Every summer holidays we go crabbing! We know the perfect spot in a Devon village which has a small shabby harbour. It isn’t particularly touristy; this is probably because of the murky water, the pervading odour of rotting fish, and the array of scrappy and dejected boats – which look like the discarded props from the last Jaws movie.
It’s a bit like a boat graveyard and the crustiest, most decrepit crafts get bailed out regularly by old-git-locals, otherwise they sink with their noses poking out of the water in a sinister manner. Let’s just say I haven’t seen this harbour on any Devon picture postcards!
For all your creepy boat needs!!
So last week, I arranged to pick up Anna (local best friend) and her 9 year old twins Miles and Marcus and we set off on our crabbing expedition with my kids Toby and Lottie. *Only* 106 are we nearly there yets, a whole packet of Werthers Originals, and 2 separate picnic wees in 2 seperate lay-bys later and we finally arrived (we had covered a total distance of about 12 miles or 35 mins in journey time for crysakes). I parked the car in a leafy, shaded spot in the church car park which would ensure a Jackson Pollock-esque splat effect of woodpigeon poo on the roof and bonnet upon our return – a kind of unrequested birdpooey pimp my ride. We noticed that the church was advertising ‘Cream Teas this week’ in the village hall and graveyard (where they had put out a selection of colourful and rickety looking tables and chairs!?!?). More like ‘Scream Teas’, would you like one or two paranormal sightings with your pot of tea and scones……???
As we approached the harbour and the thin and shambolic jetty, I was quietly dismayed to see that there was already a large family crabbing in our preferred crabbing spot. Anna and I exchanged crabby looks. But hang on, it looked like they might be packing up to leave…..
We drew level with the family as they were exiting the rickety wooden pier. The Dad spoke up as they approached.
“I think you’ll find we’ve already caught all the crabs!!” he announced pompously, in a knobby and self satisfied manner.
Anna and I exchanged further crabby looks. Were they going to take them all home? Maybe try and eat them? Surely not, the crabs didn’t get any bigger than the size of your hand (including all pincery extremities).
“Yeah, we caught 31 crabs,” bragged one of the younger tweenagery girls who was waggling a wet and slimy net about. A quick glance at their buckets assured me that they hadn’t kept the crabs, ergo they weren’t going to boil them up for tasty sandwiches (or indeed a nasty case of food poisoning). Next it was the turn of the Mum to say something.
“We always come every holiday – best spot for crabbin’,” she chuckled into my face (such was our close proximity on the narrow jetty).
“That’s right love, it’s great cos there’s no tourists,” added the Dad.
Apart from you’re a tourist???? – obviously the irony was lost on him. I grunted a pleasantry, thinking all the time – enough with the showy offy backstory, move along – this jetty is quite narrow and I don’t want to fall in. We continued to inch past them, managing to do so without dying of boredom as they banged on with some extra ‘crabbing advice’ and then threw in some random anecdotes about their caravanning holiday too. I wasn’t aware I’d bought front row tickets to the ‘Crabbing Family Monologues’. Eventually we reached the end of the jetty, and there – obscured by a large orange buoy was a huge mound of crabs! They hadn’t even bothered to throw them back – how lazy and shellfish…….dot dot dot.
The crabs were huddling together, desperately trying to stay camouflaged in a frightened mass. By now there were seagulls circling above like vultures and they were intermittently raining crap upon us. The gulls sounded like toddlers playing pass the parcel at a birthday party “mine! mine! mine! mine!” they shrieked. It was only our presence that was stopping them from divebombing the all you can eat crab buffet!
“We’d better get them back in the water or the gulls will get them,” observed Anna calmly, seemingly transfixed by the great writhing mound of crustaceans. Toby was by now squatting over them with the twins and probing the teeming pile with the other end of his net.
“We have to do something! We have to do something NOW!!” squawked Lottie over theatrically (so thrilled that her Stagecoach classes had paid off then!). Lottie’s concern galvanised us and we decided quicksmart that we should do something now! Without delay we began what can only be described as…….
They were not the easiest of shellfish to herd because the wretched critters were so terrified, disorientated or possibly just dim. Anna helped the children because I reserved the right to remain quietly freaked out by the sheer number of crawly, skittery legs and pincers. The kids used their nets to gently extract each one and then plop it back in the water. Above, the gulls were still swooping and screeching for crab meat, every so often we had to wave our nets in the air (like we just didn’t care) to shoo them off.
One of the largest and feistiest looking crabs suddenly made a bolt for the water and in doing so unwittingly skittered over my flip-flop bedecked foot. I shrieked, jumped two feet in the air and performed a very amateur impression of Michael Flatley’s Riverdance – all the while cringing from the crabby sensation. This was all a bit too much action for the old (rotten) jetty – which was groaning and creaking ominously under all our movements. If we all fell in and drowned, the locals wouldn’t notice for days such was the turbidity of the rank water and the boat graveyardy atmosphere. To make matters even worse we were then interrupted by a bevy of dastardly swans – the lanky necked ringleader seemed determined to thwart our rescue efforts by thrusting it’s beak at us aggressively and hissing in a proprietary manner.
Oh swan off!
Again we had to wave our nets to ward off both the swans and the seagulls (it was not unlike the gory scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds!). Some of the remaining crabs looked very dejected with pincers missing and limbs hanging off and a handful of larger ones had begun infighting, throwing their scissory claws about – intent on canibalism. Slowly but surely with coaxing, shoving, herding, refereeing and netting we got the last crabs safely back in the water. After that we persuaded the kids that it would be (taking the piss) unfair to catch them all over again so we bribed them with sugar and we repaired to the village hall for a cream tea. Of course all the tables inside were taken by a coach load of senior citizens so we had to sit in the graveyard. However, even a ghoulishly macabre (s)cream tea made Anna and I feel a bit less crabby!
More next time.
As you were!
PS, If you have you got any crabbing/fishing fails, bird harassment anecdotes or unusual cream tea incidents – do tell in comments…..I love a good yarn me! x
Note to myself: The one about the birds! the birds! and going un-crabbing!
Only went and got the #chucklemums Pants- wettingly funny blog! – get me!