A meal remembered


The last meal I had with my father was Dover Sole in one of the many fish restaurants along Ostend quayside. It was his favourite dish and these particular specimens appeared to have swum from the port they are named after, so broad were their shoulders. We relaxed over several glasses of Muscadet with our food and reflected on the three days we had spent windbound in Ijmuiden on our way home from Amsterdam and the Ijslemeer in our 26ft engineless cutter, Almita.
The next morning we set off for the Thames in light airs and could set nothing but the boat’s huge spinnaker: it took us a day and a night to cross the North Sea and in the early hours of the following morning dropped anchor off the North Foreland, safely out of the way of traffic, or so I thought. As I collapsed exhausted into my bunk I noticed the lights of a coaster passing between us and the land.
But we had a paraffin riding light aloft and it was only a few hours till the flood tide and daylight and when it came so at last did the wind and we had a cracking sail back up river to Leigh-on-Sea and the boat’s mooring.
Four months later my father was dead.
Now there are plans to build a fish farm at Southend-on-Sea to stock the Thames with Dover Sole to replace the natural hatcheries of the fish which dredging for the new container port at Shell Haven will disturb.
When the first sole is available I will don my napkin, crack a bottle of Muscadet and raise a toast to an absent friend and father.