing it'll be Martians down the lake" with him chuckling and mumbling I pecks Ma on the cheek and on with the boots, "Gotta go, Its getting on, any chance of a lift pops? I'm fright of the dark"

"Off with ya" says he, "And leave my lemon pie alone," Too late you old sod!, Mothers got it wrapped and handing it to me as I open the back door, "Don't forget Mr Thomas tomorrow Michael, and safe home".

It was a quick long walk back to the cottage on Stour Street where our beds lay waiting, Old Blue showed no inclination to be free of the lead and kept in close throughout, no sniffs, marking or peeking behind.
My collar hairs were bristling like bus seat cloth, and the lugs were swivelling, jumpy in the dark old pal, thinks I, head under the covers tonight, not a nice chap! ghosts cant get you! they walk through walls so how can hell can they grab you, still it was with great relief when I threw the switch to the scullery light, "home Mutt, safe now".
Quick splash and into the bed, tuckin down and snuggled. I nigh on hit the ceiling as the door cricked open on its own, There stood a forlorn pup, ears down and needing company, "hup then Mate," and he was at the crook of my back in a flash, quick earholing and heads down, neither of us had a good night, we both dreamt, good or bad. I woke sweating as the dawn light limped through the curtains.

Christmas Eve! no work, but worse, up the town shoppin.

Pulling on the Levi's, I sat and thought about the previous eves events, weird but nowt to trouble about, give the white dog his brekkie while the coffee brewed, I'll nip up "The Poles" after dinner on the pushbike.
It seemed like thousands of people were out, no bloody manners and all in a hurry, grab, spend, grab, spend, most of the stuff had no thinking to the purchase, that'll do buying! eight shops, ten buys and I'm done, had a list see, sorted, got waylaid though, going past the "Cherry Pickers" there's Nobby, "Fancy One?", One! could murder two, so in I went.

Three o'clock and I'm wobblin out, hanging onto the door handle and the carrier bags, almost dark, The sky was leaden, big fat heavy clouds, on the 500 yard stagger to the front door the flakes start falling, White Christmas, see that, shoulda put a bet on. Sod, still gotta get up Thanington, gotta obligation, really don't need it,

"Coming?", Pup took one look at the slushy path and almost whiteout and hopped back in his basket, "Sodjer then". latch dropped, collar up and a two mile trek slightly inebriated to the pub, I felt like Shackleton by the time I got there, and even worse, I could see the place was full, Bashed one of the Pikey's arms and spilt a bit of his ale as I pushed open the door, f*ck it Micky, that's a good start, packed to the rafters didn't do the place justice, and half the mob from outside the walls were lashed.

"OY! Sim Dad," and a rat arsed Odgey staggered to his feet, Oh no, I don't really need this as he fell through the crowd towards me, just get to Tommo and he'll sort it when I give him the news.
The settle by the fire was empty, ?, No Tommo!, Its getting worse and worse, By now Odgey was in range, "No dog Now, eh, eh" backing to the door the micked pugilist lunged, grabbing him by the collar we fell out the pub, Quick dink to the nose and he's half sparko, "Look Hodge, I've just come to see Tommo, its Christmas FFS."

"He's Fishin,"

"Nah, dont believe you"

"Troo, brother see I'm below the Pipe"

well he wern't inside, so where was he?

"Sure"

"Yeh, safternoon" spinning him round, I pushed the door open and chucked him in the direction of the Pikey's barrel. "Merry Christmas Odgey" I whispered as the the uproar began and off down the road, across Bretts footy pitch and onto the water meadows, the wind was picking up now and the chill was numbing my nose, left or right of the pipe, kin ell its cold, left first, half mile then about turn and head home down the bankside, with the wind behind me, nowt, just like old dickie the cat, I turned and went back towards the scene of last nights events, the problem was going to be a bit of a detour or maybe wet feet as I crossed the dead packed reedbeds over a feeder stream near the heronry.

I saw him then, Tommo, sat on his creel with a rod to his front, "Evenin Tommo, Its Michael, Percy's grandson," He didn't move, "Allright Mr Thomas" still no reply.
I fetched up close to him and blow me down, he's asleep, Tapping his shoulder didn't wake him, then a shake, nothing, It hit me then, his skin was blue with cold, his big gnarled hand was cold, frozen cold, frozen to the rod, frozen stiff on the willow basket, Tommo was dead or as close to it as a man could be, wadja do mick?, come on what?, go fer help, no. he'd be deader than dust before you got back.

Bit of panic set in, calm down, think, lifting him was hard, getting him on my back harder, walking almost impossible, I staggered and fell, getting back up and a few more yards before I was on my knees again, to the stream, we sunk, the flattened reeds couldn't take our weight, dragging the old boy now, tears, "C'mon Tommo" I was shouting but I knew no ears would hear it.

Then He came, Black coat flapping in the wind, glancing at me, That voice came, "Alright Son, here" He bent down and lifted Tommo as if he was a feather, across the meadow, over the fence and to the pavilion of the footy club, I staggered behind, half running to keep up, as he laid the big man on the veranda of the pavilion, the door opened and the revelry spilt out,

"What's this, are you blotto old chum"

"Help, help him, He's frozen stiff call an ambulance," that was that my knees buckled and I was down,

I awoke as they were unloading Tommo from the Ambulance, a porter was unstrapping me from the seat as the stretcher with the red blanket was wheeled through the doors of the Accident Centre,
"Can you walk Lad, or shall I get a chair?"
"Think a chair mate please, my old clompers are done for the night, got em a bit chilly earlier, Thanks" wheeled in like royalty, we were joined by a nurse, "Cubicle 2 John," and off we go,

"How's Tommo?"
"The old boy?, Doctors are with him now, He's alive and breathing." Well that was a relief, He's a tough old sod. John helps me out the chair and on to the couch, then starts to get a bit familiar, "Oi, we ain't bin introduced you know"
Then the pain hit as the first boot came off, ooowahwahwah! "Jeez mate, that hurts,"
"Poof, Have a go at number two now, bleedin glad your feet are frozen, these old hoppers look well worn" Cheeky bugger, as the pain hit again, that really hurts, "Trousers now lad"
"I'll do that" and I starts undoing my belt and fly, but he's at me, yanking them down my thighs, pain hits again, "Bit of patient care John" the Nurse utters as she steps through the curtain, Had to stifle the grunts and groans as the jeans are slipped over my feet, "Skids", John intones, "Skids now"

"Socks please John, cut them off, scissors" for the forth and fifth time the agony ripped through me, they were my second best pair of socks too, only had one hole which one big toe peeped through,
"Thank you, I'll take it from here" smiling as he left, he turns and crooks his little finger at me in that well recognised gesture meaning a tiny knob, "Yours would be too iffin you'd just sunk up to your belly in a bloody frozen river" "Back soon" says he.

"Full name, age, address, next of kin, blood group if known, any allergies to penicillin based medicines, any other allergies," Its was like twenty questions, and the real crazy thing was, even with the pain, lying there in just my y fronts, and with the events of the past coupla hours I was thinking, are they tights or stockings she was wearing, It was then the curtain swept apart and a bloke in a white coat strolled in,

They're coming to take you away ha ha hee hee, the total absurdity of the situation burst over me and I started laughing, their coming to take me away, White coat looked nonplussed, there he was standing looking at a fella lying on a examination couch, legs bare, frozen feet, cackling like a looney on a day trip to Dreamland, The examination was thorough but fast, treatment prescribed and a 24 hour stay on a ward was the order of the day, a ten minute wait and our old mate was back, armed with a wheelchair and blanket, "Just to protect your modesty, little one"

"Farcough"

Up the passage, in the lift and on to the ward, "How's Tommo?"

"In intensive fella, the old boys pretty poorly, want the good news now?"

"Whassat?"

"Its Christmas Day"

Another nurse, "On the bed please John, do you need help with your clothes, here's a apron, can you find a cage?" five mins after being tucked in, I was out for the count, snoring enough to wake half the ward,
Awoken to break my fast the next morn, I received a message from ma and pa, pups okay, he's round home, be up later, Diamond. Borrowed a mag off the matey in the next bed and looked in the cupboard next the bed for my bacca, roll a quick smoke and ask to go to the day room, I thought Id got the wrong one, I took out a coat, a black coat, not my coat, my jumper and my jacket though, my jeans, t shirt and me boots, but deffo not my coat,

"Nurse, can I go fer a smoke?"

"Can you walk Michael?"

"Fer a dose of the old nicotine, most certainly!"

"Let me see your feet first" they were red and pinkish but not the blue of the night before, pins and needly a bit still, but part of me again, "Nurse, where this coat come from?"

"The porter brought it up, The paramedic brought it in from the ambulance for you" a better look at it revealed a heavy serge pea type coat with blackened brass belt buckle and buttons, a raised motif on the buttons said AFS. AFS, AFS? where'd I seen that before? Auxiliary Fire Service? nah don't be stupid, summat else, go have a fag micky dicky your having withdrawal symptoms. hobbled off to the day room at the end of the passage to be greeted by the rest of the addicts gathered there, bummed a light and felt the almost instant hit of Old Holborn in my lungs, one just wasn't enough, stayed there most of the morn, cuppa tea at ten and shortly afterwards the rescue party arrived, another quick examination, home but feet up for a few days, letter for my doc and discharged,

Mothers in time for the yuletide feast and a rake of maternal care, A coupla phone calls to the hospital in news of Tommo's progress resulted in, as I wasn't a relative, no information as regards that patient could be divulged, I only wanted to know iffin the old boy was alright!
Took pup out for a stroll day after boxing day, went up to the hospital on the off chance, and there he was, sitting on the wall outside, Little finger crooked and smiling,

"You bend over now old pal, I'll show you iffin its like that, Any news of Tommo, the old boy who come in with me?" His look told me summat was wrong, "You don't know?"

"Know what mate, switchboard wouldn't tell me owt"

"The old boy died Christmas day, pneumonia, only came round for a few hours, no one told you?"

Tears welled up and burst out. "you'd best come with me mate" sitting in the porters lodge with a cuppa, john recounted Tommo's fight for life, "His Mrs and Daughter were with him, stayed right to the end, he was over eighty you know"

When Id got it together, I said to him about the coat, "Ambulanceman brought it in, was yours wern't it, the old boy had his on when he went to resus," thanking him for the news and tea, I left, on the walk back to mothers, my head was all over the place, coats, Tommo, the lot.

Home,

"Some one to see you Michael" says mum as I walk in the door. A lady was there, mums age, Tommo's daughter. Mum knew her, been to school together, hadn't seen each other for years, she'd come round to take me up to see her mum, Mrs Thomas, On the car ride up to strangers lane, she thanked me for what I'd done for her dad.

"Wasn't just me," says I, "Iffin that mate of Tommo's hadn't been there, I think we might of both had it"

"What mate"

"Tommos mate, His fishing mate, I got his coat at home, AFS one"

"Michael, when they found you outside Bretts sports club, it was just you and Dad"

"No it wern't, it was the other bloke that carried him across the meadow from the stream, we were stuck in it until he helped us out"

"Everybody said it was just you and him, there was no one else,"

The car stopped outside the house, and I was invited in, sat at the kitchen table, I could smell coal tar and carbolic soap, brought back instant memories of my grans house, the heavy oilcloth on the table, the quarry tiled floor that scraped as you pulled your chair to, Belfast sink with only one tap and a Rayburn in the fire breast. Tommo's Daughter, Mary, made the tea and set a plate of digestive and royal scots on the table, visitors biccies and the best china too,

"He's here Mum" she called through to the parlour, heard the rustle and Mrs T comes through to the kitchen.

"Hello, your young Michael are you, Percy's grandson"

"Yes Mrs Thompson, that's me, Tommo knew my grandad, they were in the war together"

"thanks for what you done, Albert left something for you, was some of his last words, fetch it in lass, I expect the lads awondering"

"Mrs Thompson, did Tommo tell you bout the other fella that got us both out the mire"

"What other fella, there was only you and Albert, no one saw anyone else, only the pair of you frozen on the porch"

"But there was, Tommo's mate, his fishin mate, went after pike with him"

"No Michael, there was just the two of you, it was you that carried him from the river, just you"

Mary came in then, carrying Tommo's creel and a rod bag, The one that I'd last seen that night down on the meadow, "Dad said this is yours, its not much, but it was his pride for many a year, said to let you have it, another tea?"

"Thank you, but no, I've got summat to sort and I'd better be off,"

I put the strap of the creel over my shoulder and clutching the canvas rod bag, bade my farewell and my thanks.
Turning left out the house out of habit more than owt else, a short walk brought me to Tonford Lane, down the lane and on to the wooden footbridge over my river, the watercress beds used to be here, poor mans bread they called it then, mum said Tommo had worked the watercress when he was my age, not a lot left now, the housing along the upper stretches had done for that, just a few beds in the side streams left,

Took the walkers path towards the city, half a mile saw me on the bank opposite to where I found him, coupla words of prayer and thanks for the gift trickled from my lips as I stood for a while thinking about the events of that evening, Walking on I passed the swim where I'd first seen the matey and his pike, had a little word there too. Home was half a mile from where I recrossed the river over the army bridge, past the Tanyard and St Mildreds Church, opening the door, I laid the creel and rod on the table,

Phone call to pa and pup had got a lift home. opened the creel whilst I was waiting, Tommo's gear, two very nice pins, an Allcock and a Grice and Young, floats, leads, end tackle rests made from carved bone or horn, all well used but looked after, loved by the look of it. the rod was a good one too, unnamed but looking very much like a Walker type avon, fine silk whips and heavy closed grain cork butt with the red rubber button, Cheers Tommo, I'll have a dangle for them pike for you.

A month or so later, pup and me had been up to Larkey Valley Woods, just wandering through like you do, mindin our own and setting the ferret to a few earths, when all hell broke loose, the keeper and his lad had come upon us as I was awringin the neck of the forth buck that had hit the nets, grabbin noggin and gettin a nip for the rough handlin of him, we took to our heels and legged it,
The boy stood on the path blockin our way, quick whack with a couple of rabbit sent him down and us free, shouts and hollers followed us down the Sandy bank, Yeh you might know me old chum but you gotta ketch me,

Half mile later right out of puff we had a hide up next the old store shed behind Chartham hospital,
"close un there Bast, thats cost us dear, ten nets and three bunnys lost", Noggin pops his head out the pocket then and gets a pinched nose fer the bite, wern't down to him though, as he og og oggs at me in protest. Half hour and a smoke later, were up and off, had to take the long way round and keep off the roads as Keepy would have been on the tellingbone to Boggy by now and he'd be out.
Dunno why them two bothered really, keeper had pheasants and Boggy plod had criminals to catch, neither of em cared bout the rabbit chewing up the young corn and wheat, we wuz performing a public service taking them, farmers friend us three, still, set too and trampin we got home, tuck noggin up and gut and skin the last one, heart, liver and kidneys fer the pup, head and lights fer nog,

Next morn it was out to the shed looking for the rest of the nets, when I happened on Tommo's rod and creel, Id forgotten bout them, fetching them into the scullery, I took a better look at what hid in the wicker box, The pins were a fine pair, The Allcock was a match, the early solid spool not an Ariel, and the Grice and Young, an Avon Supreme, both span like running quicksilver as I played with and flicked em, no handles on the match but plenty of wear on the rim, Tommo musta batted when he trotted with it, took plenty skill that, bringing a fish in battin, the Avon was spooled with the heavier line and a guard was fitted, maybe not the original but a fine bit of work none the same, the chrome had worn thin on the brass wire and the dull gold shone through,

"Well Blue," says I "Its an omen, short of nets but with new tools to use, shall we have a trip up past Nickle Bridge and have a few brownies for our troubles" stumpy little tale wagging, he knows, off out this eve, revenge is ours.

Setting off around four, we had a stop in the back room of "The Maidens Head" the landlord of which was always in the market for a few fresh fish, an ale was obtained on the credit of our return later that evening with the spotties for the next days menu, this being a bit of a posher pub than our usual haunts and serving meals for Hoi Polloi. Turning down Cow Lane, the stream soon hove into sight, light was fading now and the sun was setting behind the rim of the weald, we crossed the river over the pipe, tucking bas into the combat jacket I pulled myself up and over the rails in the centre, then on to the far bank, the willows would hide our progress up stream until Nickle Bridge itself, crossing that and the sheep field after was the danger area where we could be spotted by the tenant smallholder whose cottage sat next the corner of Howfield Lane, over we went, shifting quick fast toward the hedge over the field, five mins later we were there.

The river widened just here with a cattle drink on the far bank and a small weir forming a deeper pool, set the rod and pull a few feet of line off the reel, out went the cast, the worm fell just under the rim of the wall, twitching the lobbie back, it wasn't long before the first trout had the hook in him, quickly followed by three of his brothers, stocked fish these, all much of a muchness, around a pound or so, plate sized fish, I've watched the matey's that pay for the privilege of chucking a fly at them, struggle to get a brace, there stupid fish though, fetch em a worm and their suicidal, easier than the minnows to catch, set a fly or nymph and it turns to hard work. Another cast, and the worm settles mid stream, letting it sit on the bottom, I rolls a smoke, the zippo clicks and the cool stream of smoke is taken down, twitch the bait and he,s on, pulls a bit this one, feels a much better fish, kiting across to the far bank, side strain stops him reaching the reeds, a minute or so later a fine fish turns on his side as I bent down to lift him from his watery home,

A low growl has me peeking up and sod it, its Tweedledum and Tweedledee running across the field, tearing the fish from the hook and into the bag, bite the line and break the rod down, "C'mon mate, lets go" and were fleeing, where too? theres a land rover coming the other way, b*stards, they,ve really got a cob on, Into the river, splashing cross the tail end of the pool, I grab the pup by the scruff of his neck, bloody hell Michael, this might be it, ever tried running through water two foot deep with a bag of fish over your shoulder, a snarling terrier in one hand and a cane rod in the other? it ain't easy.

"Stop", they're shouting stop, Your avin a laff, I'll get not only nicked but a beating too, slipping an sliding through the mud of the cattle drink, I chucks the white ball of furry madness up the bank, He's only feircin them up now, Christ me boots coming off, oh jeez Mick, kin ell, and we're out, c'mon you sod run,
The landy has stopped now and the pair of em are on board, and its heading back to the gate, run Mick, run Im nearly dying, the old tickers going twenty to the dozen with the adrenalin and fear, uphill and all, their at the gate, run you f*cker, to the woods, Bit of luck there's a motor coming up the lane that'll hold em for a while and we plunge into the trees, head for the ride, and around to the top of Cockering Lane,
I could see the lights of the landy heading up it, go towards em Mick they wont expect that, slowing down a bit now and watching where were going, we followed the hedge towards Thanington. the landy had stopped about a quarter of a mile away and bodies were jumpin out, farkit, they gotta dog, getting a bit of a shift on, their mutt starts a barkin.

White dog is up for it and lets off his challenge back, a sort of yowly squealy howlin, Blue! Blue! shuttup, but its off, four of em are toeing it down the hill, near on up to the gardens at the back of the houses, lifting the wire the pup scrabbles under, over across the veg patch and straight into a bloody incinerator, arse over tit I go. They're getting closer, up and to the back of the house, down the four foot and bang straight into a door being opened, straight in the boat and I'm over again.

"Hello Michael, Cup of Tea?" Staggering and seeing stars, tears in my eyes. Bloody hell! its an angel, in every sense of the word, Standing there holding an open privy door was Mary, Mum's mate, Tommo's daughter. "Im in a hurry", says I, "So I see" says she with a nod towards the field I had so recently vacated, Keeper and co, The Possee were coming towards the fence at a rate of Knots,

"Come in, I,ll put kettle on" needing little encouragement and wiping a smear of blood from my nose, the white dog and I quickly followed her in, hello thinks me, I been here before, Tommo's Kitchen, musta run further than I thought, I'm halfway down Strangers Lane heading back toward the river. handing me a damp cloth, My saviour gets to the making of a potfull,

"Michaels here Mum" Taking the proffered chair at the table, I saw pup disappearing into the parlour, covered in mud an dripping wet.
"Hello little fella, Who are you?"
"Mrs Thompson, thats my pup, He's mucky, sorry, C,mon, mere you sod" The door opened and there he was in her arms, licking her like it was goin out of fashion, She's laughing,
"He,s a nice one Michael, reminds me of Tommo's Patch, Is he Game?"
"Game as they come Mrs T, fox, rabbit and rat, gets me loads of invites on days out, got a third with him in best all round terrier at the BASC show, would of got the first septin he nipped the judge"

A bangin starts on the door, fair old rap, "Thats fer me Mrs T, Keeper"
"In the front room lad, I'll sort this"
Hiding behind the door, dog in arms with my hand around his muzzle, I hears the conversation, "Good evening, and what can I do for you"

"Ees in ere aint ee"

"Wether Ee is or not, That doesnt excuse your tone and manner young man, I take it you used the front gate?, If so your be knowing where it is and wont need any help to it"

"I know Ees here, fetch im out,"

"I'll not be fetching anyone or anything out, now could you kindly leave, make sure the gates latched after you"

"I'll get the police"

"Young man, then you will have to explain to them why you have trampled all over my kitchen garden, I do expect your employer to be making good for the damage caused, shall I get my daughter to phone them now?" She just shut the door on him, just like that, conversation ended, now fark off in an elderly ladies sort of way, I heard a couple of shouts outside, then

"Tea's made Michael, Take a seat," It was like nectar, slipped down a treat, I rolled it around my tongue, hot, sweet and strong, Mary still uses full fat milk, feels thicker than mine or mums, deffo does the business,
"On the fly fishers stretch?" I still had the bag around my shoulder, hadn't even thought about it, there I was in someone's kitchen, dirty boots, dirty jeans, dirty haversack and a dirty dog, both of us damp and steaming, offering my apologies for their evenings interruption and the state of the pair of us and the keeper banging on the door I answered her question,

"Just up from the Ashford Road bridge Mrs Thomas, had a bit of an order to fill, just beer money and an a evening out"

"Any in there?"

"Four or five, Mary"

"Well lets have them out then, trout need cleaning, Their be spoiled afore much longer,"

Taking the haversack, she spills the fish into the big old Belfast, knife from the drawer and tap turned to run, We sat and watched, Old Mrs Thompson, Pup ( who was up on her lap getting a earholin) and me, sippin tea an watching,she was good, cut, in toward the vent, twist of her fingers, guts out, four out of five done and "This is a beauty, not seen one of these for a long while" she turned and the glint of the silver flank of the fish sparkling in the light of the globe, why is it thought I that old people never have a shade on their kitchen lamps, always a bare bulb? "A sea trout, A Fordwich fish, three pounder if its an ounce,"

"Its the one I had on when they nearly had me, First time Ive really seen it, just bagged it and run"

"Worth the effort then young Michael"

That was Mrs T, and she.s stole me dog, there he is all comfy on her undoubtably ample lap, eyes closed and smilin, little sod, he wont want to get up, "Dad had a few over the years, there was plenty of them when I was a girl, the rivers not what it was then, to many people living on it now, look at the size of Ashford, market town and now near a city" another tea was poured and a bun or two offered and done justice too with the remembering flowing between the two of them, dad, dogs, old friends and places, it was all coming out, My mum, Grandad and Gran, legends, the war, a fine old going over, I remembered something then,

"I got someones coat, Got left with it Christmas day, left with me at the hospital it was, its an AFS issue one, It belonged to the matey who saved us"

Quiet, it went Quiet, I could here old blues snoring, "You said that before Michael, but all the people that were in the pavilion said it was just you two, just you and Dad, there was only your footprints too, there was no one else"

"Im sorry Mrs T, Mary, There was someone, Tommo,s mate, His Pikin Mate, Albino looking, real fair haired, got a singing voice, I saw him catch a big pike the day before christmas eve, thats what I was looking for Tommo for that night, his mate told me to tell him"

Mrs T got up setting the pup back on the chair, went into the front room and returned a few mins later, placing a book on the table, she opens it, carefully turning the pages, she points at a old photo, "Is that him?" The picture stared out the page at me, a fella bout twenty or so, fine looking bloke, hardy looking, and with the whitest hair you ever seen, wearing waders, baskets around his feet full of plants, holding up a trophy cup, It was Im, the piker, the fella that had hauled Tommo and me out the stream that night then carried his mate more than a mile through the snow, yep that was deffo him,

"Yes"

"Billy Tanner, thats Billy Tanner Mary"

"It cant be Mum, Billy died in 42, Billy died"

"Thats him Mrs T, I know, Thats him,"

The old girl picked up pup and sat down, "get us all a nip Mary, I,ll tell you about Billy Michael" Glasses full of old brandy, She relates a tale,

"Back in the world war Michael, Albert and Billy joined the fire service, your grandad too, Canterbury was being bombed by jerry a fair bit, not big raids like London, but one, two or three planes would come in and drop their bombs, firebombs too, sometimes a parachute mine, after the army lads and the trains mainly, till later on, in 1942 they started big raids, one big one burnt the cattle market and all along the top of the town, Albert and Billy were at a fire in Northgate, it burnt all night, they were pumping water from the river to put it out, another lot of jerry came over and used the flames as a target, Billy was blown up under a falling wall, Albert, my Albert, dug him out with his bare hands, bricks and timber, and the bombs were still falling while he carried Billy to the aid station,
Billy and Albert had been mates all their lives, Best Mates since babies ,children through school, they both worked the cress together, sneakin a bit of fishing while they worked, Billy died the day after, in the hospital,"

Now all this account happened a while back, Old Blue's gone, miss him still, Mrs T's Dead and with Tommo, Mary's getting on, I still pop by occasionally for tea and cakes, always get a kiss too,
Still got Tommo's rod and Billy's coat, sometimes I just go back and fish them two swims, with the rod and a big deadbait, I've never had a pike size of Billy's, never will their ghosts now,
had a sight one day though, the new pup, the black one lifted his head and murmured at a coupla fellas walkin the far bank, a big old boy and a blonde fella, hollered across the stream "You Ketchin" then disappeared under the willows,

Had a smile then.
 

Dave Spence

MD virtual champion 2020. Golden Pie winner 2018.
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Feb 19, 2017
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@Peter many thanks for re posting this. It really shows the brilliance of Micks writing. His descriptive powers were such that you didn't just read his stories, you actually saw them through his eyes. As everyone has already said, he will be really missed.

The forum became a poorer place yesterday.
 

Peter

'Mugger'
Staff member
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Sep 18, 2001
Messages
26,086
@Peter many thanks for re posting this. It really shows the brilliance of Micks writing. His descriptive powers were such that you didn't just read his stories, you actually saw them through his eyes. As everyone has already said, he will be really missed.
The weirdest part about it and it may well have had something to do with the couple of glasses I'd raised to toast Mick's memory, was that sitting down just after Midnight to edit all the various parts together I swear I could hear Mick's distinctive tones recounting the tale to me as clearly as if he was sitting on the sofa opposite me.
 

stikflote

Regular member
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Apr 18, 2004
Messages
9,291
I that could have been in a book , i remember reading it first time

its so very sad , you will always been remembered on MD

RIP Mick,

keith
 

D&G

D&G
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Joined
Mar 20, 2021
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Outstanding. I have searched for more but the search didn't go very far back in time, are there anymore gems?
I hope it is pleasing for his family to see the enjoyment he brought and friends he had made in the forum.

Such a shame he was taken so early.
 
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