Saturday, 1 August 2015

'Des The Fish'

"For me", he said, in a strong Yorkshire accent, "It's all about the fish, man." I'd only met Des 10 minutes earlier in a bar on Lumley Beach, Freetown. The sort of place where one expat quickly strikes up a conversation with another. A long way from home, you're instant blood brothers...
Early evening, the sun was setting. A cool breeze. High tide. Roy's Beach Bar. Des asked me what I was doing in Sierra Leone. How long I'd been here. Working for an oil company, and about 3 months came the reply. How about you?


Des told me he was on holiday. Now that was strange. Few come here for time off. He said he'd come fishing for a few months. He didn't know when and if he was going home. He'd come to fish. Similar to Diamond Dave, he pricked my interest. Another character... a traveller, a misfit...

Des was a well worn pushing 60 type of fellow. He'd had an arduous paper round as a kid, that was for sure. A lived in face. Plenty of lines. Plenty of character. Long grey hair. An easy style. He laughed a lot. He also had a funny way of adding 'man' to the end of most sentences. Didn't quite work, he was from Sheffield, not LA. He smoked roll ups one after another, I suspect this habit wasn't limited to tobacco.

He offered his abridged life story. The way guys do. Want to hear it? Well, he and life partner had run a successful bed & breakfast in Sheffield for many years. A major falling out. In a fit of rage he murdered her with a pickaxe. She's apparently under the patio. He said most people on the run go to either Spain or Venezuela. Instead he chose Sierra Leone. He was keeping a low profile in a low-key Chinese guest house, near the beach. Spent his time fishing...

Now I know my first question should have been, why did you do it? Why a pickaxe? Messy? Instead, and not I'm sure why, I asked about fishing... and wondered too about the Chinese guest house...
Kidding, of course, he didn't say he'd killed her. There was no pickaxe, no patio. Had you hooked though? In fact, he'd split with his partner of over 30 years, sold the B & B, and decided to travel with his share of the proceeds. Mid-life crisis? I have 2 fail safe checks. First, out of nowhere, and with no musical background, mid life crisis guy takes up an instrument, normally the saxophone. You're in a house and see a saxophone on a stand near the fire place, well... oh, oh...


The other key indicator is the urge to buy a big motorbike. His first. Because he's in his 40's / 50's he naturally has to buy all the accessories brand new; ridiculously tight fitting leathers, brand new boots with a heel, a loud helmet. Now then.... visit a house with a saxophone and a brand new Harley in the garage, there's trouble afoot... matter of time... will end in tears...

Turns out Des had the requisite bike. No saxophone. However, Des really was an unexpected pleasure...

As my old Drill Sergeant used to say, you always have to expect the unexpected. He's dead now. Killed by a low flying terradactyl a few years back. I miss him...

Des asked if I fished. Not really, I was ready to learn. Sierra Leone is actually a lesser known fishing haven. Fish everywhere and catching a Barracuda nearly half the size of your body is not unusual. I know....'how big'. Des said, let's start tomorrow, put a couple of 'rods, man' at the oceans edge. Drink beer, check the rods every now and again. Anything there not to like? The fellow below would have been 116 years old last week. He knew a thing or two about fishing.


Later at the waters edge, Des told me of an on-going dispute with his Chinese landlords. They wanted him out. He refused. He was paying $15 a night. He was going nowhere. He had his fishing gear blocking the corridor along with a double ring gas burner to make his bacon sarnies. The Chinese told him the burner goes. Des said, no way man. He also had a hole in his roof and the rain came into his room and soaked his gear. He also suspected the place was a local knocking shop. He seemed to be the only long term resident... I stood bare footed, my leather trousers rolled up to the knee, laughing with this mad nomad at the edge of the Atlantic, I considered taking up the sax...

I fished with Des a couple more times. Entertainment was first rate. Des stayed around 4 months I think, and then moved on, south to Liberia. We all need to know people like Des...



We had some classic conversations sat with the 'rods'. I liked Des. He was fearless. Felt good to sit with him. I didn't see him again after he said he was going upcountry to explore for diamonds. He'd somehow bought all the gear from someone who was leaving. I advised him against mixing in those circles. I said don't go, man. Catching. There's some hard folk and pitfalls all the way in diamonds, especially if like Des, you didn't have a clue. Didn't put Des off. This was the last time I saw or heard from him...

As they say, you can always tell a fellow from Yorkshire, can't tell em much though... I suspect he was probably cleaned out. Sierra Leone is a tough place... the Des's keep coming, a place for dreamers.


I depart tomorrow for holidays. Meet up with the family and fly to Florida. Naples. 'An Early Morning Run in...' from there, possibly with 'O' guesting again. Can't wait. 

Following the States, a couple of surprise locations. Certainly fertile grounds for blogging potential. The first is Nairobi.. second, Juba in South Sudan...

See you all in Florida...

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