Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

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Every Picture Tells a Story


 Granville Fred………soon to be Delboy Fred!




   My first full time job after leaving school had been with a market trader who I had previously helped part time.   His name was Harry Whitney and he was descended from gypsies.   He was very well known in Edmonton and the surrounding North London area.    When I first started working for him it was on a stall close to Edmonton Green and we sold carpets, curtains and one or two other household linens.

   As the weeks passed we started spreading our wings to market sites in other towns.   Eventually it became seven days a week with places as far apart as Epping and Hitchin.   On Sundays we would pitch our stall at East Street market in South East London.   It was fair old journey that took us across the lower Thames and meant an early start.

   It was around this time that Harry decided to engage an experienced seller to increase profits.   Lou, was a brilliant at market auctioneering and our takings increased beyond any expectations.   Things went extremely well for a few months but then Harry decided to let Lou go, for reasons I wont disclose.   Ideally it would have made sense to employ another auctioneer but Lou’s departure was rather sudden and there was very little time to find a replacement.   In an attempt to assuage Harry’s obvious sales worries I stupidly claimed that auctioneering was child’s play and that I would step in.

   I was fifteen and the biggest crowd I had faced alone was my impromptu carol rendition some years earlier.   There was to be no backing down however, it wasn’t in my nature.   On the first Sunday without Lou and with our large stall piled high with soft furnishings I climbed onto a table and did exactly what Lou did.

   Thumping a tea chest with stout wooden yardstick I just shouted out anything I could think of including the promise I would be giving most of the goods away for nothing.   Lou always insisted that it didn’t matter what you said and he was right.   The whole area quickly became a human traffic jam as punters gathered in the hope of securing something for nothing.   Fat chance.

   I glanced at Harry and he stared back at me as if to say ‘get out of that’.   I soon wiped the grin off his face by chucking out to the crowd a couple of cheap pillowcases, free of charge.   I picked up an expensive pair of sheets and threatened to repeat the gesture.   Harry gave a subtle shake of his head accompanied by a look of horror.   With the guv’nor under control I set about proving a point.   Fortune favours the brave and the day ended with half the load sold and Harry a very happy man.

   Some eighteen months later we parted company.    I really did enjoy the work although underpaid at three pounds ten shillings for a seven-day week, but my constant desire to fish was being thwarted.    In the summer and early autumn the evenings offered some limited opportunity but it wasn’t enough.

   To be fair to Harry he did give up the Monday market at Epping to reduce my working days to six but the gesture was short lived and he soon wanted me in on Monday afternoons to help prepare for the following day.   I tried it for a couple of weeks but I wasn’t happy and went on my way but I had learned a great deal about human nature dealing with the public so closely.   Most people have an instinctively selfish bent.   It is clearly an inherited characteristic from the dawn of time when it was every creature for itself.   It has almost certainly ensured human survival but does have its pitfalls.

   Being at the leading edge, so to speak, of supply and demand I have witnessed both sides of this trait.   One Sunday at East Street I was intrigued by a small gang of chaps with a huge lorry stuffed full of tinned produce.   I hadn’t seen them before but although most traders were at their recognised pitch every week there were odd occasional sellers.

   The crowd that gathered around this vehicle was huge and what they were attracted by was a large selection of tinned fruit.   Tins were opened at random by the salesmen and the contents tipped onto plates for all to sample.   The hysteria created by the chance to buy any three large tins for an absolutely silly price saw behaviour deteriorate almost to a riot and in less than thirty minutes the lorry was empty.

   The following a week people were coming over asking me where the lorry was from the week before.   I could only shrug my shoulders but wasn’t a bit surprised to learn that the tins were really ex-army soup that had been relabelled with various attractively designed pictures of fruit.   The sample tins were of course real fruit with the labels changed to match the snide ones.   I don’t think it was the loss of the few shillings that so angered the punters so much as the fact that against constant warnings and advice to beware of fraudsters they had been sucked in and the real cause was their inherent, deeply instinctive selfishness that overrode their common sense thus making them look mugs.

   During my time on the markets I took every opportunity I got to have a drive of the big, flat fronted Commer van that we used.   Although far too young to hold a license I picked up driving as if I had been born for it.   True the roads were far quieter compared with today but the physical synchronisation which so many learners have trouble with proved no problem to me.   Perhaps it was something to do with using two hands simultaneously while fishing.

   When I left Harry’s employ I could drive a vehicle in a manner that would have been acceptable to any onlooker.   That fact would later prove to be of enormous value. 

  Fred Crouch Copyright 2006

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