SHEDNOTES 114: Real drama on The Island

A fallback Shed activity is untangling fishing line, the zen way to understand the frailty of human attempts to impose some temporary order amidst cosmic chaos.

Shed grandchildren are taught that a length of unbroken line is a valuable tool and should not be lightly thrown away.

The Shed has therefore been pleased to see that the art of untangling has emerged as key to survival over the first two series of The Island, in which volunteers are dumped on an uninhabited one and left to fend for themselves and wire their films of their arguments and struggles to Bear Grylls’s hotel, for commentary.

The production company stand accused of manipulating things a bit by, for example, dropping off tame pigs to be caught and killed, but there has been plenty of real drama in the series just finished, interweaving the stories from a men’s island and a women’s.

The Shed groaned in sympathy last night when 58-year-old Philip, the oldest of the guys, got back late for breakfast and discovered his mates had finished off the limpet broth without thinking to save him a drop. They were suitably shamefaced and made up for it by giving him first pick of the baby turtles they cooked later. At first, the turtle hatch was greeted as a wonder of nature and some of the lads even helped the little fellas make it to the sea. But then they noticed that some of the ones they didn’t help were dead or doomed as the sun rose and caught them still stuck in sand. Shame to see em go to waste, the guys decided. Only one refused to touch them and had to sit starving and hear everybody else saying they tasted like a gift from the gods. By this time, mind, even raw fish tasted like nectar – when they could get it.

This latest men’s team was the first to catch much fish. At first, this was down to Vic, a cleaning services organiser from Stockton on Tees or thereabouts, who somehow had the touch to keep pulling fish out of the sea using limpets for bait on hooks from the little castaway packs they got given, plus line untangled from the jetsam on the beach. Everyone in all the experiments so far would have had to give up but for washed-up plastic, which provided most of the water containers they needed as well as fishing gear and ropes.

Vic is a fellas’ fella, all growl and graft, and his skill with a rod, and his tongue-lashings for any idle bastards who laid in the sun while he was away, drove the group through their first three weeks. Then he had a couple of unlucky days and took his frustrations out, last week, on Sam, an old Etonian who had come along mainly for the hunting opportunities and was generally regarded, both on The Island and in The Shed, as a useless plonker.

Sam had spent a lot of time untangling and mending net, which probably sounds like a good idea, but Island teams have not had much luck with nets. They tend to just leave them hanging in the water, in the hope fish will get trapped by their fins, and then they go back to find that the tides have wrapped their tool up in another horrible tangle. Sam wanted to do the obvious thing which was to pull the two ends of his net together while it was still hanging more or less straight. But by this time, everybody else had had enough of his brilliant ideas for vulture traps and whatnot and was inclined to agree with Vic that his proven fishing method was their only hope and there was no energy to spare for fannying about with ideas gleaned from old Boys Own annuals.

Sam’s bleats of protest only enraged Vic further and he told the boy why …

“I’ve got more respect for the bloke who breaks into my house and steals my telly than I have for people who talk like you.

“I’m trapped in a working class life. People with power and influence abuse the little man all the time.

“It’s difficult to get rid of all the years of people with accent and class. Because of them I don’t trust you.”

But then, guess what. There was a backlash of sympathy for Sam and they pulled in his net, just for a gamble … and, of course, found it filled with big fat flapping fish. You couldn’t have scripted it better. But to be fair, it all looked real enough.

Apart from a bit of nous about fishing, volunteers for the next series would do well to bone up on how you make fire using a bow to twist a stick against another piece of wood. Everybody has read about it but not many have done it – because, as the castaways have found to their cost, it can take whole days of trial and error to get both bits of wood right at the same time. The girls team in this series couldn’t do it at all and Bear Grylls had to send them a kit he had made himself.

Otherwise, the girls did pretty well, thanks largely to Lauren, a Yorkshire nurse with a core of steel. More on them later.


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