Carp Society Open Weekend
Well, there you go, another nutty weekend in the saga of my life with The Carp Society has just gone by, and true to form it was full of ups and downs. When we first discussed the possibility of having an open weekend here on Horseshoe, we had 3 objectives, one was to celebrate the saving of The Carp Society, two was to raise some money to pay the £120,000+ that it cost to achieve objective one, and three was to show our appreciation to Tim (Paisley) for the massive part he played in both objectives one and two, and indeed to show our appreciation of his massive contribution to Carp angling in general. Tim was unaware of objective three so that all had to be done covertly, although the new signs slightly gave it away when Tim arrived. More about that later.
Ssh, don't tell Tim
Anyway after a few months of careful planning the celebration weekend was drawing ever nearer and everything was falling into place, time to relax then? Not on your nelly. Having worked here for 8 years now I fully subscribe to the theory that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong, so it wasn't a massive surprise when, with only a few days to go, a few of the trade emailed to say they couldn't make it. I then get a message at 5 o'clock on the Saturday morning informing me that the bouncy castle guy wouldn't be coming. Fantastic, it was all falling apart nicely with only hours to go. What we really needed now was, after 8 weeks of solid sunshine, we needed it to piss down just to complete the set, and low and behold what happened? That's right the clouds came and the good lord sent down the rain like it was going out of fashion. Marvellous start!!!
Waiting for the crowds
I think it's fair to say we were all a bit deflated by now, but we are nothing though if not resilient and the show must go on as they say. It was becoming quite clear that one or two people were getting a bit prickly and emotions were running high and a few negative 'wise after the event' comments were being muttered as the crowds flocked in in their ones and the rain continued to pour down. It definitely was turning into a worst case scenario. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, both Sabrina and I have been here many times before in our respective roles within the Carp Society so we have some experience of potential disasters so we knew we could turn it round, it's what we do, and that's not bigging ourselves up, it's part and parcel of our everyday lives, we get on with it and we pull it back. What was a massive bonus in this situation though is that we, for the first time in many a year had good quality assistance in the shape of Derek, Marsh, Greg and others. Like Sabrina and I, these guys have got the T shirts, they've seen it all before and they are not people that phase easily and true to form they didn't. We regrouped and we got it together and before long, well about 4 hours, the rain stopped, Marsh had sorted us another bouncy cancel and things were suddenly looking brighter. We got a few more people through the gate and the mood lifted and we were back on song.
The early evening soon arrived and we all assembled around the lodge area and tucked into an assortment of burgers, kebabs, chicken, sausages, we even had salad for the more lighter on the feet amongst us, plenty of red wine flowed and it turned into a rather pleasant evening as guys and girls who hadn't seen each other for ten, twenty, thirty years reignited their friendships and swapped tales of years gone by.
There were times in the beginning of the struggle to prevent the theft that I genuinely felt there was only myself and a small handful of people who actually cared about The Society so to eventually come across a gang of people that absolutely share my passion for The Society, it genuinely does make all the sleepless nights and heartaches worth it. During the course of the last year or two I've been out and about all over the place, fund raising at various shows and events and I've met a lot of the guys who were involved in the Carp Society from day one and this weekend I met quite a few more and some I'd already met briefly before. I can't tell you how happy I am when I see these guys and I'm even more happier when I get them to tell me about the early years. I'm talking about proper pioneers here, guys that were out all night on deck chairs and wearing parkas or sheepskin jackets, trying to catch fish that were deemed impossible, getting 2 or 3 bites a season at most and dropping most of them. If you're into your carp fishing you really must talk to these guys, the enthusiasm and fondness they relay these stories with is spellbinding, I honestly do feel transported there when they are talking. Without a doubt though my favourite bits are when they (individually) tell me about the day each of them came across the hair rig. I honestly believe, if their wives, children or even grandchildren weren't listening, each and every one of them would say getting hold of the hair rig was the most significant day in their lives, they genuinely light up when they recall the day. If you imagine you woke up one day and discovered you had the power to sleep with any and every woman you wanted too, that's how happy these guys were when they discovered the hair rig. It's brilliant to hear, it really is. I'm not sure we will recall the day we discovered the ridge monkey toaster with such passion and enthusiasm (although they are a fantastic bit of kit and available from all leading retailers). What I especially love is that having spoken to so many of them now is that their stories overlap. So one of them will have told me a story about a fish capture or a new boilie or like I said, the hair rig and then when I speak to another they would have been on the lake at the same time, maybe on the opposite bank but the stories knit together like your favourite woolly jumper. I love it, I really do. I think though what does it for me is that each and every one of them have just been so supportive it's unreal, these are good honest working class (in the main) guys in their 60's, 70's and even 80's and each and every one of them have been brilliant, I genuinely look forward to seeing them all. Good good people. It's probably remiss of me to name them because I'm sure to miss a few out but a chap called Micky Sly, what a diamond. Likewise Mike Kavanagh, Les Bamford, Alan Atkins (though you wouldn't want to bump into him down a dark alley) Maurice Steeles, our very own Derek Stritton and Greg Fletcher. The Carp Society actually just consisted of Greg's flat for a long time, where he and Tim used to have to do the memberships, organise meetings, conferences, publications etc. No computers, just one phone that used to ring at all hours of the day and night. You've got to take your hat off to these fellas, absolute gems, all of them. They truly do have a brotherhood between them and I'm delighted to see them so happy with what we have done here at Horseshoe and the Carp Society in general. I've got to mention Chris Ball here as well, what a man. I honestly think he could sit in the Mastermind chair for a month and not get a question wrong on Carp fishing, he's nuts, nobody should know as much has he does, it's incredible. He can tell you a story about a fish that was caught in, say 1961, then go off on a tangent not just about the history of the fish but of the history of the rod it was caught on and the landing net it was landed in. He blows my mind every time I listen to him, I miss half of what he says because I'm just stood there thinking how the hell do you know so much? You really must talk to these people if you ever get the chance, just a word of warning though, don't even approach Chris if you haven't got at least 5 hours to spare. Another chap I must mention is Mike Wilson. Mike kindly donated oil on canvas painting of the famous Redmire Lake for our auction and also donated a oil on canvas painting of himself with the famous Sally from the equally famous Savay Lake. This painting will soon take pride of place in the Tim Paisley lodge. A very fitting place for it because Mike quite rightly is one of the few Carp anglers that hold genuine legend status. He did make me laugh when I spoke to him because, and in a complete 360 turn around to the other guys, Mike told me he actually stopped fishing for Carp when the Hair rig came about because, in his own words "it became too easy" He wasn't even being flippant lol.
The Game changer
Excuse the quality of the photo but the quality of the man more than compensates
Right, sorry, where were we, yes the weekend. Saturday soon turned to Sunday and the day started off much brighter and after a good Saturday night I think we all felt a bit better, all be it slightly hungover. We had a few more people come in and the day went well. It would have been nice to get a few more people through the gate, just to give the trade that supported the event a few more customers. It wasn't all doom and gloom for the trade though. Big Al, after spending two days single handedly putting the Nash stand together, surviving on nothing but salad and a few bits of foraged fruit, he eventually took ten minutes off and calling on all his watercraft he landed one of Horseshoes hardest to catch residents before then returning to the Bristol Angling stand and putting that together for Jordan and his crew.. Big Al, we salute you. Jordan and his crew did get chance to wet a line so all was not lost for them and they did manage to winkle a few out themselves.
and the apprentice(s)
Back to the Sunday and in the afternoon we had a couple of presentations. One was to acknowledge the work Chairman Derek Stritton has put into the Society, both in the now and in the many years gone by. I think this is Dereks fourth stay as chairman, he's clearly the go to man for the Society when the shit hits the fan, and having worked closely with him the last 18 months or so it's easy to see why. To say he's been fantastic would be like saying Chris Ball likes a natter. Derek has been nothing short of superb, I know he's going to read this and be embarrassed but sometimes you've just got to say what you see, and to be honest, fantastic doesn't really do him justice. Anyway Derek was presented with a couple of specially engraved red wine glasses (I've been told he likes a glass of red at Christmas)
A fitting tribute
Say no more
The other presentation was for Tim Paisley, which takes me back to objective three. (Remember? I don't just chuck this stuff together you know). It was pointed out to me on numerous occasions over the weekend that it was the Fairford Air show Weekend and that it was somewhat fool hardy to hold our event at the same time. I didn't mind that being pointed out to me but what I did/do mind is the insinuation behind the comments that it was something we weren't aware of, like we were a bunch of amateurs who hadn't really put any thought in to the organisation. There is a perfectly simple reason why the weekend was on the weekend it was and that, as I said at the beginning of this write up was because one of the objectives of the weekend was to acknowledge and honour Tims contribution to The Carp Society. We wanted to surprise him so we had to secretly find out when he was available to be here. Now, as you can imagine Mr Paisley is a very very busy and active chap and his diary is chocka and the only weekend he was free was July 15th and 16th. We couldn't possibly hold the weekend of celebration and not have him here so July 15th and 16th it had to be. It's as simple has that, they could have been a thousand air shows on at that weekend, we had to hold our celebration weekend then regardless. So to those of you who questioned the dates, yes we were fully aware of the clash with the air show, yes we knew it might be a problem, yes we discussed it, yes we do know what we are doing. Yes you might want to ask before jumping to conclusions in the future.
If these two don't know about it, it never happened.
One of the many reasons it was so important to have Tim here was that we have named the onsite lodge here at Horseshoe in Tim's honour, so from this day forward the lodge is now called The Tim Paisley Lodge. We presented Tim with a plaque that will be going up on the wall. I think Tim was suitably proud and humbled and a little embarrassed to receive such an accolade but it is the least we could of done to show our appreciation of all the things he has done for Carp fishing and especially on this occasion The Carp Society. He and Greg started this whole thing off in 1981 in a flat in Sheffield and we are now an internationally known organisation that has brought pleasure to thousands and thousands of people and largely due to Tim it will bring pleasure to thousands and thousands more people in the future, so The Tim Paisley Lodge is very aptly named. And that my friends is why the weekend was held when it was. We couldn't possibly have held it any other time.
After the presentations to Tim and Derek we had the auction conducted by yours truly. We had a good turnout for that and all the good people spent generously and made it a great success helping us achieve objective two (see above). We had some great auction lots very kindly donated by various people, to many to mention but we thank you all most sincerely and we thank everyone that bid, whether they won or not.
I must finally just a say a massive thank you to everyone that helped out over the weekend. We had Karl and Paul in the kitchen working nonstop and knocking out some top notch burgers, rolls and especially the Chicken kebabs (an inspired choice) they even managed to knock up a crumble and custard. Great work guys, I am going to have to stop praising Karl, he's becoming far too popular for my liking, but all joking apart he is invaluable to me personally when it comes to helping out, top man and star of the show once again. Running him close though is Andrew Wilkinson and his lovely wife Helen and his other lovely wife Liz who ran The Carp Society stand, selling memberships, clothing, books and anything else they could get hold of, brilliant effort guys and girls, thank you very much. We also had Steve Hall, Steve Bowles, Charlie, George, Simon, Justin, Boycie, Nathan, Brian, Chris. A big thank you also to Marsh's lovely sister Lesley, who manned (or womanned) the tombola stand admirably. Thank you all very much. These people often get over looked working in what is wrongly misconstrued as the background, but they are very much every bit has integral to the success of anything we do as Tim, Derek, Myself, Sabrina, all of us. We are all in it together and share the same love of The Society and the same determination to make it succeed. Whether we've got our hands down the bog fishing nasty wet wipes out or we're hobnobbing with the rich and famous, we all do it because we care and we care passionately.
Thank you to all who attended the auction
Just to summarise then now and like I said before, the attendance was a bit disappointing but on the whole the weekend was a great success, we achieved objectives one two three and we achieved them against the odds, which is always more pleasing. We knocked a few grand off the legal bill, we brought the good guys together and we tried something new. We are moving the Society forward, there'll be lots more ups and downs along the way, of that I am sure. But, we had a fantastic weekend and while we didn't get the quantity we had the quality and we had it in spades.
Till next time