Digression 2 -Squash and Sticklebacks

Foreman: I've just got to put in a bit about Mrs. Strange here. She was the wife of the quarry owner. We boys worshipped this woman.

Robin: Worshipped her ?

Foreman: Yes we did. We used to go down the Station Road on our bikes and go "tracking" on a little circuit just across the road from the Strange's house. The Strange's house was miles from the quarry. Strange. There was a son called Jamie Strange and he was a very nice chap. I think the quarry became "Campden Quarry" at some point in its workings. There was a bit of a mud track just between the Station Road and the river Cam which we used to race around and go over jumps formed by the roots of trees, up and down the banks etc. Well this was thirsty work but it was impossible to slake your thirst from the Cam because this was only about a quarter of a mile down stream from the local sewage works. The waters did not look too wholesome as they had a pale grey tint and a few spare turds used to float by on occasion. There were always used Rubber Johnnies caught up in the sticks overhanging the river. They used to waver in the current like pale, dead men's fingers clutching out at the eddies in the current in ghostly swirling motions. Well, we used to go and ask Mrs. Strange for a drink of water and she always obliged and sometimes she even used to give us SQUASH. So you can see why we idolised that woman because we all lived in council houses and were all of us too poor to ever have squash at home. Of course there were never any fish in the Cam at this point because the pollution from the sewage was too bad, but you could get sticklebacks and minnows and bullheads further up stream. We used to catch them with nets and put them into jam jars with a few bits of weed floating on the top to make the fish feel more at home. Sticklebacks were best because you could take them back and put them in the goldfish pond and watch them savaging the goldfish. A stickleback is the closest you can get to a piranha if you live in the Cotswolds.

Robin: Why did they attack ?

Foreman: The sticklebacks thought the gold fish were challenging them, you see, by displaying a lot of red, which is what the male stickle back does in the mating season. His belly turns red and he fights any other fish with a red belly, which is usually another male stickleback. They obviously didn't realise that goldfish were a different species so they tore into them like fury. Bit xenophobic of them really. We generally went fishing on a Sunday because that's when we were supposed to be in Sunday school. Sunday school was torture to any active boy who was constitutionally programmed to be wanting to roam the countryside, get himself indescribably mucky, tear his clothes scrambling through hedges, fill his hair with dust and straw playing in barns, go round in a gang and meet other gangs of boys to have a gang fight. On Sunday morning we would hide our old clothes in the hedge on the route to the church and then on our way to Sunday School we'd change out of our Sunday Best in order to go mucking about in the ponds and streams. Now, I better get back to what I'm supposed to be doing for a bit even though its not nearly so interesting as sticklebacks v goldfish or even Pancake's budgie, come to that.

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