The last few years have been verging on a Ray Mears survival expedition. Trying to keep hold of your sandwich in gale force winds whilst balancing a scorching cup of tea between your knees is challenging to say the least. Sand blowing into open mouths with every bite just adds to the flavour and so many additional layers of clothing makes moving impossible so we all just sit there, hunkered down in a sand dune, looking like we are having fun. No matter what the weather is doing, a birthday cake will appear from one of Mother's baskets and we all sing happy birthday as enthusiastically as possible until hysteria and tears of laughter ensue as my mother tries to light an indoor firework (on Dads birthday cake) outside... whilst a hideous "singing" candle whines out a tinny high-pitched rendition of "happy birthday" and we all look at each other with the same thought of accidentally burying that appalling "singing" candle so we will never have to hear it again!
This year, however, my Mother decided it would be "such fun" for the whole family to learn how to fish. Groans of negativity from my sister and I as we imagined a freezing, wet day out in a tiny boat in a small pond, bludgeoning fish to death as they pile up in the boat next to our pork pies. We also asked the pertinent question that surely if Daddy wanted to take up fishing, he would have done it before now. But my Mother reassured us that Daddy seemed quite keen because we were to be 'fly' fishing, not just 'fishing' fishing, on the banks of a gorgeous fresh water lake in Hampshire and the weather forecast was quite good. Well that didn't sound too bad at all. I did have visions of getting a few unwanted piercings from errants fish hooks or being dragged under the water by an over zealous trout. I imagined sighs of boredom from my nephews or disputes over fish size. A sudden downpour would certainly dampen spirits and ruin our picnic... but I can honestly and surprisingly say that there was not one mishap, one arguement, one accident or one drop of rain the entire day. The sun shone for 6 beautiful hours, our wonderful teacher Steve was kind and patient and encouraging, we all quickly got the hang of casting and within a few hours had all caught a fish or two (except my poor brother in law who only had an hour after lunch and the fish had gone to sleep). We had an amazing picnic in the sunshine and it was well... just wonderful. We all fell in love with fly fishing and I take my hat off to my Mother who came up with what we thought was a ludicrous idea but resulted in one of the best birthdays ever.
Just one thing to add... as we finished our lunch and sat back in the sun, happy and full, and took in the peaceful surroundings of the beautiful fishing lake in the middle of nowhere, listening to the distant cries of a Kestrel and the occasional sound of a jumping fish, my Mother started rifling around in a basket and the silence was suddenly and hideously broken by the bloody "singing" candle!