Thursday, October 15, 2009

On Fly Fishing by JR Hartley

On Fly Fishing by JR Hartley

I have a long-held theory (confirmed to a certain extent by actual first-hand witnesses) that all authors have resorted, at some stage in their career, to writing smut to make ends meet. You're reading it now.

The problem comes, of course, when they finally get into print, knowing when to stop churning out the letters to gentlemen's leisure magazines and get back to their first love: quality, thought-provoking literature.

You will be unsurprised to learn that some find it difficult, as the following example proves.

We've got hold of a first, and as it appears, only edition of this literary classic, which we reproduce in its entirety.

Fly fishing by JR Hartley (Published 1946, Eros Press, Berwick Street, W1)

"For Diana"

It was a crisp September morning, worthy of the name "autumnal" even though the sun did its best to warm the ground below the oranges and browns of the trees in my somewhat overgrown garden.

I had sat up for much of the night, tying flies, checking my reels, ensuring that my rod was perfectly serviceable, before preparing a packed lunch of fine hams, fruits from my orchard and the best ginger beer I could afford on the meagre savings I have accrued over the years.

Today's expedition would be my first since I returned from the Second War. So many battles fought, so many friends left behind in North Africa and Italy; my return home to an empty cottage as Captain James Reginald Hartley tinged with the great sadness of lost comradeship.

Roused from my sleep by young Anderson driving his cows to milking, I made my toilet, dressed and ate a frugal breakfast of bread, jam and weak tea, contemplating that while we still endured rationing, it was hardly so on active service, where our quartermaster kept us well fed and rationed; and were it not for the inconvenient attentions of the Wehrmacht, the years might have passed off as some Boy's Own adventure.

Then, making sure I had everything, I heaved my best fishing basket onto my shoulders, grasped my rod, and strode out of the front door, free at last from orders, superiors and the obligation to my dear, dear country.

"Captain Hartley!" came a voice from over the hedge, breaking my stride almost immediately, "Captain Hartley!"

It was poor Mrs Auberon, widowed in 1943 when Jerry shot her poor husband's aircraft from under him, now alone at the age of twenty-three.

I nodded my good morning, and made a show of the fact that I was on a personal mission this morning, but she would not be swayed.

"I appear to have a leaky tap upstairs. Could you possibly help?"

Of course, I cannot deny a young lady in her hour of need, particularly one who had rushed into the street wearing nothing but a diaphanous nightgown, already falling away at the shoulder, her long, raven hair maintaining her modesty.

"Mrs Auberon!" I exclaim, as I examined the pipework in the room adjoining her boudoir, "You appear to have simply left a tap running."

"It's Diana. Just call me Diana," she purred, her nightgown falling away to reveal the yearning body of my not unattractive young neighbour, "and have you noticed, it's so hot in here?"

I had indeed, and before we knew it, we were both ...

[Pages 2-177 appear to be missing]

... and then, still clutching the bicycle pump, we collapsed into an exhausted heap of rubber boots, sou'westers and galoshes.

I never did get to go fly fishing, but mine was the best catch of the day.

- FIN -

No wonder the old sod was so pleased to get hold of a copy.

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