Razor Fish (xyrichtys novacula) in Menorca

I am in Menorca.

Man with cigarette mending net Mahon     © James Forshall

We are staying with an old friend on the other side of the harbour and yesterday when the others went off to an organ recital I went to the fish market to sketch some of the local fish.  The market is surrounded by a windowed cloister where the merchants have their stands selling squid, octopus, spider crab, tuna, bass, bream and the friture of the mediterranean, small rascla, gallina, cerrano, cerrano imperiale, salmonetes, and Jureles.

Rao, Razor Fish, Lolitos          © James Forshall

A small orange fish with black and yellow eyes, a small mouth and blue stripes down the side of his face caught my eye. The local bye laws only permit him to be fished for a week a year, from the first of September. Fishing outside this period incurs a fine of 150 euros. When threatened he dives down and buries himself in the sand.

Two women consult notebook at fish counter© James Forshall


Fish in weighing scale, large finger points down at fish eye

Fish scales              © James Forshall


I had never seen this fish before and had to ask the fishmonger to write down his name, Rao, Lolitos or in English Razor fish, though I hazard the name Razor fish is the local name Rao anglicised by the English sailors who were stationed here after the island came into British hands falling the treaty of Utrecht (1713).


_DSF2358 Catherine Forshall Mahon © James Forshall     © James Forshall

We went down to the harbour,  where some men, their equipment moved around in liberated supermarket trolleys,  were mending nets and where I did some sketching and then lay on one of the  pontoons between the boats, dozing in the sun.

Coil of rope, Catherine Forshall sketching                             © James Forshall


Rao, Lolitos, Razor fish, small orange fish sketched by Catherine Forshall Lolitos, Rao, Razor fish sketch                          ©  James Forshall

hands mending net, Mahon                 ©  James ForshallConcertina note book sketches of Rao, Razor Fish, Lolitos, Rougets, on terrace ballustrade, Mahon, MenorcaFish sketches      ©  James Forshall

I will use these sketches for some large scale paintings when I return to Britain.



Billingsgate, LONDON 1.00 a.m. to 5.00 a.m.

   _DSC8403Billingsgate, 1.00 a.m.

_DSC8513I went with Xanthe Mosley to Billingsgate Market.  She is artist in residence for some of the London markets and has asked me to do some work for a show in the City Hall in May 2014.  She had given me a very good supper so I felt bouyed up and excited by the prospect of working through the night. When we arrived the place was deserted except for the market constabulary.

We had a cup of tea in one of the market cafes. The walls were lined with old black and white photographs of traders and porters.


Gradually the lights in different parts of the main hall came on as traders came in to set out their stalls.  It is a very physical business. Porters in white coats haul in huge pallets of wet or frozen fish from lorries and refrigerated store rooms. The traders shake the boxes, deftly hefting fish. It is almost as if they are juggling them. They arrange them on the stalls scattering ice over them. Everyone works quickly to be ready for the customers .  Everything gleams, wet fish, silver scales, the stainless steel stands, and reflections of the halogen lights in on the wet floor. You can place orders, but cannot take fish away from the market until 4.00 a.m. Soon the telephones are ringing, loud old fashioned land line bells.




I moved from stall to stall sketching the fish. I like the barracuda, the long silver ribbon fish, the beautiful mirror carp.  For me this is a wonderful place. Most of the fish are familiar, sleek, bright scaled salmon, trout, hake, cod, bream, sea bass, oysters mussels from different parts of the Britain, but there are three stands with exotics from the Indian Ocean.

The traders are friendly. Some even stop for a moment to see what I’m doing. It’s fun. At 2.30 Xanthe took me to the cafe for hot sweet tea.













Billingsgate Market, 5.10 a.m.

photographs © copyright James Forshall