memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Today is the 23rd June. The night of S. João takes me back to Porto in the old days when we used to sally forth and mingle with the throng in the narrow old streets of the Ribeira region of the city. Le tous Porto was abroad that night. Bank directors and their families rubbed shoulders with the denizens of the Sé quarter down at Fontainhas and the fragrant stench of grilling sardines pervaded the whole city.

June, not April, is the cruellest month for us sardines. Our dad Sid is the union rep. for the shoal and makes a public address:

Brothers and sisters, fellow fish, as you all know June is here again which means Red Alert for us in-shore shoals off the Portuguese coast. You all may remember the success of our Save Our Babies campaign, with Brussels changing the EU regulations regarding net-size. Unfortunately the Portuguese fishermen continue to use the (illegal) tight nets and I’ve just been informed by a reliable source that this year they are deploying a new weapon – depth-charges, which is in direct contravention of The Atlantis Convention. (Let me just remind you of the details of this deadly weapon: a 4 Kg. bomb is detonated at a depth of 9 meters; within a radius of up to 20 meters all piscine life is obliterated, from 20 to 50 meters we suffer severe internal injuries and are thus uneatable, but from 50 meters outwards we are disoriented and swim towards the surface and become prey to the enemies’ nets; so none of us is safe. Remember our motto: stick together for dolphin attack but spread out for human attack – they can’t catch us all. This is probably my last speech to you as I’m joining the suicide-shoal to lure the fishing fleets away from the main body. May Neptune guide you safely through the waters.

 (Our dad joined the tens of thousands of his fellow fish to be caught, grilled on a charcoal fire then balanced onto a nice slice of seeded rye bread. Yes, June is indeed a cruel month for us sardines).



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