I’ve never been fishing. The idea of sitting still on a riverbank in wellies on a Saturday afternoon just doesn’t do it for me. But Hemingway’s kind of fishing was different. For him it was skiffs off the coast of Cuba in the warm sea, going out till dusk and being led back by the glow of Havana.
The Old Man and The Sea is about an old man’s fishing trip. He catches a fish which is way too big so he has to tie it to the side of his boat. Now this is the bit I don’t understand. Why did he not chop it up there and then? The last book I read about fishing was Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. In that I learnt that the first thing whalers do after a kill is get the whale chopped up and on board as soon as possible or the sharks will have it first. But this old man, with a long life of fishing experience, seemed to be surprised that he had company for his journey home.
But it’s a good story. Thanks to Hemingway’s artful telling, I really wanted to know if the old man was going to bring home a big fish or a long skeleton. It’s obvious Hemingway knew what he was talking about. He’d lived the life and I began to envy him. I’d like to do that kind of fishing.
Moby Dick is a strange combination of essays, story, asides and long passages of poetry without the return key, in other words, disguised as prose. By contrast, The Old Man and The Sea never wavers from its course. And, as is always the case with Hemingway, there is something about the writing which draws the reader into the story. He was knowledgeable without being encyclopedic, for example he called a dolphin a fish which Melville would never have done.
Here are two members of Chico Chica crossing the Irish Sea after shows in Northern Ireland – note the absence of rods. Chico Chica may be doing some work in the south of France this summer. If it comes about, I just might enquire into the possibility of a fishing trip when I’m down there. At least there are no sharks in the Med.
Chico Chica will be performing at the White Hart, Mile End Road, London E1 4TP, 8pm Sunday 30th March.