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Demigod David Beckham goes fishing in Iceland - there's got to be a catch

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Cool combination: Iceland and David Beckham

Cool combination: Iceland and David Beckham

Iceland. Cool or not cool? After that brilliant showing at Euro 16 – so darned cool it’s hot. David Beckham. Hot or not? Hell, yeah; higher on the Scoville scale than a charcoal-seared Scotch bonnet. Fishing. Not so sure about this one. Cool? No, more like breezy and possibly freezy. Hot? Not unless you’re Hemingway landing a marlin. 

But what about Becks fishing in Iceland? Scorchio? No, just a reminder that even hunky, handsome, tattooed demigods eventually segue into middle age. Sigh. Now a 41-year-old father of four, Beckham qualifies as a young whippersnapper in the fishing fraternity, but judging from the way he’s rocking that scritchy woollen sweater and waders combo, he’s a natural. There he was in Iceland, staying on a private estate with his family. He could have taken them to admire the lava fields or gone whale-spotting. Instead, the geezer (yes, that was deliberate) was only off catching salmon. Admittedly, salmon are more glamorous than rudd, if less rock’n’roll than sailfish. All the same, it’s a sign of things to come; an existential cry for help. Back home, alpha wife Victoria has probably commandeered that classic middle-aged men’s retreat, the garden shed, for pattern-cutting or a walk-in wardrobe for Barley Sugar, the couple’s impossibly sweet daughter. Even a generation ago it was considered a man’s birthright to potter about in the cobwebs, smoking sly fags and listening to the match on a tinny transistor radio, in what was sacrosanct space. But these days the bottom of the garden has either been bought up by developers or is no longer quite far enough from family or mobile phone range.

And so, for those who find playing golf too chatty, there’s fishing. It’s both the biggest participatory sport in Britain and the least sociable, hence its appeal to a man d’un certain age. On the terraces, he is subsumed into a seething mass of fans. Watching cricket, he’s with his mates. To fathom why a man goes fishing, you have to understand it’s not fish he’s after. He thinks it is (or he wants you to think he thinks it is). Fishing is less about wrestling a monster carp into submission than silence, stillness, the absence of (don’t judge him) everybody he loves. 

For men in their middle years, in the grip of early-onset grumpiness, fishing is also an expression of and outlet for their last batsqueak of optimism. To the casual observer they might look morose, but deep down they genuinely believe that they will bag a pike if they just hunker down on the bank or in a boat for long enough. For wage slaves everywhere, there is something gloriously atavistic about fending for themselves, Britain’s idiosyncratic catch-and-release gentlemen’s agreement notwithstanding. Every time a chap rootles through his maggots or fixes a lure on his line, he is Man Taming Nature. Eating his sandwich? He’s channelling The Revenant. It might sound silly, but woe betide the woman who says so. As the adage goes: give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll get rid of him every weekend.

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