The Roma lifestyle (though without a caravan or Channel 4 film crew in sight) that dominated May has now come to an end and I am able to spend a little more time at home.  Whilst my peripatetic life was great fun, it does play havoc with provisioning and the laundry and left quite a backlog of radio to listen to and BBC4 documentaries to watch.  It did also leave me waking in the morning and finding that my first coherent thought was “where am I?”.

Back in South Cambs, and with winter finally in abeyance, I am reminded how much fun it is to be at home.  A couple of weeks back, in that time I fondly like to remember as Summer 2013, the sun shone and it was even warm (well, as long as you could find some protection from the north wind).  By luck or skill, this coincided with not one, but both Harrises visiting Cambridge: as an event, very much on a par with a State visit, though – perhaps surprisingly – not accompanied by quite the same frenzy of attention from our sadly diminished Fourth Estate.

The plan was to have a pub crawl, though given damage to Harris’ foot (Harris, was fine) a suitably short route was needed.  Despite the constraints, Cambridge can offer a very fine collection of hostelries located in pretty Victorian back streets.  The Free Press and Elm Tree offered some very fine pints, enjoyed amid the sunny peace and quiet of a Cambridge afternoon.    We ended the afternoon at the more touristy (and famous) Eagle in the city centre.  I’m afraid that despite the venue, and the inspiration previously consumed, no major breakthroughs in genetics or biochemistry were forthcoming.  Harris did expound a number of theories to make hat-wearing more compatible with the positioning of the human ear and these may later be recognised as scientifically significant (though perhaps not up there with the double-helix).

As befitting men of our advanced years, there was no descent into public drunkenness and festivities were done by late afternoon with no-one breaching their RDA of ethanol.  The Harrises purchased the elements of a picnic to be consumed on the train home while I headed to the Indigo Café to enjoy its excellent bagels, cake and hot chocolate.  It really is a wonderful institution and I’d missed its victuals and friendly staff while I’d been gallavanting around these Isles.

It’s not just cafes and beer: on my first night back, Cambridge offered me an excellent concert by the Britten Sinfonia.  The return home has also allowed cooking, singing lessons, cycling , gym-going and sleeping in my own bed to resume.  So after a month of enforced dissipation (well, perhaps I may have contributed a little) I am now returning to that most desirable condition of “mens sana in corpore sano“.  All-in-all, Cambridge and environs conspire to remind of the splendid place I live – or maybe just to highlight that I’m not cut-out to be an international playboy, but do make a half-decent, if somewhat prosaic, homebody.

Fish Tales

I realised that I had mentioned Fish Towers in the last post, but have never explained Fish – who and wherefore he?  By the way, Fish Towers is one of the many aliases I use for my demesne in the (very slightly) rolling countryside of South Cambs.

So, in this blog I will tell you of Fish, and in particular of his genesis.  I should warn you that, in its original oral form, I can generally make this tale last over the course of several months – but I shall try and rein in some of my worst excesses and take brevity as my watchword in this written formulation.

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away… George Lucas imagined a series of science fiction films (if only he had also imagined some decent dialogue…).  For the purposes of this tale, we need only look back to the dying years of the last millenium and to the London borough of Southwark.  Harris (not his actual name, but the one I generally know him by) and I, after a hard day of graft in the service of electricity, repaired to the Mug House to partake of a battered pewter mug of bitter (or perhaps a warming glass of sercial).  We were joined in our conviviality by Harris (also not his actual name, but the only name I know him by).  I could explain Harris (and possibly Harris) and their nomenclature, but frankly this is usually where the story gets away from me – let’s just allude to BT engineers and leave it at that.

That evening, underneath the arches, was my first encounter with Harris – obviously, I had encountered Harris before as we shared an office in those halcyon days.  At some stage, over subsequent mugs of dark ale, Harris (not Harris) described me as “a rather highly spiced fish”.  At the end of the evening, we allowed a 4-CIG of Network Southeast to whisk (or rattle) us back to the various parts of Sussex where we were then resident.

In the days that followed (as is very much their wont) I found myself rather taken with Harris’ description of me, but felt it was rather a mouthful for every day use.  As a result, it was abbreviated to the Spicy Fish – a moniker I use to this day and which usefully shares the initials of the name with which I am registered with the UK state.  However, even this was too long for some occasions and it was divided into two quite separate appellations – Fish and Spicer.

At this stage I may need to make clear that I am both Fish and Spicer, or at least they both (generally) share my body and that which lies between my ears.  However, Fish and Spicer are also quite different people – Fish is the earthier of the two and is most known as a bibber; Spicer is a much more cultured individual, given to enjoying choral music and the finer things in life.  Perhaps oddly, Fish is the founder of the feast, as it is very much he who acts as host for any dinner parties I throw, lending his name as he does to “the Fish Suppers”.

Fish is also the source of the parenthetic generally used above: at a wedding in Ipswich many years ago I met a group of strangers who all knew Fish and regaled me with stories of the nights out they had spent together with my erstwhile counterpart.  Lest you think that ethanol may have played a part here, let me assure you that I do not drink to forgot, or drink and forget; these people had never met me before, though they had heard tell of some of my exploits.  Fish appeared to have declared independence from the more fuddy-duddy Spicer (and, indeed, me) and set out to pursue his own life.  At my advanced age, I find myself more of a mind with Spicer anyway, but it would be nice if Fish could report back on his escapades from time-to-time.

I presume finding that a named aspect of your personality has struck out on its own must be an experience common to most of my readers – but they do say “write what you know” (so I have).