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16 October 2014

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Fish for Brains ...

By Gary Hicks
July 2006, Milford Haven
A digital story from Capture Wales

Brain Food?

Gary tells us about the fish in his life - all sorts of shapes and sizes, some with lovely patterns, some with slimy skin, but mostly with their heads and tails.

"I was not convinced about the logic behind my mother's words of wisdom, but fish we had in plenty.

All sorts of shapes and sizes. Some with lovely patterns, some with slimy skin - mostly with their heads and tails, some very posh slim fillets with no bony bits.

But always cooked by my father - dipped in white flour, then chucked into a frying pan to sizzle until the skin crackled, browned and flaked away, then hot onto the plate.

Growing up in the Milford of the 60s life revolved about the docks and the fishing. Our coal shed smelt of fish ... our street smelt of fish ... the whole town smelt of fish. You couldn't escape that smell, but we didn't know any different.

All the men, my granddad Hicks, uncles and Dad, worked on the docks.

Of course we never bought our fish; it was donated by a trawler owner in return for a favour. My dad certainly did a lot of favours.

My dad carried the fish home wrapped in old newspapers in a woven bag called a bass. It was that same bass that brought home our tortoiseshell kitten. Sharing our fish, Whitey shared our lives for over twenty years.

It was in the school holidays as a 14 year old that the docks gave me my first real taste of paid employment, mind you at three bob a day I was never to make my fortune, but more importantly I was going to work with my dad.

There were no concessions to age, what the men did I was expected to do. It was hard and dirty work. Struggling to lift an eight stone wooden kit of fish offal, dripping with fluids, to tip it at head height into a train bound for the glue factory left me covered in bits of god knows what ... and exhausted.

But I could walk home with my dad, hang my working clothes alongside his, outside in the coal shed ... and I had the smell.

As for the brains ..."

Gary Hicks

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Pembrokeshire at a time when Milford's fishing industry was still important. I returned to Milford to live after 30 years away and I won't be moving away again.

What is your story about?
A snapshot of a few years in my life and the end of an era. I was prompted to tell this story from an object - a walking stick carved into a fish - and the old memories came flooding back.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
The buzz, positive vibes and vitality from everyone.

Your comments

"This was a story of love between a father & his son. The fish set the backdrop. My hubby & I go fishing & that's what caught my eye with this video & why I chose it. I'm glad I did." Kathy, Brisbane, Australia.

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