Waiting for water to boil in Arundel’s Pub

During the afternoon a mist had come in down the bay. The sun still shone and we could still see the hills of the Mizen and the sky was still blue overhead and the mist lay fifty yards or so over the water obscuring the shore on the other side of the bay. As the sun moved towards evening it filled the mist with a golden light and then the mist seem to roll out filling up the bay and obscuring the sky and the hills suffused with a quietening glow.

I was up in the pub for a pint. There were lobsters in the fridge in the Cottage and the great stainless steel pot was filled with sea water and coming to a slow boil. I knew from experience that it would take fifteen minutes so there was time to walk up to the pub for a quick pint and then time to buy another to take back down with me to drink as I cooked the lobsters.

There was a group of three men sat in the low bench under the window and another two sat on the other side of the table on stools. One of the men was sat tucked under the bar and he had twisted round to give a nod for another round of drinks pushing some notes and change across the wooden counter.

I waited for Mary to finish pouring the drinks for the round before asking for my pint.

I sat up on one of the tall stools by the corner of the bar and looked out through the window. The mist was thick now and the end of the pier was almost lost, the boats in the bay black shapes in the grey cloud.

The man with a black beard came in. He paused to nod hello to the five men sat round the table then stood next to me putting his hands on the bar.

I knew that the pan of water was big and although fifteen minutes was right for it to come the boil there wasn’t much harm that could come to it if it continued at a boil for another ten minutes and you never knew some one might go into the kitchen and turn it down. So I asked the man if he wanted a pint and he nodded to Mary to say that he would. He continued to stand there his back to the window and door.

‘Feck that’s a bastard fog out there. It’s getting thicker now. Soon it’ll be so thick you’ll have to feckin’ punch your way through to get back to your Cottage.’

He stood still for a while. Waiting for Mary to finish pouring the pints and to wipe clean the glasses and put them on the bar in front of us. We took our first taste of them.

‘But it’ll be good for mackerel out there now. Look how still the water is. There is no wind at all to disturb them. The fish get confused when the weather is like this. The sun and the light is gone from where it should be and the cloud is so low it gives the wrong shadow to the water and so the fish come up close to the surface. If you go out there all you’ll need to do is put some hooks over the side of your boat and you’ll get some.’

He laughed then. ‘Go out there now and you’ll not see a feckin’ thing to help you get back.’

‘But keep your boat still and just let it lie in the water and stop your breathing and put your ear down over the side of the boat and you’ll be able to hear the fish as they move through the water. There’ll be a million of those fish out there now and they’ll all have to keep moving and all that moving water around them and the thump of their tails to keep them going feck it will have to make some noise and if it still like this you might hear.’

He was quiet again but listening to the men talking in the corner I tried to imagine the sound all those fish would make and what it would be like amongst them. The men were talking over each other and I couldn’t catch what they were saying. I was still then against the flow of their conversation and the sound of the mackerel thrummed in my ears.

I’d not finished my pint and the man was asking for another. We drank in silence for a while and outside the mist started to lift and we could see a light breeze now starting to riffle the surface of the water.

‘The fish’ll be gone now,’ he said. ‘You’ve missed them this evening.’


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