Magazine article The Spectator

Death in the Afternoon

Magazine article The Spectator

Death in the Afternoon

Article excerpt

The sound of rain drumming on the roof of your caravan, day after day, night after night, even if you are on holiday, can get you down after a while. You start thinking you might as well be dead. So on the third day, tiring of Monopoly, and needing a change of scene, my ten-year-old son Mark and I ran to the car and Brave to the nearest indoor public swimming-pool.

The rain turned to hail on the way. When we arrived at the pool, the hailstones were so large and coming down with such force that we stayed in the car in case we got killed. Call me finicky, but I can think of better places to die than in the carpark at Wadebridge leisure centre. So Mark and I sat in the car listening to the hall drumming on the roof while I tried to remember whether the car was insured. And, if it was, whether the policy had said anything about hailstones the size of gobstoppers.

We sprinted for the entrance during a brief hiatus. I was just telling the lady behind the desk that we were one adult and one child and that we wanted to swim, when water started coming in through a crack in the ceiling. It was just a trickle at first, then something gave way and it became a cascading torrent and we had to step smartly out of the way to avoid a soaking. `Ooh!' said the lady. `Sorry about that.' Then she said, `Members or non-- members?'

The next day the rain stopped, a watery sun appeared, and we went mackerel fishing. We try to go every time we get down here on holiday. Numerous boats take tourists mackerel fishing off the north Cornwall coast, but we always go with the Emma Kate. Force of habit mainly, but we like Emma Kate because she is a proper working fishing boat, and because we also happen to like her skipper, a taciturn, easy-- going, chain-smoking teenager. On previous trips, if anyone got their lines tangled, he untangled them calmly, methodically and without reproach. If anyone decided, once they are out at sea, that they would rather sunbathe or play cards or read a crime novel than catch fish, it's been fine by him. You can really relax on the Emma Kate.

This year, however, we learned that owing to the weather the Emma Kate wasn't mackerel fishing yet. After much soul-searching we went out on the Baraka, a squat fibre-glass job run by a father and son. …

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