Tales of Flotsam and Jetsam


Tales of Flotsam and Jetsam

My dad has been telling tales about family long gone this evening, I love listening to them.  They’re like windows into a world  that will be lost when he moves on, passes over, all those other euphemisms I prefer to use because I don’t ever want to imagine a life without him in it.  Mum and dads live forever don’t they?  Don’t answer that.

I always mean to write these anecdotes down but never seem to find the time.  The unwritten family history that no amount of digging in the family photo album will ever unearth does deserve recording I think.  That way these people aren’t just names on a family tree, they have characters.  A little bit of the spirit that ran through their veins may just have filtered through to the person I am today too.  (This is not a nature versus nurture blog, but it comes close)

Anyone who’s read my blog for any amount of time will be aware of my DishwasheredFishy stunt, which was in aid of the RNLI.  I live in the North West, far from the sea-shore and about the only boat I regularly come across is a narrowboat chugging up and down canals.  There’s not much call for Life-boats around here, Men-in-Waders maybe, but not dramatic splash launching, James-Bondesque speedy life saving boats.  Although I didn’t think about it at the time,  I like to think I inadvertantly chose this charity because something in my blood told me to.

You see way back on the family line on my dad’s side, they lived in Grimsby, and in particular – my Grandmother’s half-brother was a trawlerman on one of those huge steam powered Trawler ships.  I can imagine him being very grateful for the RNLI on dark, windy, storm-ridden nights when the boat careered from one side of a mountainous wave to another.

This isn't my relative, but it's a random photo of a trawlerman from that area at around that time. It might be him, who knows?

Going back to family tales, my dad also described how resourceful his half-uncle was.  I’m not sure whether to take this with a pinch of salt or other such fishy seasoning (maybe parsley), but I can definitely see how this particular incident could happen.  Anyone resourceful enough would be tempted I’m sure.

You see my dad went to visit his half-uncle, and as part of the visit he was taken down to the shore to see the steam powered trawler ships docked at harbour.  Obviously the trawlermen caught the fish, but it was all accounted for, and dad reckoned that they weren’t allowed to take any off the boat.   The punchline to the tale is that he remembers him arriving home and undoing his bulky sea-worthy coat which he no doubt thought was padded with cabled jumpers and waterproofing.  It was not padded with that kind of insulation at all,  it was simply stuffed with fish.  He’d smuggled a load of fish off the boat, bundled around his waist.  My dad reckoned that they were all hooked on like a fishy belt , but I think that might be the parsley talking. I can certainly imagine a ton of deep pockets stuffed with sardines.

At this point I hasten to add that even though I am distantly related to this man, and that there may very well be fishy influences hidden within my psche, I have never stolen fish.  The salmon I was given for dishwashing, was graciously donated.  I did not rob a fishmongers at gunpoint or anything.  Just sayin’

Steam Powered Trawlers, a gold mine for a fish smuggler apparently.

Another interesting  tale was that this same half-uncle had some unusual pets that he kept under the stairs.  I’ve never heard of anyone doing this before!  He kept live cockles and regularly fed them flour by scattering it over the surface of the water.  They are filterfeeders and I can imagine it fattened them up nicely.

I wish I knew this trawlerman’s name, it seems so impersonal to keep calling him dad’s half-uncle.  We do actually have a book that traces back my dad’s family tree, but it doesn’t include my grandmother’s side in any great detail at all.  I must sit down and find out names and places, and match the old stories with them before they’re lost in the ether.  I wonder what else remains of this man, what other tales have floated down through history, told to other far distant relatives I’m unlikely to ever meet or even know of.  I’d hate to think that all that he’s remembered for is that he stole fish and kept odd pets.

I suppose I hope I’ll be remembered too. ‘This is me and this is who I am!’  *Kay waves to great-great-great grandchildren who probably drive to work in flying cars and live in domes under the sea*  I’d love to know about you too you know.  Time does not work both ways unfortunately, I can only grab at the flotsam and jetsam that drifts down by word of mouth about those who came before me.  That is horrendously over wordy, but you catch my drift, I’m catching the memories in a blog net, smuggling them out of the past and into a future blurred by sea fog.  Someone stop me.  The salmon must have addled my brain.  God help those who follow down my lineage *Kay waves to great-great-great grandchildren again, and apologises in advance for the wonky genes.’*

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5 responses to “Tales of Flotsam and Jetsam

  1. funnily enough we were talking about this the other day, my grandparents are gone, I remember them fondly, but my children dont remember them, shortly all trace of them from this earth will be gone.
    One of the reasons I started my blog, so that my great grandchildren will have some insight into who I was and what part I played on their parents lives….for better or worse I suppose!!

  2. Well, I think you’ve found your next project there, don’t you? You’ve got me wanting to know more about trawlermen in Grimsby – not a particular interest of mine – so there’s one customer for your book!
    Seriously, Kay, get those stories written down. They are fascinating glimpses into a way of life that’s gone, and you have a knack for touching on deep emotions, then adding the humour before it gets too sentimental. I’ve gone from lump-in-the-throat to giggles in about two minutes.

  3. Aw, Elaine and Leah, I really, really appreciate your feedback, loads more than you probably realise. I’ve got a lump in my throat myself now simply because you’ve been nice enough to comment, and be so positive. Hugs to the both of ya! :O)

  4. Wow Kay!! How interesting!! My mum is completely and utterly hooked on Ancestry.com website! I think in fact she may have found her birth mother on there who as far as we know is alive and well.

    Keep on digging as the stories are so interesting and the way you write them, makes them doubly readable!

  5. Pingback: Guest post, Summer 2011 | SENESCENCE

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