Lo Cal Soup in a cup. Computer screen in front of me. Motorway to contend with later on.
And I’m sitting here looking at the document I should be completing, and I’m thinking about a lucky guy called Lewis Mackenzie, his wee boat, and Loch Erisort..and I am happy for him.
And I’m happy I got to witness Shaun’s first (wtf Shaun, you’re nearly 40!) fishing trip.
I’m happy for Lewis because he looked every inch a man content with his choices when I had the great good fortune to meet him and enjoy a trip out on his boat.
Lewis and I went to school together a long time ago, he may not remember it but I do, he was a few years older than me.
I recognised his face when The Two Fat Laddies and my mate Donald Macarthur rocked up at Keose Pier last Saturday evening for a trip Donald had suggested.
Lewis has just struck out to try to fulfill his ambition of making his pleasure his business by launching a new fishing trip service to anyone wanting to try their hand.
He is something of a typical guy up home – on one day he will be doing his office job, working for the local enterprise company, and on another he will be diving for scallops or cutting seaweed.
He’s saved up and bought a wee boat, maybe 15ft long and kind of like a mini landing craft, with a huge outboard motor and he’ll take parties of up to four folk out into the gorgeous Loch Erisort and, if the weather allows, the Minch beyond. He doesn’t promise fish, but he promises to try to help.
His new enterprise – Hebrides Fish N’ Trips – geddit? – is already going well, and it is as much to do with Lewis himself as the fishing.
He is clearly a knowledgeable sailor in his own right – the sheaf of certificates and licences which he insisted on showing us as a re-assuring part of his pre-amble he gives to all clients were proof of that – but he is actually just a really approachable bloke.
And more than that, this is clearly something he loves. He seemed to know every inch of the land round the north of Loch Erisort, the names of every little island and outcrop, the vagaries of the wind and tide and how each affected sailing and fishing, and the contours of much of the seabed around it too.
He could talk of the history of these communities he has lived in all his life, or the here and now, how the mammoth sea farms we passed supplied the dinner tables of Europe with salmon and mussels.
He could tell us too how these farms and their £20m worth of stock are controlled – via broadband technology – from a guy sitting at a laptop in his kitchen on the hillside above.
If you want to know more about him click here but in short, he was as safe a ‘midwife’ as you could hope to have for what was Shaun’s first fishing trip.
And it has to be said that I was smirking as I watched Shaun handle the rod for the first time with all the comfort of a teenage lad and a bra strap.
But Lewis showed him the ropes pretty well and boat fishing is, as you might expect, a different beast from fly fishing. If the fish are there, you’ll catch them.
On a sunny Summer evening we shot our lines in the hop we might snag a Pollock, or maybe a dogfish, or cod, and maybe even some mackerel.
The plan was, if we managed, to chuck some on the barbecue at my pal Allan’s before heading to the last night of the Hebridean Celtic Festival. Ever the optimists we had burgers and bangers as a fallback.
View Shaun’s first fishing trip in a larger map
And so we casted, and sat there bobbing in the lee of a small island at the mouth of Loch Erisort on the east coast of Lewis, and we watched the gannets, and a great skua and… BANG Shaun caught his first fish with his first ever cast.
And it was a beaut. Must have been all of 7lb.
Shaun was non-plussed, I shat it (i hate them when they’re alive – ok when dead) and Lewis beamed.
He told Shaun, (and I hope Shaun will remember this): “There have been people fishing all their life who don’t catch a fish as big as that. You are very lucky, and I am pleased I helped you catch it.”
The thing was so big it wouldn’t fit in the box we had brought. Despite being put out of it’s misery with a quick thwack from a priest, it would still spasm and jump every so often as I admired it and compared it to my own fishless line.
And that’s how we spent a glorious couple of hours, hauling fish after fish into Lewis’s boat as we sat in very comfortable padded chairs and let the poor guy do all the work.
I can’t remember the final tally, but I think it was something like 5 or 6 good sized Pollock and 8 mackerel or so after we had donated one to the Great Skua who kept us company within spitting distance of the boat.
Either way it was more than enough for a barbecue with pals. (Cooking advice – mackerel – don’t mess about – score the skin three times, oil, salt, pepper. bingo. For Pollock – bit too moist for the barbie unless you put it in salt for a good while to draw off moisture and firm it up, then cut into steaks).
We tried the lobster pots Lewis has just off Keose pier but there were none, although there were plenty of velvet crabs which I’m told are a great delicacy, and which we took to be polite.
Frankly, the fish didn’t matter a fig, it was brilliant to be out on the water, and I was perfectly content to place my safty on the hands of an interesting and knowledgeable guy who loves his job.
The barbie, as you can imagine, was great.
If you get a chance, and you’re in the area, do look him up. You won’t regret it.