© Wolf Avni JANUARY 3,  2005

BAH!  HUMBUG!

“Been down so long, it looks like up to me.”

Christmas hates me! Every year, it is the same thing. One way or the other,  the Ghosts  get to work my case. There are three of them;  the Ghosts of Christmas past, of Christmas present  - and that sly nightrider,  the Ghost of Xmas-still-to-come.

How is it... or perhaps the question rather should be why?  As December begins to build a good head of steam and retailers festoon their windows with tinsel and twinkling-lights, suddenly,  every soul on a payroll wants to be your special friend, every street cleaner, every  bus driver and every pizza  delivery person.

Around the planet, legions armed  with chainsaws bring down billions of healthy saplings, fir and pine,  trees cut low  before their prime,  sacrificed for nothing more than frivolous decoration  - to be used for perhaps a week, then discarded without compunction  upon the mountain of wrappings, of glitter and tinsel and all the  monumental waste which is  the hallmark of the spiritual meaning of the Christmas season, where  everything  swings to the frenzy of  its pricy rhythm.                                                                            

Shot through with cupidity, one’s offspring and other obscure relatives - every dysfunctional  dependent and significant-other - they all  begin to work their cuteness-lode and snipe away with no sense of decency at every centre from whence  guilt might generate.  God have mercy on the unresponsive. If one does not rush out and spend  every bent cent which you must toil the year away to earn, on gifts, on  presents and on junk-baubles, if you dare to look the monster squarely  in the face and  buck the spirit of the thing, the  pure consumption-for-consumption’s- sake, well then, one may as well just tattoo the words ‘Scabrous Scrooge’ across your forehead and prepare to stew in the corrosive juice of that guilt-riven misery which those near and dear to you  (believe you me), will visit upon your head. In spades!

It’s a rotten time of year;  for turkeys, for trees  and most of all, for fishermen.  A veritable phalanx of public holidays come piled upon each other.  sufficient to disrupt entirely  any get-real  schedule an honest working man might contemplate.  Entirely aside from the actual holidays, for weeks on either side, everyone and his buddy gets into this manic head-space where anyone with half a work-ethic is made to feel like an alien from another galaxy.  Yup! That spirit of goodwill and cheer with  which the season comes clothed,  masks an avarice, a  most unholy slothfulness!

One might think with all these  holidays around, that a soul could at least get some honest fishing in.  So let me tell you my story.  For as long as I have fished, I doubt having ever seen better fishing conditions  over  the cusp of summer.  Up here, just off the lip of the high escarpment, the rivers are tumbling joyously. The rains have been more than kind and along with hail-stones the size of footballs and electric storms which have fried every electrical appliance known to man, from the modem to the microwave,  the daily thunder showers have kept  water temperatures  down in the zone of perfection - and the trout have frolicked some.   Of course, with the daily afternoon storm activity, best fishing has been at first light and  - where there has been some cloud cover -  through the mornings.  Throughout December, anglers on vacation have flocked to sample our waters.  Eventually I just got tired of hearing about all the fish everyone else was catching, and so, on Christmas eve I  decided that I might  treat myself to a long,  slow session out on the lake. As I unsheathed a three-weight Orvis Western and slipped into my fly vest, a knock came at the door.  It was the people from the fisherman’s cottage.... some bother with the toilet.  It didn’t want to flush.  “No problem,” I assured them, “have it fixed in a jiffy.”  I set my tackle aside and whipped up to the cottage.  About an hour later, with the loo flushing as sweetly as it ever did, smug in the proof and certainty of my supreme competence, I darted back to collect my tackle and get out  on to the lake.   As I walked across the lawn down towards the water, I was  hailed by the anglers  in Lakeside Lodge.  Seems there  was an issue  with the water. The taps were dry.  “No problem,” I assured the  guests, “have it fixed in a jiffy.”  Pausing only to put down my tackle, I trudged briskly up the hill to the header tank that feeds the lodge with sweet, pure mountain water. A couple of hours later the blockage was cleared and once again I took up my tackle and belatedly  headed for the boat house. This time I made it all the way. I stowed my tackle and slid the oars into the rowlocks.  They  left a dimpled trail in my wake as, beginning the scull across the lake, with each languid stroke of the oars, I felt the cares melting from my shoulders.  “Oi there!”, called a familiar voice from the balcony, where Caroline, waving her arms frantically, signalled for me to return. Her urgency was palpable and daring not ignore it, I scuttled back dutifully.  Funny how quickly a languid scull might reduce into an ignominious scuttle!  Seems my in-laws had arrived and, reluctant to hazard the buckled track which is our driveway in their fancy-glitzy city-car, they were ensconced impatiently in Himeville, awaiting only  to be ferried out to the farm. Once again I put my tackle down.  “Never the less, O Lord,” I mumbled under my breath, bouncing down the rutted road towards town, “not my will, but thine.”   The fishing would have to wait.

The morrow dawned bright and early as in a million homes across the nation, with  the rug-rats all agitated and subversive, angling to get everyone around the Xmas tree by the crack of dawn, and with the adults more submissive than is decent.  Hell! The only sane reason for anyone  to get out of bed that early, is to go fishing! It was however, not to be.  Once again. I got to be the goose that hands the gifts around. Ho! Ho! Ho!  Then came a good, solid,  cholesterol-heaven family breakfast at which attendance (who would have thought it figures) was compulsory.  That shot the dawn rise clear to hell and it was well after 10.00am by the time I grabbed a rod and slunk furtively off towards the water.  I need not have bothered. Rounding  the corner of the farmhouse,  I ran into a veritable delegation of guests. Turns out, no-one was getting any water.  It seems that somewhere between the top of the mountain and the lodges, a wad  of algae had come adrift in the downpours  and now it clogged every filter.  Of course that meant all six  gas geysers had to be cleaned and the filters cleared. Then, because the lodges are all larny the bathrooms all  fitted with top-of-the-line taps, the type where each has its own cunning little filter, every single one needed attention. It took a while, but finally all the plumbing had been restored and I prepared myself for a good solid dose of no-distraction fishing.  I figured that I had earned it. It was  just then that Jack, my youngest,  cornered me.   He was having problems with the rigging and installation of the  new computer which he had found under the tree,  and until he had it whizzing along, there would be no fishing for me.  Damn you, Bill Gates! 

I could go on, but I guess you get the picture. Anyway, why should I care?  Just like Jesus of Nazareth  was, I too am actually a Semite. 

Richard Farhina