memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

The Fisherman

Sven Hanson was crouching in the tiny cabin of His little codfish boat the Eleanor which was finally moored in her usual place at the top of the fjord. Her crew comprised of Sven, the captain, and his two young cousins, Peter and Oskar, who had just transferred the disappointingly small catch to the long processing-hut and coiled down ropes and gathered and straightened the nets before hopping ashore whereupon Sven chugged across the little bay to moor.

He, like his father and his grandfather before him, had been fishing off the coast of Norway all his life, whether in the winter storms, the little boat tossing and pitching and climbing up the huge seas or in the summer-swell with the beautiful pea-green waves sliding lazily over the bows. He had lived in this remote community of about sixty souls since he was born, so he hardly noticed the magnificent scenery – the houses nestling in front of the towering snow-clad mountains looking back down the long winding fjord towards the sea.

Sven straightened up on the deck of the Eleanor with a frown on his wind-burnt face. He was worried about the ever diminishing size of the catches that the fleet was bringing in, even though they were ranging ever further from the coast in search of the elusive shoals of cod. He could remember tales his grandfather used to tell of seas, churning and boiling with cod, so that the fishermen, often convicts who had been offered ten years hard labour or ten years with the cod fleets, would spear the fish into small boats and only be allowed back to the mother-ship when their boat was full. Those days were long gone and now, what with over-fishing and government quotas, small villages like this, living on and by fish, were threatened. We’ll just have turn our hands to something else, like tourism! Sven thought bitterly.

His thoughts turned to his wife, Kristin; all was not well there either. She had different values from him. She was always sending off, through catalogues, for products which they neither needed nor could afford. Her latest scheme was to convert their house into a small Bed & Breakfast to attract tourists.

He sighed and paddled ashore and with a heavy heart climbed the hill to whatever lay ahead.

–              Hello honey, had a good day?

–              Hello Sven, listen I’ve had another idea for our B & B – how about a fisherman motif?  We could call it The Fisherman’s Rest…

–              How about calling it Y Worry or My Wife Is Nuts.

–              Oh Sven, be serious for a minute.

–              I am being serious. First, we can’t possibly afford the cost of the conversion and second I don’t want to give up the way of life that I love …

–              And I’m sick of the stink of fish around the place …

–              Good! Then I’ll go and sleep on the boat!

Now, a year later, Sven and Kristin are separated. Sven still goes fishing, chugging down the fjord and out to sea with the wind in his face and his eyes gazing into the distance, starry with dreams. Kristin opened a B & B with money she didn’t really have. She’s recently fallen victim to the credit crunch and has filed for bankruptcy. And who was the Eleanor that the boat was named after? Well, that’s another story isn’t it?

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