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Flounder Day

January 10, 2014

Flounder day was traditionally the first Sunday in December.  I don’t know exactly when the tradition began but I have a good idea and it does not have a lot to do with flounders.

My dad lived in Hamble, a small village famous internationally for sailing.  During the ‘season’ the local population grew by thousands; but from October to May the locals dependent on the seasonal work had time on their hands.  So they invented a congenial but false lifestyle to pass the time.

As part of this my father and his cronies met in a pub on a regular basis and formed a so called Literary Society.  Needless to say not a book was ever discussed. However, their regular meetings would have a comfortable and legitimate edge when they rolled home drunk after a couple of hours or so.  They were a motley bunch from various trades and professions; bank manager, estate agent, solicitor, car sales man, milk man and even a doctor.

My dad at that time owned a 60 foot fishing trawler that he would hire out for fishing and towing.  From some idle chat the idea of the Flounder Day grew; a day to celebrate the flounder.  It would begin at 7am on Sunday morning in a local pub-where else? There for an hour they would enjoy a round or two, then board the fishing boat ‘Rockall’ and motor out to the Solent.  Then the happy band cruised to Cowes to celebrate some more over lunch, on this occasion it was to be fully blown Christmas lunch at the Fountain Inn. Then, the now fading crew return to Hamble later in the afternoon to freshen up before opening time.

As the day went on the moribund group were careful not to forget the glorious flounder and raise a glass or more to the fish and the day.

For me it was an infrequent and precious opportunity to meet up with my dad since he had left us many years before. We left Chesham in Bucks before dawn not yet fully awake; there was little traffic and the roads wet from a recent shower.  As we reached Hampshire on the A3 a creature ran across the road we couldn’t have stopped safely.  We hit the animal with a heavy thud; glancing back we saw an unmoving lump at the side of the road.  We were speechless – we should have stopped. We didn’t.  In blind panic we drove on.  At Popham Services we looked at the car for damage; it was bad enough but the old maroon Cortina was past its sell by date any way. We drove on to Hamble and didn’t mention it again.

At the pub the reprobates were gathering.  In contrast to the Literary Society wives and girlfriends were invited; so they appeared a friendly bunch.

There is something unpleasant about going to a pub at 7 in the morning with the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke.  The fire was not yet giving heat.  As the punters lit up and the whisky began to flow, so the atmosphere warmed – the waft of Old Holborn from my dad’s roll up was almost pleasant.  Tongues were loosening; Rose, the bank manager’s wife and her daughter affectionately called Fifi, the nominal wife and girlfriend circulated among the dozen or so men – flirting already.

My dad was not partaking of the hard stuff, yet.  He had a job to do and did not have a half until the day was done and the boat was safely moored in Hamble.  His licence is subject to this rule which he takes seriously along with the dress code of the day.  It was a celebration so he sparkled as well as he was able – clean shirt, polished shoes and a hair cut!

So the day began the party left the land lord and his pub, crossed the quay to where the boat was moored.  The ladies teetered with loaded freezer bags to the galley to prepare bacon butties.  The men staggered with a few more cans and whisky bottles- just in case. Colin and I, in the still autumn air recovering from our journey – glad that we hadn’t joined in the already heavy drinking session. Not envious of my dad’s duty for the next few hours to keep this crew on board and safe.

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