Photography ... astronomy ... art ... design ... technology
(... and the odd rant)

All of these make my world go 'round, to some extent, and they will all be found here at some time or other. Some of the photography can be purchased from my Redbubble site. I can also be found at Tempus Fugit (no longer being updated).

Monday, May 30, 2011

In pursuit of bodily harm

Horses and fishing rods. At first glance, they don't seem to have much in common. One's got legs and can run like the clappers; the other's good for throwing food to the fishes. Each of these disparate things, however, gives me cause to fear and respect them.

Other than a brief few moments as a tiddler, placed in the saddle of a horse that my sister was about to ride, and a trip along the beach on a donkey a few years later, I have only ridden a horse once. Similarly, I have been fishing on only one occasion that I can recall. It is perhaps significant that I was not the prime mover on either occasion, but was encouraged to take part by well-meaning friends or family.

Memories of my equine experience were brought back only too clearly when watching some youngsters about to disappear on a morning's trail-riding. As each horse-child pair was saddled up, strapped in and otherwise properly prepared for the impending adventure, a number of them gathered in front of me, waiting for the off. I watched the nearest horse plodding around, browsing on the grass at its feet, and generally filling in time. As it did, it turned this way and that, bobbed its head up and down, swayed around, and generally did as it pleased, with the passenger taking no part in the proceedings. It brought back in a vaguely unsettling way, my own experience some 20 years earlier: that horses have their own minds, desires, intentions and agendas, plus the nervous system and musculature to put it all into practice. In short, unless you are absolutely in control, with sufficient authority - and the ability to convey this to the horse - you are on a slippery slope.

With a car, you can generally turn off the ignition and the car will stop what it was doing up to that point; this does, of course, require good judgement, care and attention on the part of the driver to ensure that it is not done at the wrong time, but there is absolutely no doubt who is in control. Any misbehaviour: it's engine off, and bye-byes. With a horse, you have to say, "Look here, I say, would you mind not doing that - YES, THAT!" and so on. Any mistakes and you're cactus. Oh, and by the way - the horse will be quietly laughing at you.

A loaded fishing rod, it has to be said, has similar undesirable qualities in the hands of a novice. To be precise, it has a curved piece of metal with a very sharp barb on the end, flailing about on some very fine nylon. Said barbed metal is furthermore designed to become lodged, and remain firmly embedded, in flesh - nominally piscean flesh, but any flesh will do; the hook's not fussy.

Now, old hands at the fishing game are presumably possessed of at least one of the following: (a) fine motor control - that in a deaf signer would represent perfect enunciation, syntax and fluency - coupled with the eyes of a hawk; (b) a devil-may-care attitude in respect of vicious puncture wounds; (c) no nerve endings below the elbow; or (d) membership of certain recreational clubs involving leather restraints and whips and an associated pleasure in maltreatment of personal tissue. This must be the case, because when a rod is in the process of being prepared with lead weight and hook (some of which, you may be astonished to learn, have more barbs than a caffeine-deprived shock-jock), the business end can develop a mind of its own that a horse would be proud of. It can appear that the hook/weight assembly regards Newtonian physics with utter disdain: there can be much comical to-ing and fro-ing of hand and line, trying to ensure a satisfactory confluence of the two without dermal perforation, while the hand holding the rod gradually joins the rest of the body in a rising panic, ensuring that proper coordination and control become merely wishful thinking. At such times, if my advice be sought, it would be prudent simply to throw the whole contraption in one direction while leaping quickly in the other. Of course, this does not guarantee an injury-free outcome, but at least the torment and uncertainty will be brought rapidly to a conclusion.

If you are determined to give fishing a try, I would suggest fly-fishing, on a day with moderate but steady wind. Simply stand with your back more or less to the wind, then because the fly has no associated lead weight, it will be carried safely off away from your body, should you happen to lose control of it; in that situation, dropping the rod will put everything out of harm's way. Of course, you eventually have to cast your fly towards the fish, which seems to involve waving the rod around in a somewhat cavalier fashion, with the possibility of all manner of mayhem occurring anywhere within umpteen metres of you.

Tell you what: take my advice, and leave horses and fishing rods alone. Photography and aerobic poetry are fairly safe and surprisingly diverting; there is every chance that your body will remain undamaged in such mild pursuits. Afterwards, you can drive your car to the fishmonger.