The Start Of My Fishmonger Journey

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Unbelievably, 2 years ago this very day I travelled to Pontypool, which was extremely remarkable for at least 2 reasons.

I’d never driven that far on my own before! I’d driven to Cornwall and Wales before, but never on my own. Also I was about to embark on what, for me, would be the start of something amazing.

I clearly remember the day. I’d just finished my shift on the fish counter, given all the details by my manager, got home and started to pack! It was a beautiful sunny day (not quite that today as I write this in my sea shed!), filled my car with diesel and off I went, hoping beyond hope that my Google maps wouldn’t drain my phone battery from Stoke On Trent until I reached my destination.

Classical music filled my car as I dutifully obeyed my map and the motorway, all the time wondering “what on earth am I doing??” At no stage before I went to Wales did I believe I was good enough to be going for this training. In fact, I was sure that they’d picked the wrong person, I was going to get to Vin Sullivans in Blaenavon and they were going to say they’d got me mixed up with someone else! Also, I knew that there would be another 4 Tesco colleagues on the course from different stores. So, naturally, I assumed that these people were a million times better than me and could fillet a salmon before I’d even picked up a knife.

In the preceeding weeks and months, I’d been guided by my mentor Alex who had not only been a fishmonger and butcher trainer for Tesco, but had been a fisherman and fishmonger in his own right up in his native Scotland. All the while he’d been telling me I needed to go on this course and had (very patiently, I might add) trained me and woke in me a passion for the trade. Unbeknown to me, the very 1st day of the course would fuel this passion.

I had never been so relieved and I have to admit proud of myself for reaching the hotel, in 1 piece, without getting lost and without screaming at my phones directions. I  checked in, got to my room and almost felt sick!! Nerves took hold and I almost felt overwhelmed, so not much sleep was had that evening.

Next morning, I was up, dressed and in need of breakfast. Within 10 minutes of being with the other 4 colleagues, all my nerves were gone. Every one of us were just as nervous! We laughed and said we were all in it together then.

The drive to Blaenavon was a beautiful one too and I had my faith in my Google maps. We pulled up outside Vin Sullivans on an estate and took a deep breath. Nick opened the door and the smell of fish nearly knocked us sideways!! Our trainer Chris Parker met us at the reception and laughed when he saw the look on our faces. “Don’t worry, after a couple of days, you won’t notice the smell!” We went up to the training room and he handed out our portfolio’s. Within about an hour of Chris telling us what we would be doing over the near 3 days, I knew I would never want to be anything else other than a fishmonger!

We went round the room with a little introduction and Chris asked me what my favourite fish was to eat, to which I replied, absolutely none, I may work with fish but I can’t eat it. He looked at me, laughed and said by the end of the day I would.

Tomorrow I will write another installment of our first days training, from handling Whole Haddock, cooking fish and yes, eating it!!

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