I've been thinking of fish this week. Maybe it's because I went down to the river at the weekend, or maybe it's because our garden has looked positively aqueous with all this rain, or maybe it's because I had the most delicious sea bream for supper on Sunday. Those bream were so pretty. When I bought this brown trout some while ago I remarked to the assistant at the supermarket on its beauty. She gave me the gimlet eye and asked whether I was going to look at it or eat it.
It's quite an East London thing, fish. Pickled herrings, smoked haddock, shellfish. There's that famous quote from Sam Weller in Dickens Pickwick Papers about oysters and poverty going together. I've seen the evidence - when some local houses were demolished a few years ago we were amazed to see layers of old oyster shells excavated where the family must have just thrown the empty shells into the yard. We even have a Fish Island nearby where the streets are named after freshwater fish - dace, roach and the like.
Then of course, there are eels, jellied or otherwise. John brought this beautiful looking Book of Eels home the other day, attracted by the cover and the promise of things watery.
It reminded me of our pet eel. When Young John was little he persuaded the Downey Brothers, our fish men, to give him a live eel to bring home. It was quite a big one. It lived in a barrel in the garden then after about a week suddenly disappeared. We think it made its escape down the nearest drain. I like to think of it making its way back to the Sargasso Sea via Bazalgette's sewers and the River Thames.
They are always making mischief those Downeys. They sold me some live lobsters a few weeks ago. John refused to cook them. He reminded me of the story of a family we know who bought live lobsters to cook for a special meal and ended up driving to the seaside to set them free - at estuarine Southend - on Christmas Day.
I'll leave you to guess what I did with mine.