The Fish Man didn’t call as normal earlier in the week,
“Where were you?” I asked, “There were no fish,” he said, “the boats have been out but all came back empty,”
After he left I pondered on the implications of his words, it was more than us not having our regular portion of seafood, the income of many families would have been affected, since most are already eating hand to mouth, several days without income would severely pressure them.
Roger lives in Masachapa with his wife of twenty years, Judy and their three daughters, the eldest of whom has just secured a job in a pharmacy. For the last fifteen years he has sold fish, but in the year 2000 at the age of 34 he suffered a stroke and spent the next three years in bed recovering. Determined not to become a burden to his family Roger worked at getting his life back together and started to sell fish again. He continues to walk with a slight limp and his left arm doesn’t have it’s full strength but despite that he is still able to lift 36 pounds of fish onto his shoulder.
The day starts at 4:00 in the morning for Roger, as a devout Evangelical he rises early to pray and then shower. At 5:00 he catches the bus for a two hour ride and then he starts to sell – in true ‘costermonger’ style you can hear him coming a mile away, there is no lie-in the day that Roger visits the village to sell. He arrives at our porch and with lungs that must be the size of an elephants’ he calls in, there is no hiding, Roger does not go away until he has at least shown us his fish and at best sold us some.
The contents of the bucket are entirely reliant on the catch the night before; sometimes we don’t buy simply because the fish is not what we enjoy, but he knows us now and will try and bring the fish he knows we will buy. His scales for weighing are very simple – a bar of wood with four small pieces of string for weighing from half a pound up to two pounds. The fish is put into the plastic bowl and a string is held to check the balance.
After Roger’s last visit I thought I would sit and work out roughly what a fish monger would make for his living. The fish we buy on average costs us 40 cordobas (£1.20) per pound, he sells on average 35 pounds, but has paid 30 cordobas per pound to buy his fish, spent a minimum 100 cordobas on bus fares and paid a neighbour with a fridge 20 cordobas to keep the fish cold overnight – on a good day he could be taking home 230 cordobas, not quite £7:00, he works four days a week – £28:00 take-home pay at best to feed, house and clothe a family of five. There is no holiday pay, no National Insurance to cover for sickness and no emergency fund to cover for house repairs when the rain starts coming through the roof.
However, Roger Antonio Aguilar Hernandez always arrives with a smile, a quip or joke at the ready, he will always find time to sit with us for a coffee and talk about some scriptural point he has recently learned and ask us for the latest magazines. He finishes his selling and goes home, arriving at about 4:00 in the afternoon, between 6:00 and 8:00 you will find him in his church and the next day when he is waiting for the fish to come in again, how does he spend his time?
“I enjoy walking on the beach,” he says, “and talking with my daughters, that is a pleasure for me.”
He might not have much by many people’s standards, nor be reaching out for more, but our Fish Man seems to have learned, quite naturally what 80/20 Living is all about.