Tuesday, November 29, 2016

News Just In From The Sofa

Live from the settee, I can report that sport has seen me pile on a few pounds these past few weeks. Successive Saturdays (think Frankie Bridge et al doing the conga) have begun with Test Cricket until late morning a brief pause to undertake tasks assigned or pop out for messages, a flying lunch before back to back rugby matches, an early evening of dancing and then off to the jungle. This kind of thing would never have happened in the day of the Test Card, It's the stuff of students and I'm on the cusp of signing up for a course......

Possibly of tablets, as it's been an emotional roller coaster.

Not the sport, I've a lifelong habit of that kind of thing and am relatively inured to all but the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the sporting arena. No, two glasses into the dancing and I'm unable to control my Tourettes and a succession of "F$£K you Ed Balls" comes flying out whether we are in company or alone.

Thankfully he has failed to make the final and will now return to politics where others can take up the cause of my heckling.

I am normally comfortable with The Jungle and we all delight in the tremendous talent that is the Ant and the Dec, but this year Prodnose has entered the fray and my nerves were in shreds with each passing episode. Since Old Tel shuffled off Prodnose is my favourite broadcaster (and is only on once a week, come on BBC) I'll own up to a dozen or more contributions to his show via the medium of email ( as I did to Tel in his final years) but have always declined the invitation to ring in and make a personal contribution as I'm afraid I'd be incoherent and lose the power of speech as its quite a skill taking your ease on the radio, which is partly what makes Prodnose such a genius of the airwaves.

I didn't go much on him on the TV and I'm not sure a life in the Jungle requires the same qualities as king of the airwaves and each evening I watched peeping through my fingers hoping that he didn't give off too many sparks, because when he goes he goes, albeit eloquently.

If the term "pin headed weasels" is uttered you can be sure that things have taken a turn for the worse.

To my relief, he's out now and set up on the beach. The sooner he's back on the radio on Saturday mornings the better.

While we're on the Jungle, Madam and myself would like to pitch an idea to Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame. I know he visits this parish from time to time and it occurred to us the other evening while in wine on the sofa that an animated "Creature Comforts" type of film centred around the animals in the bush tucker challenge could have legs. The toads and frogs would bemoan the star status of the spiders, the eels would be in the Hello/OK magazine demographic and would be star struck at every celebrity who entered their tank. There would be a lonely crocodile, a camp snake, rats with a fear of he who should not be named (Gino DeCampo who famously caught and cooked one on the show)
The story centres around a Witchetty Grub who lives in fear of the SS ( Stacey Solomon) who eventually catches up with Brer Witchetty during a bush tucker challenge, at which point I'll issue a spoiler alert.

It's just a thought, and remember you heard it here first.

Don't be a stranger Nick.

Back at work, it rained the wind blew, the river didn't flood and no trees fell over. Normal stuff for November along with the requisite media over reaction to a weather event that is not a hot day in summer. We continue to nurture a burgeoning urban based generation whose understanding of the seasons extends no further than the decision as to whether to sit on the pavement or in the shop to take Mocha Cocha Latte and pastry on board.

The river has risen an inch and there is now enough water on the spawning gravels to accommodate sexually mature brown trout. Although they are particularly thin on the ground . What hens we have are fattening up nicely and redds are beginning to be dug, but cock fish are few and far between. Ten years ago the weeks preceding spawning would see cock fish charging about in shallow water aggressively competing with fellow cocks over any fat hen who kicked up a redd.

Walks through the wood betray a number of Woodcock which suggests low temperatures in the east, I put three up this afternoon while bumbling about with a bucket full of corn.

I'm slowly putting the river to bed. Years ago this task would have begun as soon as the trout season ended with the fringe knocked off, edged in and weed cut in order to carry out and complete electro fishing before all present were summoned to the hatchery for egg picking duties. Today I still knock the fringe off and edge in, although not as hard as I once did. It helps maintain the maximum marginal growth and remains a viable habitat for beasts of the bank throughout the winter. I also engage the forces of Willow with my big orange store (If you want a mention on here Stihl you'll have to offer some incentives)

Doh!

It makes sense to prepare the river for winter only when there is sufficient flow. Leaving as much cover as possible to decrease the impact of avian predation on fish in shallow water until the river starts to rise. Once the river is on the rise and carrying a little colour then the fringe can be attended to. With spawning done and the trout off the shallows the willows can then be engaged. Sympathetic management with an eye to both habitat and flood defence by a full time keeper. Could a contractor or part timer be allowed such flexibility. The decline in the number of full time keepering jobs on the chalk streams is both a concern and short sighted,

fingers crossed it's a fad.

Chainsaw work has begun and the solemn procession of one (Still waist deep in Wodehouse and one of the trees we must address is a beech) that is the ermine clad Lord Ludgershall has presented for work in the wood via the medium of sedan chair. We are currently employed in the business of Vista creation. There's three months of chainsaw work and myself and all the woodland creatures are honoured by his presence. Poplars at the moment, young trees that didn't look very well. Dissection by chainsaw confirmed the diagnosis with rot set in at the base, which was a shame as we only planted them twelve years ago

Is it me or are the papers obsessed with the ageing process at the moment. My weekend papers that I perused on the sofa between cricket, rugby, dancing and jungle where full of "Life after fifty " features and with the event a mere sixteen months away for Madam and myself, we are told that we will embrace lycra, ride more bikes, discover yoga, go to University and achieve a level of life wisdom that Confucious would covet. There was no mention of more time on the sofa in front of sporting events, a bad back, creaky knees, embracing the postprandial ziz and completely forgetting why you have gone upstairs.

Cheltenham last week, the perennial trip on countryside Friday with fifteen to twenty thousand other souls to take in some tremendous racing at what is now a tremendous sporting venue. The new work is complete and my ire at being charged five pound for a pint and five pound for bacon roll was tempered a week later when on the 18th November we entered the legions of shiplap sheds that serve as the Winchester Christmas market where sausage from the Teutons and a thimble fill of Grimm gluhwein was on offer for a comparable price.
I bumped into Child B and one of his associates by the Cheltenham parade ring. Over the course of the following four races our fortunes took different paths. Child B picked three second place horses on each way bets and was 55p up when I left him, his mate backed one winner while I dipped out after two races to conserve funds as Madam had one of her card club days on the morrow and I had been made aware of the need for ready funds for the event.





River reports are written and dispatched (sent to the intended recipient as opposed to being put out of their misery, although....) and final deadlines for magazines before all involved down tools for the Christmas break are impending. I'm supposed to be chucking some other guff together but things don't seem to be progressing as intended.

Easily distracted?

Undoubtedly,

and the internet doesn't help here with minds that are prone to drift. But a bit of a break from deadlines and questions and the shame of failing to produce feature pieces promised may serve as tinder to chuck up further guff.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Top Billing on The Shelf of Shame

I had to pop up to the smokery this afternoon to pick up the final tranche of smoked fish for 2016. Unfortunately I had omitted to pay when dropping the fish off for smoking and my bag of smoked fish had been placed on the shelf of shame and their position in the walk in fridge displayed on the wipe board outside.
I received top billing with my name displayed in the largest lettering (Stephen Toast teaches us that this kind of thing matters) above a leviathan of UK comedy and someone of whom I have been a lifelong fan,

An honour to share the shelf of shame with you sir,










That's not him





nor that one, that's Dave Angel that is

That's him,

Brilliaaaant!

Made my day, and a lesson to all you prompt payers out there.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Football and Ed Balls and Molly Malone - brought to you this week by the Fleet St Hotel, Dublin

I'll begin this latest puff of guff with a little reminder as to the FA's response to an invitation to visit the Somme on the centenary of the battle during their preparations for the England football team's hapless campaign in the European championships.

No thanks, the forty minutes in a coach to visit Thiepval or the memorial at Deauville Wood to the many professional footballers who died on the Somme would disrupt our training programme

Only now, when it is convenient do they remember, and make great play of kicking up a fuss with FIFA over poppies on armbands.

Oh yes, how did that competition go after all that careful preparation?

Note to self, treat ninety nine point nine percent of supposed noble behaviour in top flight football, on and off the pitch with contempt. Morally it's rarely a beautiful game.

P: Remember this?

we'll be right back after a brief word from our sponsor.



The Fleet St Hotel in Dublin is the ideal location to visit all that the capital of the emerald isle has to offer. Situated in the lively Temple Bar district the Boutique hotel is an oasis of quiet calm. Trinity College and the Book of Kells are two minutes walk away and the shops of Grafton St and O'Connell St a mere five minutes, fall out of the door and you are in amongst the numerous bars and restaurants of Temple Bar.

That's the Fleet St Hotel Folks. www.fleethoteltemplebar.com

Anyway, spawning is a little slow to get going and our fears of fewer sexually mature brown trout in the river seem to be borne out. The river remains low and we have just received word that command centre central are worried about aquifer levels. You can take it as read that we need more rain.

A couple of sharp frosts have provided the requisite full stop for vegetative growth and leaves have been sent a tumblin, although somebody needs to tell the nettles in the wood as they retain some of their spite.

I've not picked many mushrooms this year, which is a shame. Not sure why but fungi in general seem a little thin on the ground. The first skein of geese have arrived to take up residence on the water meadow upstream, around thirty in number their arrival usually means that it is cold somewhere else.


Work for the winter is upon us and once the last of the topping is complete it 'll be into the wood with the chainsaw while what few fish remain go through the process of spawning. There are many willows to be attended to along with some malformed poplars and a cricket bat willow that mysteriously cashed in its chips in the middle of summer. I've a new chainsaw to take into the wood and I'll not raise the P at this point as Stihl declined my offer of a mention if they reduced the price a tad,

Doh!

By way of balance, the previous Husqvarna gave sterling service and has been retired to two stroke Valhalla where it sits to at the right hand of the two stroke Thor that was my Honda long handled hedge cutter.

Research shows that more purchases are made on ebay late in the evening when wine has been taken.

So why no bar/complimentary drinks during Flog It or Homes under the Hammer?

Assuming the guise of community champion ( I can't find my photo of Esther Rantzen so here's one of a chicken to which I have become attached) I'd like to issue an alert about the scam that is The Virgin Wines Club.
I received through the ether a voucher for a case of cut price wine delivered straight to my door. The Wine was reasonable and swiftly consumed and I thought no more of it. This week I received a paypal notification that Virgin Wines was taking a monthly payment of £25 for my membership of their wine club. A quick call to Mike Oldfield confirmed that Branson is notorious for this kind of thing so a call was put in and the accusation of "sharp practice" made. Yes the wine had been reasonable value and of reasonable quality but at no point was I made aware that I was joining a wine club and regular monthly payments would be taken via the medium of paypal.

With some relief I am now blackballed from the club but will not be welcome on the isle of Necker at any point.

We seem to be jumping around a little here, but goodness there are a lot of little egret about. It's common to see half a dozen in a day at the moment. The few grayling fishers who have been attendance have enjoyed reasonable sport. Two today caught twenty odd fish with the biggest an 18inch torpedo a smidge under a pound and three quarters. Roach are not quite as abundant as they were a few years ago, but their numbers seem to be on the up and the two grayling anglers today even had a go at bothering a few perch. Big Pike are conspicuously absent.

Oh yes Ed Balls, hopeless hubristic hoofer whose place in Strictly is being maintained by a left of centre campaign to produce a populist contender to challenge Jez. Expect a denunciation of anything to do with dancing by comrade Jez sometime soon.

Freedom for Tooting!/Islington.

P:

This last weekend we caught a plane to Dublin from what is widely acknowledged as the world's best airport,

Ladies and Gentleman I give you,

Southampton airport.

Our tickets with the world's leading budget airline that eschews all things green or orange cost the equivalent of a return train ticket from our local railway station to the capital of Britain and well done the trains of the south of England for that. Our bedside alarm sounded at home at 5.00am, at 8.50am I was plonking our case down on the bed at The Fleet St Hotel in the Temple bar district of Dublin.

Book of Kells first.

Fast track tickets had been purchased and we were first through the door and ran past the book and up to the library, which is stunning and within twenty minutes was rammed.
Back down to the book where I was admonished for preparing to take a photo, twenty years ago I'd have been stripped of my film, so the camera was put away and we spent an hour perusing the exhibits.





Out into town and the shops of Grafton St for an hour or so before seeking sustenance (beer) at The International bar also known as O'Donohue's. The bar features in the festival of bonkers that is James Joyce's Ulysses or possibly Dubliners. He frequented the establishment once upon a time, along with Michael Collins, Ronnie Drew and Dara O'Briain who had all popped in for pints at some point.
We shared the bar with a trio of locals and the current member of the O'Donohue clan to occupy the front of house shoes.
There were several posters on the wall commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Rising and as is always the case in a Dublin bar we were swiftly enrolled into general conversation which, despite our best efforts at "easy and light", rapidly turned to politics, both national and international.
I'd commented to madam earlier in the day that there is something lyrical about the Irish brogue, every letter is pronounced, no words are omitted I have come across few that you could accuse of lazy speech. Despite this we emptied our glasses and left, we have both had our fill of politics for this year, but thanks all the same for an entertaining half hour and a far richer experience than ice cream at the the deli across the road.

There were no rods packed for this flying visit and this stretch of the Liffy never looks that productive, but I may be wrong.

Back to the hotel and a bathroom big enough to park your car in (should you eschew the aforementioned cheap flight provider) before hitting the town for an excellent meal and a night at the premier comedy venue that is the Vicar St Theatre. We'd seen Dara o'Brien here two years ago and were drawn to another Irish comedian with the same initials.

David O'Doherty is his name, and you may have seen him on shows such as Would I Lie to You, and Eight of Ten Cats. He was accompanied by Aisling Bea who also appears on such shows. Both were on top form and it was another memorable night at this intimate venue.





A twenty minute walk back to the Fleet St Hotel and an undisturbed night in one of the best beds we have slept in.
Breakfast was a triumph and replete with sausage, bacon egg and a suitable volume of yoghurt we hopped on the airport bus outside the hotel and were back in Bransbury for Sunday lunch.
We're going back in February to take in Jack Whitehall. It's an effortless trip to a terrific city and if you do give it a go, stay at this hotel (but please mention this house/parish/my name) The "Elegance" rooms are particularly swish.

Back in Bransbury, having done the hedges I'm just finishing some topping. Alan Partridge's new audio book - Nomad has been my companion throughout my thrashing with the swipe,

It is a brilliant addition to the canon of the bard of Norwich.

Walking will never be the same again

Other reading has seen me retreat to Blandings, where Emsworth and Psmith et al provide sanctuary from a world that, as 2016 progresses, continues to lose some of its lustre,

Although well done David Attenborough for restoring some sheen to planet earth with his tales of baby lizards being chased down the beach by gangs of snakes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Slow Plane to Lugdunum

Half term was once again upon us so it's on with the wig and kaftan for me and the platform shoes and big glasses for madam and a brief rendition of our favourite half term song, and following a request from a Juan and Jaunita Hernandez, with accompanying subtitles in Spanish.



Except it wasn't a jet plane but one with two whisks on the wings ( propellers I believe they call them in the aeroplane industry ) that carried us sedately from the world's best airport at Southampton. (Park your car, walk into a terminal devoid of queues get on plane, fly away - simples) all the way to Lyon.

Lugdunum to those versed in all things Asterix, gastronomic capital of all Gaul situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhone and Soane and brim full of fish but more of that later.

After a thirty minute train ride and some bumbling about on the metro we dragged our cases across the cobbles to our billet in Vieux Lyon, the old part of town situated on the banks of the Saone. We were staying in a third floor apartment in a sixteenth century building once occupied by some silk weavers synonymous with the arrondissement.

To prevent their cloth getting wet, they covered over some of the narrow alleys and it was up one of these "traboules"

that we found our apartment which was reached via a stone stair case that was the stuff of Rapunzel.

The apartment was perfect, smartly appointed and despite the antiquity of the situation in which we found ourselves, we enjoyed superfast high speed broadband throughout our stay.

Out on the street it became quickly apparent that it is all about the food in Lyon. Settling down for our first lunch in a small square not far from our door every table was soon taken and we tucked into our first odd sausage of the week. There aren't many bits of a pig that they won't put in a sausage in these parts and by day two I'm sure we had sampled most parts. Quenelles were ok although I avoided the pike, and we had some surprisingly good steak. Madam was fond of some fluffy potato thing with ham and cheese whose name escapes me but I think began with the letter "T"

There was one exception to the "full tables at lunch time rule" This may have been something to do with Brexit or possibly the Lyonnaise are that food savvy that they realise that this kind of thing should only ever be sampled in the North of England where they are particularly adept at the dish and the requisite gravy.

Paul Bocuse is a big noise when it comes to French food, he was a pioneer of Nouvelle cuisine and he has his own hall dedicated to his methods in the newer part of town near the central station. There is much on offer, and it is possible to sample most things. We tried a few dainties, plus some madeleines and some super quiche. Most of the stalls have an area where you can sit down and feed on their fayre for lunch, but it isn't cheap, although most places were full by one o'clock.

Food done, we turn our attention to all else that this tremendous town has to offer. The rods were in and there were people fishing the river but that had to wait as we had a mountain to climb. On the hill overlooking the town is an enormous Basillica and a tower that is an exact replica of the top third of the Eifel tower.

There are many routes up the hill to Fourviere with many steps but we opted for a Funicular driven by a close relative of Miriam Margolyes.

The Basilica is mightily impressive. It isn't that old and was chucked up in the 19th century. The mosaics on the walls and floor are particularly impressive and the crypt is enormous, big enough to have a game of football in. The replica of the top third of the Eifel tower was erected around the same time as a symbol of progress, which left the two of us leaving the hill scratching our heads a little.

Around the back of the Basilica there are some well preserved remains of Lugdunum. A brace of roman theatres, one big, one small, both of which still stage live performances, and an old aqueduct.

Back down to the river and the inevitable cruisers. The Saone has a series of low bridges and we paused to watch a Swiss vessel negotiate the centre of town.

All of the rooftop tables and chairs were folded away and the handrails removed as the craft squeezed under two bridges by a matter of inches.

It has been suggested I make mention of the shops.

There are shops, many shops, Lyon is very good for shopping, our suitcase was four kilos over its limit on our return.

Toward s the end of our stay we caught a very smart vaporetto down the Saone to the regenerated area at the confluence of the two rivers. it is very well done .

There is the inevitable shopping centre, innumerable and individual smart flats

and a museum containing at least one dinosaur that highlights the history, ecology and importance of the two rivers in a building that is unique in design.
And while Madam went shopping, I went fishing.

I'd done the internet research beforehand, and even purchased my licence, as for a few euros the Carte de Peche de Vacances is easily purchased online. I'd hoped to repeat the fly fishing for catfish tactics that I employed with Oliver on the Arno in Florence last year. The Tarpon rod with 12wt line was in along with the requisite beefed up leaders and flies and the landing glove. There are many catfish in both rivers and Youtube will confirm that they are often caught from the bank. But the Wels catfish is a complex creature that switches from scavenging during low water to predation during high water and water was low and I'd have had more chance legering some unusual sausage than with my efforts with the fly. Although the fly fishing in the centre of town method is quite the conversation opener and I spent quite a lot of the time chatting. I spent the final afternoon working my way through town with my travel spinning rod chasing Zander and Pike. I regret not putting a carp rod in (note to self, buy a travel carp rod) as there were several good fish evident, and I may have enjoyed better results fishing at night, and if I was ten years younger I may well have done that, but the lure of the food and the wine prove too much in the evening.

After recent events elsewhere en France, there is understandably a high security presence and we came across groups of machine gun clad soldiers on patrol regularly throughout the stay, the Police are just as jumpy and several times a squadron of vehicles containing men with guns cocked roared through the streets with blue lights a flashing and sirens a wailing.

These are the times we live in, but it didn't detract from a superb stay.

The return flights from Southampton to Lyon with one case in the hold cost £100 each.

Five days in an apartment sleeping 2/4 in the centre of Lyon booked through AirBnb cost £350.

If you like food, shopping and fishing in a town brim full of history and culture give Lyon a go.








Oh yes the TV



Even with the English subtitles we remain baffled.

Answers on a postcard please


Monday, October 17, 2016

Down with Hedges and Walk a Mile in My Shoes

The vanguard of this winter's grayling anglers arrived earlier this week and two up from Devon enjoyed surprisingly good sport with fish to a pound and a half off the top in the afternoon. It isn't easy as the river remains down to its bare bones and I have deferred putting the thing to bed for the winter in order to provide as much cover and protection for what sexually mature brown trout remain from a burgeoning population of avian predators. Heron and Little Egret mostly, both of which can cause carnage to a fish population seeking to spawn in clear shallow water. We've had a reasonable amount of rain this week but not enough to lift the river. The ditch to the earth stew ponds remains dry and would not function as a salmonid rearing unit should we still be in that game. It's the same on many other rivers in the south, a couple of grayling anglers reported that the Frome was in a similar state, but I am constantly surprised by the number of people who express surprise that the river is low, particularly some who are paid considerable sums of money to be across such matters.

Hedges play a big part of Autumn life in this parish and at this point could I make the case for brick walls, fences or white lines as the future of boundary demarcation. Yes the birds, yes the hogs and yes the fashion for being dragged through the thing backwards, but even in my current athletic prime I'm struggling to conquer some of the arboreal leviathans that hem this place in. Come on Science, surely in this age we can come up with some digital alternative to what is, a medieval solution to keeping the cattle in.

Can we all agree that this kind of thing has had its day and sign up to a campaign for more virtual hedges (sorry Packham and Oddie et al) donations can be made at www.justgiving/hedgesareoldhatfencesarethefuture.

For those who have visited here, the hedge that borders the gravel yard is over twenty feet wide at the top and you'll be aware of how long my arms are and how far my chest has slipped, so forgive my ire, as for eleven and a half months of the year hedges are good things.

With the onset of Autumn everything also seems to be reluctant to lose their green hues, stingers are still stinging in the wood and we still see the odd swallow and martin







Apparently Ed Balls is a real person, and not a training ground routine favoured by some of the neanderthals who populate a game that is now only occasionally beautiful.

Call me a conspiracy theorist but the BBC seem very keen to promote Ed's cause and hey Comrade Jez expect another challenge to your leadership soon, that or the genesis of an alternative political party occupying the centre left with Ed very much to the fore.
I don't think this is what I pay my licence fee for, but Rupert uses my sky subscription to further his many cases with politicos so we are where we are,

which I seem to find myself saying with increasing regularity these days, and if presented with an opportunity to pick up this river along with family and friends and retreat to an island and pull up a drawbridge, I'd take it like a shot, as the pattern of voting on the BBC's flagship hoofathon and the tone of the jungle drums worldwide point to poisonous times ahead.

Anyway, Ed Balls: hubristic hopeless hoofer who many in the media and particularly at the BBC, seem keen to promote.

I shall attend to Chairman May in the weeks to come, but in the interim if anyone wants to start a political party on the basis of let's be sensible, all get along, look up not down and have a bit of fun, then I'm in.

Sandi Toksvig's got some good ideas, why can't she have a go?

Regular visitors to this parish will be aware of my propensity to ramble, so when Madam suggested that we undertake such an activity at the weekend I retorted that I was a seasoned campaigner in the business.

I was presented with a cagoule and knapsack and a withering look and detailed to source a compass, gators and buff up on my valderi, valdera as we were about to go hardcore with regard to all things left foot, right foot.


Now I'll confess that in my youth, I was quite the walker.

Mostly through scouts and the Cheshire Hike, a two day county competition for teams of two carrying 25kg each over thirty odd miles that my mate and I somehow managed to win at the age of fourteen.
A group of us, madam included, once pushed a supermarket trolley from the north west to marble arch to raise money for Save the Children and if I rocked up at a student party and didn't approve of proceedings I'd think nothing of walking up to ten miles home in the early hours. Yes I was quite the walker, and feel justified in stating that I've ticked that box. Not that I'd want to give up walking altogether, just unnecessary walking,

but what Madam was suggesting was recreational.

Golf without the sticks, fishing without the rods, football without a ball,

madness had surely taken hold.

Anyway the case was made that accompanying Madam on her meanderings coupled with the sustained consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and bifidus digistibum meant that those misspelt invitations to our hundredth wedding anniversary party (should have been tenth) may come in handy one day if we walked far enough. Exercise is important at our time of life apparently.

Chilbolton and its' common with requisite commoners last week, a gentle stroll on even ground, knapsack free in full sun and home in time for a late Sunday lunch. Which was nice and a few more years in the bank. .

Further afield this week. We're building up to hills, so opted for a canal side trek that guaranteed level ground. The Kennet and Avon canal to be precise. Leaving our car at a railway station on the GWR line we set off towards our destination of Hungerford and train ride back to what all agree is the best mode of getting from A to B, the motor car.

Roped together our party consisted of myself, madam and Otis. Otis expecting his usual half hour walk was a spent force thirty five minutes in and tried to stymie our progress by walking slowly in front of us on a narrow tow path. After an hour and a bit he fell/threw himself into the canal and had to be pulled out. After two and a bit hours Hungerford appeared like an oasis in the desert and our spirits were restored by provender that included cheese and sauvignon blanc.

We caught the train back, which was free.

We tried to buy a ticket but there was no obvious machine and no guard on the train. We spoke to the driver and he implored us to "just get on" which seemed a little free and easy. We have subsequently made the retrospective purchase of two tickets as neither of us could sleep that night which we attributed to guilt rather than aching limbs and sore feet.

Today we have purchased proper walking shoes, and next weekend we march on Nepal,

Or possibly another section of level canal

I'm quite happy to emerge from hiking retirement but on condition that we exchange the dried food, survival bags and compass work. for regular stops, light conversation and fine fare (not you George Cowley) at the close.

Lawks, I'm a rambler

However did it come to this?

Oops, forgive my forgetfulness, The Fleet Hotel in Temple Bar is the place to stay if you ever happen to find yourself in Dublin, we look forward to our stay next month and also in February.


That's The Fleet Hotel Folks www.fleethoteltemplebar.com



If any other establishments out there would like to exchange a complimentary room for a series of peppy reviews and the odd mention on here, don't be a stranger.