Inspired by my recent fling with Luke Jennings' memoir and some other written matter, of a religious bent, I am drawn towards the role that others have played in my journey along life's "long and winding road"
I met Les "Cuddly" Dudley in the Top of the World P.H, some time in the early 1980's. I lived with my first wife, and very young family, just up the road and worked for Kodak Ltd. Les was a huge guy, with a character to match, who claimed to do a bit of fishing. He also did a bit of drinking! Frank Williams sold Breaker Malt Liquor in cans and Les was quite capable of seeing off a dozen, or more, during a lunch time session.
|Lunatic Soup |
A constant source of stories, and opinions, he quickly became part of the gang - it was he who introduced the Mitchaleks to the scene.
|Cuddles probably took this photo! The early 1980's on the banks of Kilchurn Bay.|
There's no gold at the end of that rainbow - unless memories are of value?
I have recently taken to questioning why, and what, it's all about (you might have noticed?) and "Cuddles" keeps cropping up. He was very close to my mum, they spent many hours in conversation about how the loss of his mum had affected him. He was a great mentor to both Sarah-Jayne and Benno, during the Tring times and a wonderful companion to Simon and myself during the crazy days of Fenland and further afield. It was a photo of me playing a pike, on a Grice & Young "Big Piker" centre-pin that was the catalyst to my decision to make this post. I don't think that there is any acknowledgement to fact that Les existed on our planet, such was the sad way in which he was lost from our consciousness. He died, lonely, and un-missed, in a caravan out on a remote farm in the Hertfordshire backwaters. He just disappeared from the scene as alcohol became the dominating factor in his life.
|A mid-double from Three Holes on the Middle Level|
In between these dates there was a great deal of happiness; time spent enjoying the pursuit of big fish and the quest for an unobtainable "pot of gold" that was always just out of reach. Les's personality was larger than life, in your face, full on - he was a guy who lived for the moment. 24 cans of Tennant's Super in a day and up again for the same tomorrow - it was always going to kill him; and it did!
|Cuddles with a zed - right back at the start of our angling journey|
My memories of Les are happy ones - we got caught "guesting" Westbere Lake one Boxing Day (1987?) by a bailiff with two Alsatian dogs. Les would have eaten them - the guy was informed that we had no tickets and he replied that he didn't want to see us when he returned, in about an hour! Fair play, we packed up and went to the pub!
|Early 1980's - Cuddles with a decent mid-double from Kilchurn Bay|
It didn't matter where we ended up, Les was able to make light of the situation and have a "small light ale" just to ensure we hadn't overlooked the obvious! A late evening session in the Tight Line, at Loch Awe, coincided with a Scotland victory over England (1-0) and the group of guys around the pool table quickly let Les, Simon and myself know that we'd been beaten. Les had no interest in such things. I suggested we drink up and get back to the rods. Simon need to use the toilet and I warned Les that if any of the "jocks" went in after him we'd have to do something! It didn't happen and the tables completely turned when Simon started a conversation with guys - absolute pandemonium ensued. We were treated as royalty and at 03.00hrs we staggered out of the pub - Les collapsing at the bottom of a spiral staircase. As if yesterday, I recall Big Gus, uttering those immortal words "The big fellars doon an I cannae lift him!"
|Les with the heaviest pike that we took from the Sixteen Foot system.|
Les was a very accomplished angler, who caught more than his fair share when measured against others of the period. He was just as capable with a float rod, the Grand Union Canal being a venue where "can't you get any closer?" was a familiar phrase as Les conducted intellectual dialogue with the barge users who came too close. A pouch full of maggots usually sufficed, but occasionally there would be the lock side confrontations when a particularly odious encounter had to be resolved. I remain amazed that the boat owners didn't realise that the canal is divided up into short sections as it passes over the Chilterns and that they would be forced to stop at regular intervals. Lock gate exchanges could get quite lively - if you get my drift?
|A nice double from the River Thames, at Mapledurham, Berks.|
He wasn't an angel, but neither was he a sinner! A lovable rogue, who brought a sense of occasion to any gathering. This does nothing like enough to be worthy of his memory, but, in my own little way, it is a start.
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