We are up and about early today Jimmy and me. I am hoping that he might show me how to *guddle a trout, or, even better, a salmon. Jimmy is my new stepdad, having married my Mother just a few weeks earlier.
The year is 1957. It is the start of the school summer holidays. I am 12 years old. Until just a few days ago I was living in London, England, and was a real city boy.
I had not seen my mum for a good few years, until she appeared suddenly, and without prior warning, at my foster home, and whisked me off to live the life of a country boy, in the land of her birth, Scotland.
It was the start of a completely new way of life for me, and for her, - this was the first settled home she'd had for many years - and for Jimmy her new husband. My apprehension about meeting him for the first time, was unwarranted, and my relationship with this dour, scar faced Scot, a man of very few words, has developed thus far, into that of acquaintances rather than friends.
As we skirted the fields of the neighbouring farm on our way to the river, Jimmy, shotgun cocked, was ever vigilant for game. It was not long before his little dog Scamp, disturbed a hare from it's sett, and said hare was quickly and expertly dispatched with one shot. Before being hidden beside a drystone *dyke, to be picked up on our homeward journey.
Scamp the dog, was a very scruffy black and white mongrel. With bad teeth and malodorous breath. A small, runt like, specimen of a collie. He had only recently acquired the name Scamp from my Mother. Jimmy, although he had owned the dog for about ten years had never seen the point of naming him. The poor little dog probably thought it's name was *'awa' tae me' or *'bugger aff'. Scamps rotten teeth and small size, were mainly down to the fact that his usual diet was bread and milk. With the occasional treat of the guts of whichever animal Jimmy had just shot, thrown to him.
To a city lad like me, who had only ever seen the mighty Thames river in London, the banks of the river Don in Aberdeenshire, were a wondrous place to be.
Rippling, tumbling, and sparkling, in one place, and then smooth as glass in another. Deep and dangerous here, and shallow enough to walk across there. Scattered granite rocks and boulders, tempted a young boy to hop from one to another. The occasional slip, and boot full of freezing water, a small price to pay for such joy. Islands of shingle were home to plovers, terns, and oyster catchers. Birds I had only ever seen illustrated in books, were here to see in abundant real life, and did not seem too concerned with the presence of humans.
This was a work day and it was soon time to head home. Jimmy worked at the local quarry, which was the place where he had acquired his scarred face, the result of a tragic accident that had taken the lives of several of his friends. The quarry, from which the granite to build the Thames embankment in far off London had come, was a five mile bike ride away from home. A ride he undertook in all weathers, and believe me the weather was often extreme in those parts. Mum told me, that apart from the war years, when he served in the army, he had never been late or missed a day in 40 years.
As we made our way back, we were forced into single file on a particularly narrow bit of bank. Suddenly Jimmy stopped, and signalled me to do the same, saying, *"haud on loon." Motioning me to stay low, he removed his jacket and rolled up the righthand sleeve of his shirt.
After taking a look along the bank in both directions, to ensure we were not being observed, he slowly and deliberately lay down on the bank. Carefully, he began to dip his hand into the water, until his arm was submerged up to the armpit. Holding tightly to Scamps collar I watched as Jimmy lay there, apparently motionless, for several minutes.
Suddenly, there was a terrific commotion, and thrashing and splashing, in the water. Jimmy rolled his body away from the bank edge, bringing his arm out of the water in a sweeping arc, and in his hand he held, clamped through its gills, a large struggling, silver flashing, fish. Which he threw backwards over his prone body onto the grass.
"Is it a salmon," I asked excitedly, as I watched Jimmy take a rock, and give the gasping fish, a knock on the head.
*"Aye laddie, richt eneuch," he answered. It was one of the few times I ever saw him smile. *"Dinna tell a'body."
guddle: catch a fish by tickling it.
awa' tae me: come here.
bugger aff: go away.
haud on loon: stay there boy.
Aye laddie, richt eneuch: Yes right enough.
Dinna tell a'body: Don't tell anyone.