Monday, March 20, 2017
And at this point the piece could descend into a grim tale of lost water a meddling bureaucracy and a chronic decline, but I feel the occasion requires us to look up and not down. So here we are, thankful to have made it this far.
I was put forward for my current position by Brian Parker, head keeper at Bossington Estate, after a brief spell managing a hell hole of a fish farm not far from junction 18 of the M25. The highlight of our tenbure was popping up to the smoke to take in Pavarotti in the Park one evening after work (everything else was dreadful, they even diddled us out of £500 on our departure) and gladly accepted the offer of this employment.
The next morning the cat disappeared which caused tears, as she was much loved and the first pet that we had. She reappeared a few hours later on the roof. Born and raised in a nearby parish she was as pleased as we were to be back in the old postal region. That pleasure remains and this place will always mean a lot to us. Married a few months after our arrival we have both gained and lost loved ones during our tenure, emotional tattoos that will forever be associated with our time living and working by this river.
The internet and mobile phones were lines on a drawing board and the GPO retained a reasonable reputation before they became the spawn of the Devil under their new moniker - BT. Rosemary Conley was all over the Hip and Thigh and we marvelled at the electronic miracle that was our Game Boy. On the river the regular rods only fished from Monday to Thursday with a full rod costing £600. The Mill stream remained fishable until well into high summer , Klinkhammers and Parachute Adams had not yet made it across the pond and a Daddy Long Legs was considered "not quite the thing" The river regularly ran blue in the Autumn as a treatment for trout with white noses and not many people wore safety gear when working with dangerous machinery.
Thank you to my employer and her family for the work, home, encouragement, guidance and friendship. It is very much appreciated and the last twenty five years have been a blast.
There, through with the nostalgia and emotional stuff, and I hope I didn't overdo it. We shall now attend to other matters,
The firm have stumped up for a fantastic trip to Italy in the spring, so thank you very much for that, and here's to the next twenty five years kindly gifted to us by ten thousand plus steps a day, the sustained consumption of red wine, dark chocolate, biffidus digestivum, and the full gamut of seeds and pulses that have caused us to leave the bedroom window open at night of late.
At the end of three months wielding my big orange saw, I may have lost many pounds and rediscovered muscles unused by summer work, there's a few bits of me starting to make a few funny noises and that's not another reference to our increased consumption of pulses and seeds, the willows are briefly in retreat, but will invariably consolidate their position and battle will be resumed in the Autumn.
Thanks to you both for all of your help and, as ever, all the fun.
The river carries a little colour, because yes we have had rain, but ditches remain dry and shining a torch down a borehole used for watering the square at the cricket ground betrays a groundwater resource that is pitifully diminished.
After a two winter absence the Bittern is back and has been flushed from both the Flight pond and Mill Stream. Not heard any booming yet but there is time yet.
Returning to the river we find some very dark grayling undertaking the opening moves of pre spawning foreplay. There seem to be a few big fish about a fact borne out by the number of slightly bigger fish caught this year. Dever grayling are not deep chunky specimens but they do have a certain elegance about their lines with few fish over two pounds. The Brown Trout are active and occasionally rise to the odd Olive in the afternoon.
I had to look them up (give them a google) but apparently numbers visiting these shores are on the up.
The Fishing hut has been treated with the clever cuprinol that has so far preserved this soft wood structure on stilts for twenty two years and preparations are being made to buff up a few bridges and seats. The rods have received their invitations to fish this coming season and will arrive for lunch and a walk up the river in a couple of weeks which is always a happy day when I will inevitably be accused of removing too many trees by some rods who will then ask me in June why I didn't take more off a particular branch as they keep catching their fly on it. It feels like the whole valley is on the cusp of waking up and a week of mild weather will serve as the flicking of a switch that will set in motion the remarkable transformation that is a North European spring.
Well done the EA for hauling Thames Water across the coals for sending untreated sewage into the Thames. With quite a fish kill and jonnies, tampons and bog roll passing through the swim it was a difficult one for them to wriggle out of, although with the concerns of shareholders and dividends paramount you can bet they gave of their best with regard to wriggling.
The opening line of the piece seemed a suitable place to bury bad news, details of the worsening situation now follow:
I turned 49 this week.
I don't know, as we have only just had the millenium and our fortieth birthday party was only a few weeks ago.
But these things happen.
The house tradition (as I'm not big on cake) has it that we refer to numerologists with regard to the significance of the number of years so its over to our friends at www.ridingthebeast.com who teach us that:
Seven times seven is forty nine - Who Knew?
Buddha remained 49 days near the tree named Bo
The Virgin Mary was 49 years old during the ascension of his son Jesus
Moving away from our friends at ridingthebeast,com we find that Wikipedia has the number 49 as the natural number following 48 and preceding 50 which rings a few bells
While www.sacredscribesanglenumbers.co.uk insist that the number forty nine is a combination of the vibrations of the number four and the number nine. Angel number forty nine is a message that a project or cycle is coming to an end as one door closes another one opens,
quite possibly that of angel number fifty
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Well I've been back in the kaftan and Madam has once again been picking the guitar, Chattels of travel that provide succour in transit,
and while some at the airport may look askance at our early morning travel apparel and accoutrements, each serve as a reminder that yes, while our loins and ligaments allow we're off away once more singing our happy songs.
Another internet break away,
so named not because we booked it online, but because for a short while we get to enjoy the internet in a way more familiar to most people.
We marvel at YouTube , curse the iplayer because there are many things that we would like to catch up on but can't because it is not available in that particular country and thrill at being able to sit in bed and watch a film or TV series ( a dip into Series 4 of the IT crowd for me on this flying visit) before bed.
and well done for that
Lunch at a hipster cafe followed which comprised some unusual soup and unusual craft beer.
With a nod to the nuts that is Fifty Shades, if a blindfold had been applied it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other, but sustenance was attained
Located in Temple Bar, there are pictures of la Winehouse displayed in the window and also inside of her fondling rapalas and squeezing Flying C's
She'd have loved Vince Headley's
Jarlath Regan was the support act and he's well worth a watch.
the best arena I've been in, although I've only been in two or possibly three as wasn't there a chain of shops called arena whose business was TV rentals or peddling posters, I forget which,
Anyway ( I seem to be saying this more and more)
Wembley Arena and The Gmex in Manchester didn't do it for me. The stage is a million miles away and I fell asleep watching The Cure at Wembley. The 3 arena is like an indoor kop with few seats on flat ground and a far more intimate feel than the two arenas mentioned previously (Wembley and the Gmex, not the TV rental or poster emporia although on reflection one of these have been athena)
Ladies and Gentleman I give you the next Arthur Askey,
Jack Whitehall is going places,
you heard it here first folks.
A lazy breakfast followed by a bus back to a plane to take us to what is now widely acknowledged as the world's best airport, Southampton. Off the plane and into the car in a matter of minutes and home twenty in twenty more, it's easier and quicker than going shopping in Basingstoke, let alone tripping up to the smoke for a show.
No, No it really is,
We're already booked in to return to take in The Dara's run at Vicar St which serves as preparations for his next big tour in 2018 and are considering popping over to do our weekly supermarket shop.
Southampton airport is the best and easiest airport in the world.
Our friends in the North seems to have had a particular time of it.
We've a couple of christmas trees down and a poxy willow across the release pen fence but nothing too dramatic. Child A has just returned from her shift at the Thames Valley Police Control Centre who had quite a busy time with calls concerning trees down across roads.
I seem to get the call in these environs if a tree goes over the road, which I or my boss don't mind. I'm not sure a tree on some roads is a 999 event and maybe a sad sign of a dwindling sense of community in some parts, the chap in the Thames valley area who dialled triple nine regarding the delivery of the wrong cake for his daughter's birthday party demanding somebody be held account is just one example of callers she has to deal with who don't seem to understand the meaning of the word emergency.
What times we live in.
Child B reports from Beijing that his attempts to visit the Great wall were thwarted by station closure. His chosen point of departure was shut for the following three years in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Maybe I'm a little harsh on the chaps who run the rails in the South of England, our trains ain't so bad after all.
Apologies, let me put that another way
Our train service would be significantly improved if it was handed over to Hornby or possibly Lima or Lego.
Given the title of the piece I ought to make mention of the river. Storm Doris didn't make much of a contribution and the hatch in front of the house retains its end of September status of fully closed. At this time in 2014 it was open 18 notches and we were getting rid of water.
Forget the figures and ignore the media, we need a month of rain in this corner of the country.
This week we have been planting trees, singular specimens positioned to maximise their form and shape. It's the stuff of Capability Brown and what with vistas an 'all I am sure I have gone off piste somewhere and put a sorbus where a fagus should have been (the Latin labels didn't help)
Two weeks of the Grayling season remain and the winter has been quite productive. Half a dozen fish around the two pound mark but this will rise in the next fortnight as females bulk up prior to spawning.
Apologies a brief bit about football,
Claudio Ranieri sacked ?
I would expect nothing less from a game/business that, in the top flight, is as distinct from the real world as the moon is to mars.
What times we live in.
I don't know why, but I do remember that it was permanently linked to Metoesat the weather satellite and that the two funny blocks on the outside shoot rays back and forth that measure the rain.
I think that's right, I'm not sure why we visited as there were no fish,
There weren't any at the Harwell Nuclear place either when we visited in the name of Farming Fish and Managing Fisheries.
Monday, February 20, 2017
Even in gloves my hands bear the scars and each evening I attend to various punctures and splinters with little sympathy and only vin rouge for succour.
There's a few more weeks to go of this kind of work with the bottom bends requiring attention and a large tree falling on to the Pheasant pen that we hope to make use of this year. Bashing about on the top shallows has betrayed a brace of Water rail but the small bird with the unusual whistle remains elusive. The Kelly Kettle provided some drama one morning. Fired up for the first time I wandered away to attend to a fire when I hear a loud pop. Turning to the direction of the noise I saw the kettle was a few feet from where I had left it. Closer inspection revealed that I had forgotten to take the cork out of the kettle part, the kettle had boiled and because I had jammed the cork in hard to prevent any spillage during transit pressure had built up to such an extent that the cork had now joined the list of space junk orbiting the earth and the kettle had shot across the ground in recoil. A new bright orange silicon cork has now been purchased and a lesson learned. I'm also making steady progress with the perennial problem of shifting silt, a task that is made all the more tedious due to the low water conditions, more on that later - apologies in advance.
A few people have been bothering the grayling with mixed results. One chap had a handful of fish all pushing two pound and another managed to put a venerable roach of a pound thirteen on the bank. We had some funny foam in one of the streams that flows through the mill house garden although nothing on the main river so something must have entered the mill stream. We had a surprise road closure recently (which caused chaos and don't we normally get informed about such incidents) to attend to potholes and bumps and unusually it rained in this valley a few days later so it may be something to do with runoff from the road.
I'll just break off there to attend to Stonehenge.
Since I first set foot in this valley in 1986 there has been talk of burrowing underneath the thing to hide the nearby Highway to the Sun and restore a little tranquillity to the heap of blue stones. Back then you could rock up after a night at the pub, park on the side of the road and take your ease on the heel stone for some post pub contemplation.
To my mind, it was built for this very purpose
The tunnel proposal is once again under consideration and if it does ever happen the jingoists will declare a great feat of engineering to rival any wonder of the world at which point our Swiss friends may emit an
We've put more holes through some of our Alps than we have through some of our cheeses."
Half the journey up the upper reaches of the Rhone was subterranean with some of the highway burrows many many miles long.
And hey Montreux how about some embers by the lake putting smoke on the water and fire in the sky or failing that a few Funky Claudes promenading on the shore or possibly running in and out?
For a particular generation your town could be the new Graceland.
Oh yes, Stonehenge.
It may now not be what our Neolithic forebears perceived and the whole reason it gets all the heat with regard to all things prehistoric is that it is visible from a very busy main road. There are some equally impressive remains from prehistory at the other end of the British Isles that receive far fewer visitors and at this point I'd like to offer the premise that the builders of Stonehenge chose the location in the knowledge that one day a busy highway would drop from two lanes to one thus slowing traffic down in order to gaze upon their skills with stone.
It's a trick not lost on Anthony Gormley who has made a mint out of erecting his most prominent pieces by busy roads, The Angel of the North a prime example.
rather than a tunnel, as the Swiss, Austrians and Italians have this one taped, I propose we extend the dual carriageway up to the stones and make them the centre piece of a large roundabout. The current alignment of the stones lend themselves to this and it is one thing we do increasingly well in this country where we are blessed with many and while the Swiss may counter the miracle of our short tunnel with a Romansch "Ahem" they will have no comeback to a roundabout to end all roundabouts, because they don't do good roundabout. Those who wish to view the stones can drive around the roundabout as many times as they please and those who just need to move on to a holiday, cricket match or relatives can pass straight on by.
Recent rambles have seen us conquer the Basingstoke canal from Odium to Dogmersfield, cutting back across Dogmersfield Park to take in some nice lakes and several enormous piles of bricks. Full of fish we took lunch on bench behind a platoon of carp fishermen who'd struck camp for the weekend.
A wet and windy day and an impending televised six nations game saw us stay a little closer to home and trek from Whitchurch towards Tufton then on up the Test Valley to Laverstoke Park and then back again.
here's some chooks, sans belts, owned by Hants FA Groundsman of the year 2011 (opened a lot of doors for us did that)
It was clear that high up the valley the aquifers are depleted and in desperate need of replenishment.
And at this point I will fall off the wagon and attend to groundwater levels.
Further dry ditches
The Test and Itchen River Report for 2016 was rolled out this week. Featuring reports from most beats on both rivers plus other guff regarding the two rivers (including poor prose from your correspondent) A piece from Command centre central described the impending renewal of the abstraction licence to send supplementary water down the Candover Stream during periods when the Itchen's discharge dropped below a specific level. The Upper Itchen is deemed an uber environmental area which must be preserved at all cost. However it has come to light that the cone of influence caused by this groundwater abstraction (cone of influence from groundwater abstraction- think digging a hole in super dry sand, the deeper you go the wider the rim of the hole at the top) is impacting upon other river catchments, principally the Upper Dever Valley. Quite rightly the EA have recommended that the amount of water permitted to be drawn out of the ground to sustain the Itchen's flow be reduced on the new licence, quite wrongly the local water company has asked for it to remain the same and a portion of it be siphoned off to supplement local domestic supply. Many times on here (and elsewhere ) I have pondered why the river seems to fall away at a faster rate than it did twenty years ago, seems I wasn't half the crank I was made out to be by some. Well done the EA for fighting the cause, but I fear it will be like popguns against Polaris missiles in the tussle with the water company in the current political climate.
In the sustained pursuit of additional years Madam and myself have just returned from another weekly six miler, coincidentally among the depleted aquifers of the upper Dever Valley, on a tour of tracks that I knew from the years that legal coursing events were held on the same ground. Two or three would tale place each winter with three eight dog stakes and a rich mix of people would assemble from all corners of the UK to run their dog. From the ermine clad with trainers (dog trainers not reeboks) through life boatmen, farmers, architects to Mr F*7%ing Younis ( so called because each sentence was littered with F&$%s) with his beard full of henna in a Shalwar Kameez. My employer ran the show and before each meeting the place would be reconnoitred to limit the inevitable chaos that ensues when allowing dogs to run after things in open fields. The two farms were alive with hares and on each recce you'd expect to see up to a dozen bumbling about with many more hunkered down hidden away in their scrape.
On this mild morning when you would reasonably expect to see the opening gambit of the Hare's mad spring shenanigans,
we didn't see a single hare,
so well done Mr Blair for that, that hunting bill really worked our for the hare didn't it?
Cardiff grows on us with every visit and I think he'll miss it if he ever leaves. The Victorian arcades host a plethora of interesting independent shops and places to eat. Madam Fromage is a tremendous place to take sustenance
We didn't go in but his dream remains
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
From a licence payer and one who wouldn't jump into water at this time of year clad in anything less than a minimum covering of 5mm of neoprene, Stop it BBC.
There now follows an appeal on behalf of the RSPDP (Royal Society for the Protection of Depleted Aquifers)
Crikes we need rain
I'll say that again for the sake of emphasis.
CRIKES WE NEED RAIN!
Yet the media and public disconnect from what constitutes good meteorological conditions for a particular time of year increases daily: our local news programme has just declared the current week a wash out, with scattered showers forecast and spells of prolonged drizzle.
A position has arisen for a suitable candidate to fulfil the position of promoter for a wet week in winter in the South of England. The candidate shall possess excellent communication skills and be able to get a simple message across in words of no more than two syllables to a large audience with limited appreciation of the subject.
We stood by the side of the path and noted the change in body shape and BMI as the field progressed until a chap on a bike sporting the requisite high viz whistling the theme tune from "Chariots of Fire" arrived chivvying along the endomorphic back marker.
It's a great place for a walk and surprisingly peaceful, placed as it is between Pompey and Southampton and its proximity to a very busy motorway, it just gets a bit crowded when Zatopek and Mary Peters et al turn up.
The chickens continue to present us with the gift of eggs with every other one a double yolker, production is increasing and I move their pen every other day as I have delayed their release into the paddock until the threat of flu has passed.
I really value a one day a week break from the grim madness that currently grips planet earth (and feel free to make a contribution here Tim Peake rather than putting all your efforts into blagging another free trip into space)and now a Sunday is spent immersed in the three W's.
Not Worrel, Weekes and Walcott
but walks, wine and Wodehouse,
A brief word from Wooster:
"... in the course of a beano of some description at the Sherry-Sutherland, I made the acquaintance of Pauline Stoker.
She got right in among me. her beauty maddened me like wine.
"Jeeves, " I recollect saying, on returning to the apartment "who was the fellow who on looking at something felt like somebody looking at something? I learned the passage at school, but it has escaped me."
"I fancy the individual you have in mind , sir, is the poet Keats, who compared his emotions on reading Chapman's Homer to those of stout Cortez when with eagle eyes he stared at the Pacific"
"The Pacific, eh?"
"Yes, sir. And all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien"
Thank you Jeeves.
Hey Donald, i know it would be another white male in later life appointment, but you could really use a Jeeves
or was it Astrology?
No matter, if we can all agree that one of the "ologys" is hooey we'll move on
To mark the 25 year event "the firm" have stumped up for, not a clock, but a fantastic trip to Italy where Madam and myself will both break new ground and revisit a few old favourites - report to follow.
Very exciting and thank you very much, the last twenty five years on a special stretch of river have been a blast and a terrific place to raise a family, thank you for having us for the last twenty five years.
Friday, January 13, 2017
A weather event heralded throughout the week by a media who now seem to be using comics as a source for meteorological metaphors.
At the time of writing we are promised Thunder Snow, Power Rain and Menacing Fog as KAPOW! Storm Steve arrives in the West to deliver his deadly cargo of precipitation that will fall with a SPLAT! and a BDOING!
Seems the Meteorologists have now too taken the stance of "If we're not scared they're not doing their job" (and I'm pointing the finger at you for starting this Jeremy Vine) It's the first real rain we've had in the region for weeks so in the spirit of counter culture I have rented a village hall where all like minded people can meet for the launch of a new weather cult.
Think "Pagan lite" with all action kept above the waist line
The arrival of rain will be met with rejoicing, panpipe music, no little mead with every wet day declared a bank holiday.
and for that I blame Idina Menzel and her theme from Frozen,
Yes it's clearly Idina's fault.
With one left to burn, we have several substantial willows to attend to on the river bank that will be felled and dragged to the remaining recalcitrant stump by the tractor and the vista will be complete.
It may be that I move with more stealth as the years progress as I seem to be able to get a lot closer to a Muntjac than I used to. We have one who watches me split logs from behind a stick fifteen yards away and we regularly get within twenty yards of others when walking the dog. They used to be incredibly windy but seem to have become increasingly bold.
I recently received an invitation from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to a workshop on watercress in the headwaters of the Test and Itchen, I declined the invitation but well done the H&IOWWT (did I really just say that)
much too low.
Earlier this week I was summoned to Madam's chambers (which also doubles as the living room when I am tied to the kitchen table chucking up guff) to take in Rick Stein's series at 7pm on BBC2. To use contemporary parlance, Rick's lucked out and got the gig of taking short breaks in most of the European cities that we have visited in recent times.
My employer and one fat lady frequented Rick's place in Padstow many times and can confirm (my employer, as all fat ladies have left the room) that fish is Rick's thing.
It's all about the pasta in Bologna and Rick's fish free programme (bar a can of tuna) had us reaching for the tablets as we will be in Italy later this year and wondered if we could tag on a couple of days in La Rossa before returning home. Flight checks were made and instead of the usual "there are twelve other people looking at this flight" it flashed up there are four thousand and three people currently looking at this flight" It may have been an error or Rick's programme has done more for the food capital of Italy than the town tourist board,
Bologna could be quite busy this year.
Rick was in Lisbon the next day and we were again reminded of a tremendous time in a top city albeit with fish very much to the fore, some top trams, a bonkers outdoor lift and some wine glasses from a department store called Pollux that we somehow managed to get back to blighty in one piece,
one of which I am about to drain of delicious Douro before signing off.
And finally, news just in from Chick 'O' Land,
We have received the gift of egg and on the morrow the full family shall gather at the table in the manner of Tom and Barbara to share in the harvest,
Well done the chickens!
Oh yes, Happy New Year!
We've already done that one - ed
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Hear hear to that Sir,
We have been banging on about the same subject in this parish for a few years, and can I now propose a period of mourning for each dry week experienced in the south from November to March and a bank holiday for every hundred millimetres of rain to fall in the same period.
It's just a thought, but we really need some rain to fall in this valley.
We have a few geese on the meadow upstream along with half a dozen swans, which I'll take following a few of our rambles about the county in the name of lengthening life.
I think you know what's coming, but yes we're back off to Dublin, on a £65 return flight from the world's best airport - Southampton.
We will once again be ensconced in one of the excellent Elegance rooms at the Fleet St Hotel, Temple Bar,
That's the Fleet St Hotel, Temple Bar
We will be there to take in Jack Whitehall after spending the day perusing the excellent shops the city has to offer and dinner at San Lorenzo's
That's San Lorenzo's one of Dublin's finest Italian restaurants.
We anticipate enjoying the experience so much that we have booked to return later in the year to take in the Dara at Vicar St as he makes preparations for his 2018 tour.
Looking up not down, as we don't do ground game, shooting in this environs returned after a five year sabbatical following half the wood falling over and petulance and pomposity from one who withdrew favours regarding shooting on his land.
Yes, we're back in the shooting game, and it feels goooood.
I'm loathe to mention the thing, but herefollows a bit about Brexit (if you've had enough of Brexit, scroll down to the vitriol regarding the continuation of Richard Madeley's career in various forms of media)
Please can we all agree to pull together and make the best of the situation we find ourselves in and end the chronic sniping and division
Last summer I was sent a link to an article by a baby boomer (we'll call him Rod) that questioned the appeal of sport and weren't we all making a little too much of this Olympic business in Rio?
Rod didn't get sport.
I get sport,
Most U11s get sport,
Once the game is done, the result stands. Winners and losers, we are where we are, now on to the next game.
Arguments over the result of a match long gone achieves precisely five eighths of F*&% A88
We are where we are (that phrase again) and there is niw a requirement to pull together and make it work.
A win for one doesn't mean that the other must automatically fall into line with the other's way of thinking. After a General election, opposition isn't eliminated, it has a part to play in proceedings and in the case of leaving the EU will aid in quelling the voice of the jackboot and nasty nationalist brigade who seem to be under the illusion that they have required more relevance.
Putting my purple of hat of positivity on (currently in post so I'll don the green cap of fingerscrossedity) 2017 is a year to come together for the common cause in a patriotic (not nationalistic or far right) kind of way and make the best of where we are.
Continuing to pick over the bones of a referendum result and vilifying the forty odd percent who voted the other way (I'm looking at you Alison Pearson et al) achieves nothing.
Stop looking back, move on, make this thing work and trust in the next generation, because in my experience they're a pretty clued up bunch
Happy New Year and sorry for banging on, but Richard Madeley is currently on the television in the next room working his way through planet earth's resources of the word "I" and "me" so I had to find something to do as he always makes me cross.