The Scribbler

7 November 2011

Dreaming in the firelight

We get most of our food, meat and vegetables from a small organic farm in Northumberland. Every week, we get a box of goodies delivered to our door in the early hours of the morning. We’ve been doing it for a few years now and it’s completely changed the way we eat. No more processed, packaged ready meals, lots more vegetables and some non-meat meals and learning to love the cheap cuts and leftovers.

This weekend, there was a working party on the farm. A chance for box-scheme customers and friends to come and visit, see what it’s all about, help plant some trees and fix some fencing, with the promise of a tasty meal at the end.

I’d originally planned to do an aquathlon on Sunday. But I wasn’t sure how well my bite wound would heal and whether swimming would be wise. And having taken some time off training anyway, I decided to ditch it and just enjoy my day on the farm instead.

And it was a wonderful day. We got up there early to help clear up and set things up for the visitors, sweeping out the packing shed and setting up trestle tables and hay bales for seats. When the helpers arrived, I joined a crew planting trees, dog rose and blackthorn which will act as a windbreak for the vegetable garden.

Sunset over the fields

Sunset on Bonfire night

The weather was kind. Bright, clear and surprisingly mild, but with just enough coolness to make you glad you were keeping active. We dug, and planted, ferried muck from the heap and settled the trees in. As the afternoon wore on, we began to tire. But tempers never frayed. A bite of an apple and a swig of water and on we worked with the dogs, ducks, geese and chickens inspecting our progress.

As the light began to fade, we stepped back to see the fencing done and over 300 trees in place. A good day’s work.

A quick splash under the standpipe and into the shed for pumpkin soup, topped with stir fried sprouts, chickpea fritters and plenty of proper bread. There were many second helpings. And still room for almond and rhubarb tart for afters.

Stepping out into the pitch dark, looking up at the Big Dipper shining out in the stars; we gathered around the bonfire, watching the flames flicker orange, blue, yellow, purple and green.

My decision to do a little bit less meant I enjoyed what I did do a lot more. Rather than worrying about how I would perform the next day, I was able to enjoy the present. Just relaxing and enjoying being active and outdoors, feeling like I accomplished something. It’s a quieter feeling of satisfaction than a good run, but the wholesome ache of muscles and a hot shower and bed were just as welcome.


29 May 2011

Druridge Bay 10k

Filed under: food,run — The Scribbler @ 17:54
Tags: , , , , ,

Am I getting better at relaxing over this racing lark or do some races mean more than others? I was really ambivalent about this one this morning. Not feeling like I didn’t want to do it, but not really revved up for it either.

I was still a bit stiff and achey after a week of training and some changes to my plans. I ran intervals on Tuesday morning and then a 3 miler on Wednesday – neither of which quite hit the pace I was looking for, but still counted as decent training.

My usual Thursday morning PT session got shifted to Friday afternoon as I’d booked a half day off work. I ended up rushing to get there, struggling to get away from work, but I made it. This is always my toughest and most testing session and Ian really put me through a tough whole body workout. By the time he said ‘Right, that’s your warm up’, I was already fighting for breath. But I made it through, with a couple of new exercises thrown in for good measure.

Then off home for a shower and a bit of a relax before a night out at the Stadium of Light for Pet Shop Boys and Take That. It was a fantastic show, but I’m not sure bouncing up and down like a loon for the best part of two hours, followed by standing in a queue for another two before standing on a Metro to get home is the best way to recover from a tough session. My hips were not happy.

Hence, no Saturday parkrun. I had thought of getting up and volunteering, but opted for a restful morning, knowing that I had to give myself a chance to recover before my race today.

I ran this last year. It’s all off road, trail and tarmac, looping round the lake at a country park and out under tree lined paths alongside a beautiful stretch of beach. Not a PB course, but after feeling like I took it relatively easy at the Pier to Pier last weekend, I’d said I wanted to give this one a good blast. When I woke up this morning, still feeling the aches, I wasn’t sure what would be on the cards.

Last year it was damp, grey, windy and dreary, but I loved the race which offered something a little different, but wasn’t too testing underfoot for a road runner like me. Getting  a fly past from a Sea-King helicopter was an unexpected bonus too.

I was a little sad to miss the Nissan Run for Japan 10k and wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew, so it was great to bump into Tove and Jules from parkrun before the start. And as I lined up and did some stretches, a runner smiled and said hello and then “You must be a proper Fetchie with the shirt and the bandanna.” (I’d wrapped my buff round my wrist). And so it was I met Mick. Nice to meet you!

After some announcements we couldn’t hear due to the wind, and with a quick exchange of good lucks, we were off. I wanted to at least give it a fair shot, so dived off ahead finding my way through the field which thinned out nicely very quickly. Out along the tarmac paths through the park, a bit twisty turny through the trees, but a decent first kilometre to find my rhythm and check the pace at 5:05. Good I haven’t gone haring off too much, but I’m running okay.

As we turned towards the lake and a little more uphill, I could feel the effort pulling on my abs. Each footstep was like a mini crunch on muscles that reminded me of Friday’s hanging knee lifts and weren’t amused. I had my usual silly ‘This is too hard, why don’t you slow it down, walk and settle’ conversation somewhere between 1 and 2k. It is totally daft, it doesn’t last long and thank goodness I’ve learned to ignore it.

Just after the lake, Glenn, a guy who used to work with my husband, came past me and I said hello. We chatted for a few strides before he overtook me and he told me this year the route was different and we wouldn’t be running along the beach. I was a bit disappointed as that was one of the highlights last year (and I’d taped up my toe hole in preparation to avoid picking up too much sand). But it spurred me on, knowing that I wouldn’t have that slog up from the beach to sap my legs.

I don’t know if it’s just something I’ve got in my head, but I seem to end up running a lot of races on my own. Never part of a pack or a group, not sticking with any runner for long. Those in front a little too far to catch in a matter of minutes and those behind not breathing down my neck. It was the same on this run. And I tried to get myself in the same mental mindset as I had at the Clive Cookson 10k, just running my own race, pushing on over the gravelly trails.

At around 5k I think Mick came past me with a friendly greeting and I tried to keep with him for a while, but my pace had dropped a little. Up ahead I could see the bobbing white cap and blonde pony tail of Tove from parkrun, tantalisingly catchable if I just kept pushing.

I remembered the second part of this route as tough, with a couple of inclines, and so it proved. The first one I tried to power up into the wind. I overtook a guy in a green top as I put in a spurt of effort, but I couldn’t sustain it all the way, and he overtook me again, asking “How you doing?” as he passed and I was barely able to gasp out “OK”.

I don’t run a lot of hilly routes. I’m not afraid of them and in races I can often power up and pass people. But these slow, gentle inclines sapped my legs and I eased back. By 6k I was feeling better, smoother, stretching out the legs, even knowing there was a bit more up to come. The paths here were more tarmac than trail and I tried to use my road legs to push on, telling myself not to leave it all to the last kilometre.

Between 7 and 8k, we’d just come up another incline and I saw a young lad walking with his head down. I didn’t have the breath to offer him a word of encouragement. But a guy behind me did. With just a few gentle words like “Keep it going…take it easy…breathe out…short breaths in, long breaths out,”

I could sense them forming a small pack behind me. And I listened to the guy coaching the young lad and started doing what he said, breathing easy, taking small steps up the last incline. All stuff I know and coach myself to do in my head, but it really helped me and I tackled the last up a lot more consistently than the first one.

As the pack went past, I told the guy I appreciated the coaching and he replied “Just trying to keep myself going,”. I’d resolved to try and hold onto them to pull me round a bit faster for the last mile or so. But they pulled ahead and the lad fell back. He was running step in step with me, so I took over and tried to keep him going. Saying nothing very different to what the other guy had done, just listening to his breathing and encouraging him to take it in when I could hear that tension and tightness. Then telling him to stretch his legs out at we came to the flatter bits.

At moments I out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach for his side, probably feeling a stitch and I encouraged him to breath. I felt like I was breathing easy myself, keeping enough to be able to offer a word or two here or there. And I didn’t want to leave him.

The wind picked up into our face and he dropped behind a bit, but there was a smattering of supporters who shouted “Go on lad! Go on young ‘un!”.  And bless him, he fought back and caught me up.

At the 9k point I said “Just five more minutes,” and pushed on a little harder. And he stuck with me, through the trees, over the trails, round the last corner. As the orange netting marking the finishing line approached, I shouted “Sprint!” and put the hammer down. And he went with me. And kept going.  And beat me fair and square.

My time as I crossed the line was 52:44. I had to check later, but it’s a course PB and I was mightily pleased with that. Tove remained ahead in those last few kilometres, but running with the young lad had taken my mind off catching anyone else. I felt like I maybe could have pushed a little harder towards the end, but today I took pride in wearing my Fetch top and being a Fetchie, encouraging someone on to run a cracking time. And you could argue that actually, I was more relaxed and ran faster anyway. The finish certainly didn’t hurt as much as my last 10k finish.

It was a lovely race. I enjoyed it, and ran well despite my aches and pains. I still get those negative moments, but they don’t last and afterwards I barely remember them. And I always get through them. And I never stop.

So, onwards and upwards. A tough week, with plenty of running lined up. And then a race I love and seem to run well in the week after. Am I ready for Blaydon? You know what? I think I will be…

Stats and stuff:

10k 52:44

1) 5:06 (8:12/m) – 62cal
2) 5:13 (8:23/m) – 65cal
3) 5:09 (8:17/m) – 66cal
4) 5:24 (8:41/m) – 64cal
5) 5:26 (8:44/m) – 65cal
6) 5:42 (9:10/m) – 65cal
7) 5:31 (8:53/m) – 64cal
8 ) 5:17 (8:30/m) – 65cal
9) 5:22 (8:38/m) – 65cal
10) 4:36 (8:28/m) – 55cal

After a race like that, what could be better than brunch at my favourite coffee shop in Longframlington? Beth (@OrganicBeth) made perfect scrambled eggs on toast and I tucked in at the same time as enjoying lots of foodie conversations with a couple of new friends I’ve made on Twitter – Maunika (@cookinacurry) and Sarah (@tentspitch). Despite being stuffed with great breakfasts, we still found room to salivate talking of Indian spices, parathas, dhosas and doughnuts.

15 April 2011

Write, better, not more and think about your audience

Filed under: copy writing — The Scribbler @ 19:51
Tags: , ,

I thought you might enjoy this blog post from a fellow copywriter, Tom Albrighton. He strikes a case for pushing words to their limits. Condensing ideas and thoughts down into a memorable or striking phrase.

That very much resonates with my own thinking, that often short and simple is better. Because it’s easy to take in. Easy to understand. Memorable.

And that often invoves using the language of poetry. Poetry is about the economy of language. The right word in the right place. A word or two that perfectly capture a moment or sensation. It’s powerful stuff.

And it’s hard to do. When I run writing workshops in the company I work for, I often hear people say “But our products are really complicated, it’s hard to make them sound simple and fully explain what they do.”

And yet, over the last few weeks, on television screens across the country, thousands of us have tuned in to hear Professor Brian Cox explain the infinite complexities and mysteries of the universe.

He talks about things we cannot see. Describes things so big we cannot measure them and talks about events that will not happen in our lifetime or a million lifetimes. And there’s nothing overly complicated about the language he uses. The programme lasts an hour, but it’s not a lecture that bombards us with information, statistics and mathematical proof points.

So how does he do it? Explain something as complex and marvellous as the universe?

Quite simply by framing it in terms that we can understand. By bringing it back to tangible objects that we can hold, touch or imagine. In one programme, he explained the second law of thermodynamics and ultimately why time only goes forward, using a sandcastle in a desert. Turning something abstract, into something real.

So if Brian Cox can explain entropy in simple language, I’m quite sure businesses can explain their products using it too.

That’s where real world metaphors, like Brian’s sandcastle can help. To give you an example, I was recently trying to get my head around a feature in one of our software products, desperately trying to figure out why it’s useful for a customer.

It’s about data (something intangible). To help me understand it, the product manager used the metaphor of a car. We build the basis of a car, but then our customers can choose the options they want – for example a bigger engine, different wheels, leather seats etc.

It’s basically about shaping data into something that makes sense for our customers, for example, a list of their 20 most profitable products. It means they can adapt the data to suit them, but we’ve given them a head start by providing the basis (the chassis if you like).

I did smile at the fact that Tom’s blog post about writing better, not writing more is in itself over 1,000 words long – something he acknowledges. And now I’ve added my own sum of words to that.

Could I have worked harder to condense it down into  a pithy quote? Arguably. But I’m still stewing the ideas in my own version of brain soup.

Tom’s thoughts have also been challenged by another copywriter, Ben Locker, who argues the case for the audience saying it’s just as important to know who you’re writing for, what they want and how it’s being delivered.

I believe that too. And it’s certainly given me plenty to think about for my next writing assignment.

9 April 2011

One day like this

Filed under: copy writing,travel,words — The Scribbler @ 11:45
Scott's Monument, Edinburgh

Scott's Monument, Edinburgh

The sun shines and our eyes turn upwards, a spring in our step and a lightness of heart.

Settling into my seat on the train instead of my office chair and watching the beautiful Northumberland coast tumble past my window. Green and gold with the volume turned up to 11. Then a splash of deepest blue.

Arriving in one of my favourite cities, navigating the scaffolding in the station, to emerge blinking into the sunlight to the sound of the pipes on Princes street and Scott’s monument. You Scottish people know how to honour a writer!

Navigating the busy streets up to the Royal Mile, peering in the brightly painted shop windows, but hurrying on to make a meeting. Passing a Rankin landmark and thinking of Rebus. Spotting the close and venturing into a cool cobbled courtyard, immediately a million miles from the hustle and bustle.

Then up, up, up into the attic space and exposed beams of a writer’s garret. A bolt hole in the city. And hours pass quickly, talking about words and movies and books with someone who gets it. And who will make me work even harder at finding the right ones. Someone to challenge the easy flabbiness and lazy acceptance. Someone who wants to make me write better.

All done and released back into the sunshine to venture back into the crowds and practically sprint the length of Princes Street to greet a vision in pink. Lesley is waiting for me outside the National Gallery and I get a full on hug, almost getting swept up into a hen party in the process. Well they were wearing pink cowboy hats!

Off to a nearby coffee shop for sandwiches and lots of chat about swimming, running, races run and races planned. And before we knew it, Alastair arrived, ready for more coffee, cake and chat.

I have so many great days to look forward to. My first triathlon, new events and old races in wonderful countryside. It’s always good to catch up with good friends and this was a chance to enjoy some time with two of the very best.

17 October 2010

Busy times

Filed under: copy writing,Parkrun,run,training — The Scribbler @ 16:42

This week I have:

  • Visited Dublin
  • Encouraged my nephew (aged 9) to try his first oyster in The Temple Bar
  • Delivered a writing workshop with a new colleague
  • Taken photos for a fashion blog
  • Finished a large writing project at work
  • Had my car MOTd (expensive)
  • Been to my first ever ‘swish’ clothes swap
  • Written copy for a friend’s photography website
  • Blitzed an amazing PT session on the beach
  • Finished my fourth parkrun only a second slower than last week
  • Got some bits for my bike so I can go out for longer rides without fearing a puncture – and discovered it has a quick release wheel

Just about any of those is worthy of a blog post on their own. And I’m already looking forward to a packed week ahead which promises lots of nice things.

I’m heading up to Scotland for a writing course in a very posh country house. The accomodation looks fab and I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time writing and meeting other people who do a similar job to me. I like being the expert at what I do where I am, but sometimes it can get a bit lonely, not having other people around who really ‘get it’. I’m lucky that work will pay for me to do training like this.

On the way back home I’m planning to take in another parkrun. This time in Edinburgh. And that will be a chance to meet some great  friends from Fetch Everyone and have a blast. I think I might break out the new shoes for that one.

Being away for a few days means I have to be a bit flexible with my training. Although I have a great new plan which really mixes things up a lot and includes swimming, cycling and running. Hmmm, what can that mean?

A running friend at work was asking me about winter racing and what my goals were. I explained that I only plan to run twice a week and do lots of other stuff and just see how I go at my next 10k race in November. I’d like to do well, but I’m not going to train specifically for that race and pile the pressure on again. And she said “Well you’re at that level of fitness now where you can just turn up for a 10k and run it well.”

And that was a real moment of revelation. Because she’s right. And that’s pretty amazing. That was beyond imaginable two years ago. To be able to run just over six miles and enjoy it. To be able to run six miles fairly easily, just pushing myself and making it hard because I want to go faster. Wow, that’s cool!

And I don’t say that to make you jealous, or to make you feel like your efforts are unworthy in comparison. Many people do far more – run faster, further, harder than I can even comprehend. But I do remember what it felt like to start out and how hard it was. And I hope I never forget that. I’m enjoying the journey so much, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of how far I’ve come.

So if you’re bimbling or plodding along, run/walking or pushing your self to go just that little bit faster; if you’re just starting out, or coming back from injury, take a small moment and look back. Look how far you’ve come and give yourself a wee pat on the back. And then turn your eyes forward and keep going.

8 October 2010

A question of grammar

Filed under: copy writing,words — The Scribbler @ 18:18
Tags: , ,
marker pen adding an apostrophe to a sign

The Scribbler in action

Yesterday, as I was getting ready for work, I half-heard a news story about a business bemoaning the poor grammar skills of their recent graduates. It seems bosses at Leeds Building Society are so concerned about workers’ written English that they have hired a teacher to give them grammar lessons.

As I arrived at the office I spotted a prominent poster with a grammatical error that would no doubt have irritated one of their senior executives. The poster exclaimed ‘Its here’. And it should have read ‘It’s here’ – with it’s being a shortened form of it is.

And my question is – does it matter?

In the case of the poster, the message can be understood, so you could argue that it’s irrelevant. But as in the argument about the building society employees, does an inattention to detail here mean sloppiness elsewhere?

As a writer I have a foot on both sides of the fence. As someone who works with words every day and who has a good understanding of the conventions of spelling, grammar and punctuation, something inside me screams out, “But it’s wrong”.

I’m aware that people can get very passionate about what’s ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ when it comes to grammar. But as a writer, I’m also aware that language changes. It evolves. And things that were perfectly acceptable to a writer like Charles Dickens for example would seem rather formal and verbose if I were to use them today.

We often talk about the ‘rules of grammar’ – but what are they? Where is the book that tells me what they are? The truth is, there isn’t one.

There are grammatical conventions that help us understand, for example, that although there, their and they’re sound the same, they have different spellings to help us understand that they have different meanings.

But discussions about grammar rules often lead to misconceptions, like “You can’t start a sentence with and or but”. Yes you can. And I often do. In fact I’ve done it in this paragraph.

I was lucky to have good teachers, plenty of encouragement at home and a certain amount of natural interest and aptitude for written English and I work with words every day, so I keep my skills fresh. That’s not true for everyone.

So is it fair to recruit a sales person, for example, to test them at interview on how they handle a telephone call and whether they’ll fit with your team and then criticise them when they write a customer email littered with grammatical mistakes?

Even if you were taught well, how much do you remember from your school days? If you asked me to add up a string of figures or work out a percentage, I’d be a bit stuck without a calculator. That’s partly because I prefer words to numbers, but mostly because I’m a lot out of practice.

So while it’s true that most of us use the English language every day, many of us don’t have to write it down. And just criticising someone for making a mistake, or thinking they’re stupid because they got something ‘wrong’ doesn’t help either.

If you can understand the message, does it matter? It does to me. But what about you?

25 September 2010

Sorry, it’s been a while

Filed under: copy writing,Great North Run,run — The Scribbler @ 18:09

Apologies for being so quiet over here at The Scribbler. There’s been a lot of action going on in my running blog, the highlight of which was the 2010 Great North Run.

I had an amazing day, involving a beer bottle, an Olympic champion and a Radio DJ. And thanks to some amazingly generous donations, I also raised over £1,300 for Sands in memory of my baby sister, Ava. That’s over £100 per mile.

You can read about my fabulous race, and see some pictures here.

And I promise I’ll be back with some word stuff very soon. I’m heading off to Scotland to join the Dark Angels, so hope to report back on that and much more.

10 August 2010

Pace and chips

Filed under: food,Great North Run,run,training — The Scribbler @ 20:05
Tags: , , ,

Pace, it’s a funny thing isn’t it? I mean, there I am on my long run, listening to good advice and trying to keep it slow. And that’s quite hard, but I’m getting better at it.

And then today, up and out early on my ‘short run’, when I could quite legitimately pick it up a wee bit, and I get stuck in the pace that I wanted to achieve for my long run, feeling that I can’t go any faster. ( I still don’t feel like I have enough miles in my legs to call a 7+ miler a ‘short run’).

Gorgeous, gorgeous morning for a run. Nice and cool, bright sunshine, blue skies and those wispy cirrus clouds in the sky. Quiet on the pavements, just me and my thoughts and in theory, fresh legs after I let myself off last night’s weights session.

But it’s never quite that easy is it? Last week this was an ouchy post PT session run, with my glutes complaining every step of the way. This week, the grumpy mental demons came out to play for a bit.

I felt a bit ploddy and slow on the way out, and then I started thinking about my training plan and how I’d switched things round a bit and was starting to scratch away at things I really should leave well enough alone. Just after turning at the half way point, I had a little wobble and a quick mental panic…this would happen at the furthest point out wouldn’t it…arrgh, it’s all going wrong…

Then my second thoughts took me firmly in hand and told me to walk up the wee slope, eat some dried mango, stick my headphones in, put my old running tunes on and try out my theory that sometimes when you’re feeling a bit rubbish you should wake your body up and go faster.

Cue 2 and a bit miles at nearer 9 min mile pace, feeling more comfortable than I did running at a slower pace on the way out and a sprint finish going up through the gears at the end. Net result = an average pace of what I was aiming for. So why did I put myself through the mental wringer to get there? I think, given the choice I’d rather put up with complaining glutes.

Now, I’m not a food Nazi, but I eat a pretty ‘clean’ diet. Fresh organic meat, fruit and vegetables, almost no processed foods and I’ve grown out of a taste for salty, fatty foods. But towards the end of my run, I was craving chips. Salty, vinegary, chip shop chips.

I know that would get most of you salivating, but often, when I run this route on a weekend, I pass people eating fish and chips and it’s not an appealing thought to me. So it was ironic that I was craving them when all the chip shops were shut.

I think I finally got the message that my body was demanding some carbohydrates when I got home and inhaled the remains of my porridge, then promptly made another bowl while I was in the shower.

I’ve been very drawn to cake and chocolate this week too. So with two of my runs going over an hour and a fair amount of cross training in my week, I think it’s time to look at adding a little more fuel to the tank. It just took my body screaming ‘chips chips chips’ at me for me to realise.

Stats and stuff
12k/ 7.4 miles 1hr 09.14
mile splits:
1. 09.08
2. 09.24
3. 09.32
4. 09.24
5. 09.55
6. 09.19
7. 08.47
8. 03.42 (736m)

2 August 2010

First catch your mackerel…

Filed under: food — The Scribbler @ 19:36
Tags: , ,

mackerel with garlic chilli and ginger dressing

Mackerel with garlic chilli and ginger dressing

With a freezer full of mackerel after a recent fishing trip, it was time to try out some home cooking.

For me, when it comes to fish, I like to keep things simple and let the real flavour come through. And when you know your fish is as fresh as this was, it’s about making it the star of the show.

So, a simple mix of ginger, garlic and chilli mixed with lemon juice, a dollop of honey and some chopped coriander provided a tasty dressing.

Fish scored and lightly oiled, then grilled and dressed, served with in season organic new potatoes and fresh salad leaves.

Simple, healthy and delicious. In fact it was so tasty, we’ve had it a couple of times already.

Thanks to my good pal Katie over at Feeding boys and a firefighter for the inspiration for a foodie blog post.

29 July 2010

You shall have a fishy

Filed under: food — The Scribbler @ 18:33
Tags: , , , ,

Fishing boat heading out on the Tyne

Fishing boat heading out on the Tyne

It couldn’t have been a better evening for my first ever fishing trip, organised by Lee and Beth of G&S Organics. Eight of us motored out from North Shields under balmy summer skies onto smooth waters, taking photos of familiar coastal landmarks from a new perspective.

Out beyond the breakwater and the piers marking the mouth of the river, feeling the gentle pull of the sea. At some unidentifiable point, still in sight of the coast, our crew powered down the engines and turned their attention to showing this fishing novice how to work the rod and reel.

My usual mechanical ineptness found me getting twisted up in someone elses line and getting my own rather tangled in my first couple of attempts, but the guys were on hand to sort me out and start me fishing.

Fresh mackerel in a bucket

First catch

It’s not long before one of the gang scores the first catch as Neil reels in a fine couple of mackerel. Their green and silver scales gleam in the bottom of the bucket.

At first I find it hard to tell the difference between the pull on the line of the lead weight and a genuine bite, and on a speculative reel in, find I’ve caught my first fish. Sadly they’re coalfish, small and not great for eating, so they go back in.

Around the boat everyone’s reeling in mackerel and it’s not long before I land my first genuine catch. I rely on a trusty helping hand to unhook them from my line, but soon I’m catching two or three at a time.

These are beautiful, slippery creatures that wriggle wildly, red gills flailing as we drop them in the rapdly filling buckets and haul our lines over the side for another try.

mackerel on a barbecue

Cooking the mackerel

As the catch begins to slow, we move on to another spot and Lee and Beth prepare our onboard feast. Cool boxes unveil bread, cheese, salad leaves, tomatoes, herbs and dressings as Lee gets to work chopping up a salad. Soon fresh fillets are sizzling on the disposable barbecues.

It’s an informal picnic, but when fish is this fresh it needs nothing more fancy. We’re soon licking fingers and lips, tasting the sweet, salty, delicious catch.

All too soon we’re stuffed and return to re-stock the buckets. This time I take on landing duty, unhooking the fish as Gary reels them in. The first one escapes my clutches and slithers around the deck, comedy style until I get the knack of a firm grip on its slippery scales.

Soon I’m unhooking and filling the buckets with relative ease, oblivious to the slightly messy process that leaves my hands covered in tiny transluscent scales that glisten like salty sequins.

Lighthouse at sunset

Heading home into the sunset

By now the boat’s surrounded by a bevy of gulls. Martin, from Northern Experience Wildlife Tours helps us identify herring gulls, fulmars and a couple of gannets both on the water and in the air.

As the sun starts to set, we raise our rods for the last time and head back towards the mouth of the river. We land our catch, transferring a fine haul of line-caught mackerel into cool boxes and re-discover our land legs after a fine evening fishing and feasting on the Tyne.

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