I have to say that the past 3 weeks have been almost unbelievable. From entering the British Fish Craft Championships as an independent competitor, to going back to my fish counter The Seafish Industry cup winner for 2016 and then taking part in FishStock 2016, has just been incredible.
So, I went back to work with my Merit of Excellence certificate in The New England Fish Craft Challenge and my trophy and was back where I love best for 4 days before driving off down to Brixham. If anyone has read my blogs before, Brixham sometimes makes an appearence, or if you are a friend on Facebook or a follower on Twitter, you’ll have had all my holiday snaps and videos (I make no apologies!)
I received a message from Mr James Portus asking if I’d like to be a part of the committee meeting on the Monday night to be held at the Fish Market (erm yes please!!) So, on the Monday, I met various stall holders, many who mutually follow on Twitter and finally met Jim. The work Jim does for fishermen, fishing rights all sorts of work is amazing. Every set up I post on Twitter of my counter poor Jim gets tagged in and he always retweets with a lovely comment.
Over he came to our little waiting group, with a lovely smile and a massive hug and introduced everyone before following a map and pointing out where all the outside stalls would be, then we went inside the market itself. The auction room had been selling Plaice that morning, the rooms were freezing and there was still that beautiful (well, I think it is!) smell of fish. Vix Pritchard-Davies, the Twitter Queen of Brixham and a very lovely lady, joked that it’s probably my idea of heaven. Very true Vix.
Then we went into one of the offices in the market to discuss the plans. The committee were all really friendly and there was myself and a lady from South Devon college who were new additions, so we had to do little introductions.
I sat there, smiled and just announced I was a fishmonger for Tesco from Stoke On Trent. Jim sat there and said “what were you doing last weekend? What did you win?” So I quietly announced about the Fish Craft Championships and my awards,to which I received a lovely round of applause! Jim told everyone about my Twitterings and my displays and said that Tesco should give me a pay rise. Bless you Jim. The meeting then proceeded and the amount of work everyone puts in every year for the event is amazing.
Then, we all parted ways, me back to the caravan and the committee team off for a drink. The sea air always knocks me out and I was ready for bed by 8pm! The rest of the holiday was just amazing, lovely weather, beautiful sunsets and sunburnt shoulders! Part of me was so looking forward to FishStock, but it also meant the last morning in Brixham, so slightly mixed feelings.
Anyway, 10th September we were all up, car packed and caravan empty and it had been throwing it down with rain all morning! We parked down on the Harbour Car park and off I went in my Fish Craft Championships uniform, my Fishmongers Federation Tie and FlatFish cap, off to the event. Apart from fish filleting I had no idea what Jim had got me into. I walked around to where The Brixham Fish Market Stall was to be met with Barry (who had given me the market tour back in February) and a few other gents. And there I was putting ice over the top of the most beautiful fish I’d ever seen. Tub Gurnard as long as the length of my arm, Whole Hake, Haddock, Plaice, Sole, Sardines it was amazing.
And for 5 hours there I was, having John Dory passed to me by trawler men and market men for filleting. “We do the selling, you do the filleting.” They all grinned. Darren, one of the guys he works as a fish filleters, and he got dragged off to do live demonstrations on stage!! I managed to have a stack of Whole Hake and John Dory to fillet to get out of doing that…that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
One of the guys I was working with, Mike, I follow on Twitter and I could tell just by chatting with him the passion he’s got for the industry. It also made me smile when we realised how many people we both knew and he chatted away about trawlers and the industry without having to explain everything, because I follow and read about such things and I think he knew that. So thank you Mike.
As the rain stopped and the sun broke through, more people started to come in to the harbour. All the money raised went to the Fishermen’s Mission and people started to buy a lot of fish. One thing that really made me smile though was the amount of people walking past and going “Oh, not just the guys on there, there’s a lady aswell, good for her!” Also, when customers wanted their fish filleting and Mike was passing me the fish and they’d watch me like a hawk (almost thought I was back at cleethorpes!) and the customers were so grateful. One lady just wanted to see how a Whole Hake was filleted. One gentleman brought 3 John Dory and although I’d never filleted one before, instinct took over, I filleted them and the gent said “that was like watching a work of art!” Confidence boost or what!!
I made the fishermen laugh a few times when they asked me if I was ok and I replied “living the dream”. But for me it is. To be working alongside fishermen, fishmongers and them having total confidence in you, and working with just stunning fish is a dream. I got to live my dream countless times over the last 3 weeks. From being in Cleethorpes, at the Flatfish factory, setting up and filleting on the stall at Cleethorpes then back to work as an award winner, then not only being on the Brixham Harbour, but working on the Market. What else could a girly fishmonger want?
I think a new challenge is needed. I already see the next weeks as preparation for next year’s Fish Craft Championships. I want to do research on my favourite fish..and you guessed it..flat fish. Maybe set the challenge of working in my own shop? I seem to have exceeded what I thought possible this year..so why not?
You can follow Jim on Twitter @FishStock1
Brixham Fish Market@bazilyo
Thank you all for your support and continued support