The fish man cometh

When I was a child in the 1960s, we used to have weekly visits from the fish man.

I think it was a Tuesday. Or maybe a Wednesday. What I do know is that it always seemed to be the same time as Animal Magic was on. The television our babysitter, my older brother would be doing his usual thing of torturing me while my mother and father were out milking the cows. The sound of the fish van coming down the road past the backdoor was a signal for my brother releasing me from the late afternoon headlock to fetch my mother.

Not surprisingly, in my mind I mixed up ‘Fishy’ Carbin with the TV show presenter Johnny Morris. They were both smiley, avuncular types. The only difference I could see was that one was on television and the other was at the back gate with his van.

I can visualise Johnny Morris now, in his zookeeper’s uniform, feeding fish to the sea lions at Bristol Zoo. And I can picture ‘Fishy’ Carbin, in a light grey or brown coat, beaming over the array of fish in the back of his van as my mother decided what to buy. He would spread his arm across from left to right, like the weather forecasters do now on the telly.

Every time the fish van came, we always seemed to buy kippers. That can’t be right, though. I can’t believe that all we would choose when confronted by a cornucopia of fresh fish would be kippers. I don’t remember eating them but then it did coincide with a childhood phase in which the only thing I ate was chocolate teacakes and raw sausages.

The reason for all this nostalgia is because the memories came flooding back this week when the village had a surprise visit from a fish van. It was stuffed with fish and seafood of all varieties, freshly caught. John Dory, live lobster, crabs.

I had to pop my head out of the front door – which I only use currently on Thursday nights for the weekly clap for carers – to see it for myself. It could just as easily have been a cart of gold bullion, I was so excited.

We plumped for a dozen scallops in their shells for a fiver, later raising a glass to our good fortune at this surprise visit, which is apparently going to be the same time every week.

What with that and our community stores, and the fortnightly fish and chip van, we’re not doing so badly here at all.

I’m enjoying the solitude and time to think. I just wish the pub could re-open.

That’s about it.

Love Maddie x

By Maddie Grigg

Maddie Grigg is the pen name of former local newspaper editor Margery Hookings. Expect reflections on rural life, community, landscape, underdogs, heritage and folklore. And fun.

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