Notes on what follows.

December 10, 2009

This page has been created for the purpose of displaying the journal that (having finally caught up with all the back years in 1998) I have been writing each year concerning the annual Barclays Bank Inter-District Sea Angling Competition. It has various interruptions and digressions but broadly speaking comprises a chapter for each year that I have taken part in it – i.e. from 1984 onwards. 

The way that WordPress works means that the latest posting is always at the top of the page – great for a normal blog but not so good if you are trying to publish something that needs the earliest entries at the top so that it can be read downwards without the reader having to jump back to the top of each new chapter!

However, in the “edit” facility I have the power to change the “published on” date to whatever I want. So, if I change it so that the latest chapter added has the EARLIEST date everything will come out in the easiest possible order for reading.

That’s what I’ll do then.

Just read from the top and ignore the (apparent but false) date of the posting.

I’d also like to draw attention to the comment just below the title of this “blog” . All personal names (except those I’ve overlooked by accident) are restricted to First Name plus first letter of Surname – mainly because I haven’t asked any of the people concerned if they would care to be identified by their full name.

If you’re reading this and want to be called by your full name please let me know. 

UPDATE:

For ease of reading I have decided to break the re-dated Chapters into (roughly) 5 year chunks. I have re-dated this bit to December, the 2 part Introduction to November so that you can narrow it down by using the “Archive” facility in the side bar to the right of the text. The Chapters may be found as follows:

Up to and including 1989  – September 2009

Up to and including 1994 – August 2009

Up to and including 1999 – July 2009

Up to and including 2004 – June 2009

Up to and including 2009 – May 2009

Alfie

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Introduction (1)

November 11, 2009

As I begin to write this the BarclayTrust Taxation Service (my employer) is on the point of being sold off and the 1997 Barclays Inter-district Sea Angling competition is still a few days away. As this may be the last such competition with which I will be involved this would seem to be a good time to set down my memories of the previous matches that I have attended. 

Please bear in mind while reading this that after even as comparatively short a time as 13 years memories become corrupted by conflicting recollections, misapprehensions at the time, different viewpoints and stories being embellished in the retelling. Consequently if you, the reader, attended any of these events and remember them differently do not worry about it. I have tried to ensure that, whether or not they turn out to be the strict truth or ‘artistic licence’ the events in these memoirs could have happened, and almost certainly did happen, as I remember them now. I believe that, in some instances the humour of the situation is much more important than the absolute, literal truth of it. If you still have a problem with that please feel free to write your own version and we will compare notes! 

I would like to thank ALL of those who appear by name in what follows, as well as the unnamed majority who have come and gone over the years, for providing me with a fun experience every year since 1984. I am particularly grateful, for reasons that will become clear, to Ian H., Mike J. and David Sh. and I hope that some of us at least will be able to continue fishing together in the future even if it has to be under a new banner. 

David S. 18.11.1997

Editorial comment added 22.11.2004 – What a pessimist!  Still going strong 7 years on!

Introduction (2)

November 10, 2009

Since I wrote the previous introduction 7 years and 8 matches have taken place and I feel that it needs bringing up to date. I do not, however, wish to change anything I said there so will leave the original as it is. 

Apart from the event that took place in Great Yarmouth shortly after the first version was written all subsequent matches have been in Dover (True up to and including 2006 – after that you’ll have to wait and see! DS) and while this will continue if no-one has an alternative venue to offer it has been remarked recently that it is becoming difficult to tell each year’s match apart. For my part I have had to perhaps concentrate on aspects of our 3 days away having less to do with the fishing and more to do with the socialising than previously – after all I can only describe the Dover venues so many times without boring my audience. Some of my colleagues, however, never fail to do amusing stuff to give me something to write about! 

With the changes to rules about “eligible” competitors and “guests” the teams have changed over this later period and may well do so again. With this in mind I shall take no chances and revise the “thanks” bit to cover  (in no particular order) David Sh. (87 to 99), Ian H. (87 to date), Mike J. (88 to date) David T. (95 to date with us but there since before I started), Iain S. (95 to date), Mike T. (95-96), Gary C. (95 to date) Keith P. (97 to date) and Kim F. (98 to date). Thanks guys! 

Finally, a word about the distribution of this document. The first “print” of it ran to the end of the 1998 match and copies were given to Mike J., Ian H., David Sh. (who were involved in most of it and for whom I, to some extent, wrote it), and Gary C. (who expressed an interest). It was not intended to be “published” as such although I have never made any secret of the fact that I was writing it each year.  Lately I have been asked if I would distribute it to a slightly wider audience and as I like to oblige people I will probably do so. However, to avoid offending anyone I must reiterate that this is a document written primarily for my own amusement. It is, as stated above, my own fallible recollection of how things happened and I am NOT interested in getting into any arguments, legal or otherwise, with anyone who recalls things differently! As stated in the first introduction – if you disagree, write your own version and send me a copy. I will not argue with you about it – it’s only a few fishing matches for heavens sake!

 David S. 28.11.2004

Chapter 1 – History

September 9, 2009

As background information I should explain that the Competition of which I shall be writing had been running for some years in its present format before I began attending. It began in 1975 as a Beach fishing match for staff of Barclays International, continued with invited guests from other parts of the Barclays Group and finally became a full Inter-district match when International’s Sports Club was merged with the “main” Bank Sports Club. There appears to be no good reason why the trophy fished for each year is, in fact, a representation of a leaping Salmon – not a fish normally caught from Britain’s beaches!

 This trophy is named for the man who originally donated it to Barclays International, George Elce, formerly the Manager of Barclays International’s 168, Fenchurch Street, London office. The full title on the engraved plate on this trophy is “The 168 George Elce Sea Trophy”. I have managed to obtain a full listing of the winning teams shown on it and this appears as Appendix 1 to this memoir together with venues, locations of hotels and ‘Runner up’ teams where I have been able to ascertain them. Please do not go looking at the Appendices first – it might spoil the fun!

 Mr Elce’s taxation affairs were, from our arrival in Peterborough in 1993, until 1998, dealt with by David T. who, coincidentally, has probably been part of the winning team more often than any other single individual still fishing for this trophy. David keeps him in touch with the fate of the trophy each year and passes on information concerning the (sadly) diminishing numbers of people that he would remember taking part in the early days. I do not think that George himself ever fished for his own trophy.

 I first became aware of this competition while working at the Trust Company office in Norwich. The Norwich District of the bank had a quite active Sea Angling section under the leadership of Colin P., a clerk at Lowestoft Central branch, and I attended some of their own matches in response to local circulars. One of these, held at North Beach, Great Yarmouth in the autumn of 1981 was “billed” as a selection match for the team to compete in the National Competition.

 While I did not catch very much at all and would not have qualified, I gained the distinct impression that the team had already been selected and that advertising it in this way was merely a ploy to satisfy the local Bank Sports club that democracy was at work! I did, however, hear a great deal about the competition which, at that time, was held on Chesil Beach each year with accommodation provided in Weymouth. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had out-fished all of the ‘regulars’ at that match resulting in Colin having to select me!

 I gathered that while the fishing was to be taken very seriously the opportunity for a good time with “the lads” was not going to be wasted. I have tried to keep this order of priority in mind during my years of taking part and I think that if you ask “regulars” whether they think of BarclayTrust (or whatever we may be called now) as a team of serious anglers or people who turn up for a good time the answer would probably be “both”! I would count that a great success.

 Incidentally, the annual Norwich District selection match gradually grew by word of mouth to include “guests” from other regions including Basil S. (for many years the organiser of the “National”) and myself (as a former “resident” of that District).

 After a while this was opened up to nearby Districts extending through East Anglia to London and became known as “The East Coast Trophy” match.

 To those of us not able to go fishing on any kind of regular basis this provided a useful “opener” to the Autumn/Winter season, giving us an opportunity to loosen up casting muscles and find out exactly what tackle needed replacing before the main event that is the subject of the rest of this tale.

Chapter 2 – 1984 – Weymouth.

September 8, 2009

I did not succeed in qualifying for the Norwich District team in 1982 and by 1983 two important things had changed. I had been transferred to the Trust Company office in Chelmsford in the January of that year and had become a parent in the April. Even if I had been able to make contact with the Bank’s local Sea Anglers by the Autumn it would have felt rather unsporting, not to say selfish, to disappear for two nights leaving Faith, my wife to do all of the “night duties” that little H. required.

 Over the winter of 1983 I did, however, get to know most of the Barclays fishermen of the area through several boat trips in the Thames estuary and discovered that there had previously been insufficient interest from that region to enter a team. After some discussion it was agreed that John W of Maldon branch would organise an entry in the 1984 ‘National’ and that he and I would take part along with Frank C and Geoff T, both messengers at High Street, Chelmsford branch.

 For transport John arranged, through his involvement with the PTA, to borrow a minibus from Hatfield Peverel Junior School to take the four of us and our gear to Weymouth. Because we did not know our way round the maze of Sports Club expenses claims and entitlements we did not realise that we could have done what most other teams had done and stayed for Thursday and Friday nights at the hotel. Consequently we arranged to drive down overnight to arrive in time for the match on the Friday morning.

 I was duly picked up by John at about 1a.m. and we proceeded via the Dartford Tunnel and the still incomplete M25 towards Dorset. It was a bitterly cold night and as we travelled west below London towards the M3 we were surprised to see that, despite steaming along at a steady 70mph the engine temperature needle was moving slowly towards ‘cold’! Eventually the engine died and we drifted to a halt, suspecting electrical failure. Geoff disproved this, however, by lifting the bonnet and slapping his hand down on to the engine block! It was stone cold and we then realised that with the sub-zero external temperature and the heater on full blast we had been drawing off the heat faster than the engine could produce it! All that remained was to put on lots of extra clothing (luckily we had brought plenty for the match) turn off the heater, apply lots of choke and restart the engine.

We reached Weymouth at about 6 a.m. without further incident and decided to go straight to the Crown Hotel, not with any expectation of booking in, but mainly to use the toilets and to try to get a cup of coffee. A very kind night porter took pity on our frozen state and after checking to see which rooms we would be booked into later he took us to the dining room and told the kitchen staff that it was OK for us to have a full breakfast. This never appeared on our bill!

 As the morning progressed the wind increased until by about 10am a full blown gale was roaring in from the south-west meaning that it would have been blowing straight at us on Chesil beach. The organisers, not having an alternative venue arranged, declared that this would be a “free range” match meaning that we could fish wherever we liked provided we were back at the rear of the hotel for the weigh-in by 6 p.m. Not knowing the area we opted for the pier at the entrance to the harbour as this had shelters on it. While this meant slogging round the outside of the security fence surrounding the ferry port it did, at least, provide some shelter. Some braver souls, the Maidstone team (of whom much more later) set up on the other, unprotected wall of the harbour while yet others ranged far afield to try to find a sheltered beach. They mostly finished up trying to squeeze in onto our pier later!

 At the end of the match we found that we had finished in 5th place (I think) out of 12 which we regarded as a creditable debut. The match was won by my old friends from Norwich rather fortunately, Maidstone having effectively thrown victory away by their chosen location mentioned above.

 They had been catching steadily in their exposed position and were quite happy with things until the arrival in the harbour of the daily ferry from the Channel Islands. This huge vessel, which was no less than ten hours late because of the bad weather, cruised sedately into the harbour causing no problems at all but then, in order to make contact with the mooring it put its side thrusters on at full power! This displaced an enormous wall of water around both ends of the ship creating a surge towards the other wall where the Maidstone team was fishing.

 We were surprised afterwards to learn that none of the team had been carried away by the wave that washed over them but they did lose several of their best fish as well as a certain amount of tackle. They still managed to finish second! David T, then working in a Banking Branch in the Maidstone area, who was a part of that team told me later that, such was the amount of water involved, their Tilley lamps were completely submerged for some seconds but continued burning as if nothing had happened.

Back at the Hotel we had time for a nice hot bath before the presentation dinner and (quite) a few drinks. I was in the fortunate position of knowing another team (Norwich) as well as my own and we soon made the acquaintance of many others. It is a curious thing, however, that after 13 years (written in 1997, DS) of seeing some of these people each year I still cannot put very many of their names to the faces even though we all tend to greet each other like long lost friends. I am not sure whether this says something about them or about me but I am given to understand that many others among these ‘once a year friends’ experience the same thing.

 My other enduring memory of that first trip concerns John W who drove the minibus as mentioned above from Chelmsford to Weymouth and back without a “relief” driver and with very few (intentional) stops. He managed to keep himself (and us) awake through both trips by an absolutely non-stop barrage of jokes. These were almost all jokes that I had never heard before and he did not repeat himself in nearly 400 miles of driving. To this day I do not know how he did it or, indeed, why he has never taken up Stand up Comedy professionally!

Chapter 3 – 1985 – Weymouth again.

September 7, 2009

Despite the fact that C, our second daughter, had been born in May Faith obviously saw how much I had enjoyed the 1984 Match and raised no objections whatsoever when I somewhat carefully broached the possibility of doing the same thing again. Fortunately young C liked to sleep at night rather more than her older sister had at that age and this may well have tipped the scales.

 Once again John borrowed the school bus but this time we travelled down to Weymouth during the Thursday afternoon, parking, as I recall, on waste ground at the rear of the Crown Hotel which by the time we next visited in 1990 had become the car park to a large d-i-y store.

 Arriving on the Thursday we were able to send John to the traditional Captains meeting at which the match rules, conditions and venue were discussed. This left the rest of us at a loose end in the bar and it was here that Geoff began to earn his legendary reputation as a player of fruit machines. Unfortunately his skills in this regard were more along the lines of quickly getting the hang of the rules for each machine rather than actually taking money OUT of them! After the meeting we went out with several other groups on a tour of the harbour side pubs and then returned to the hotel where the night porter kept the ‘residents’ bar open until the early hours of the morning.

 I do not remember very much about the actual match (not because of the night before!) but I think we astounded everyone by coming in 4th or possibly even 3rd. I do recall that we did make it to Chesil beach this time, parking at Abbotsbury. There was quite a large tide running and I recall finding it very difficult to cast into the large breakers. There was no possibility of spotting a bite – you cast out and reeled in 10 minutes later to see if you had anything!

 It was slowly becoming apparent to us comparative newcomers that there was a kind of brooding enmity between the Maidstone and Norwich teams, particularly the two captains, Colin P of Norwich and Paul D of Maidstone. If Norwich accidentally (or deliberately – we could not tell) infringed or misinterpreted any of the rules it seemed to us that Paul would not hesitate in drawing this to the attention of other teams. Similarly Colin would never miss an opportunity to put an adverse slant on what he considered unfair ‘professionalism’ on the part of Maidstone. This usually related to Paul’s practice of taking a whole week off work prior to the match in order to fish different parts of the likely venue at different states of tide to give his team a good idea of what to expect. This was thought ‘unsporting’ by Colin (and others) and perhaps not surprisingly gave rise to slanderous remarks about exactly when the fish Maidstone were weighing in had been caught! Most of us, however, while feeling a little envious, felt that this was exactly what we would have done given the time and the money.

 In the case of this match the story was put about that the Maidstone team had collected their winning catch by fishing into the Fleet, the calm arm of salt water separating Chesil beach from the ‘mainland’ thus avoiding the tackle losses that the rest of us were suffering. It was maintained by some that this constituted fishing ‘off-peg’ (i.e. cheating) but it should be made clear in their defence that not only did they not fish in the Fleet but that it would not have mattered if they had as this was a ‘roving’ match with no fixed pegs. In fact, I am assured by David T that they fished ‘outwards’ to the sea, albeit a long way out of sight of the rest of us, at a spot that Paul had selected in his practice sessions. While only a few people commented openly either way I am ashamed to say that most of us simply believed what it suited us to believe in order to account for our not winning!

 These niggling little disputes gradually got worse over the years, culminating in 1992, as I will relate in due course.

 At the Friday night dinner, after the presentation of trophies, the organiser, Basil S, then of the Barclays International office at 168 Fenchurch Street, London, announced that it had been decided to move our match around the country a bit more in coming years, the Sports Club having gained the impression that Weymouth was a long way from all teams involved, giving rise to higher than necessary expenses claims.  Basil assured us that he had pointed out that wherever we held the competition someone was bound to have a higher claim, counteracting the lower claims of the ‘host’ region. I am not totally convinced of the veracity of Basil’s story to the effect that the person from the Sports Club had asked, in all seriousness, why this competition could not be held somewhere central – like Birmingham!

Basil’s alleged reply was to the effect that he did not think that the tide came in that far!

Scoring

September 6, 2009

I notice at this point that I have made no mention of the scoring system used at these matches. While this has changed of late and seems to be in a state of evolution at present, the system in force (with one or two exceptions) up to the mid-1990s was a version of that used in team cross-country races.

There were normally 48 competitors in 12 teams and each individual weighed in separately. The top weight was given 48 points (or whatever number matched the number of competitors) and so on down to the point where those weighing in nothing all scored nothing.

 The problem with this system is that it is better for the team to have all four members weighing in small catches than one member with a large catch and the rest with nothing. This point was not lost on the protagonists mentioned above and unsupported allegations of “catch sharing” were often being whispered around. I do not believe that this did go on but it was always tempting. However, I decided long ago that winning the trophy by this sort of means would not allow me to look my fellow competitors in the face and was not, therefore, worth it.

 As a result I am pleased to say that I have never heard the faintest hint of a suggestion of this kind of action ever being levelled at either John W’s teams or my own later Trust Company teams.

Chapter 4 – 1986 – Anglesey

September 5, 2009

This was the first of our ‘round the regions’ trips and the Chelmsford team got off to what we thought was a bad start when neither Geoff T nor John W could manage the date set. I recall that this was rather earlier than the previous two matches (late October as opposed to middle to late November) but cannot remember why they were unable to attend. After extensive phoning around by John he was eventually able to find more than adequate replacements, Kelvin M and Mike S, both whom I knew to be excellent anglers from winter boat fishing trips. Frank C and I were both happy to appoint Mike as Captain and he showed that he was taking it all quite seriously by holding a team meeting at a local pub some weeks before the match – we thought that was taking it all a bit too seriously!

 Mike had been in touch with the famous Essex charter boat skipper John Rawle, for whom he ‘crewed’ in his spare time and through him had made contact with an experienced angler in Holyhead. This contact had resulted in various bits of advice and information on venues and bait that were to prove invaluable.

 Obviously, without Mr W, we had to make different arrangements to normal with regard to travelling and it was agreed that as Mike and Kelvin both had managerial responsibilities which would result in their not being able to leave until late afternoon, Frank and I would go in my car. We set out at about 11am and worked our way round the M25, M1, M6 and M54 to Shrewsbury where we joined the A5 which winds through Snowdonia and across Anglesey to Holyhead. This was my first experience of driving through what pass for mountains in the UK and as a lifelong resident of the flatlands of East Anglia I was extremely disconcerted by the sheer drops occurring only feet from the edges of the road. At least I had the road to concentrate on which was more than Frank did and he was nearer the edge than I was! He was not a young man when we started and from occasional sideways glances, I could almost see him getting years older by the minute!

 As we came out of the mountains near Bangor it began to pour with rain and we crossed almost all of Anglesey in poor visibility – indeed I was not to see the island properly for another 6 years when on a family holiday I found that it was a very drab place and I had not missed anything after all!

We arrived at our destination, the Treaddur Bay Hotel on Holy Island, in time to have a walk around before darkness fell and it seemed that Treaddur Bay would itself make a good venue for the match if the previously arranged location was not available for any reason. The hotel was plainly intended for family summer holidays and we found that most of the Barclays people had been placed in a series of bungalows and apartments outside of the hotel proper. We were in a first floor apartment with two bedrooms, a lounge (with television) and its own kitchen. Fortunately we were not required to cook our own meals but were allowed to use the hotel’s restaurant! The kitchen was, however, to come in handy later.

 Having eaten we awaited the arrival of Mike and Kelvin in the bar adjacent to both reception and the restaurant and they arrived at about 8pm, just before they stopped serving meals to those of us on the ‘Barclays package’.

For some reason (possibly having to do with the journey – even the ‘home’ team had to come some distance) the evening before the match was more subdued than usual.

 However, we did get to hear of one incident. A member of one team (no, I do not know which one) had to be ‘helped’ back to the hotel by a couple of policemen after becoming ‘tired and emotional’ during an evening in a night-club in Holyhead! He was apparently sitting on the low wall surrounding the Hotel grounds waving goodbye to these officers when he tumbled backwards over it cutting his head open, fortunately not seriously. His roommate, faced in the early hours of the morning with this bleeding, drunken apparition, would not allow him into the room and he spent an unpleasant night on the sofa.

 The morning of the match was warm and sunny with not a breath of wind which caused no end of confusion to those who had been present for the last two years – what were we to do with all these layers of warm clothing and heavyweight waterproofs?! The answer turned out to be to leave them in the car.

 After breakfast our first task was to drive into Holyhead and collect our bait from a tackle shop in town (also recommended by John Rawle’s friend). Amongst other varieties of worm this comprised the largest ‘King’ Ragworm that I have ever seen. When held by the head these were all over a foot long and I hoped that they would not scare the fish the way that they scared me! For the benefit of the uninitiated Ragworm (which resemble giant centipedes) possess pincers in their heads to hold on to their food and these ones were so large that you could hear them clicking together as you went to pick one up. Cowards like me would take no chances with these locking on to a finger and would cut off the top inch or so of the worm before attempting to put it on a hook! This seemed to make no difference to the worm’s activity or attractiveness to fish.

After that it was on to the match venue, Holyhead Breakwater, which necessitated going off the beaten track across wasteland to follow the course of an old dock railway line which used to run out along that structure. This ‘Breakwater’ requires some description particularly to those who visualise, as I did, a concrete jetty protruding a short way into the sea. In fact this outer wall to Holyhead harbour is over 1½ miles long and it is possible to drive right to the end! The lower level which faces the inner harbour is more than wide enough for two cars to pass and therefore for anglers to park their vehicles on the side away from the ‘open’ water. From this level steps lead up at intervals to the ‘promenade’ level, a walkway some 10 feet wide bordered on the seaward side by a four feet high concrete parapet. Over this wall there was a thirty foot or so drop to the sea necessitating quite heavy ‘crane-driving’ tackle.

 On the advice of our resident expert (whom we never did meet) we stopped at a particular point about half a mile out (the walls had painted numbers at regular intervals for pegged fishing matches – which this was not) and our fellow competitors seemed to think that we were mad not to join them in a race for the end of the wall.

 We were soon getting bites, however, and while most of the fish landed had to be returned as too small we each slowly accumulated a collection of ‘weighable’ fish. Most of these were Wrasse, a very colourful fish, but you had to be very quick to catch them as they would grab the bait and then head smartly for the jumble of small boulders making up the seabed at that point. You would then, unless your rod, line and reel were strong enough, lose all of your terminal tackle in the rocks. Frank and I were particularly susceptible to this problem and after we collected a few acceptable fish each we found that, despite preparing by bringing extra weights, our supplies of these were running dangerously low. Reluctantly therefore we abandoned our upper station and sat on the edge of the lower level fishing into the harbour. While fish were, unfortunately, rather scarce from that point (I do not actually remember catching anything there) it was a glorious day for sitting in the sun and I believe that this was the only one of these trips that I returned from with sunburn! (Wrong! – see 1994. DJS)

At the end of the match Frank and I weighed in some smallish Wrasse, Kelvin some quite good Wrasse but Mike surpassed us all with a collection of Wrasse plus two good sized Mullet – quite a rarity in open sea! With the others so scattered along the length of the Breakwater we had no idea how well we might have done and had to wait for the results back at the hotel.

Before the presentation dinner we, as usual, had time for a hot bath and a bit of a rest and on emerging from the bathroom I found our apartment filled with the most atrocious smell. I should mention that after these matches any edible fish are either bagged and put in the hotel freezer or given to someone (usually a Cat owner) who specifically asked for them. Non-edible fish are ‘recycled’ by throwing them back into the sea. It transpired that in addition to the Mullet, which were definitely edible, Mike had brought back the Wrasse, which are not usually eaten, and was gutting and cleaning them in our kitchen sink. I think that some part of the normal Wrasse diet (crustaceans, barnacles etc.) must produce an unusual chemical reaction which results in a hideous stench! At any rate we were obliged, for the sake of future residents as well as our coming night’s sleep to go down to the meal leaving all of the windows open. I never did discover why Mike wanted to take the Wrasse home!

 When the results were announced we learned that Mike was in 1st place and Kelvin in 4th place. Frank and I were 13th and 10th respectively – personal bests for both of us. Despite these excellent placings the Maidstone team had claimed 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th places leaving us runners-up for the trophy. We were, however, presented with ‘silver’ goblets (the silver wore off after only a few polishes!) and Mike won another for ‘best total catch’. This was the first trophy of any sort that I had ever won for anything and I still experience a warm inner glow when I think of it.

 Many months later I read the AGM minutes of the Chelmsford Local Head Office Sports Club and recall that we were mentioned as one of the area’s sporting successes of the year 1986. That felt good too although it does not say much for the Region’s achievements in other sports!

I understood from chats after dinner that we were nearly pushed out of 2nd place by one member of (I think) the South West Region team. He had been fishing into the harbour, although much further out than Frank and I, when he got an enormous ‘bite’. He wound in his line very slowly and carefully and was amazed to see the head of a huge Conger Eel break the surface. He may have taken too long, however, because this hefty fish apparently glared at him, bit straight through his hook trace and vanished back to the depths. The angler in question was not at all bothered by this and was happy to have foregone at least one trophy for the sake of not having had to land and keep this monster safely until the weigh in!

 Of the journey home with Frank on the Saturday morning I remember very little except that the M54 from Shrewsbury to Birmingham was virtually deserted so I indulged a secret desire to see just how fast my Astra GL could go!  I believe I got to somewhere just over 110 mph before Frank started to look anxious again and I took pity on him!

Chapter 5 – 1987 – Hastings

September 4, 2009

Following the ‘success’ of the previous year I was told by John W early in the summer of 1987 that great interest had been shown in joining the team for that autumn. It seemed to me that, having found something outside of both home and work that I could look forward to each year, I was in danger of missing out on this through the ‘lottery’ of a selection match.

 In the course of this conversation I learned that John had been required by the constitution of the Bank Sports Club to check with the Secretary of the BarclayTrust Association (to which all Trust Company staff belonged automatically) each year that I was free to fish for him. The rule was that subsidiary Companies such as BBTC had first call on their own staff but if not required they could fish for the geographical Bank Region in which they worked. Knowing this, and that there had been no Trust Company team in any of the three competitions that I already been in, I decided that the best way to ensure attendance at Hastings was to form my own team. I could then control the selection process and, as captain, pick myself each year!

 This was obviously a brilliant idea, if for no other reason than that the plan has worked for eleven consecutive matches now and the fact that I may now have reached the end of the line is down to Corporate strategic decisions entirely outside of my control!(Written in 1997, DS)

 Of course to form a team you need other members and knowing that there were no interested parties at either the Norwich or Chelmsford offices I had to resort to advertising (i.e. sending out a ‘Sports and Social’ circular to all Trust Company offices). This brought forth only a single joint reply from David Sh and Ian H both then at the Eastbourne Office and (I hoped) with plenty of practice at fishing on the South Coast. I already knew Ian from a 1980 tax course. While I was unable to find a fourth member for the team I went ahead with arranging our entry and for the organiser, Basil S, to book accommodation for us. I also arranged with John W to ‘cadge’ a lift in his minibus as we were all going from the same area.

 Incidentally, it transpired that the anticipated rush of applications for my place in the team did not materialise and I was, eventually, replaced by John’s son Andrew who had just joined the Bank. Frank C and Geoff T also returned – Kelvin and Mike not being available this time.

Shortly before the match I discovered that because Eastbourne was so close to Hastings the Bank would not sanction an overnight stay for David and Ian despite the fact that the after-match presentation dinner could run on quite late. As this would have meant them having to travel early Friday morning and for one of them at least to refrain from drinking after the match I felt that this was rather unfair on them. I decided that I would let the booking stand and worry about it later.

 Two weeks or so before the match took place the UK suffered the infamous October 1987 gales, which struck the South coast of England particularly fiercely. The Queens Hotel where we were to stay was, we found out later, very badly hit, with one resident being killed by part of the roof falling in on his room and carrying everything down another floor until stopped by the strongroom ceiling of the Barclays branch which occupied the ground floor of the building at that point. I understand that this poor man’s wife survived because she became entangled in the mattress of their bed and this both broke her fall and shielded her from masonry coming down on her!

 She would perhaps have been more fortunate had she been staying there during the bombing raids of World War II – an internet search for the Queens Hotel brought the interesting fact that “In one of the more bizarre incidents, a bomb hit the roof of the Queens Hotel but bounced from there to the Albany Hotel before exploding killing Canadian soldiers. The Albany was completely destroyed”!

By the time we arrived repairs were in hand, as they were throughout the country, but matters requiring building materials were progressing slowly due to the demand. It was not surprising, therefore, that there was very little glass in the dining room windows (making breakfast something best eaten with one’s coat on) and that various leaks continued to occur through the tarpaulin that was serving as a large part of the roof. The rooms themselves were large, the whole place being much ‘grander’ than the hotels we usually frequented and I had a large four-poster bed to myself. My former colleagues from Chelmsford, however, were obviously nearer to one of the above mentioned leaks because, while they had hot and cold running water in their rooms it was running through the pipes that served as electrical conduits and out through the switch! I believe that they went to bed on both nights with the aid of torches rather than turn the lights on.

 David and Ian turned up after work on the Thursday in time for the evening meal and we began a tradition of going out to at least one local pub rather than staying in the hotel (where the beer is usually over-priced rubbish) for the evening. I cannot for the life of me remember anything about the pub(s) we visited on this occasion which means that they either were not very memorable or we had a great time!

 The match was, because of the uncertain state of the beaches due to the gales, to be fished on Hastings pier by kind permission of the local angling club which closed it (for fishing purposes) to members of the public for the day. The match was not pegged and the pier was so close to the hotel that a kind of ‘le Mans’ start occurred with teams racing to get to the end where the best fishing is usually found.

 It is at this point that my recollection of events differs drastically from that of David T (who was a part of the Maidstone team who were hosts and organisers that year). I, in common with many others present, recall quite clearly being told by Paul D at the Captains meeting not to fish from the lower level of the pier because this was dangerous. We were extremely annoyed, therefore, to find the Maidstone team, who had sportingly allowed the rest of us to go racing off, setting up on the lower level! We felt that, being near the water they would be more in touch with the fish and so it proved with Maidstone coming out easy winners.

There was considerable annoyance back at the Hotel and you may be sure that Colin P took maximum advantage of what was almost certainly a simple misunderstanding in his ongoing battle with Paul! Unfortunately, never having particularly taken to Paul as a person and having personally perceived an example of what I considered ‘sharp practice’ it was always difficult in the future to disregard completely Colin’s propaganda.

 As far as my new team was concerned we all weighed in and I’m sure finished in the top half of the results table. I was worried that I was going to let the side down and ‘blank’ and it was only in the last half hour that I managed to collect a pair of Dabs just over the size limit! I put this down to injury – during the daylight part of the match I had reached down to pick up my weight from the deck of the pier and gashed the tip of one finger on a piece of glass! It refused to stop bleeding and I had been obliged to waste a great deal of time running around my fellow anglers to try to find someone with an Elastoplast. I eventually managed to get one from the First Aid kit in the office of the Amusement Arcade manager at the shore end of the pier but the cut continued to bleed all through the rest of the match and was still going when we got back to the hotel. I should probably, with hindsight have got a stitch put in it but that seemed a rather wimpish course of action so I just ignored it and did my utmost to make up the fluid loss in other ways! Ever since 1987 my tackle box has always contained a box of plasters and a tube of Savlon!!

We were never really in with a chance of winning with only three in the team given the scoring system previously mentioned but all agreed to try again next year and to do our utmost to acquire a fourth team member.

 Finally, as neither I nor anyone else involved will be with the bank when this is read, I can reveal how the Hotel bill was paid at no personal cost to Ian, David or myself.

 We were allowed to claim back from the National Sports Club (in our case via the BarclayTrust Association) £20 per person per night plus travelling expenses equal to 2nd class Rail fare. If one did not expect full payment for petrol these items were always enough to cover the ‘Bed, Breakfast and Evening meal’ package that was negotiated for us but it was the £80 relating to Ian and David’s overnight stay that was disallowed. Even with the reduction that the hotel kindly gave us for their ‘reduced facilities’ I was still about £50 short – all of it on my Barclaycard as I had settled the bill for the whole team!

 I discussed this with John W on the way home and he agreed that it was unreasonable to have expected my team not to participate fully in the competition – which included the social side. He suggested that I go ahead and claim the expenses that could legitimately be paid to me and he would “see what he could do”! This I proceeded to do, adding £10 to the claim out of sheer bloody-mindedness for non-existent ‘meals taken en route’- which was allowed without comment and brought the deficit down to £40.

Shortly before my credit card payment became due John sent me a cheque drawn on the Chelmsford Sea Angling account for exactly £40. I could not accept this if he was likely to get into any trouble over it and called him up to talk about it. When John realised that I was not happy with a ‘no questions asked’ situation he explained that as I had travelled with them he had claimed for me as a fifth member of his team, betting (quite correctly) that the Sports Club would not know how many members per team our rules permitted! He pointed out that he had kept back my 2nd class rail fare to help meet the fuel costs of the minibus and I agreed that justice was served all round!

Chapter 6 – 1988 – Slapton, South Devon

September 3, 2009

My summer 1988 call for volunteers to fill the remaining place in that year’s team brought (fortunately – otherwise I might have been back in the selection match lottery situation again!) only a single response – from Mike J of our North London office. I had previously met Mike on our first Barclays Training course in London back in March 1975 and looked forward to renewing our acquaintance.

 Travel arrangements had been upset again in that, since Hastings, the Chelmsford office had closed resulting in my working in Cambridge and living just outside in the village of Histon. The Eastbourne office had also closed with Ian H working ‘next door’ in Brighton while David Sh and his wife Stephanie were working in Ipswich and living just outside Stowmarket. If they achieved nothing else these moves did, at least, ensure that difficulties over expenses claims for overnight stays were unlikely to occur again! We eventually decided that Mike would pick Ian up on the way and that David and I would go together. In fact Stephanie drove David and his gear to Histon, arriving at about 8am, and then turned around and went back to Ipswich to work – about a 100 mile round trip altogether! 

 We set off just after 9am via the M11, M25, M4 and M5 for South Devon, fortunately just missing the worst of the M25 ‘rush hour’. We stopped for a break at Membury Services on the M4 and I got the shock of my life while waiting at the cafeteria checkout when a hand smacked down hard on my shoulder after the fashion of a policeman making a ‘collar’!  When my nerves permitted I turned, expecting I know not what, only to find Colin P with an idiot grin on his face saying (as he often did), “Hello you old bugger” and adding, “You got a guilty conscience then?” Several problems in later years might have been solved then and there had I given in to my instinct to throw him through the Cafeteria window onto the M4!

 Fortunately we did not see any more of him as we continued on our way and we eventually reached Kingsbridge, on the River Dart at about 1pm (I’m not sure about the exact time but the pubs were still open!). We checked in at the accommodation booked for us – The Crabshell Motel. This was somewhat more than may be expected from the word ‘Motel’ having normal Hotel dining and bar facilities – the only difference was that the rooms had to be accessed from outside, were all on the first floor and had parking spaces beneath them. A couple of hundred yards down the road was a very old Inn which we ventured into (see my comments on Hotel bars in the previous chapter!). My first sight on entering this building was Geoff T playing the fruit machine – somehow over the years this has come to signify to me that all is well with the world!

 Having met up with the rest of the team and enjoyed a long, liquid lunch it was back to the Motel for a rest and some time spent sorting out fishing tackle to ensure that everyone had enough of everything.

 At the evening Captain’s meeting two main decisions were made – the venue and the scoring system. Firstly we agreed that the match would be fished at Slapton Sands a few miles to the South and West of us and would not be ‘pegged’ in a formal sense. Competitors were, however, expected to fish within walking distance of the weigh in point which was set (I wonder why?!) as the car park of a nearby Pub. This meant that anyone (i.e. Paul D and his team) fishing on a ‘hotspot’ that they might have discovered some way away from this point would have their advantage countered to some extent by the lost fishing time spent getting there and back.

 We agreed to try a new (for us) scoring system that was, apparently in use by the local fishing leagues.  While there were still over-riding minimum size limits for all species caught, points were awarded for each fish by calculating their percentage of a published ‘specimen weight’. Thus if the specimen weight for a Cod was set at 3 lb., a fish weighing 1½ lb. would score 50 points. Each individual’s points score would therefore depend upon what species they caught rather than just the total weight of fish.

 Having also sorted out the venue for the following year I rejoined my team back at the Pub we had been in at lunchtime and we wandered into the town (village?) of Kingsbridge to see what it had to offer. Our first stop was the Fish and Chip shop (no Thursday evening meal was included in our package) and I recall Ian becoming quite indignant when he could not get mushy peas with his food. It seems that people from Manchester not only expect the rest of us to like their football team but think that their strange dietary requirements should also be available nationally. Sorry Ian but as far as I am concerned you can keep both of them! The food having made us thirsty again (lets face it, on these trips even drinking made US thirsty!) we tried a few of the local taverns. With one or two exceptions I never remember the names of these pubs but I believe that it was at about the second attempt that we found one where the beer was good AND the natives were friendly so we settled in for the evening. I dimly recall that we spent a lot of the time playing darts against the regulars for drinks (a rather syrupy, strong substance called Newquay Steam Lager which came in pint bottles with a heavy wire clip holding the top on) and then walked (staggered) back to the Motel where, surprise, surprise, the bar was still open! I do not remember going to bed but I definitely woke up in one so I suppose that I must have!

 After the traditional ‘Full English breakfast’ (i.e. a big, greasy fry up!) the next morning we drove to Slapton Sands which, until this important event, had only been heard of in connection with a famous 2nd World War disaster involving American troops rehearsing D-day landings. The original story was that German E-boats had got in amongst the landing craft but since the Gulf War, which occurred a couple of years after we visited Slapton, theories involving ‘friendly fire’ have abounded.

 We selected a spot to fish together as a team not far from the Pub Car Park mentioned earlier and directly down the beach from the US Army memorial – a Sherman Tank mounted on a concrete base – and then collected our bait which had, for reasons that now escape me, been picked up en masse by Colin P. I recall that it was a fairly pleasant day with isolated light showers and what wind there was blowing off the land.

 After my difficulties in ‘getting started’ last year I was rather anxious this time to lead by example and was, consequently, delighted when, after only an hour or so I hooked a Flounder of just under 2 lb. – about 60% of specimen weight and, therefore, worth 60 points to the team. Over the years I have found that I enjoy these matches a lot more if I can ‘get one in the bag’ early on – the thought that I am otherwise letting the team down just will not go away!

 Unfortunately, after this early success and a few barely legal Whiting each, the area of beach that we had selected failed to produce any other worthwhile catches and we felt that we had no chance of a significant position in the running order. We duly weighed-in at the car park and went back to the Motel for the usual pre-dinner clean up and drinks. Having eaten (as usual, fish appeared somewhere in the menu – a fact that the less successful always attributed to one of the organisers taking the mickey!) it was time for Basil S’s annual speech and the presentation of awards. It became apparent that most teams had had an even leaner time than my colleagues and I and we finished in third place behind South East Region (formerly known as Maidstone) and, I think, East Anglia Region (ex-Norwich). While this cheered us up a lot things got better when it was announced that the points from my Flounder had resulted in my winning the trophy for ‘Best Individual Catch’ – a silver goblet now in the same sorry state as the 1986 Runners up trophy!

 I was so pleased with this that I did not make any fuss on being told that while I had also caught the ‘Best Specimen Fish’ for which a one-off trophy was to be awarded, it had been decided that an individual could not win two trophies and that this was to be given to the catcher of the second best fish. With hindsight I believe that this was unfair for a number of reasons; firstly I cannot see that Paul or Colin would have put up with this arbitrary reasoning for themselves or their teams and begs the question of what would have happened if (as might normally be expected) the largest catches belonged to members of the first or second place teams. Secondly how does this leave the actual recipient of the award feeling? When asked by friends and family how he got on does he say “Well I won a trophy for best specimen fish even though it wasn’t!” or does he lie about it? If this sort of thing ever happens again I will argue about it and risk appearing ‘unsporting’!

 On this comparatively high note we went our separate ways again resolving to try again next year. I took David all the way back to Stowupland on the Saturday morning and we agreed that we had all got along so well that it would be a great shame to alter the team in the future unless this should be absolutely unavoidable. To this end I later designed a ‘flowchart’ to aid team selection in future and now publish an appropriately computerised version of this as Appendix 2. This was not meant entirely seriously and was never, in fact, used. When a situation did eventually arise where more than four people wanted to fish for us I solved the problem of selection quite simply by starting a second team! I was then able to call myself “Manager” as well as “Captain” – it is rather a shame that my Bank career has not progressed so well!