Reflections & Gratitude Of A Fishmonger


Good evening everyone.

It’s that time again. I knew that my next adventure was going to be the girly fishmonger road trip I had been on with one of my best and closest friends Nicola. I knew it would be amazing, just didn’t know how much.

On our drive to Cleethorpes, myself and Nicola had put the world to rights and as we both have an infectious laugh, ended up giggling at each other over our past adventures, especially regards the Fish Craft Championships. There is a video which Nicola took of her dancing away to our theme tune as I was driving. If you think of the clip of the film “Waynes World”, where they had on “Bohemian Rhapsody” and singing along full blast, then you get the idea!

Our itinerary was very much fish related. (Well, you wouldn’t expect anything else really, would you?) We both knew that we were meeting our friend and author Dr.Steve Bloy, the author of my absolute favourite book, “The Hidden Truth.” We also knew that we were going to visit our friends The Stansfield Family and Flatfish Team, including my dear friend Anton Dietschel-Buehler, their head of Technical.

After checking in at the hotel and the receptionist recognising us from August last year (!) We had a lovely meal in the hotel.

For some reason it occurred to me just how much being a fishmonger has given me in return. Of course you, long suffering readers of my blog and my dear friends especially, will know how much my career means to me, and how much the skills and never ending quest for knowledge are invaluable to me.

To get results and achievements  back from anything that you do, you have to put effort in. But this career path has given me so much more.

I have a very close group of fishmonger friends, Gavin Kempsell, Lynda Helen Smith, Dina-marie Lewis, Manda Wheeldon, Jeanette Goldsworthy and oh yes Nicola Rowbotham  (hehe). I wouldn’t even know them if it wasn’t for what I do, and yet, even as I’m writing this blog, we are sending messages to each other through social media! In fact, I don’t think there is a day that goes by without a message to each other!

I have a quite a list of fishmongers on my friends list, who I look forward to seeing in August. We might not chat alot through Facebook, but we all meet up in August for the Championships and whether you’re on a retail team or independent, we all have a laugh and all cheer each other on during the competition. I wouldn’t know any of that if I don’t do what I do.

So, back to the trip. Monday we had arranged to mee Dr.Bloy for lunch and within seconds we were all talking about anything and everything, from how me and Nicola became fishmongers, to Steves books and everything in between. It was truly fascinating to hear Steves stories of his time on the Ross Tiger and in the Merchant Navy and the wealth of historical knowledge he has which he puts into his novels. The time flew by and to be honest could have carried on listening to his stories.

Then Nicolas phone buzzed and it was a message from Mr Ivan Jaines-White. He is one of the most nicest gentlemen you will ever meet, and he is, amongst many many things, a fishmonger trainer for Tesco. He messaged to say he was free at the Grimsby Seafood Village if we wanted to pop over and see him. So, off we went. He looked so happy to see us and chatted away about his travels round the world with his fish skills. It’s difficult not to feel enthusiastic about what we do when you’re talking to someone like that, and especially when they take an interest in what you have to say aswell. Even later on, he met us for a meal and a laugh. We were very spoiled girly fishmongers that day, we didn’t buy a single thing!!

It was an amazing day, with souvenirs to take home as Dr.Bloy had signed promotional posters of his books for us!!

None of that would have taken place if it wasn’t for what I do.

The last day of our girlyfishmonger road trip was the visit to Flatfish Ltd. I’m very proud to say that Anton is a priceless friend, especially for all the technical fish advice, which he knows I love. All that me and Nicola were expecting was the chance to say hi to them all as we knew they were extremely busy.

Steven Stansfield, the head of the Flatfish Ltd company, along with Anton, took us on a guided tour of the factory after we were all suited and booted and the red hair net. The whole operation is just a wonder to see. Then Steven had us get to grips with fish! The whole Stansfield Family are synonymous with every step of the fish industry and that includes fishmongering skills. Nicola did an amazing job with a Whole Monkfish, taking its head off and leaving all the meat on for the tail.

Then we went over to the Halibut. After abit of expert tuition, we had a go. Under the watchful gaze of Mr Stansfield, Anton filming and the reigning flatfish Ltd challenge champion, we got to grips with a Whole Halibut, tail off and head removed. That was the first time I’d ever done that with a Halibut! I only hope I did a good job, especially as it’s Sterling Halibut from Magnus Skretting! I have to say I felt a little proud of us both for what we did. Then we carried on with the tour and we were the first to hold Plaice which had just been bought in. The last people to have handled the fish were the fishermen  themselves and they were stunning. As we lifted them up, they were still in rigor stage and exquisite.

After our tour and clean up, we had coffee and a laugh at the photos that had been taken around our tour. Then it was arranged that myself and Nicola were taken to Kevin Stansfields fishmongers. Kevin is brother to Richard and Steven, so off we went with Reece Stansfield to go and visit. Again, the quality of fish that he had was beautiful and you can tell that passion, skill, pride and enthusiasm for the trade runs through the whole family.

Then we went back to Flatfish to have some lunch with Anton and had an impromptu visit to Grimsby Docks. It’s quite sobering to see the Docks which were once thriving with so many fishing fleets that they were ties together. Steve Bloy was telling us, and showing photos of fishing boats. There were that many, that your boat might have been right at the back and the only way to get to it was to literally climb on to the boats in front and walk over to get on to yours. Now, there was nothing. We slowly drove past the pontoons and old Fish market which was literally falling apart into the water. We got out of the car and stood in the shadow of the beautiful dock tower and for a few moments we didn’t say anything. For me, anyway,just reflecting on the amazing fishing heritage that Grimsby was built upon.

Then it was back to Flatfish to finally say our final goodbyes to Richard and Steven before we headed home.

They were extremely busy, yet they took out so much of their time for myself and Nicola and went above and beyond. None of that would happen if it wasn’t for what I do.

The friends I have in Brixham, I wouldn’t even be aware of, the experiences I have had already this year (and I have many more to come) I would not be enjoying if it wasn’t for what I do.

All that is good for me to reflect on. I have a lot of bad traits. I have a short temper (really!), don’t have the greatest amount of self confidence  (honestly!!), get frustrated (mainly with myself) and find it very difficult to trust people. But ever since I’ve started what I love doing, slowly that’s all starting to change.

OK, I admit the short temper thing must be a Mckeating family trait, but everything else I can work on.

If someone had told me that in 2 days I’d have met and had lunch with my favorite author, met up with an amazing fish training legend, spent the whole day with fish suppliers and prepared fish in front of them, I quite possibly would have died laughing. However, each time I challenge myself or I push myself, the little insecure voice that tells me I can’t do something gets a little quieter. It still surprises me when I get approached to do things, but I feel proud of it after.

And all that is down to the day I first picked up a fish filleting knife and prepared a fish.

Em x


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