Saturday, December 1, 2018

Reports of Animals and Some Somnolent Spooks

Beachtung everyone, there is much to discuss.

Just back from a trip across the North South Divide that is the M4, to Swindon to source some more kitchen chairs for Moss to eat.

The stretch of the M4 that we traversed is one of the much vaunted new "smart" motorways and for five miles on the east bound carriageway the digital smart signs read "reports of animals"

Which is great,

and well done the smart motorways for being environmentally aware and right across the need to promote biodiversity.

The clever digital signs on the west bound carriageway remained blank, so we can conclude that the animals reported were obviously quite small and based in the north with an inherent aversion to central reservations.

I'll attend to river matters in a moment, but first, as promised in the last chunk of guff a brief word from Cambridge analytica on graphs recently presented.

A packet of papers wrapped in brown paper with the words "sensitive material" written diagonally across one side was recently pushed under the door. Contained within were the groundwater level readings taken since 1952 at Cranbourne in the upper Dever Valley.

It may come as a surprise to some, but I can deal with a graph, and while Command Centre Central's interpretation is one of "no demonstration of a decline" draw a line through the lowest levels experienced each year or the median level for each year and the line doesn't rise up. At which point we could get bogged down in discussions over centiles, percentiles and any other kind of tile that may crop up. The annual rainfall for the region mirrors the falling line which makes sense. Detailed analysis,

let me put that another way,

a brief look at data collected since the start of the current millennium at Cranbourne throws up an anomaly which does not conform with experience on the ground. A public information request has gone into weasels at the water company for further groundwater data from another borehole in the valley. Further details and inevitable diatribe to follow.

Leaving questionable analysis of data to return to the real world, the mill has been put to good use and we are now plank rich. (Photo courtesy of Lord Ludg)

Duck hides have been both built and repaired and inter-planted with beech,

the trailer has a new bed

and a plethora of raised beds for vegetable production have been built.

We are confident that we have now attained a level of self sufficiency that should ease us through the shortages that seem to be scheduled for spring.

We've most things covered, but wine remains a worry. I've yet to sample a decent UK red and OK the English fizz, but it's a bit pricey when there's both an austerity and brexit on. My own efforts with the grape in the garden have been sharp at best, grapefruit bitter at worst. Next spring may be the time that the thirty two year old unopened bottle of Bacardi and the twenty year old bottle of Bells at the back of the cupboard come into their own to see us through the shortages.

A few brown trout are spawning and recent rain has been most welcome and has made more gravels accessible, although the river remains crystal clear and grayling fishing is quite challenging. We've had a few frosts but not enough to do for the stinging nettles. Temperatures today touched double figure in the afternoon and a few olives put in an appearance. Swans are beginning to gather on the water meadow upstream, although no sign of any geese yet. We've plenty of duck about and many moorhen scuttle across the lawn to feed on crumbs from the bird table. Coots and dabchick however are conspicuous by their absence. Both flightless and easily mistaken for an eel (An otter's principle source of sustenance according to some) they are easy pickings for the teeth of Tarka and numbers are down. Wither poor dabchick but brer coot could be a bit grumpy when it came to getting along with other water fowl.

There aren't many coots or dabchick about on the Itchen either but swans are mustering in numbers on much of the Upper Itchen





Just heard that George Bush senior has died. I didn't know the fella but he liked his fishing and visited this parish several times. It was always apparent when he was flicking a fly on the Common as a couple of somnolent spooks would be posted on the road bridge in Bransbury. I don't think the present POTUS is a fly fisherman. His flight flew over Maisie's work place when he was last over here and she reports that security has been beefed up since George Bush senior fished at Bransbury. If half a dozen helicopters and a legion of special forces suddenly rock up on the Common, we can be fairly sure that The Donald is having a go at fly fishing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

John Wilson, Planks and other things.


Hello everybody.

This week's chunk of guff is brought to you live on Talksport 2 from our kitchen floor, where your correspondent and his wife currently sit to break bread after new labrador Moss ate the kitchen table and chairs.


Here he is with big eyes for the fishing hut and my best bridge.

I've never known a dog like it for chewing stuff up. Zebo ate a Hardy fly rod and nephew Otis munched up our first digital camera, but Moss has a far more varied palate with skirting boards, door frames and kitchen chairs and tables featuring high on the menu. I'm sure he will grow out of it, but in the mean time we spend our time cross legged on the kitchen floor with a dog either side like a couple of candidates for the soup kitchen.

Dogs eh? tut

Oh no! Just heard that John Wilson has gone.

He fished here for roach and grayling many times, and I've his mobile phone number in my contact list (Ten percent of my contact list now no longer walk the earth, which is of increasing concern)

I grew up with his writings in the Angling Press and William and his mate Michael were hooked on his TV series Go Fishing. William once came home from school to find John and his mate using the facilities and having a post fishing cup of tea at our kitchen table. It would be remiss of me to say that William swooned, but his teenage form was definitely affected by the presence of one of angling's great personalities. Wilson always fished here with a float and the Rolls Royce of centre pin reels possibly formed from solid silver, and this place featured a few times in articles on fishing for chalk stream roach. I recall one conversation we had on the bank.

"Sorry about all these trout John, they can be a right pain when your fishing light tackle"

"Ha, ha, ha, Chris, I'm having to feed them away from my float in order to get down to the grayling"

Float dips under, John strikes and connects with a fish"

"Are you into a trout John?"

"Ha, ha, ha, these trout Chris, these trout, I don't know"

Lands large trout on fine tackle, chortles several more times before returning trout carefully to stream.

What you saw on the screen was what you got on the bank, he was a terrific chap, who did a tremendous amount for the sport that is angling.

How's Keith Arthur? Hewn from a similar seam of rock, he also fished here for roach with cameras from Sky.

The chainsaw mill has arrived and has been put to use on a substantial Christmas tree. It has required some modification, with the addition of auxiliary lubrication for the end of the twenty eight inch chainsaw bar, and the deployment of a legion of wedges, but it works.

Here's one of me with my current beau at London Fashion week.

We have enough inch thick pine planks to patch up the duck hides and build some raised beds for vegetable production in my employer's garden. There's a bit of a knack to using it and setting up the timber to be milled is key, but there is a substantial online community to provide support and advice to newbies and we finish the week feeling that we have done well.

It's a dusty old business and each day we assume the guise of Black Sabbath's Never say Die album to go about our business,

Plans are afoot for a bridge formed from ash felled about the place, and with the spirit of Gustav Eyeful upon us, some sort of wonky wooden tower to stand as a monument to times in which we currently exist.

Oh yes, almost forgot, this chunk of guff continues to be brought to you live by Talk Sport 2. There's an intriguing test series underway in Sri Lanka that Talk Sport 2 dip into now and again between adverts and declarations on what the listener is actually listening to. And at this point I'd like to ask the BBC to refund the part of my licence fee that they have previously apportioned to radio coverage of overseas cricket tours that has been such a big part of my life for forty odd years. The new "home of cricket" on Talk Sport 2 is pants.

here's a clip of "anchorman" Mark Nicholas taking his first steps in punditry, albeit in another game.

I like the wireless and use it a lot. For some it's a vital link to the rest of the world, but Bumble and Roshan apart Talksport 2 at the cricket is shitshow radio double dipped in hyperbole. Gareth Batty is clearly receiving payments from Aldous Huxley as every punditry stint begins with "It's a brave new world for this England side" and Darren Gough's "that's what they always sometimes say" requires some deciphering. Not for the first time this week I find myself muttering "how did it come to this?

I hear they will be also be covering the winter tour of the West Indies.
It could be a long winter, live on Talk Sport 2.

Over on Sky TV, Ernst Vettori's lad - Daniel, is a bit of a find. Breaking free from the shackles of several generations of ski jumpers, he became quite the off spin bowler. He is now a wry and insightful pundit.

Sign him up TMS, sign him up, and please don't ever allow Talk Sport 2 (the new home of cricket, apparently), cover Test cricket ever again.

Once again, how did it come to this?

Sunlit uplands anyone?















Back on the river, we've the first few fish kicking up redds. Not where they normally disturb the gravels, but redds all the same.

This one is by the bridge over to the flight pond, a spot where I have not seen them spawn before, but with the usual "gravels of first choice" currently carrying an inch or two or water, alternative incubation sites have had to be sought. Brer Brown Trout's an adaptable cove, who the Victorian's rolled out to the rest of the world sometime in the late nineteenth century. Eggs have been laid and alevins will pop out of the gravel in a month or so, and looking up not down the, springs that ran dry a few weeks ago are beginning to ooze once more.

Grayling fishing has picked up with a few fish nudging two pound put on the bank. Roach, Perch and Pike have also been grassed, mostly to nymphs but the odd one to a dry fly.

Last week we were drawn to the smoke.

Not Maisie & Callum's new wood burner and freshly lined chimney, we're off over there this weekend, but William & Rosie's flat in Camden.


Chucked out of Oz on grounds of immigration, he is now employed as a planner with the authority charged with the ongoing development of the London Olympic Park and its environs.



Their flat sits a couple of minutes walk from the fleshpots and bazaars of Camden Lock. It's a great place to be for a couple at their time of life and we had a superb meal in a Greek restaurant somewhere on the other side of a hill.




Friday, November 9, 2018

Live on Talk Sport 2

And here we are Live on Talk Sport 2 where the perennial battle with the forces of crack willow is already underway.

It's been a fairly productive twelve months for sodding Salix and some of the stuff that I pollarded only two years ago. Normally it would be a three year cycle but there is fifteen feet of growth on some bank side specimens and they could cause problems next summer. It's ideal work for the smaller nippier stihl chainsaw over the leviathanic new Husqvarna, which is a blessing for the arms and shoulders. We're burning the cut willow, which seems a shame, as I'm sure some clever person brimful of environmental zeal could compost it down or squash it into chips to form some sort of "eco fuel" to impart a warm glow and generally make us all feel better about things.

I've said it before, Live on Talk Sport 2 but it's a prolific beast crack willow, that given the chance could take over planet earth. I don't use it on the wood burner as times are not quite as desperate as some would have us believe and anyway we're currently "ash rich" Your listening to Talk Sport 2 Live where In wood burning circles this will be remembered as a golden age, with an abundance of seasoned hard wood and clear clean glass in the stove as we work our way through the last knockings of the king of logs. We may need willow for the fire in ten years time, but right now we burn it up where it is cut and it sometimes seems a bit of a waste.

We've also a portable chainsaw mill on order and will soon be producing planks for use around the place. I once helped a keeper plank up some exotic walnuts and an acacia that had blown over in an ornamental garden. It's a steady job and you need a substantial chainsaw with a big engine and bar, but quite satisfying to knock out a few planks of pine and ash. The keeper I helped laid the planks down for a few years to season and then proceeded to make furniture and things from them in retirement. He's a clever fella is Young David.

No sign of salmo trutta making preparations to spawn Live on Talk Sport 2. The number of available spawning sites is greatly reduced in the current low water conditions and things could get quite crowded on suitable shallows, which will draw the eye of "Jack Ern" and associates (Egrets) Ltd. The Goldfinches have rocked up in good numbers and make a heck of a noise as they move from tree to tree. Kicking back in the wood with a cup of coffee a hundred or more moved out of the crown of a big lime tree to make their way a hundred yards up the lane to a large field maple.

Live on Talk Sport 2 we've had rain, but sharp showers, that bring a brief rise to the river before normal service regarding river levels is swiftly resumed. The much needed soft and steady rain that is balm to the aquifers of chalk streams has yet to materialise. A month of the stuff Live on Talk Sport 2 would set this valley back on its feet and see the delayed rise in chalk stream levels that indicates groundwater replenishment.

I shan't mention the groundwater levels again, but our concerns and others have been voiced to various parties. I received a graph today that demonstrates that groundwater levels in the Dever have suffered a chronic decline since the 1950s. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up and let us not forget the folly of Spring Bottom. Further discussion to follow once the data has been analysed in detail Live on Talk Sport II.

You may not be aware but radio coverage of England's Test Series in Sri Lanka is not being provided by the BBC but by Talk Sport 2. Talk Sport 2 are required to remind us every few minutes of which channel we are listening to just in case our memories have failed. Mark Nicholas is irritating enough without the moronic mantra every few minutes. Three days in and it remains hopeless and we have turned to pictures from Sky, which is also painful as it reminds us of what a beautiful place Sri Lanka is and how we really should go back there sometime.

Oh yes, as this weekend marks a hundred years since the armistice was signed, here's one of my own familial link to the events of the time.

Hubert de Cani:


Grandpea and his wife Maggie.

Born in 1899 he was assigned the role of signalman on ships providing protection to South Atlantic Convoys from Rio and Dakar. He served on eight ships, one of which, the 10,000 tonnes passenger ship HMS Marmora converted for the task,

was torpedoed off the south coast of Ireland on the 23rd of August 1918 by UB 64 and sank with the loss of ten lives.



UB 64 sank 29 British vessels, and was broken up just down the road at Fareham.

Quite the thing with torpedoes, UB 64s commander, Otto Von Schrader did for 59 ships in WWI.

He was awarded the Iron Cross, Knights Cross and made the Admiralty in WWII before taking his own life in Norway in 1945.










Within a couple of weeks of the UB 64 torpedo incident, Grandpea




and here he is with Maggie plus offspring various one Christmas in the late seventies,





(I'm the one in the blue tracksuit at the front next to my younger brother who was quite the dandy in his formative years. His current apparel remains contemporary, if a little more staid as befits a man of his position)

was back waving flags and flashing lights on another boat, HMS Artois and once again making passage for Dakar. Four days out of Devonport, a U boat once again had them in its sights. This time the attack was unsuccessful and the Artois docked in Dakar eleven days later. He was demobbed on 31st January 1919 and his diary makes for interesting reading. My other Grandad, George wasn't old enough to serve in WW1.

All of my grandparents lived in Coventry for much, if not all, of their lives.

Hubert and Maggie next door to the Riley car factory that was briefly converted to making munitions during WWII. Their house was 108 Beresford Avenue, the last one in the row on the bend of the road right next to the factory. The factory was targeted in the WWII German bombing campaign that hit Coventry hard and there was an anti aircraft gun on the railway at the bottom of the garden.

George worked for Rolls Royce making engines, and he and Lillian lived for a long time on Foleshill road that runs left to right at the top of the picture, before moving to Old Church Rd which is off to the left somewhere, I think.

I think that's me they are holding in the picture as I am sure that my brother was already experimenting with check troos and cravats at that age



This chunk of guff has been brought to you Live on Talk Sport 2

AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Bologna, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Further Hobknoberry.

Hocha! and here we are, fresh in on a plane from Verona.

A fabulous week in two terrific cities, we felt the first few drops of rain as we raced for the aerobus, post breakfast at the weekend, Turns out it didn't stop raining for the next four days and the Adige, Arno, Po and Tiber all bust their banks.

Anyway, there now follows a brief record of our movements during half term week,

let me put that another way,

There now follows a not so brief record of our movements during half term week. Regular visitors to this parish will be aware of a need to write things down else stuff gets forgotten as to where and when we have actually been.

Bologna first, with an early morning flight that we almost missed due to the M3/M25 junction being closed. Remember that smart motorway thing? the installation of all those clever digital boards imparting information and the very hell of several years of twenty odd miles of average speed control?

Well we passed many blank information boards to be met by the closure of the M3/M25 junction, we were then guided by cones through Richmond, Reigate and possibly Rochester to Gatwick with a minute or two to spare before boarding began.

Released from the shitshow that is the motorway system in the south east of England, we touched down in one of our favourite cities, where we visited the right restaurants, shopped in the right shops and generally spent a couple of days living high on the hog in brilliant Bologna.
There's several accounts of our times in this super city on here so I'll spare you the details, but on each of our previous visits this dog was inside the shop helping to choose the meat. We didn't like to ask why he and his owner (it may not be the dog) were required to wait outside.

If you've half a mind to visit anywhere in northern Italy, Bologna is a cheap place to fly to and a railway hub with most of what this corner of Europe has to offer less than two hours train ride away.

After two days in Bologna, fifty minutes on Trenitalia's Frecciarossa at speeds over two hundred miles an hour (tickets are much cheaper if booked online in advance) set us down in Verona, a new one for us where balconies are quite the thing.

Our apartment (second floor, above white van) on Piazza del Erbe had two, and each morning we felt obliged to wave at the masses, papally preach, or take in any fly past by the red arrows or battle of Britain planes that may be happening by.

Verona lies in the crook of a tight bend of the river Adige and some parts of the city are really old. Like any honest Injun our first move was to gain height and spy the land, so it was up the Torre dei Lamberti, a thousand year old tower on the Piazza del Erbe. Blackpool makes great play of its tower and ball room beneath, but the tower seems to be staple fare for conurbations in this region of Italy. Most of them a thousand years old and almost all, decidedly on the wonk, so come on Blackpool, Paris et al, up your game!

There's a lift up this tower and it gives a great view of the city and both appenine and alpine hills. For a substantial fee you can also hire the top deck for small functions and general hobknoberry.

Off up to the Arena next. A little different to Chester's Northgate Arena where Madam and myself were once schooled in the breastroke, Verona's version is an incredibly well preserved Roman amphitheatre that each year stages operatic productions on the largest musical stage in the world. The sound must carry right across town when the divas and dons are in full warble, and the fifteen thousand strong crowd are advised to bring their own cushions, as old Roman stone is an unforgiving surface for even the fleshiest of buttocks.

The guts of the building, with the substantial corridors and many entrances and exits, suggest that Ronald the Roman knew a thing or two about getting a crowd in to a venu and then getting them out again.

Think on The Ageas Bowl

Castlevecchio next. A relatively new addition to the local environs, at the time of completion in the 14th century it boasted one of the widest arches of any bridge in the then known world.

It also afforded us the first view of the Adige, the second longest river in Italy after the Po and bursting with fish from marble trout to wooden bream. I'd popped the travel rod in the bag in the hope of an afternoon bothering a few barbel but it was immediately apparent that tackle wise, I was seriously undergunned.

A big river, the Adige really pushes through, even at a relatively low level.

Church the next day.








The lumpen basilica is quite the thing in these parts and Verona has its fair share, and so it was that we donned the holy headsets of Cathederal Santa Maria Matricolare and its associated out buildings and campanile for a tour of its crypts and chattels.

Sited atop Roman remains, as much of the city is, it has an antechamber with enough symbology to set Dan Brown aquiver,

the hanging whale bone is a recurring theme around town.

There's plenty of Dante strewn around town too.

Very much the Frankie Boyle of his day, he was holed up with a rich family at the foot of the tower for a few years while the people of Florence demanded his head on a pike/pykee

Church done, it was off to another bridge. A real old one this one, and to this bridge builder's eye, a real beaut. It was first signed off as "safe to cross" in 100BC,

Yes 100BC!

A vindictive Nazi retreat late in World war II took a different view to its elegant lines and subsequently this fine and ancient bridge was blown up






With the Nazis sent packing, the locals painstakingly picked up the pieces and put the thing back together again,

as has been the case on so many occasions across the ages once the madness of war has passed.

If there is a funicular in town, you can be sure that Madam and myself will be first in the queue for tickets, vocally warming up for a round of Jamme, jamme'ncoppa, jamme ja! stromg in the belief that the funicular is the future of getting from A to B.

There's a Funicular in Verona and once more we headed the morning queue, principally because we misread the opening time on the leaflet provided, and arrived half an hour early for our ride up to Castel San Pietro.

There's a great view to be had at the top and a relatively easy descent that takes in a substantial roman theatre, not dissimilar to the one we visited in Lyon a few years ago.











And then it was time to immerse ourselves in the Shakespearean theme park that draws a plethora of crocodile hordes led by umbrella toting guides.

(In the voice of the guy who introduced the acts on The Good Old Days, Andrew Sachs, i think) My Lords, Ladies and anyone else who cares to be in the vicinity, I give you...........The two Gentlemen of Verona!

From memory, and a dismal performance in A level English Literature may betray me here (which I directly attribute to the nonsense that is Joeffry Chaucer,the dirge of Gerard Manley Hopkins and a relatively hedonistic lifestyle for one of such young years), but the nuts of the plot centred around a complicated relationship where cross dressing is writ large, an unruly dog and violent relations cropping up late in the piece.

There was a forest scene,

undoubtedly,

but Brodie's notes made no mention of this balcony,

It seems to be quite popular, and this statue of one of the Gentleman of Verona in the small piazza below seems to have gained some significance.

Keen not to cause offence in foreign parts, I adopted the goto "Visitor to Italy" pose when presented with significant statues or buildings that one must be photographed beside.

Handy Travel Tip No. 342- The international signal of trying to prop something up (I am not warming my hands on Juliet's arse) can be applied to most significant sites when visiting Italy, from the leaning tower of Pisa, through Michelangelo's David to the Shroud of Turin.

Graffiti is a commonplace in many European cities that we have visited. I'm not really a fan, but they've previous at it in these parts.

The building opposite our apartment on Piazza del Erbe was plastered in some fruity examples that had been up for over five hundred years and nobody had got round to scrubbing the stuff off.

Fresco's?

Wasn't that the supermarket that Reg Holdsworth managed in Coronation St in the early 90s?






Take it as read that food and wine were tremendous and we lived fairly high on the hog. Beef cheek in amerone was a particular highlight as was the tortellini in Bologna.

Forgive the travel news.

As I said, I'm now of an age when I have to write stuff down, else it's all to easily forgotten, and anyway, you don't have to read it you know.

River news to follow shortly.