Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Are We Not Mugs?

Apologies everyone regarding tardiness in chucking up guff on this platform, but for the past few weeks I’ve been stuck in a trance of incredulity at the shenanigans emanating from the cabal of political clowns who sit at the epicentre of the maelstrom of chaos in which we currently find ourselves.

Two weeks, sitting silently, gently rocking and open mouthed at the brass necked cheek of the piece. From Devious Dom, through disingenuous Johnson to Hat Mancock and his dodgy data.

I touched base with our local MP regarding a certain section of society who having attended several SAGE meetings and were right across what Joe Public were being asked to commit to, but drew the conclusion,

“well clearly, this doesn’t apply to me, powerful people have my back”

Principally Devious Dom.

Are we not mugs?

She’s an excellent constituency MP who was informed of “Our great leader’s decision recently to remove her from cabinet” on social media.

She currently sits as chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

During “Our Great Leader’s” recent televised appearance in front of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee, she held his feet to the fire repeatedly over the lack of female involvement in the decision making process over the current crisis.

She signed off her prompt reply to my email with the following:

“I have no doubt as to the immense damage the PM has done by refusing to sack Cummings. He is seldom so out of step with public opinion, and I assume is hoping people have short memories. It is awful.”

I considered contacting her again on several occasions since Teflon Dom’s sojourn north on a variety of matters, but as I have already stated, I took the open mouthed trance of incredulity route.

The following statement was a standard of this house for many years, particularly during the implementation of The National Trout & Grayling Strategy in 2015, but it seem apposite to revisit the old mantra:

We are increasingly led by loons

Dons loin cloth, grows beard and retreats to cave angrily waving a fist at the outside world, which is pretty much where I’ve been for the past few weeks so apologies again for the dearth of guff regarding all things chalk stream.

It’s mayfly time again.

Only this year it hasn’t been so easy, and rods have had to earn their fish.

Mayfly are few in number and the dance of an evening has, with a nod to the current requirement for social distancing, been low in attendance. We have yet to experience a significant fall of spinners. Which comes a something of a surprise as kick sampling through the winter chucked up many mayfly nymphs lurking in the weed and gravel.

The mayfly hatch was late to start, and the timed arrival of swifts swallows and cuckoos has been all to cock, so maybe next week will be the week. Plenty of fish have been caught, but it hasn’t been easy fishing. A heavy hatch should spark the locals into action, as most of them sit there on the fin looking upwards in expectation, but with a river so clear, a single artificial alone without a procession of naturals is more often than not ignored.

You will see from the amateur photos that weed is having a high old time of it. Ranunculus is in full flower, and water celery is growing clear of the water. It’s weed having a wonderful time, which is tremendous news for all folk that live in a chalk stream.

The reason the weed is wearing it’s hat on three hairs?

Winter rain,

Once again,

Winter rain.

The water's receding at a remarkable rate. Both April and May were particularly arid, just to be clear that's the months and not Donald Duck's nieces. Rumours abound thatwe are on the cusp of having drought conditions declared in the south, but the evidence of the high winter flow remains with the river retaining a sparkle not seen at this time of the year for sometime.

In other news, we have finally been refunded the money for our early April six day trip to Porto.

It’s been a painful business with lots of wriggling by the online agent, and why we incurred a fifty pound admin fee for the issue of the refund was beyond me, but it extended my trance of open mouthed incredulity by a further three days.

Apologies, the name of the online agent…


That’s TRAVELUP everyone,

We won’t be using them again.

Returning to the virus.

No not that F*&^% virus, that keeps making me cross.

Ash dieback.

At this time of the year, it’s very apparent that we have a cluster of mature trees infected with the lurgy in the middle of the wood.

If anyone needs a rustic broom handle, don’t be a stranger.

Looking up and not down, we find that there are some trees that demonstrate immunity to the virus.

Here’s one of two ash trees on opposite sides of the river. Despite Suitable social distancing, one has succumbed to the virus, while the other seems to retain some immunity.

One will be felled and, following a period of maturation, be introduced to the wood burner.

The healthier tree will produce immune progeny and slowly a new population of immune ash trees will form.

If anyone was unsure, the infected ash tree is on the left.

This virus will impact on the make up of woods in this area for several generations, and take decades to be defeated.

Fingers crossed mankind comes up with a solution to the crafty covid 19 a little sooner than that.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Huzzah! We Fish Again.

Today is the 13th May, there is no discussion over the prospect of Christmas tomorrow, my ruby wedding is not imminent, and we have not just had the millennium.

Yes, today I know what day it is.

Today we fish again,


I/We am/are back in the room, bar the surfeit of backslash punctuation

Fishing safely,

from distance of course,

smothered in sanitiser and with body temperature monitored every two minutes (orally!)

but fishing all the same.

The fishing hut is out of bounds as it is difficult to observe social distancing rules in an abode that is 8ft by 8ft square.

By way of shelter for our two anglers a day, we’ve erected a large Bedouin/ Tuareg tent affair replete with hookah and pipes on the opposite bank. There are rugs on which to lounge at distance, bowls of dates, wandering tortoise and incense continually on the go.

Fishing at Bransbury will be a little bit different this season.

Yes the Corona, and yes the social distancing, but the river has not been in this kind of form for some seasons.

There is a good head of water, clear and free from foam and algae.

There are fish, many many fish.

And there is weed, that I have already cut in April which is always a portent of a super season ahead.

And we are fishing, which is brilliant, but we are fishing SAFELY!

The Angling Trust have been magnificent in the past few weeks in making representation to politocos on behalf of all quarters of Angling. If you are not a member, please consider joining, they do great things in the name of all things rod and line.

The Angling Trust have chucked up advice on the correct course of action to take when flicking a fly or flinging a float safely in the coming weeks. It mirrors the advice we sent out to our regular rods a few weeks ago on how we envisaged fishing would be at Bransbury this summer. If we all stick to it, then we’ll see the season out. If people bend the rules as they go about their business, then the season could be curtailed sometime this summer when we go into lockdown for a second time.

A few mayfly have hatched and fish are just starting to show a little interest.

Here’s an Ephemera Danica making its entrance to the outside world.

It floated down the river for twenty yards or so,

Before drawing the eye of Brer Brown Trout.

Who completely missed his target. It was a clumsy, slashy rise and a few seconds later the mayfly reach up for the stars.

It’s surprising how often this happens early in the season. It seems that sometimes trout need to get their eye in when feeding on surface flies and they miss the fly. Anglers are often hard on themselves when they miss a rise to their artificial fly but sometimes it is the fish that is at fault.

On a few warm days last week our kitchen played host to several daddy long legs, which may be the fly of first choice for the new opening day of the season. Hawthorn hatches were a bit of a dud, but then we did have a wettish winter, which doesn’t hawthorn fly larvae who have taken up residence in a soggy meadow.

This leveret looks in on our yard a few mornings each week. We’ve a few about the place, which is good to see as their numbers took a bit of dive in this parish a few years ago.

I don’t know where all the swifts and swallows are.

Lord Ludg insists they are have all been captured by natives in North Africa and put into pies.

I’m not so sure.

Lord Ludg has been out in his hot tub in the sun quite a lot of late (It is difficult to unsee the digital images).

Weather could be a factor in swift and swallow absence. Clear air with a dearth of airborne particulates may have caused them to move through the airborne significantly faster than they expected, causing them to overshoot Blighty for a sojourn in Iceland.

We don’t know,

In further news of occasional cohorts,

The English has let his locks down during lockdown and now sports a tight head of curls on what was once a smooth shiny pate.

It’s an alpine look, with distinct echoes of Heidi. There is no doubt The English is apt to wander. He now sports a goatee, and with the wind in the right direction, each morning we can pick out faint yodelling….who will be his Peter?

Zoom and House Party have been quite a lark over the past few months but goodness it will be good to bump (from a safe distance of 2m, no terms and conditions apply) into anglers on the bank over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Hair, and the Age of Aquarius.

I’ll own that I’m finding it difficult to chuck up guff at the moment, and now it seems to be Sunday, I think. Each passing day acquires an increasing level of fug and the piece may shortly become a series of short public information films with musical accompaniment last heard on the demise of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko.

The Dever is in superb condition but this stretch remains unfished.

The Itchen carries some colour and I haven’t seen much grannom during my fleeting visits to its banks, but it is main river and has always taken a little more time to clear than this tributary of the Test.

Hatches of hawthorn have been all what one would expect following a wettish winter, sporadic and light with, with more of these terrestrial flies making it through the rain on higher ground.

Wet winter water meadows are anathema to the Hawthorn fly.

Grass is growing well, as is weed, and each must be cut, which kind of fills the day. The merlin is about and each evening as I cycle up the lane by way of exercise, my camera has been primed to catch a clip of it swooping up the road before me, but so far no luck. I’ve also given the field the “side eye” as there are several hares that have been hunkered down along the field margin. Wild garlic is in full bloom as is the cuckoo flower, although as yet, I’ve only heard a single cuckoo. Swallows, martins and swifts re slow to put in an appearance in this parish, the vanguard briefly appeared in the skies this afternoon.

Today (still Sunday, I think) I saw mayfly hatching.

Only Valeries (singletons)

and fish demonstrated little interest, but mayfly all the same, which brought a lump to my throat.

It’s a special time of the year to be on the banks of a chalk stream and the appearance of Ephemera Danica et al always causes the mood to soar.

As I said earlier, we are following advice from The Angling Trust and Test and Itchen Association and are currently not open to anglers.

A few stretches have opened, which has come as a bit of a surprise.

We could open, and provide a safe fishing experience for our regular rods. There is a washroom in the yard where cars are parked and anglers would be asked to wash their hands on arrival, don a pair of the plastic gloves provided and make their way to the river via a single designated access point, that will be disinfected each day.

The fishing hut will be out of bounds, all seats will be sanitised daily and daily catches will be recorded online, filled in by yours truly each evening.

The fisherman’s washroom will be steam cleaned each morning as will all gates and points of multi contact.

I am confident we could fish quite safely,

I hope that the few stretches of river that have ignored the advice from The Angling Trust and T&I and opened for business, have given the matter a similar amount thought.

I didn’t expect it to be an issue at this halfway stage of life but hair has now become a problem.

It’s been many months since I visited my mad Turkish friend who always insists that he could do great things with my salt and pepper locks via the medium of some sort of jollup he imports from the other side of Europe. He likes to surprise me with his lit lighter in order to deal with any nasal hair that may be about.

Anyway, hair.

It grows into an unusual shape and there are echoes of my Jesus and Mary Chain/ Inspiral Carpets phase of life .

1990 and the age of Aquarius if anyone is wondering,

and where's the sunshine?

Crete if memory serves, with Madam and our mates.

They didn’t have gyms then, at which point I’d like to point out that I have never set foot in a gym in my life, which some people may find quite surprising, and let this photo stand as evidence that If you live well, look after yourself and keep clean you will never lose your looks.

Taken with my Praktica SLR by the way, on old fashioned film.

Colour film was available at this time,

but I took quite a bit of black and white stuff on this trip.

Getting lost in a box of photos seems quite a good thing to do at the moment. (and it may now be Monday, who knows?) I can remember the family slide show, with the ironing board very much to the fore but my goodness the quest for this photo has confirmed that I’ve taken an awful lot of photographs.

Six figures and counting in the digital form and a coffin full of the old school solid state stuff that takes two people to lift.

I don’t know how many photos you have to have to qualify as an archive.

Anyway, I’m off to order a magical thing called a “comb” on Amazon, plus some scrunchies for my impending pigtails.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Apologies everyone for the delay in posting guff. Seem to have lost track of time in lockdown so

Merry Christmas everyone,

Tree went up last week, the advent candle has been lit, although we have yet to source some crackers. Clearly another product that people have been panic buying.

I’ll own that a shortage of sauerkraut on the shelves came as a surprise.

I’m quite the proponent of fermented cabbage, and directly attribute my youthful complexion and regular bowel movements to the consumption of a large jar of the red variety each week. A large scoop with a wedge of brie (cottage cheese, if the pounds have piled on) and some serrano ham in a jacket potato is a dish that I thought was known only to myself and the gods, but the shelves have been clear of red sauerkraut for weeks.

Quite rightly, PPE and Corona Pop testing kits get all the heat when it comes to shortages and delivery dates, but the supply of red sauerkraut is fast becoming the elephant in the room come 5.00pm each evening.

Current delivery estimates for Dawton’s finest are around mid May. There is none to be had anywhere in these Isles.

Thanks very much to child A (Maisie) who managed to source online, the last two jars in a deli near her old Uni digs, They arrived in a box built for six bottles of wine - which immediately induced a certain state of anticipation, a state that was only increased further by the revelation that the box contained two jars of the “food of the gods” for which we give great thanks.

Back on the river, mothballs are very much the order of the day.

We’re good to go.

We’ve a plan in place on how our rods can fish safely and with minimum risk of spreading infection. It will require everyone to buy into the protocols and also for government consent for people to travel for exercise while maintaining social distancing.

Been cutting weed all week, which is a tremendous thing and I realise how lucky I am to be stood in the middle of a special chalk stream swishing a scythe in the sunshine. Hawthorn have hatched the past few afternoons, and yes, fish are looking up and taking bugs various from the surface. I considered putting a rod up and flicking a fly on video, but it doesn’t seem quite right at the moment, with advice from quarters various to refrain from fishing. Perhaps when rods are allowed back on the bank I’ll get out my rod.

With a nod to the bonce, when this nonsense is finally done and we all walk the streets for the first time it will be clear who had a hairdresser/barber in the house and who didn’t. The household of the hairdresser will emerge perfectly coiffured having had a member of the household, bored out of their minds, with scissors aplenty, keen to employ their skills every other day.

Yes, Some people will emerge from their isolation, blinking never having had hair so attended to.

Others however, and this is where dreams of a fringe return, will emerge with pigtails, buns and a hue of hair that close friends and associates may find quite surprising.

With a nod to weed cutting, I’ve a creative bent with a scythe and would welcome a new medium such as a barnet on a bonce.

I know cornrows and Nike ticks get all the heat when it comes to close cropped hair designs, but if anybody want a bar cut bonce delivered via the medium of turk scythe in waders, don’t be a stranger.

In wildlife news I can report that we have a bittern about, a cuckoo, a great grey shrike, great egret and several swallows. Not seen them myself , but sightings on the common just downstream have been reported on several birding sites by several people who have travelled many miles to peep through their binoodlers at feathered friends.


A standard for this house for the current season now follows:

Monday, 13 April 2020

An Alder Fly on my Schnoz and Soothing Chooks

Good evening, and welcome to day ninety-five in the big brother house.

Our trout fishing season was due to start today, which lends a melancholy mood to the day. It is clear to even the most addled of eyes that the river has wintered well and is in prime condition (further films attached to demonstrate this fact)

A few olives have hatched during the fine weather, we have even seen a few sedge, and while sat on the bench outside the fishing hut shooting the breeze with imaginary anglers an alder fly landed on my schnoz.

It’s an odd state of affairs, and last week I was about to punch a silly old fool in Sainsburys who was not adhering to the self distancing advice and was clearly after some form of intimacy, before the penny dropped that I would need to wash my hands tout de suite and there was no sink to hand.

Although with the dearth of sport, old men fighting in the aisles of supermarkets could draw quite a crowd, with potential sponsorship deals.

Easter Sunday, and with a nod to the resurrection, we got our garden chairs and tables out of the garage and put the parasol up. The temperature hit twenty seven and a bit degrees in the shade of our garden over the weekend, which provided some succour for a cancelled trip to Porto, where it rained for most of the time we were due to visit (further succour)

There are reports of swallows, swifts and martins arriving in the principality of Ludgershall, but none have pitched up here yet.

The fridge just clicked on.

Currently a particular highlight of the day,

just the boiler kicking in to look forward to now and then it will be time for bed.

although I do appreciate how lucky I am to be able to live and work where I do and continue to be able to live a more normal life than many other people.

Spent most of the bank holiday looking for four figures worth of hearing aid in a stand of bamboo. I’d been cutting canes for runner beans in hot weather and in the hot sweaty conditions in my aural orifice, the trumpet jumped ship at some point.

Restored to my resting state of tinnitus and fug, I appreciate how much the thing was doing for me.

Ok I’ve paid less for motor cars, but it served a purpose.

If anybody finds a solid gold earpiece fashioned for my lugs, there is a reward of ten sides of smoked trout and a virtual handshake from a distance of two metres or more.

I'll close with a clip of our chooks dusting, which I find very soothing.

They dust in the gateway, and are photographed many times throughout the day. They've been deprived of dusting opportunities during the damp winter, although the wood shed has always provided a year round dusting opportunity of sorts.

With reduced traffic, and an increased footfall of pedestrians, they are reluctant to give up their station on the edge of the lane and may well have their own social media accounts,

They are currently quite the draw.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Wither Poor Bill and Planking Pine

Crikes what a lovely day,

and wither poor Bill.

During my time plodding about this planet, Bill Withers, live at Carnegie Hall, must be up there in the top ten albums that I have most listened to.

Ok the standards referencing sunshine and leaning on people,

and Yes the voice, Bernard on guitar and Mr James Gadson on drums (the coolest couple of hammers ever to knock a nail in),

but some of the lyrics are sublime. "I can't write left handed" is up there as one of the best anti war songs ever written (and Bill went to war) and the much sampled "Grandma's hands" will always leave a warm glow, and then there's the melancholy of "Hope she'll be happier" and the bounce of Harlem/ Cold Baloney.

Watch "Still Bill" online and you get a measure of the man, top bloke and super talented. Just wish he'd written more songs.

Bill Withers was something else.

Anyway the river.

Continues to clear, weed grows and flies hatch. This collection of short films sought to demonstrate fish rising to a fly. While I did my bit, the trout didn't comply. During the filming of each of these epics, fish rose off camera to a trickle of olives.

Which brings to mind a short piece I wrote for some magazine many years back. Sub editors are clever people who can put all the words the right way round for which we give great thanks, but the question "do trout prefer green or black olives, and will they mind if they are stuffed" demonstrated a degree of disconnect for the subject under discussion.

Been planking pine for a raised bed order the past few days. There's chalk to shovel tomorrow and a bridge to build next week. It's a shame we won't be opening on Easter Monday. I may put up a rod and flick a fly towards the water sometime next week by way of succour for all those who can't touch base with the river bank in the coming weeks.

Should be in Porto today. Punishing the Iberian beef and delicious Duoro at a much vaunted restaurant called Mu.

The sirloin and Duoro from Aldi provided a thin veneer of balm, for which we give thanks,

Well done everybody working in shops still open, we couldn't do without you,

Although BA are being a tad tardy regarding a refund for flights.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Flying Kites and Horticulturists

More films, Here's one of the short stretch below the bottom bends that we have reopened this winter. It was out of bounds for a few years as my employer used the paddock annually to rear a litter of greyhound puppies.

People have commented that I seem to have acquired a bit of a tremor since isolation began.

I'll own that wine is being taken, and when will Faustino IV be assigned key worker status for his work in the world of Rioja?

To counter this criticism of shaky shots, I've mobilised the finest forces from Manfrotto.

This current crop of films are undoubtedly more steady with only the occasional jump during the difficult panning process.

These Red Kites were mucking about above my head for much of the day.

There now follows a short film for the horticulturists.

With the clocks gone on, I now spend most evenings up on my allotment. I arrive on my magic bike and it's my "safe space" nurturing many things to see us through the impending apocalypse is very6 soothing. I've always grown vegetables, but my principle patch at home has been claimed by the roots of a substantial sycamore and each year yields have declined a little more and the Sycamore has gone from strength to strength.

At this point, we would like to apologise to seasoned readers of this guff.

Several years ago we built a bridge and tried to pass off the person conducting the grand opening as The Duchess of Cambridge.

It wasn't The Duchess of Cambridge but Kylie Minogue.

We are very sorry for this misrepresentation but Kylie has previous in this field, just ask The Ivy, Tramp and The All England Tennis Club.

By way of penitence Kylie has subsequently been locked in the shed, for which she is very grateful as several have ended up headless in The Tower for this kind of thing