When I turned 8 or maybe it was 9-years old, my parents bought me a fishing rod for my birthday. I went fishing only once even though the rod came with us on many summer holiday camping trips. I caught one fish, a muddy-looking, wet, whiskered situation. It was the ugliest creature that I had ever seen. I ran away from it, almost lost my rod to the ocean and that was the end of that.
Now, 20-something-years later, I went home, to my family home, waded through some dust and spider webs and found my rod, exactly where I had left it, all of those years ago.
My parents were so thorough, they had even gifted me hooks, sinkers and line. The only thing that needed attention and, therefore, replacing, was my reel and spool head (the thingy that pulls the fishing line back in and winds the line onto the thingy that pulls the fishing line back in), these words are new to me.
This past weekend, I found myself preparing to go away with friends. So me being me, I decided that supper was on me and that I, yes, me, all by my own self, would catch a fish big enough for 4 adult human beings with healthy appetites. Needless to say, no fish was caught but much laughter was thrown in my direction. Fish and chips ( from the store) saved the day.
A whole new world has just opened up to me. As the thought crossed my mind and I found myself driving to my family-house to go and collect my fishing rod, I also knew that I needed someone to explain what owning a fishing rod would require me to know. So I arranged a chat with a junior Olympic fishing champion who also happened to be a student of mine 10-years ago.
This poor 17-year-old blushed his way through the hour that I spent with him. He was brilliant though. He taught me everything that I needed to know. He laughed in my face often but also listened well and answered all of my ridiculous questions, one of them being, “What is this thingy that brings the fish to me when I turn it?”
He sent me to Eddlesgas and Tackle in Retreat where the education took a turn. I arrived at Eddlesgas and tackle thinking I could walk in and talk to a little old man who would hand me some fishing things out of an old suitcase. My limited understanding of fishing is some human standing on the side of the road, holding a large fish and a rod that looks like it was built in the stone age.  Oh my goodness, this place was a whole huge building with fishing equipment that looked like machine guns and hovercrafts. There was no old man and the rods looked like they were made in Wakanda. My brain could not cope.
I had absolutely no idea where to turn, so I walked to the counter, lifted my rod in the air and pointed at the broken part and looked at the cashier for help. She could see the panic in my eyes. She laughed loudly and asked if I wanted a new reel. I wanted to run away, I couldn’t remember what the reel was and so was not sure what she was asking me.
I looked at the part and then at the cashier and then exclaimed with panic that I had absolutely no idea. We laughed together, hers a full, healthy laugh, mine a rattling, wheezy, nervous sound.
She walked me into the long rows of fishing gear, wall to wall and floor to ceiling covered in shiny metallic objects, hooks, knives and sea creature look-alikes. She told me to wait for (pointing at a man) him. This man was talking to another man who was standing next to a young boy who looked just like him. I didn’t know where to look.
While I waited to speak to ‘the man’ and tried not to stare a the man who looked exactly like his son (not in a cute way), I allowed my eyes to wonder. I was the only woman in the store. I was the only black person in the store – other than the cashier and the guy who fills the gas. I was also, all of a sudden very aware that I was surrounded by white men who all looked very excited to speak to me.
I then began to notice the size of the rods around me and the images of the fish that these rods could catch. I felt like these men, with their big rods were sizing me up, seeing if they could catch me and reel me in. It was all so phallic and scary.
I eventually was given what I needed, paid for it and raced out of there without looking back. One man plucked up the courage to ask me if I was buying a gift for my son. My brain exploded. How long had been thinking up that line? Was he trying to figure out if he could get to my vagina through my nonexistent son? Also, do I now look like I have children? I stated that the rod was for me, that I had no children and then turned on my heels and walked out of the door before any of the other eyes could make contact with mine and then convince the brains to produce words.
Eddlesgas and Tackle is a magical place, intimidating but magical. I feel compelled to go back and actually take a walk through space and see what is there. I was so frazzled and unprepared for the first experience there. It is not often that I enter spaces where I do not know what to expect. Too many things happened in such a short space of time. At some point, a man told me that my voice sounded like music to his ears. It was too much. Why must everything look like a penis? Why is everything so big? Why must these men hold their rods next to their package as if this rod can speak for the other? What is happening?
I’m super excited to continue my journey in this new world of being a fisherwoman. I’ll let you know when I manage to catch an actual fish.
Supper is on its way.