If the first thing you thought upon reading the title of this blog piece was “what the heck is magnet fishing?”, you’re not alone. If you already know what it is, you’re more worldly than me. Frankly, that might not be terribly difficult – but I won’t burst anyone’s bubble. I’ll let you have that one.
As I was walking to the supermarket yesterday, backpack on and taking the river route, I encountered a strange sight on the bridge. A couple of young women were leaning over the bridge railing and doing peculiar things with the line they were each dangling over it into the water. Now, a strange sight was not an opportunity to be missed to stick my beak in, and find out what was going on.
As I got closer, I called out ‘What are you doing? I’m just being nosy.” I didn’t want them to think I was challenging them, and I also thought I might as well just say it like it is. Besides, everyone expects older people to be nosy. I officially clocked up another year yesterday, so felt entitled. God knows what I’m going to be like as even more years bless me. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh about an increasing penchant for wanting to know what’s going on, after all ‘watchers’ play an important role in the world in all spheres of life to keep us in check from excesses that may harm others and ourselves. Having said that, it’s been a while since I was any danger to anyone from my excesses. My mouth is a different story, though, and my nieces and nephew are beginning to show signs of becoming watchers for the unfiltered excesses that may come out of it. Older people can be a trial in so many ways – it really is worth the wait. The rewards can be found in surprising places.
Anyway, the young women didn’t mind me calling out to them at all. Neither of us had to shout very much as sound carries over water, so we had a nice wee conversation about their activities. In answer to my question about what they were doing, the more talkative one of the two said they were “magnet fishing”. I didn’t actually ask “Wtf is that?” but it was pretty much my first thought. Next, the typical picture of a distressed and struggling fish being hauled up on a line with a hook painfully through its mouth flashed into my mind. Being a vegan, this is an unhappy picture. But, call me slow, I couldn’t quite grasp how a fisher got fish up and out of the water with a magnet.
My silence must have conveyed my lack of understanding; a silence I’m sure she’s ‘heard’ more than once after uttering those words. The more talkative one – and thank goodness for not having to drag every word out of her like an interrogation (nephew, if you’re reading this, not looking at you at all) – explained that they had big hook-shaped magnets on the end of their lines, and were fishing for anything metallic. Every so often, they pulled their lines up to check if anything had attached to the hooks. It seemed like they were treasure hunting, a bit like metal detectorists do. As an aside, if you haven’t watched that British comedy series call ‘The Detectorists’ it’s worth a watch. It was made in the understated-humour style a few years ago now, but still a goodie.
The Avon River in Christchurch is not as grossly polluted as some rivers, but stuff still ends up in there. On this day, one of the young woman had fished out some coins and keys and a couple of other things which I can’t remember now, and a handbag with everything still inside it that showed it was twenty-one years old. Well, that was fascinating, I said. Yes, she said, and she was going to take it to the police later, as who knows, it might be part of a missing person case.
I have to admit that that thought never entered my head. It conjured up some thrilling scenarios in the way that it will in people whose lives don’t normally rub shoulders with the harsher elements of life. I know I should be ashamed of myself, because it means a victim may have been involved. And I am a bit ashamed, but also not as much as I probably should be, because right there and then it wasn’t real. Seriously, though, I hope it’s just a lost handbag. After a couple more conversational exchanges, and getting permission to take their photo, I continued on my way, a little richer that day for having stuck my beak in.