ODE TO A COMPETENT MAN

 

He was digging the sand on the beach where I like to run

And I paused to watch his blade flash in the winter sun-

Shine. “Fine morning,” he greeted me, delivering a spadeful

Into his yellow plastic bucket. “I know I’m being stupid, you’ll

Forgive me, but what exactly are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m getting worms for bait,” he said, “but they don’t bask

In the sun, unfortunately, so I have to come and dig them out.”

Now I could see his bucket filled not just with sand but with stout,

Red, hairy, wriggling worms.”These,” he told me proudly,”are King

Rag-worms, the best, which can grow to maybe fifty inches, feeding

Under the surface of the sand. They eat plankton and detritus

But have jaws to seize soft-bodied creatures. They don’t fight us

But they can give you a wee nip you can feel.” He demonstrated

By lifting one which clung to his finger. “When used as bait, it

Still wriggles, making a tasty live attraction for a fish.” He

Delicately put it back. “I’m wasting your time with all this,” I

Said, “But are they good for many fish or one fish only?” “Wrasse,”

He answered,”Pollack, Whiting, Saithe, and Cod and Sea Bass,

These are my favourites anyway. I have a boat across the water.”

He had a kind of easy competence about him. “I really ought to

Stop, but maybe a last question, how do you use the worms?”

“You stick the hook right through its head or feed it by turns

From its other end onto a spike that lets you slip its body

Over the hook. It can end up looking rather bloody

But as long as it wriggles it’s irresistible to fish.” When he was done

I thanked and left him with his worms , glad I was not one.

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