Caught by the River

Letter From Czechoslovakia

29th December 2008

“When I was a kid and a fledgling angler (little has changed), I used to hang around the local carp stall in my old hometown of Olomouc, Czech Republic. As you probably know, carp are the traditional festive dish in many East/Central European Countries. My gran worked in the neighbourhood restaurant and a week before the Holy Day, a 20 gallon barrel would be rolled out and filled with 8 – 15lb carp (typically of the dark common variety) and sufficient water to keep them alive. It was a mesmerising and equally depressing time sight. One hundred carp struggling for space and gulping for oxygenated water. People would queue up and select a fish for the table, most choosing to bag their choice for the short walk home. They were then kept alive in the household bath to ensure maximum freshness. Many, however, succumbed to the hammer or knife on the chopping block beside the vat. It was an incredibly upsetting sight for a young boy, one which I will never forget. At night I would dream of sneaking out of the flat and liberating the captive carp (the vats remained covered under lock and key). I didn’t really know how I’d facilitate their passage back to freedom, but I yearned to transfer them into the local river.

Raised and bred in large stew ponds, I suppose they probably experienced similar conditions to our farmed salmon, but their final days were, no doubt, more distressing. Appropriately, we didn’t have carp for dinner at our table. I’d like to say this was owed to my revulsion, but my family simply didn’t like the flavour. It would certainly have left a bad taste in this angler’s mouth.

Jak x

PS. I still reckon Bedford would have blanked!!