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Moonlighting: Tales and misadventures of a working life with eels
     

Moonlighting: Tales and misadventures of a working life with eels

by Michael Brown
 

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In spring 1973, Michael Brown, a young freelance travel writer, took a phone call from a friend: 'Why don't you come down to Somerset and see these things called elvers - they migrate up river at night on the high tides and the local's fish for them. It's called elvering.' And so began a lifetime's career, full of ups and downs, as a self- employed eel fisherman: from

Overview

In spring 1973, Michael Brown, a young freelance travel writer, took a phone call from a friend: 'Why don't you come down to Somerset and see these things called elvers - they migrate up river at night on the high tides and the local's fish for them. It's called elvering.' And so began a lifetime's career, full of ups and downs, as a self- employed eel fisherman: from the enchantment of catching them by moonlight, to driving them in battered vans across Europe, to smoking mature eels, to selling them - Michael and his long-suffering wife Utta have never looked back. A heart-warming tale of running a small business on a shoe-string; and a passion for eels which never faded.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Such charming, funny and engaged writing about what it is to follow your own romance - and to make it real. Nothing is more fascinating than the slippery, eely world and Michael describes it with such warmth and knowledge and poetry. It filled me with nostalgia. Adam Nicolson, Sissinghurst

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781906122775
Publisher:
Merlin Unwin Books Limited
Publication date:
03/15/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
8 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The nets were in now. A critical moment as doubt crept in: was it the right spot, would the shoal come; there was still just time to pack and move, find somewhere better. But no-one moved. Some instinct told us, they would come. We could feel it. A dip; just one or two now. Another dip: more this time. About thirty. A tiny whispering sound in the bottom of the net. From lower down, the first faint clack of wood, which meant someone spreading elvers onto trays, so someone catching. The next dip took your breath away: a ball of elvers in the bottom of the net, at least half a kilo. A sound like chips in deep fry, a sizzling. Into the bucket, the elvers still running, coiling and coiling around the inside. When that was full, we'd scrabble to spread them onto the trays, and quick, because there were more coming. It was fully dark now, getting colder, but all of us stripped to shirtsleeves as we scrabbled up and down steep muddy banks; hot work, feverish stuff. No chat now. A few minutes between lifting the net; just three dips and the bucket was full. Stacks of trays grew higher. From all round now the clacking sound of wood on wood as trays were slapped one on top of another and filled with elvers. That sound, like stacking deck chairs, always meant a good night. There'd be frantic calls for more trays.
'Yere, Mike, you got any more? We run out. I told the missus to put more on the van but she reckinned they waddun going to run.'
Shining a torch on the water showed a band of elvers two feet wide, a foot deep, swimming up river, countless millions of them. That was an elver run, the spring migration of the young eel upriver. That was the official definition. But when you put your hand in the water, felt the tiny points of their noses as they prinkled your skin, you felt their urgency, their straining to get up river against the current. It was what drove them all. In all the frenzy of catching, there was always a sense of awe at their collective energy and their sheer numbers.

Meet the Author

Michael Brown was working in the Marketing Department of ICI in London, but soon found himself diverted wholly by eels. He moved to the West Country where he fished for them, then smoked them and eventually set up Brown & Forrest, a successful smokery and restaurant. He still lives in Somerset.

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