Image via WikipediaOne day when we were fishing off the lighthouse that serves the south eastern corner of Arran, warning the many ships on passage to, or from the Clyde ports of the danger from the island "Pladda" which lies close to the shipping lane, we were contacted over the radio by the captain of a passing coaster who wondered if he could get some fish in return for some whisky.
These ships are called coasters because their routes mainly take them around the coast of Britain, sometimes travelling to European ports, but never venturing too far afield, across large oceans, although they are big enough to do so.
This particular ship towered above our small fishing vessel, but kept a safe distance from us even though the sea was calm, while he waited until our haul of fish was aboard.
The fish we were catching that day consisted mainly of whiting, with a few boxes of large cod and the odd plaice through them, which was all adding up to a good days work.
It would have been about mid-day when this event took place, giving us a welcome break from our routine of constantly shooting, hauling and clearing up one lot of fish just before the next lot came aboard, so when the exchange of whisky for some fish came, the offer was hard to refuse. Not that it would have been refused at any other time, as I am sure you know.
Once the net was safely aboard we edged as close as we could to the waiting vessel, keeping just enough distance between us to allow their crew to lower a rope down to us where we had a basket of mixed fish waiting for the rope to be tied to then hoisted up, emptied, and returned with the whisky.
Sure enough when the basket was lowered back down to us there was three bottles of a good malt whisky (Ballantine's) in payment for our fish.
Great whisky! We all adjourned to the galley where we all indulged in half a mug of this amber nectar before carrying on with the rest of the days fishing.
AH! It was a good dram, heating the cockles of our hearts, putting a glow on our cheeks and giving us an energy boost to continue. (I'll call it that anyway.)
As soon as I was back on deck I delved my hands in among the fish to pull out any large cod and put them into separate boxes from the smaller fish to give us a better idea of how much quality fish we had.
Just as I came across a big cod, I felt a sharp jag at the tip of my middle finger on my right hand, just under the nail, but thinking nothing of it I carried on, as quite often we would get jags from the barbs that grew on some of the species we caught, like the gurnard.
Our hand were always leaking blood from somewhere, between cuts from our knives, or scrapes and punctures from the defensive armour of fish like the gurnard who had spikes coming from various parts of it's body, and spikes that I had often experienced jagging into me.
When the working day came to an end and my hands began to dry out I could still feel the niggle from the jag I received, and on examination I could see a black dot under my skin which meant the spike had broken off, so I tried to squeeze it out but to no avail.
Usualy this does the trick, but as half a day had gone past the skin had started to cover over the wound, trapping the spike under my skin, so my next move was to cut around the spike and try to squeeze the, by now very sore and irritating intruder in my fingertip.
Nothing worked, the spike seemed to go deeper instead of coming to the surface, so I gave up and turned in for a good nights sleep, but that too was disturbed by the throbbing of my finger, and even after getting up during the night to take some pain killers I still could find no comfort from the pain.
I worked all the next day with it, and as the day went on the pain seemed to ease, probably due to the coldness of the water my hands were constantly in, then we were off ashore to land our catch, and as my hands dried out the pain returned with a vengeance.
After we landed and everything was ready for the next trip, I took myself up to the outpatients department at the local County Hospital where my finger was x-rayed only to be told that the x-ray showed nothing, and there was nothing they could do, but the throbbing in my finger told me otherwise.
It was a week later, at the end of the next trip, after getting little sleep through the pain from such a small spike, that I visited my own doctor, who on examining the source of my pain decided to freeze the whole finger and cut open the tip with a small scalpel.
By this stage I would have let him operate without freezing my finger, but he insisted, and after three injections he decided that my finger was numb enough to begin.
He started with small slices, working his way in, creating as neat a hole as I have ever seen, until I jumped, withdrawing my finger from his grasp as I felt the scalpel touch something.
The doctor poked away with a needle for a couple of seconds at the spot that had made me jump, then withdrawing it showed me the offending spike.
It was barely visible on the tip of the needle, but there it was, the smallest thing you could imagine, but none the less had caused me no amount of pain.
As it turned out, the small tip of the spike had lodged itself beside a nerve in my finger, which had caused the throbbing pain, and the relief was immediate as soon as the offending intruder was removed, even though my finger was still numb.
It was hard to imagine how such a small thing could cause so much pain and discomfort, and it brought to mind the story of the little boy who removed the thorn from a lion's foot, with the lion being so grateful he befriended and looked out for the little boy from then on in.
Well I can tell you,I now know how that lion felt, and that I felt the same way for the doctor who relieved me of my pain, although I did not go as far as looking out for him from then on in.
Someone who can carry out such a delicate operation with such skill and understanding of his patient needs no help from a lowly fisherman such as I, but he is still practising at the same surgery that I go to, and as long as I live I will always be grateful to him.
I carry a small scar on that finger, and it is a reminder that it does not need to be the big things in life that can give us the most problems, sometimes it's the smallest irritations that are the hardest to bear.
(The Wanderer was bigger than these punts seen in the top picture, as you all know, but I just thought I would show you a photo of a coaster.)
Any old excuse to show boats, now the whisky......just savour that too.