The Dawn Raiders - After Dace
Percy and I would plan our fishing expeditions on Thursday evenings. I would make the phone call and find out where we were heading for. To be fair Percy always asked where I fancied going. “What do you reckon then son?” “I’ve heard the 100ft is fishing really well with plenty of Skimmers, Percy”. Percy drew on his cigarette, “Hmmmmm, well yes, but we are going after Dace”. Now for once I did get excited about the prospect of going for this pretty little fish. When I first started fishing they were common in and around Cambridge. As a kid with a little 6ft spring rod, a centre pin reel and a couple of bobbin floats. Gudgeon and Dace were the fish we often caught and so the prospect of targeting the Dace on my one day out was mouth watering. “Ok the Percy, where are we going?” Another pause “The Ouse” Ouse? Yus! “Oh the upper Ouse at St.Ives”. “New, new,(Percy speak) no son!” The Ouse near where the big planes are!” “The stars and stripes ones” “What sort of baccy are you puffing on Percy?” “Listen don’t get smart son, on the Ouse near Middlemenhall, no Lakerheath, that Little River that runs in to the Ouse”. “Oh the Little Ouse near Mildenhall, yes, yes, yes. Right thats it, we are off to the Little Ouse. I would pick Percy up at 6.30am load up my little escort car, spin down the A10 on a dull autumn day. I was once asked how come I always drove, was it Percy taking advantage? Well you know you see if you ever travelled with Percy you would know that he would always have a cigarette on, ash just about to drop on the floor, Jimmy dog hanging on his should with his nose poking out of the top of the window. However the main reason was that I never saw his petrol gauge anywhere near above the empty mark. I just did not fancy being stuck out in the Fens with no prospect of getting any petrol for miles. So it was my choice and for my own safety. An hour passed as we drove around “where exactly is this place Percy?” “I told you son near the big planes, where they fly in near the army base. “Airbase, Percy, Mildenhall” “yes yes!”. Down the A10 we went for the umpteenth time looking for a track to take us across the Fen . “Over there!”. I did an emergency stop, reversed and off we went down a single track towards the airbase. We drove for quite some time. Remember, this was in a time when there was no Satnav, so we were really just trying to guess. I can genuinely say that not once on a Sunday did I ever bag up when fishing with Percy. In the week Percy would always get good catches. So, really were our Dawn Raids, to suss out things for Percy or did he set them up to appreciate the environment? We drew up to a high bank and saw a little bridge. We had just passed a line of huge Poplar trees and with the sound of the wind in their leaves it sounded as if there was a waterfall nearby. Up the bank we went. The river was clear with streamer weed and was flowing quite fast. It looked spot on for our quest for the Dace. I really fancied it and could not wait to get at it. We stumbled down the bank “This ain’t it son!”. But Percy it is perfect “Na” “Down there son” pointing to acquire some carrots growing in a field. Now the ground conditions were quite dry and so I think Percy only got one carrot out with half a row left with their tops off. He resorted to scraping the soil around the carrot tops and managed to get about four out in the end. Then we were off again this time drawing up a dead end near some farm buildings and a field of onions. Yes, you have guessed it Percy started filling his keep net with loads of onions. It was around 11.30am and no sign of a river and frankly I had all but given up. Percy looked up in to the sky and decided it was going to rain and that we must get off back home. As we set off gradually the car filled with the waft of onions, which must have prompted Percy to think about what he was going to do with them. “I’m going to make a French Onion soup”. “French Onion soup?” yes Percy replied. Not knowing much about cooking in those days – my only experience being Fannie Craddock on the TV How do you make it? “French Onion soup?” Thinking that was some magic French thing. I don’t think Percy really knew – I’m not suggesting he could not cook – on the contrary he just could not explain it. How do you make it French Percy? Now I was starting to piss him off but hey I was getting him back for not fishing. Surely its onion soup Percy. “No, no its French Onion soup” and I’m going to put some seeds on the carrots, “what?” Seeds on them, you are going to plant them back and put seeds on them”, no son cover them with seeds” carriage way seeds. Remember this was at a time when there were no ‘fancy chefs’ like Jamie Oliver, so this dish was quite innovative. Yes “I put them in the oven with some carriage way (carroway seeds) on them to give them flavour – “Oh!”. When I next catch up with Percy’s daughter I must find out if she had fried onions for weeks after our little expedition.