Yorkshire fishermen need our support more than ever - Christa Ackroyd

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against fish.

In fact I have eaten fish three times this week: once at a pub poshed up with samphire and mussels, oooh get me; once from the local chip shop with mushy peas and a handful of chips; and once from a can on a jacket potato as I write this column. I suppose that does make me something of an enthusiastic fish lover.

I also admit to uttering the phrase “what’s that got to do with the price of fish?” because it makes me smile, reminding me of my dad, who used it often when my thought process became less than logical. My granny used to tell me fish was good for my brain. I have yet to see proof.

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Whenever I go abroad on holiday, I eat fish every day because my husband complains that when I cook it at home it leaves the place unsurprisingly ‘smelling of fish’.

A fishing boat returns back to Whitby harbour in fine weather.

And I have to tell you I screeched to a halt this week at the very sight of a wet fish van parked in the village where I have my hair done so that I could purchase the very best the East Coast still has to offer, including the freshest pieces of Whitby cod and a pair of beautifully hand smoked kippers.

Fish on Fridays formed a large part of my school days, and I have to confess to still having a sneaky and rather nostalgic liking for packet parsley sauce, then served from a huge, and I am sure now banned, scratched aluminium jug.

At home we had a chip pan (remember those?) and my mum used to make her own fish and chips too because fish on Friday wasn’t just a Catholic thing growing up, but fish was cheap and plentiful at the end of the week before the weekly pay packet was brought home, and fish and chips from a chip shop was still considered to be a somewhat extravagant treat.

But the biggest occasion of all growing up was to eat them in a restaurant. Sometimes we were on holiday at the seaside when they were served by waitresses with black dresses and white pinnies and accompanied by a large pot of tea, white bread and butter and a huge dollop of tomato ketchup. The tables always had white linen cloths on and the metal tea pourers never seemed to make for easy pouring.

As for Harry Ramsden’s and the like, as a child growing up in Bradford that was saved for big celebrations. Never once did I find its plush carpeting and crystal chandeliers incongruous with its simple fare when the choice was either cod or haddock or maybe at a push fish cakes, which of course were not mashed up potatoes but the thinnest piece of fish between two huge slice of spuds deep fried in batter and golden brown.

There was no such thing as goujons, which we simply knew as fish bits. And I was 22 before I tried an oyster. But fish was always my favourite food. Prawns, cockles and mussels, even cold fish was brought around the pubs on a Friday night by the man in a white coat carrying a wicker basket.

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You can keep your cardboard boxes or worse still your polystyrene ones, nothing tastes better than fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper.

All of which goes to prove I like fish, then and now. And so it would seem does Posh Spice, aka Victoria Beckham. So much so that she eats it every day and has done for 25 years. It’s how she eats it that I find so damn dull.

I do not care how thin I might wish to be. I do not care how much of a health kick I may be on. The thought of grilled fish and steamed vegetables every single day for more than two decades just seems a waste of energy to me. And shows a decided lack of culinary ambition.

The fact that husband David describes the one time he can remember when she tried something from his plate as one of the most amazing things to have happened to them and one of his favourite evenings makes me weep.

It’s a tough life being a fisherman or woman. This week those on the East Coast have only just found out why there has been a catastrophic disappearance of some of the catches they rely on to feed their family. And us.

Piles upon piles of shellfish were washed up dead on our shores and it’s taken weeks to discover the crustaceans had died because of a natural algae which poses no threat to the public but has proved to be a testing time for skippers who have been returning with empty boats.

On top of that businesses have gone bust or closed because of the post-Brexit rows over who fishes what and where and the red tape that was introduced for our fishermen and women to sell their wares in Europe. Generations who have proudly fished our shores getting up at silly o’clock in the morning in the hope of landing a big enough catch to keep going live in constant fear their way of life will one day be lost forever.

Victoria Beckham eats fish because of its calorie content or lack of it. I eat it because I like it in all its forms. But I also like it’s nostalgic place on the varied menu of my life. Once we lose that way of life we can never get it back and I cannot begin to imagine the impact of no British fishermen working from our East Coast towns and villages.

The least we can do is stand by them as they fight to continue living a life they love but one which has always benefited us too. Let us eat fish, is my cry. And at least put a knob of butter on your vegetables.

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