Inside track: Joycelyn Neve on why she still gets up at 5am for the best fish
I don't know if I'm naturally an early riser or I've been preconditioned by my dad. Receiving phone calls at 5am with news of incredible fish, the best whatever it might be that day, isn't news that can wait.
This makes sense now, as seafood is at the heart of Seafood Pub Company, but these phone calls have happened for as long as I can remember. And if not a phone call, it's pictures of yet another "best I've ever seen" fish.
At university, my friends understandably thought this was odd, but I didn't. I loved it and still do. Dad's been in the fish game for 45 years and has more energy and passion for the product than anyone. Our morning chats, talking about the price of fish and knowing that what's on the way to the pubs will put big smiles on staff and customers' faces, are one of my favourite parts of the day.
The quality of the produce we use is so important to us and we're spoilt for choice with an abundance of great farms and producers locally. On the north-west coast, we do really well for variety as well as the quality from the day boats. We do especially well with lobsters. To make the most of this, we bought tanks where they live happily for a few days until their final destination is decided.
Deciding when to buy, to really make the most of their peak season, is my chance to play at seafood trader. Predicting the prices, looking ahead at the weather, the day of the week and volume we're likely to get through before the tanks are empty can be quite exciting. Dad's naturally a more cautious person than me, whereas I enjoy the risk for the better price that might come the next day and have all the optimism to be sure that it will.
Until a few years ago, the only thing we'd really disagreed over was when to wait and when to buy the lobsters. Pre-Brexit, that is. For Dad, being from a long line of fisherman, growing up in what was a booming fishing port and having worked in the industry his whole life, the mismanagement of the fishing industry by consecutive governments meant voting leave was a certainty. We rowed about it. While I understood the emotion and frustration involved for him, making a decision for the future based on anger from the past was wrong and it wouldn't change the past. We wouldn't simply be ‘taking back our waters' and, once again, it would likely be traded away for something considered more important to the British economy in whatever deal would happen.
Dad gets this, but is perhaps more optimistic than I am that it will end up much better than it is now. For a short while, talking about the price of fish was much more of a normal supplier-customer chat rather than a father-daughter one. But not for long. Genuine commitment to sustainability and having educated representation for the industry in government is what needs to happen. On that we both agree.
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