Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ear Tinglers & Eye Openers

We used to call them 'leads' when I sold double glazing for a living. I was a canvasser, a teenage canvasser. I started out quite shit, but ended up shit hot, but the route to becoming that hot, was not hard work, but pure flannel. My first round of cold-calling was Arctic. I was rebutted at every door. It wasn't that the houeseholders didn't want double glazing, everyone who didn't have it already, wanted double glazing back in those days, It was simply that they didn't want me selling it to them, because I was cold crap, and they wanted someone shit hot to bowl them over.

One day I got a lead. I'd fluffed my carefully rehearsed pitch and just floundered. Suddenly, I found a new voice. Clarity came and saved my bacon. I reeled off a load of twaddle, but for some unknown reason they really liked the nonsense I'd spouted and signed the little slip of paper allowing my 'closer' ('close' as in 'shut', not 'nearby) to call that evening.

I sat in his Ford Escort outside that house for hours whilst he cajoled and wheedled them into a multi-grand deal, and then we went home safe in the knowledge that we'd both earned our commissions, because as he explained, my lead had been 'hot', and the deal was now 'safe as houses'. After that I became more and more adept at spouting twaddle. So long as it was an entertainment, I got leads, and it seemed the more far fetched and hilarious my flannel was, the hotter the leads I secured always were.

Our company was called Snug Homes Double Glazing. We, that's me, and another great, silver-tongued, female canvasser, turned the opening pitch into this ~

"Ello, we're from Slug Worms, would you like double-glazing, or not..? "

Yes became no, no became yes. It was miraculous. We could charm the birds out of the skies, the lollipops from childrens gobs, turn the thoughts in peoples heads at whim, and extract the cash from their deep pockets almost at will...

At my peak I could bring back five or six hot leads in one afternoon of cold calling, and that meant I only had to go out once a week to secure enough for my 'closer' to work on for that entire week. I was Maggie's baby, truly a child of the selfish eighties, but I loved it, because it made me richer than all of my friends put together.

I was earning £350 - £500 per week. It was 1980. That was an awful lot for teenager to earn in those days, so I was, for brief time, rolling in money. I paid for everyone's drinks, and they loved me for it. I then paid for everyone's hash, but that was the beginning of the end...

Within a few brief months I'd become embroiled in drugs, in fact it was after a canvassing session that I had my first toke on a joint. As I exited the car, and walked around the back of Crow Lane Graveyard, I became aware that I was no longer quite there. I floated across the ground as one of the tombstone angels, who'd wrenched herself from her marble perch, took my arm and flew me home.

I collapsed fully clothed, on my back, upon the living room floor. I woke in my bedroom on my face, stark naked. I don't remember the stairs, but that's where my shoes and clothes were later found.

Within a short time I was poor again. I gave up the job. My 'closer' was beside himself, and would turn up at my door pleading for me to come back to work for him. I'd been his golden goose, but it was over...

I never laid another egg.

1980 something. Right, I'm bored, no cash, last fag, booze gone. Sod it, I'M GOING FISHING!

Leads in fishing are little different. They come in three forms; cold, warm, and hot.

I was out just the other day, when a lad came by, rod and net in hand, to talk. After a few preliminaries, and a cementing of trust through our shared experiences of a nearby water, he dropped a bombshell.

"Yeah, I had a four-pound, nine-ounce perch from there..."


Was all I had to say to him!

Till I gained my composure and enquired further...

"Yep, it grabbed a little roach I was bringing in, got itself hooked, and I landed it"


"Yeah, then my mate over there" pointing to another lad on the far side "he caught a little roach, put it back out as a livebait, and he hooked one too, but lost it"

I was dumbstruck. I'd heard on the grapevine that someone had had a 'three' from this very water some years ago, and that is quite believable for almost any place with water in it you'd care to mention, but a tale of a fish a pound and a half over that is either an outright fabrication, a wild mis-weighing, or the absolute honest truth.

Now why would he lie to me? He'd no reason to. Why would he tell the truth? He'd no reason not to. Why would he mis-weigh it? That'll be because his tackle, or what I could see of it, was boys tackle, so his scales would be either reliable enough to be close if bought from a tackle shop, or luggage scales dressed as angler's scales bought from an Aldi outlet, for instance, that could be out by as much as a whole pound...

But, that could mean a three and a half pounder, or even a five and a half pounder!

Either way, it's a shit hot lead.

Then, two days later, I was out on a walk with Judy and the dog. It was hot and bright, and as we passed a local lake, I spied a number of carp bow-waving in the margins. They took my attention, until that is, I lifted my eyes above them and spied right out in the middle, a small group of medium-sized fish that did not look like, or behave like carp would. The sun shone toward me and against them, throwing them into dark sillouhette. There were six or seven of them, and this shoal swam in formation, in one direction, none peeling away, but all lazily swimming close by each other and occasionally coming together as one tight group of dark shadows, only to separate again and continue on their way.

I watched them for a minute or so, till the angles of sun, their direction of swim and our direction of walk made them invisible, but whilst the opportunity was there, I calculated what kinds of fish these could be. I eventually settled on just two close related species. They were not carp. All the carp in the lake that I had seen were behaving in a particular way and were all much larger than these. Carp also move about in much looser, less disciplined shoals, when they ever do shoal, and also, every fish in this particular shoal were the same size as each other. Carp vary too much in size. They weren't carp.

Bream is possible, because I have seen shoals of bream moving high in the water, but individuals of a shoal of bream sunning themselves tend to stay stock still or drift. Their outline was wrong too. Bream have very noticeable forked caudal fins, and even at distance, under the flattening effect of the refraction of water which makes even the deepest fish look long and skinny, this tell-tale sign was lacking.

They had to be the unthinkable.

Monstrous great rudd! Or equally great roach!

My estimations have them all at three pounds or more. Seriously. They were that big.

Once again, a shit hot lead.

Can these leads be turned into business though? Can they be converted from mere leads, to real sales?

From flimsy flannel, to factual find?

Well, if they are there, then they can be caught. They are just fish after all. If the lad's tale is only half true then still that perch that he caught was real enough, and large enough to warrant a tale, otherwise he would never have mentioned it, would he? And why would he say 'nine-ounces' when most estimates are in easy fractions? If those shadows were rudd or roach then they too can be caught, though it has to be said, I see that possibility as the most difficult of the two to convert, because there were just a few of them seen in four acres of water.

Nevertheless, I have to try for both.

Such leads grow colder by the day if they aren't acted upon swiftly. I was thinking of chasing silver bream, again, but that's looking like the least attractive prospect of all my leads right now.

So. I'm off to the shop for a tin of corn, and later to the cornfield to dig worms.

Ooo. My ears are tingling, and my eyes wide open. You never know what riches a shit hot lead might bring.

You never, ever, know...


  1. Great blog mate!
    A picture would be nice as I need to see 1980's Jeff. White suit, woven slip on shoes, Pencil tie and flock of seagulls hair cut. Like an extra from a wham video :)

  2. I just keep visualising a stoned Richard Branson.....with an Essex patter....ha ha ha....Great write up mate.

    Baz Peck

  3. Thine will be done Dan. I've found one, and it's one of the only ones in existence, of me in the 80's. After the drugs kicked in though.


    Baz, take a look. No resemblance. But before, could well have looked like that!

  4. You look like Bob Geldof in that one Jeff :)

  5. Oh yes boomtown rat and a half .....

    Cool photos mate .

  6. Oooh, yes tonight, Jeff Hatt, you are Bob Geldolf...£350+ was a huge amount then, not that I'd much got beyond pocket money of course ;)

    Fab post though. The best are always those where you're left wanting to hear more. The known unknowns to use a phrase...

  7. And a guitar in the corner of the picture too Jeff!

    It was picking up a guitar in 82 what caused the 25 year gap in fishing for me...

    What about you Jeff?

  8. Steve in Colorado31 May 2012 at 02:54

    Leave the worms in the ground, mate- if your chatty lads weren't blowing smoke those big perch want a shiny silver 3" plug....
    Get out the spinning rod and get a big stripey, eh!

  9. I wish I could Steve, and I can come winter because the water is as clear as gin, but also full of weed right now. Bank to bank weed, with holes in it that I can just fish through