Thank you again for taking the time to read my fish ramblings. Today’s is (for me anyway) very important.
Today, 1st December, marks the 2nd year of me being signed off as a gold merit trained fishmonger, and, if I’m being honest, the 1st year I’ve thought and appreciated what it is I do and achieved in those 2 years.
I remember the day I had my assessment like it was yesterday. It was a Monday morning and bitterly cold and didn’t really get light all day. I had decided I was going to start work early, to get myself as relaxed as possible before my assessor came in. I got to work to find that it was also the day for a full stock count, which meant every fillet of fish had to be counted. Once I got through that, I had to set up my counter.
I tried to make sure that everything was as perfect as I could make it. I grouped the pelagic together, the demersal together, the ice level looked like I had smoothed it with a set square and ruler! Alex kept giving me little questions to jog me along and basically tried to keep me from being sick with nerves!!!
Then Mr Martin Bird came in, my assessor. He and Alex knew each other and were chatting away before Alex introduced me. Then it began!
I had a massive poly box containing all the fish I needed for each part of the assessment, and basically had to carry out what I was asked. I remember the look on Martins’ face when he asked where my portfolio was, and Alex passed him my folder. “Is your portfolio in here, Emma?” Martin asked, as I was getting to grips with a lobster. Alex chuckled as he said. “That is Emma’s portfolio!”
I moved on to filleting Whole Trout and Martin asked me to stop. My hands were shaking so much I was in danger of slicing my other hand off! It was so nerve wracking! It makes me chuckle as I write this as I think I’ve now done 2 fish craft championships with judges constantly standing over me. Alex occasionally walked through the prep room, giving me the thumbs up. By the end of doing the practical list of fish, I was shattered and felt like every bone and muscle ached! Eventually it was all done, and Martin said he had to do some marking and go to him in the canteen after a few minutes.
Unbeknowns to me as Martin walked passed Alex, Alex got a smile as he sneakily asked how I’d done. My colleague Liz gave me hug even though I was covered in fish. Then the walk from my fish counter to the canteen felt like a mile and went to sit next to Martin. He went through the marking for each individual fish, telling me what was good, what I could work on etc. From the marking of the practical he told me I’d already got a pass. At that point I nearly cried with joy!! Then I remember the serious look on his face when it came to my portfolio work. “I have to say it’s one of the best I’ve ever marked.” But because of the serious look on his face I didn’t understand, seriously! Then he smiled and said it was marked at 97% and that took my grade to merit standard. I was so happy!
Alex then came into the canteen and said “well?” I grinned and shouted “Merit!” He gave me the biggest hug and said how proud he was of me. It was one of the most surreal moments ever, a little like when I received the Seafish industry award and it didn’t really compute. I heard my name but thought it was someone else!
So, now I sit and reflect on what I have achieved in those amazing 2 years since. 2 Fish Craft Championships, the Merits of excellence in the Fish Craft Challenge. Having my name engraved on the Seafish Industry cup. Setting up the fish stall at The Fish Craft Championships. Working alongside amazing people at 2016 FishStock festival. Working in an independent fishmongers and market. Being a member of The National Federation Of Fishmongers.
More than that however, is gaining the friendship of some of the most amazing people in the fish industry. From The Stansfield family in Grimsby who own Flatfish and Mr Anton Dietschel-Buehler, who keeps me constantly fed with MSC information and technical information, to Mr James Portus who retweets all my fish displays with the most lovely comments. Mrs Gemma Lambert from M&O fishmongers in Horwich who puts amazing posts on Facebook with her fishmongers (and I will visit next year!)
Some friends I haven’t even met in person yet, especially the Sterling White Halibut “family” in Norway.
But my biggest shout out is to the friends I made through Tesco. My Tesco fishmonger friends as I’ve said before are spread all over the country. I always remember the encouragement Gavin Kempsell up in Scotland gave me the night before my assessment. “How do you think I’ll do?” I messaged. “A merit.” Came the reply. In fact, Gavin has usually predicted how I’ll do, maybe I should listen to him more often.
Despite my blogs, there are times when I doubt myself, wonder what on earth I’m doing. I’m not the fastest fishmonger, nor the best, and there are fishmongers who do simply outstanding displays of counters (such as my girly fishmonger Nicola Rowbotham), but every day I learn, I do more and it increases my love and passion for what I do.
Sometimes I wonder if, through my blogs or posts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (oh yes I’m on there too!!) I come across as big headed or “look what I do.” But I honestly don’t do it for that. I do it simply because I was trained by the best (Chris Parker and Alex Mair), encouraged by the best (Martin Bird and Gary Hooper) and friends with the most amazing people a girly fishmonger could have and I hope you all know who you are.
So, all in all, I’ve achieved a fair bit in 2 years. From today 1st December 2016, I’ll start my practicing for The British Fish Craft Championships 2017 and see where my passion will take me. I do need to visit Peterhead and Newlyn and visits to Brixham and Grimsby will be a definite. Who knows I might even get to Norway?
Many thanks to each and every one of you for reading my blogs and being with me on my fishmonger journey.