The picture is of the grimy plinth on which my office computer stands. I could clean it but, like many blokes, my tolerance for muck has progressed little from where it was when I was nine.
The foremost cup, bearing the scars of a thousand morning coffees, is also mine, the two flies perched above it the left-over remnants of some feature long since published.
Overall, should you tie your own flies, it is a tableau with which you may be familiar. In which case, a cautionary tale.
Half-way through an afternoon that had seen a fair wad of papers of all types cross my desk, I noticed both flies were missing. First job at day’s end, I decided, would be to retrieve them from the bottom of my pencil mug, seen at the back of the photograph.
An hour before time, I took on board the last dregs of my coffee, thankfully more by way of a reflective peck than a triumphant slurp. Just as I was wondering why, for the first time in 15 years, Peterborough’s water should be so hard as to leave limescale deposits suspended towards the bottom of my mug, the Yellow Owl connected with the inside of my lower lip.
Whoever it was among our contributors who tied the offending fly, my heartfelt thanks for going barbless. It was but a tap compared to a full-on take (and I suppose I can now claim to have taken ‘method journalism’ to its utmost) but that did nothing to diminish the embarrassing splutter with which latte and flies alike exited my mouth, to the bafflement of my colleagues across the aisle (their magazine involves motorbikes: inadvertently ingesting spark plugs is presumably unheard of, even on a Saturday night).
A briefly sore lip, of course, is the least of it. Had either fly tsunamied towards my throat and beyond, I shudder to think in what dismal waiting room I would have been obliged to fritter away my Friday evening.
The lessons are twofold. Fly anglers keep at least 12 inches between fly and any beverage and they develop the tendency to sip rather than quaff. Just to be on the safe side.