Hello buoys and gulls and welcome to my blog.
Tuesday 25th April will be a day I will cherish for a very very long time.
Monday 24th April I went to work to carry out my duties on my fish counter, but maybe with a little more enthusiasm than normal for 5.30am. I was determined to have a great day, have a good set up and a good selling day. After a quick drive home, change and making sure everything was packed, myself and my dad Brian made our way to the station. I have to say my excitement was building and I think it was that which kept me awake on the train to London!
The only other time I’ve been to that side of London was when I attended the National Federation Of Fishmongers AGM at Fishmongers Hall back in January so I was quite pleased being that side again. Tuesday morning I woke to messages from friends back in Stoke on trent saying that they’d had a flurry of snow, so tentatively I opened the hotel curtains to beautiful blue sky and sunshine! You have to love the British weather.
So, after breakfast, I got myself all dressed up. It’s something I don’t do all that often as the majority of the time I’m working on my fish counter and even when I’m on holiday it has to be fish industry related somewhere along the line! My dad and I were just 5 minute walk away from the very stunning Trinity House, where the AGM was to be held. As I’ve said before, despite my love of Tudor history, I’ve not really explored that part of London, so I was quite pleased to find that Trinity House is directly opposite to the Tower of London!
I have to admit that I was feeling a little nervous! Apart from winning my Seafish award last year, I’d never experienced anything like that. If I get called into the managers office for commendation, I spend most of my time looking at the floor!! I think the reason is I find it difficult to accept praise when it’s for something that is both important to me and something I am passionate about doing.
Anyway, my dad and I entered Trinity House and the very lovely ladies on the desk passed me my badge to wear and wrote one out for my dad. My dad jokingly said “you can just write Emma’s dad on it if you want!” We were escorted in a lift to the stunning reception room, literally wall to ceiling oil paintings in the whole room and a beautiful fresco on the ceiling, all maritime related. King Henry VIII’S portrait hung one side of the room, and his daughters portrait Queen Elizabeth I was directly opposite with portraits of kings and Queens on every wall. Within seconds people came over speaking to me, and I was very happy to see my friend James Portus who came over, gave me a hug and started chatting about FishStock. I finally got to have my photo taken with Fishsock too, so that was a bonus! I also managed to finally meet in person Duncan and Sue Lucas. They are very excellent fishmonger who own the shop Passionate About Fish, and I’m always proud to see their updates on social media of how well their shop is doing.
I was introduced to Alison Godfrey who is the director of Business Development for the Fishermen’s Mission. Alison said some very lovely things about why I was getting the award and I’m sure I started blushing! Then we were all ushered into the main room for the AGM.
Another stunning room with stained glass windows and oil paintings of admiralty including Winston Churchill looking down on to the proceedings. The AGM then began with order of business with a comment that the serious side would be over and the far more entertaining side of the awards. For me it was fascinating to hear about the news for 2016 and where the Fishermen’s Mission aims to be. So much work goes into it both behind the scenes and on the “front line” for fishermen.
Then it was the awards. I had no idea in which order the awards were to be presented, so it came as a surprise when the picture above came up on a massive screen, with me on the counter that I helped to set up at the NEC and my profile with the Seafish award! It’s such a surreal moment. When I collected the award at the Fish Craft Championships last year, it was a case of my name called out, and once I realised that it was actually me, I went up to collect it. This was different. Alison did such a lovely introduction that I could feel myself about to burst! I loved the fact that my blog was mentioned and the very obvious fact that I cared deeply about fundraising and more importantly, the fishermen. Then,without trying to make eye contact with anyone because I was sure I was going to burst into tears (!) I stood up to collect my award. The following award winners were just incredible. There was a team of cyclists who had done an amazing charity cycle, there was a fish and chip restaurant in Torquay who raised an amazing amount of money and ones who had served the Mission for a good while who also deserved their recognition.
After the awards, a short video presentation was shown, where it showed fishermen in the 1800s in perilous conditions both on Sea and land. Dr. Stephen Bloys book “The Hidden Truth” described fishing smacks and the rowing boats to pull the catch in,the video showed all that and it drew gasps of disbelief from the audience.
A superintendent from Lowestoft then gave a talk and experience about the work that he does, and on more than one occasion you could tell the emotion in his voice. Then a young Cornish fisherman, Johnny Murt then got up to give his talk. In his talk you could hear the passion he has for being an inshore fisherman and expressed the need for young men to become fishermen and the obstacles as well as the benefits. It was truly inspiring to hear what he had to say, and right there and then, I knew I would make an even bigger effort to support.
It may surprise people to know that The Fishermen’s Mission don’t recieve any government funding or assistance, that they purely rely on the fundraising efforts and trustees to keep them going and in this time of economic difficulties it’s both more difficult to raise funds and also a time when it’s most needed to assist fishermen and their families.
After the awards, the recievers all had our photos taken, singly and as a lovely group photo on the staircase of Trinity House and I couldn’t help but smile. A friend at work told me that she always knows when I’m doing something fish related because my smile is bigger than ever. It’s true because what I do brings me such a joy that’s difficult to describe. Yes my work at Tesco starts at 6am and finishes at 3pm or if I’m working a late shift I finish at 8pm, but fishermen don’t have a clocking time, they work through the night. They work through conditions which would scare people just to make sure that they both earn a living and supply people with fish. So, the very least I can do is support them every step of the way.
And that is my resolve. As I left Trinity House I decided then that I would do all I can to support, and not because I had a beautiful award in my hand, but the sheer inspiration in that one room and the passion that they have to help fishermen and their families.
I’ve mentioned all the way through about just how beautiful and historic the building is. It is in the same league as the beautiful Fishmongers Hall just along the Thames. Outside the building is Trinity Gardens and one of the biggest war memorials I’ve seen. They contain the names of all the men of the Merchant Navy and Fishing fleets who died during both World Wars. In part the epitaph at the top of the memorial says “Who have no grave but the sea.” To think that there are thousands of men, most of whom were probably young men, or ones who usually just went out to fish, never returned and were claimed by the sea. The same happens today, fishermen go out to sea and never come home.
That is why The Fishermen’s Mission is a vital lifeline not just out at sea but on land and need our support.
As always, please gone online at
http://www.fishermensmission.org.uk for more on their history and ways to help.
Also follow them on Facebook
Thank you to everyone at the Fishermen’s Mission for the lovely award and making me so special. Truly it’s a day I’ll never forget.