Returning to the theme of Halloween, I was reminded of the contents of Arachno Vino by an extract from Robert Hughes’ A Jerk on the End – Reflections of a Mediocre Fisherman. A jerk on one end of a line waiting for a jerk on the other – one of the classic definitions of fishing. Reflecting on the difference between ‘clean’ fly fishing and the use of coarse ground-bait he quotes a 17th Century recipe – human fat, powdered bones, “mummy”, cat fat and grave earth – everything but a Tartar’s lips and the liver of a blaspheming Jew. Fact is always stranger than fiction.
This short book is about much more than one man and his rod. The final chapter, Troubled Waters, is a succinct explanation of the consequences of industrial scale fishing, its environmental impact and our attitude towards conservation. I am indifferent to the plight of the fox; if the vicious little animal didn’t look so cute and wasn’t hunted down by toffs on horseback, would so many people care about its fate. Robert Hughes puts it plainly – It is easy to have respect for creatures somewhat like ourselves. The real test is to feel it for the immense majority of species that are totally unlike us. Serious concern for Nature must begin with recognition of its otherness. The “pathetic fallacy” – the habit of ascribing human emotions and impulses to non-human entities – is to conservation what a set of training wheels is to biking. It gets the kiddies going, but it has to be left behind. Otherwise, bad luck for the un-cuddly, the non-feathered, the wet, the cold-blooded and the myriad creatures that have more than four legs or none at all.
Robert Hughes died August 6th 2012; an intelligent voice sadly gone.
Quebec is a spectacular place even in the Fall’s mist and drizzle. It is very European, defiantly more French than France, if that be possible. Most are bilingual but much of the signage is not; the lady shopkeeper who relieved me of our last US dollars was actually from Belfast and though perfectly pleasant, she had to let me know she thought the British should get out of Northern Ireland. An interesting perspective.
Then, there are the steps – more than 300 to get you up from the waterfront to Terrasse Dufferin and then a load more to reach the Citadel (yes, another one). From there it is possible to walk the full length of the Ramparts, all downhill on the clockwise route. Northwest of the Old Port the Bunge silos dominate the skyline; in the evening as the light over Quebec dims, uplighters turn the row of silos into a purple curtain, converting the brutal industrial into the theatrical epic.
We arrived in New England too early for the Fall’s colours but timed it just right for the St Lawrence and Quebec. Around Chateau Frontenac, along the route of the ramparts and throughout the parks, the trees display the full autumnal spectrum and everywhere there are pumpkins and the orange hues of Halloween. The display outside City Hall is an intricate and artistic construction encompassing witches, warlocks, black cats, spiders and large volumes of Arachno Vino – a subtle blend of frog tongue, eye of newt and a hint of rat.
As an aside, this is the cost of blogging from ship – 250 minutes of MTN Internet satellite access for £65, roughly $100. I haven’t tested the download speed but would guess it doesn’t exceed 1Mb/sec whilst the upload is much slower. This explains my lack of other activity on WordPress so apologies to Tj and others.