Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Apologies but it was half term last week and with a nod to living for pleasure alone, we’ve been away again.
This time on entering the changing room on 52 Festive Rd we were transported to the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto.
Which added a certain frisson to the immigration process at Pearson airport thirty years later.
Ok we had the required visas and, at fifty one years old, we appeared fairly benign, but why had sir declared on the immigration form that he was entering the country with a pocket full of pot?
I explained that my peepers were pretty poor, the digital machine that was asking us questions had been very confusing and pot was not really our bag.
Suitably appeased we were waved through,
And so it was that a packet of Tesco finest chipolatas was smuggled into Canadia to provide succour to our aching bellies should airline provender have proved inadequate after our evening arrival.
Concealed within several pairs of ripe old underpants the keenest noses of the Canadia's premier sniffer dogs were even put off the trail.
Airline provender proved more than adequate (a very good curry) so like good goobers (after Bill Hicks) we fixed sausage for breakfast the next morning in our one bedroom condo in down town Toronto before breaking trail.
Kevin had predicted 95% Fall during our stay which to my addled eye proved pretty accurate.
There was a funny feel about the place as everything had shut up the week before for winter.
Madam has previous history with all things NHL, Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers from her trip thirty years ago; she even met the great man at the airport on her opening gambit to make her way back to Blighty.
This was my first experience of live ice hockey and I’ll own that I couldn’t quite keep up with comings and goings various, although this may have had something to do with the local lager. The Leafs (I know, I know) lost by a golden goal in extra time, which seemed a little harsh as they only had three skaters on the ice at the time.
An hour on the train and an hour and a bit on a bus followed by a forty-minute walk from the bus station, but it was well worth the effort.
The falls are surrounded by explanatory boards with pictures of tightrope walkers, lunatics in barrels and a barge hung up on some rocks a few feet from the lip of the falls.
A clever man with buttons that light up, sends water this way and that dependant upon digital information received.
There's no putting boards in and out of sluices here, but the principles remain the same, just increased exponentially along with the associated risks.
There is a fixed amount of water sent over the horseshoe falls that is reduced at night to make more ohms and amps. I tried to convert the amount of water going over the falls to mgd (million gallons per day) but I'll refrain from listing it here as I may well wear out the zero button on my new computer.
I’m just relieved I am not required to don the chest waders and swish a scythe a few yards downstream from the falls.
St Lawrence market is a festival of food and fine fayre and an easy place to spend a couple of hours. Cold smoked beef and Pastel de nata were two highlights along with some damned odd sausage. The quality of the coffee is a given, and at this point it may be apposite to mention Tim Horton.
An ex hockey player he has coffee emporia right across town, and goodness it’s good coffee. Tim did well out of us during our stay, double espresso for me and a couple of Tim Bits for Madam several times a day.
Alongside an interesting collection of indigenous art sits a large collection of Henry Moore blobs and plenty of other twentieth century stuff that we both much favour,
and a touring collection of Peter Paul Rubens.
I’m a tad indifferent to P.P Rube.
I like his fleshy forms that have influenced works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, but some of his biblical stuff, commissioned to strike fear, leave me cold.
On a lighter note, the gallery also has a collection of works by the “Group of Seven”
Among Canada’s most famous artists they have a unique appreciation of the Canadian Landscape.
We were both much taken with the work of Arthur Lismer, a new one on us but an artist we will look out for in the future - give him a google.
Shopping featured throughout our eight night stay.
They are way ahead in Canada when it comes to paper craft and while Madam perused the inks, stamps and dies of yet another craft store, I headed for a bar where I had been swiftly accepted as a new fly.
On each visit I was required to perform at least one fist bump and while my sporting allegiances may not have reached all round approval, we always parted company with a “You da man, No You da man, No you da man, No you da man…..”
I am not great with heights.
Until 2007 the CN tower was the tallest free standing structure in the world. It now sits 9th in the table. The revolving restaurant sits around 1100 ft up this 1853ft high pile of bricks.
A stiff drink was taken and we entered the glass bottomed lift along with the front row of a baptist choir who were on a girls weekend away.
Madam and myself were separated and as a conversation opener to the loose head of the front row of the choir who I was squeezed up against, I mentioned that I didn’t like heights or glass bottomed lifts.
She confessed that she wasn’t too keen on heights or lifts either, and in a Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson moment we held hands throughout the sixty second ascent before parting company at the opening of the lift doors.
Food taken high up in the air on a precarious pile of bricks was surprisingly good. Canadian steak, Canadian wine and tremendous Canadian Hospitality. Our lunch lasted two spins of the tower pod and afforded stunning views of the city and lake beyond.
The excellent Canadian wine instilled an air of insouciance on our minute long lift descent to the sidewalk,
as if by magic,
Fabricio, the Brazilian airport transfer man (sans fez) appeared outside our apartment block with an explanatory board indicating that it was time to make our way back to 52 Festive Rd.
Apologies as ever for more travel stuff, but I do have to write something down else it all fades away.
Many thanks as ever to family for filling in at home.
River stuff to follow.
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Morning's at Seven; The Hillside's dew-pearled; The snail was on the wing and the lark on the thorn
or rather the other way round - etc. etc.
And that’s what a month of rain can do to the mood of a man and also the general health of a chalk stream.
Well done everyone, keep it up. The fear of flooding will dominate the press again soon and a wet week in winter will once again be demonised rather than be promoted as a welcome default state in some valleys in the south.
From memory the terms "irregular" and "trapezoid" were invoked in the hearing.
The ditch ran most winters which caused one corner of the pitch to become quite soggy in March and April and I was unable to mark out a pitch. Several seasons an alternative pitch had to be sought to complete the final few fixtures.
Following the pitch marking fiasco I am currently not allowed near football pitch touchlines, although I am aware that all fixtures have been completed at the ground since 2014.
I’ve just been out with the dogs and once again there is a tawny owl hooting away in a tree on the other side of the river. I’d like to think it is the juvenile we hand reared with finest chicken last year but I doubt it. He was a miserable fecker, very grumpy who flew the nest without even a thank you flap of the wings.
We live in an owl rich environs with long eared, short eared, barn and little varieties all present within a mile of our back door. It may be the reason why the old school uniform in the local primary school that both our children attended had a large owl on the front.
For a few years the flat roof of our home was a favourite perch for a Little Owl. A voluble cove, he would regularly wake us up with his screeches and one of us would have to get up and bang the window to move him on. We don’t hear as many little owls around here as we once did.
I’ve seen a few hares this week. We still have a brace on the river bank but the field behind our home is once again playing host to several Leporidae. It’s only five acres in size but hares have always gathered there in numbers each spring to muck about and mate. It’s the only place I have ever seen a parliament of hares, nine or ten of them sitting in a wide circle oblivious to all else around them.
In cold weather they move away to a sheltered depression in a hundred acre field that borders the road, on a frosty morning it is often possible to pick out a dozen or more hares in the small valley formed by the two shallow paps.
The two grayling fishermen that have visited so far have found it hard going, although two fish over two pound have been caught. The roach are proving to be particularly fickle but there are a few nice fish about on the bottom bends. There are also a few pike pushing double figures which could be fun on the fly once winter sets in. The Pike took a bit of a hammering from Tarka a few years ago so it is good to see a few mature fish about, although not too many.
I have been busting a gut cutting phragmites for a couple of days and it moved a lot of water when it shot out into open water to avoid the swish of my scythe. There are still a few small roach and rudd in the pond that spawn each year and will serve as dainties for Percy Pike, but all the bigger bream, tench and forty-year old carp went the way of the otters some years ago now. On a day for disturbing things I turned up on the tractor this morning and flushed two woodcock from the wood by the pond. We seem to entertain more and more woodcock each winter often when it is cold somewhere else east of here.
Returning to worries about the water. It is great that awareness of an aquifer under pressure is on the increase and also awareness of the role that groundwater plays in day to day life for millions of people.
Individuals, Organisations Associations and Trusts all have a part to play in calling out those who threaten groundwater levels in chalk levels, and it must be made priority number one on the list of “Things to do to protect chalk rivers”. Promoting a more sustainable use of a diminishing groundwater supply in order to help these precious rivers cope with increasingly dry conditions is of equal importance.
Yes the habitat restoration and yes the push for increased biodiversity, but woody debris and faggots in a chalk stream run dry are nothing more than a bonfire waiting to be formed and fired.
Right now, it's all about the groundwater.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
I’ll just break off there to congratulate The One Show on the BBC.
One evening last week they tackled the subject of low groundwater levels, low levels of chalk streams and the reluctance of the relevant authorities to implement water saving measures at the start of the summer just passed.
The poor sap forced to front up for Command Centre Central was visibly squirming at the presenter’s line of questioning.
Well done The One Show, spot on.
Fingers crossed it’s a subject they return to in the future.
The season began with a bang, with many fish put on the bank but fizzled out from mid August onwards in ultra low water conditions. There are plenty of trout left in the river with some big 3n lumps that have arrived from who knows where. Sterile fish, they will continue to feed throughout the winter as their appetite will be unaffected by carnal thoughts. They could prove to be a problem for the few grayling fishermen who occasionally visit during the winter and tend to fish with lighter tackle.
Springs are slowly reviving and the ground is soft, but the valley will easily cope with a month or more of rain.
The watercress that has been allowed to grow out and pinch the flow in the low water conditions of summer has now had to be cut back. An early frost will sometimes finish it off, but we remain frost free so far and as a result I’ve been in the river with the scythe and grabs.
Watercress growth can be quite prolific, but there is a flip side to allowing it to pinch the flow in low water conditions. It can smother good weed such as ranunculus, depriving it off light and causing it to die off.
There are a few patches where this has happened this summer and weed will have to be replanted in the spring.
I’m banging this guff out on a new laptop.
The keyboard is a slightly different layout to the one that I am used to so there may be a higher count of misplaced commas, poor spelling and random ampersands.
The old laptop was seven years old and cashed in its' chips mid type.
It demonstrates sparks of life but not much information is relayed to the screen.
Under guidance from a Chinese teenager on the internet, I had the back off the thing and wiggled the bits about that she suggested, but to no avail.
Whither poor laptop. It had put in considerable service and was frequently soused with liquor, mostly of a scarlet hue, so it did well to make seven years, but I am much taken with the new number.
Made from girders in Scotland the new number goes by the name of McBook Air.
It is half the weight of my deceased HP and is very keen to promote the use of the &, the " and the number 2.
Aside from its excellent cold cuts, Wigig offers and Italian wine it also serves as a “holiday in a day”
We like to visit our local town store when the sun is shining and pretend we are back in Croatia.
It’s the supermarket of first choice in the Balkans, and when the weather was fine this summer we even popped a bag packed with snorkels, goggles and lilo in the car to make the local town store shopping experience even more Balkanic.
Important talks were held last week between UK and Irish Nabobs regarding borders. The location chosen was deemed to be half way between the two capital cities.
The talks took place on the Wirral,
That’s "On The Wirral"
Not “In Wirral” “At Wirral” or “North West Cheshire”
The talks were held on The Wirral.
A flight from Dublin to Southampton airport (a destination that all sane people agree is the world's best airport) and a train or road trip from Londinium take about the same length of time and attract a similar bill.
I’ve been a tad tardy in mentioning them in recent posts, but this house’s association with The Fleet St Hotel in Temple Bar Dublin remains in place, whatever the final border agreement.
Negotiations between parties were reasonably swift. Portion control on Black Pudding was a brief sticking point, but agreement was reached and promises made to mention the old place a bit more on here.
That’s The Fleet St Hotel in Dublin folks.
The Fleet St Hotel.
An Addendum: The International bar.
Give it a google. It is quite the place.
With a rich history, you're never short of somebody to talk to.
We’ve popped in for pints several times, occasionally with an accompanying bowl of stew drawn from a vat at the end of the bar that has been bubbling away for aeons, and may well have had a walk on part in James Joyce's Ulysses. It's a tremendous place to waste away an hour or so
Saturday, October 5, 2019
Yay!, it’s been raining,
Which is bad news for some quarters of these Isles, who currently entertain eels and other aquatic fauna behind the sofa. But for this drought stricken corner of the country it is manna from heaven.
You will note the use of the word “drought” because that is the term finally being used by Command Centre Central to describe the summer just passed. I was sent the following link by a visitor to this parish. Have a read, not sure why but there is a significant change of tone of late regarding groundwater levels this summer.
Anyway enough of all that, I think I have used up my annual supply of the words “chronic”, “depletion” and “aquifers”
But I’ll just say that I have not yet had any replies to my queries to Command Centre Central listed in the previous post, they will be put up on here the minute they drop in the mail box.
This week I have mostly been cutting hedges,
Upstart also feeds with the chickens who do not seem particularly bothered by him/her. Previous encounters with crows in the chicken pen have escalated quickly to violence with our chooks administering a battering to the overgrown blackbird.
Many years ago when children were small, I formulated a plan to make a brew entirely from ingredients sourced within a few yards of our door. The water came from the aquifers beneath our home, the hops from the garden and the barley from the field behind. Barley was soaked and the garage swept out for the barley to chit. The chitted barley was then cooked over a fire made of wood from our log pile and malt extract was produced. I don't remember the source of the yeast, but it may have been from something long forgotten at the back of the fridge. The brew was formed and introduced to the fermentation vessel. Bottling the beer a few weeks later I was pleased with the clear amber brew. A few weeks later the first glass was poured. Beautifully bright and clear with a slight spritz and bright white head it looked like beer,
But it tasted of the garage floor.
Further home made alcohol capers to follow, I've had a few.
Anyway, the reason for my rant regarding the local rag, is the letter page of this morning’s copy.
Normally the haunt of sofa prime ministers promoting their take on the way forward,
I think you may be stretching it a bit with the “Positive Feedback” Nige
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Been a bit busy.
Exchanging lengthy emails with people various on the state of play apropos aquifers in the Dever Valley.
Some people have been very helpful, others daft and occasionally disturbing.
The "Customers and Engagement" team at Command Centre Central described the Dever as a "Winter bourne" (it isn't, or it didn't used to be below Micheldever) and followed that up with an explanation of what a winterbourne is.
I have been informed three times by "Customers and Engagement " and also by a helpful Hydrologist that there were no major groundwater abstractions in the Dever Valley, each time I took my shoes off and threw them against the wall before setting out to take photos of a major groundwater abstraction in the Dever Valley.
I'm not allowed to tell you where it is. An FOI request for the location of further such sites was refused on grounds of security.
It is sited two fields away from the River Dever.
and at this point I'd like to suggest that the cone of influence from this site could impact on the Upper Dever.
The senior Hydrologist replied that their records suggest that following extensive modelling, the cone of influence could impact upon the River Test which is three miles away and not the River Dever (two fields away remember).
I await a reply.
Both Customers & Engagement and The Hydrologists were very pleased about their monitoring of river flow and water quality at Bransbury Bridge, which they insist would pick up on any impact from over abstraction at the significant groundwater abstraction in the Dever Valley.
If there had been a breach of the abstraction licence on the site. Water flow measuring at Bransbury would not pick it up.
I asked them to make a site visit to the Upper Dever valley and if the water quality monitored at Bransbury Bridge had demonstrated any change as the summer progressed. They have promised to take a look,
I await a reply.
I asked them to revisit their assertion that there were no major groundwater abstractions in the Dever Valley.
There are others other than the two mentioned here, we have come across two others in the Dever Valley while seeking to lengthen life via the medium of walking.
I pointed out that the operators of the significant groundwater abstraction two fields away from the Upper Dever did not have the best record of late when it came to being open and honest about data collection, monitoring and potential impacts upon the aquatic environment. The suggestion had been made by regulators that there had been selective measurement of phosphates and books may also have been cooked.
I asked if the Government agency charged with providing protection to the aquatic environment could take a closer look at the machinations of this particular significant groundwater abstraction two fields away from the banks of the unique aquatic environment that is the River Dever.
I have yet to receive a reply to this one, and I fear that the gaze of Command Centre Central may once again have returned to the navel when presented with such a request to investigate this particular perpetrator.
Anyway, fishing's picked up a bit. We continue to experience good hatches of sedge and a procession of diddy olives rise from the river throughout the afternoon. Much of the ranunculus is now cashing in its chips and blanket weed rolls up into a ball and like a sub surface panjandrum, rolls away downstream giving off gammarus that lurk within.
Jobs for the winter are now becoming apparent. There are two bridges that must be replaced, plenty of planks that must be milled for projects various and a couple of months felling dodgy ash trees. Chainsaw muscles grow soft through the summer and November is often an achy month as this withered husk that passes for human form readjusts to new movements.
Last weekend we went to Winchester.
It's my Dad's 80th birthday later this year so family gathered to mark an event that should take place eight weeks hence (no pressure, keep taking the pills)
and at this point I'd like to invite everyone to my premature 80th birthday sometime next year. I'll chuck up an extensive gift list on here in a month or so. I know I'm only half way to eighty but forty years will assure that absolute vfm is achieved for all expensive items gifted.
I don't remember my Dad catching anything that evening,
and so a pattern was set.
It was a tremendous lunch at the Hotel Du Vin that was capped by a parasol flying away on the wind (we dined alfresco. this was no babycham parasol) and smashing an old window.
If anybody eats at the Hotel Du Vin after reading this guff please mention this house's name.
We could be on for a free bowl of soup