Monday, October 8, 2012

This is the age of the train, more lies from Jimmy Saville


End of the season and fishing finished with a flourish, several caught their limit between heavy showers and mostly around the middle of the day. Water levels are good for the time of year although cutting the weed and fringe in the coming weeks will drop it by at least 8 inches. Despite us not shooting as we normally would this year, I have put the feeders out in the wood along the river which are drawing a few Pheasants. We are also inundated with Jays. Some have suggested that this is due in part to the failure of the acorn crop in mainland Europe, we always get a few squawking through the wood and shoot a few each winter.

The trip to the lower reaches of the Itchen was a great day out despite variable weather. Half the width of the stretch I look after on the middle river but twice the depth, there had been reports of plenty of fish present. Unfortunately heavy rain during the preceding 24 hours coloured the water and they were difficult to spot. A chalkstream is managed differently forSalmon than it is for Trout, bar cutting of weed is out, small groynes are used to flick the flow out from the bank to provide an easy lie for fish, and the weed cut with a mind to getting the flow onto the groyne. My first forays were with a flying C, I then switched to a single handed 9ft, 7wt fly rod, casting a super heavy nymph on the end of a super fast sinking leader across the stream allowing it fish round before raising the rod when the fly had reached the bank, the fly lifts and, if you are lucky the salmon can be seen rising from the riverbed to take the fly. My host for the day had a salmon and I had a big Trout, there were many fish present and, despite my feeble efforts, the beat on which I fished is heading for a bumper year. Over lunch we mused on the aircraft with propellers that were skimming the hedgerows as they departed Eastleigh for the Channel Islands, I remarked that surely the jet engine was the future of aviation and I wouldn’t fancy going up in one of those.

Four days later I was strapping myself in to the "Tail end Charlie" seat on the same runway alongside child B on a trip to Newcastle for a University open day. Up close and personal the plane is patently too long, the wings too short and the bits of twig and branch picked up from the hedge at the end of the runway do not suggest safe aviation. Take off had a “shit or bust” feel about it, but as we climbed the fear was assuaged by the view as we followed the river valley north, picking out different beats and cricket grounds as we thankfully climbed higher. Landing was another “seat of your pants” experience, the flooding that we could see out of the window provided some distraction but it was with huge relief that we wobbled off the plane and into Toon. The University was great; the herd of cows in Leazes Park slap bang in the middle of the city a surprise and the walk along the Tyne impressive. On return we boarded a plane with two jet engines and a jolly bunch of saga aged stewards keen to give out free drinks. The two flights were much cheaper than the train and the journey time four hours quicker. "This is the age.... of the train!" more lies and deceit from Jimmy Saville in the seventies and eighties.


At home the weather is getting cooler, although quite barmy after a day on Tyneside. Much of the past week has been spent filling up the woodshed with logs. We have piles of wood littered around the place cut into four foot lengths that have been drying out all summer. I used to log them up in the wood with a chainsaw but a “time and motion” piece of enlightenment has led me to leave them in lengths and bring them back to the woodshed to be cut up on a saw bench powered by my tractor, if calculations are correct the logs are lifted up fewer times than logging in the wood which counts for a lot with the amount that must be cut and moved with my creaky joints. It’s a mixture of Ash, Oak Alder and Willow and the saw bench is straight out of Tom and Jerry.

In this valley two weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, anglers were enjoying the last knockings of a topsy turvy season, With the roast beef and red wine duly punished my wife was ensconced in her shed making things out of paper and card, after football in the morning my son was ploughing through homework and I had popped over to the Itchen to talk about winter work. Mid afternoon we assembled in front of the television to take in the exciting climax of the Ryder Cup. One mile behind our house at the bottom of The Common where we often walk, a father and his two young children parked their car after a lunchtime visit to see Grandad in the neighbouring town. The father, an ex soldier then took out a knife and stabbed his two children and himself to death, an act of incomprehensible brutal savagery with echoes of ancient Rome. The bodies were found at 6pm by a dog walker and the emergency services called by an ex parish councillor who lived in his cottage nearby. For a whole week Police have been conspicuous across the parish as understanding is sought as to what happened and why, the media made merry across the parish for twenty four hours putting Newton Stacey in the nation’s consciousness.

As a freakish aside, neighbouring Barton Stacey was also put in the spotlight. The previous week, the team in green, Barton Stacey FC were playing an important league game against a side from Andover. My wife and I, always keen to mix with the cream of Andover society, donned our wellies and sallied forth to take in child B’s exertions on the wing. The first half was a tense affair and remained goalless at half time, several of the opposition supporters and crew had been spoken to by the referee for their actions and quotations throughout the first half. During the second half Barton Stacey took control with two early goals with child B very much to the fore. A penalty for Barton Stacey was missed but a second was awarded soon after leaving the opposition linesman apoplectic. His ravings drew the attention of the referee who was left with no choice but to send him from the field. Now I have long held the view that ninety minutes is too long to play for adult football. As boys progress through the age groups the game is lengthened until they reach U17 when they play the full ninety minutes of football. Once they pass twenty five they should start taking time off. Many of these games start well with all involved having a good time but once past the hour mark many get tired and it all turns a bit grumpy and spiteful. On this occasion the referee had his hands full throughout the game and had no option to send the linesman home because he was providing no support whatsoever.
Somehow the story ended up on the front cover of The Sunday Telegraph and in the London Metro. A journalist down to cover the gruesome events of the previous week must have picked up on the story and submitted an “amuse bouche” to fill a small gap.

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