Sharing my excitement of the recent Carp harvest experience (see the 22.10 blog below), I was told by an old local that 'these modern harvests are nothing on the old times'. But of course:-) So I was curious, and this is what he said:
From the very beginning, the harvests were considered one of the calendar's highlights. Everyone came - even from miles away; ranging from the aristocrats, coming in coaches all dressed up and hogging the best view, down to the poorest labourers huddling among the reeds. Bands would be playing ('not like those four measly amateurs', growls my local), a whole market would spring up on the banks, selling pots and lace and gingerbread and such, and (should I believe my storyteller?) even such attractions as a 'medvedar' - a wandering performer with a dancing bear might come to entertain the crowd. But the best bit (- and this went on even during the Commie times, says my old friend) was left to the end:
Once most of the fish were taken out, weighed and sorted, the Pondmaster would shout: FIRE!!! This was the signal for the poor people to rush into the mud and take the remaining carp, for free. A kind of mud-wrestling show for the amused aristocracy, no doubt, but actually a generous gesture to let those who couldn't afford to buy (or were too afraid to poach) just take as much as they could carry and a have a proper fish feast for once.
'What's the world coming to? In these money-grabbing times', says my local, 'they even got rid of this harmless tradition'... he waves his hand dismissively at the imagined 'they' and returns to his beer.
But I am remembering the old grannies with carp in their plastic bags and think, well, at a few pence a carp, they seemed happy enough - saves getting all muddy, doesn't it.