“It’s hot. It’s humid,” says Keith Arthur on Fisherman’s Blues (Saturdays and Sundays, 6am). “I’m thinking about the creatures being sacrificed on the altar of insanity that is global warming. Text me. Here’s Alan in Luton.” There’s nothing more comforting at 6am on a Sunday than Arthur recalling the sorrowful mysteries of carp or chub, taking phone calls and letting other voices interweave in a lilting and nicely depressing hum.
Alan in Luton is worried about the lack of available flies made from peacock feathers. “I’ve been struggling for years now,” he says. “My tackle’s inadequate for what I’m doing.” As usual, Arthur is not just sympathetic about inadequate tackle but actively helpful, making suggestions for alternatives (“How about a pheasant’s tail?”). But he knows his callers don’t really want solutions. They just want to say, “I’ve been trying to google it,” and know someone is nodding kindly on the other end of the line, aware that soon this conversation will be over and so will the show and everything will drop back into its usual order.
Then Richard calls. He is panting slightly, possibly a little delirious, burned by our apocalyptic July. “I’m just back from the Crane,” he says, “and it’s alive with fry!” It is important to communicate the extent to which this message has the quality of a broadcast being made from the top floor of a high-rise ten days after the zombie hoards have seized control. “I want the people of Twickenham to know it’s back. It’s alive!” Arthur sits forward, casting off 20 years of melancholy. “The Crane?” It’s a river that was ruined two years ago when Thames Water diverted raw sewage into it to prevent a back-up at Heathrow, killing 10,000 fish. So ruined was it that only in March an environmental charity noticed a “green tinge” in the water and made the sign of the cross.
“Take your kids down to the Crane!” yells Rich. “Break a branch off a tree and stick a maggot on a small hook and you will catch fish. Hundreds and thousands of fry! Perch! Barbel! Not pike, because I’ve never actually seen a baby pike, but anyway everything else is everywhere!” Then Richard utters a sentence never before spoken on Fisherman’s Blues – a sentence so romantic it seemed to contain the full scale of adult life, a sentence so inspirational it was the aural equivalent of silvery Perseus swooping down to the aid of all humankind: “Don’t bother with tackle!”