What a warm week, the roof is nearly done and I anticipate a return to something like alpha male status once the roof candy has gone. Otis is also having a hard time, he passed his third birthday this week, twenty-one today, and some bitch in season has been parading up and down the road for the past few days, reducing his brain to mush. Twice on a walk he has bolted, stopping after a hundred yards to sit down and look back at me quizzically and ask “ Why the hell did I just do that?” thankfully the world’s worst spaniel has long since given up on that kind of caper, although by the time he’d followed the trail to the pot of gold, there is every chance that the mood would have passed and she would no longer be in season.
Buds are breaking out all over, and the birds are making a right racket for an hour from first light. There has been fly on the water from midday and well into the lighter and longer evenings, providing a welcome feast for much of the bird life although fish rise sporadically. The Carp in the pond have woken up and are quite active; I have been feeding them for a few weeks now, although this has also attracted the attention of a pair of swans who look like they may be about to nest. Bridge rebuilding plans have now moved on to plan E or was it plan F, I managed to save much of the oak deck from the smashed wreckage of the old bridge, and have replaced the runners with another split telegraph pole although getting the second hand timber to resemble something safe and straight is proving tricky. The fishing hut has had its annual timber treatment, and shows few signs of decay and the table and chairs patched up in preparation for the Brown Trout season, which is now just over two weeks away. Because of the roof chaos we did not have our annual fishing lunch, to which all the regular rods are normally invited, so the opening day of the season will be the first sight many have had of the river since they were last here in September. We have a few new faces, although an elderly lady who fished with us well into her eighties is now filing her return in the great fishing hut in the sky. We have a waiting list for midweek rods and any gaps are soon filled. Weekends are for family and friends, charity days and a few days let through Strutt and Parker.
We also attended the funeral of the lady who used to live next door. A chocolate box cottage with thatch and a large garden it also had a small bit of river frontage, she lived there for over thirty years before moving in with her son in a nearby village. At the end of each weed cut, I would clear down any cut weed from in front of her house, that, if left, caused water to back up a spring hole and flood some nearby allotments as well as having an affect on the bottom reaches of the stretch that I am responsible for. As I worked down the river she would invariably appear, no matter what time of day, with a steaming cup of something laced with liquor, rum usually, and would stand and chat until the cup was empty. She was great fun and when younger, our two children would bumble down to see her several times a week to bang away on her piano and eat better biscuits than they did at home.
When she told us that she was leaving she asked us if we would like the piano, as she had no room in her new quarters. We readily agreed and one day when my brother was visiting I asked if it would be ok if we came down in the tractor and trailer to pick it up. The lady was out for lunch, but as I was a key holder for her elaborate alarm system, it was ok to go on in and take the piano. All went well as we backed the trailer up to the patio doors heaved the piano up the ramp and closed the doors and reset the alarm, or so I thought. We put the tractor into the lowest gear possible, crawled across the back paddock and started to make our way up the road. After twenty yards, we heard the sirens. Police cars appeared, the road was blocked and our stately progress of less than a mile an hour was halted. My eight-year-old daughter ran home to leave her dad uncle, brother mum and grandma to give up their story. The alarm had triggered and alerted the police because I had not reset it correctly, the lady was summoned from her Sunday dinner with her son to reassure the law that we were not pedestrian piano thieves, or filming a new PG Tips ad, but neighbours who had been given the piano. We got it home and my daughter appeared from under the bed to bang away on the thing to grade four, before being distracted by boys and booze.
Toady the house is owned by some who live in town, and bar a few holiday lets is largely unused, a man lives in the garage to keep an eye on the place, and for some time someone would be summoned to shout things at me as I passed down the river with my scythe. Ipods are a wonderful invention, and I missed much of what was said, but a solicitor’s letter followed asking me to keep out of their river.
Unfortunately what they believed to be their river wasn’t. They owned some bank and a soupcon of fishing rights. The far bank is common land and the riverbed throughout the short stretch is owned by our neighbour on the other side who is happy for me to walk up and down on it clearing weed.
Riverbank, riverbed and fishing rights are three different areas of ownership where rivers are concerned, and fortunately I am permitted to cut the weed through this short section, because if I didn’t no one else would.