Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Proportion and Scale with Vitus Gerulaitis and Wilkinson Sword

In my current role of woodcutter in the enchanted forest I have passed the house made of gingerbread, Rumpelstiltskin has blurted out his name and the saw currently addresses trees near a magical spring brim full of Will O' the Wisp whose waters promise eternal beauty when taken,

or salmonella at the very least.

It's just a bit of bog in a wood to some, but half a dozen springs spring forth in this muddy and woody morass and they need to be springing forth with a little more exuberance if we are to experience some decent summer flows in the Dever,

Yes, and I'm sorry for this, a little more rain in this valley please!

As I attend to fallen trees I have kept half an eye on the trees still standing, and rescue any trees that are at risk of being subsumed by the waxy leaves of energetic ivy. I don't like the stuff and it does no favours to a tree in high wind, but while wandering off briefly last week I came across the biggest piece of ivy I have ever seen. The photo is on here somewhere, and the little green dot is a tennis ball which I happened to have in my pocket, (a tip I picked up from Vitus Gerulaitis) as an aid to proportion and scale. The base of the ivy (plant, not the restaurant) must be eighteen inches across (four fifths of a peck, or a chain in contemporary measurements) and it gives battle with a substantial ash of a hundred years or more in the manner of Mowgli and Kaa, at which point I would like to add a soundtrack of "Trust in Me" but Disney copyright prevents. It's not a tree that comes under my jurisdiction, so I'll leave well alone, but once again it is the biggest bit of ivy I have ever seen.

The grayling have drawn some interest as they grow increasingly chubby as spawning approaches and the possibility of a PB for an angler increases. Today two chaps caught a dozen or so, with the biggest just under two pounds, which is not a bad fish for the Dever, I was also presented with some beautifully tied pike flies. Pictured left, they are as big as my hand, a zulu warrior may well opt to use them as earrings, but I will give them a flick later this week as they have esox lucius written all over them.

P Thanks to Wilkinson Sword for stepping into the breach to provide proportion and scale. Vitus is not a fan of chasing pike with a fly, they prefer to use jigs or dead baits in the Baltic states apparently.

The grayling anglers are also picking up a few rainbows, which are in superb condition and are probably the rearguard of fish that escaped into the river during the floods of last winter.

A few weeks ago Mick Lunn a third generation riverkeeper at the Houghton Club in Stockbridge cashed in his chips. He was born on the banks of the river, and eighty eight years later he died on the banks of the river. His father and grandfather are synonomous with the development of fly fishing and several artificial patterns bear the family name, Mick Lunn was headkeeper at the Houghton Fishing Club for forty four years. My first full time job on leaving college was at the Houghton Fishing Club, it was Mick Lunn's forty forth year, the next headkeeper had been appointed and I was coming in at the bottom. The interview for the job was held in the club room above the portico to the Grosvenor Hotel where Halford et al kicked back, and over a hundred years of fly fishing talk hung heavy in the air. I got the job, but unfortunately no accommodation, because Madam and myself were unmarried at the time so under club rules didn't qualify despite a house being available, so we continued to pay rent on our bedsit in a house on a neighbouring estate. Three months in and I was offered the job of managing a large trout hatchery which came with free accommodation ( by one of Mick Lunn's mates coincidentally) and I jumped ship. The hatchery folded within fifteen months of my arrival, I don't think through my incompetence, but it is now a water bottling plant making use of the million gallons a day of spring water that bubbles naturally out of the ground and provides more reliable income streams,

and who sowed the seed of that idea?


I rarely contemplate, what might have been, but a few years later the Houghton Fishing Club reduced the size of their fish production unit and laid off two keepers. As one of the last in and unmarried heathen to boot, I am sure I would have been one of the first to fall, so perhaps the time away at the unhappy hatchery wasn't a bad move. I hardly saw Mick Lunn when I worked at the club, but six weeks into my tenure at the unhappy hatchery a brown envelope arrived with a note " Your eel money boy" my share of the takings for the catch from the eel set during my brief time at the club. Some have sought to discredit his methods in recent times, but I reckon he was alright, the ability to alternate between dealing with recalcitrant under keepers and US Presidents is a difficult trick to pull off but he managed it, he was certainly "of his time" and probably had chalky water running through his veins.

Away from the river, we tripped up to Yorkshire for the day to touch base with ailing relatives. Uncle Dennis was asleep, which was a shame, but for all her ninety odd years, my Aunty Joyce was awake and right on it.
We would not have been forgiven if we had left Otis at home, as for many years they had labradors in the house, so prior to our visit as a bowel emptying exercise we delved deep into the dales to a fish farm where I once undertook three weeks work experience with a chap who now works in the warmer climes of the far east. The toilet was in a barn, the caravan in which we lived was ten foot long with no electricity and sited on the side of the valley where the sun never shone, Oh, and then it snowed. On at least two occasions we pulled frozen swedes and kale from nearby fields in order to provide sustenance and complete the Kolyma gulag feel. It was some experience, but the knowledge that your aunt and uncle were half an hour away with a warm bath and some roast chicken provided quite a bit of comfort. The fish farm looked a sight more welcoming than I remember, and parts of the villages are now decidedly "chi chi" But it must remain a difficult place to hatch fish because the low water temperature dictated that the eggs took forever to hatch and the Dalby Forest upstream meant that inlet screens must be attended to throughout the night to clear leaves and debris.

On our way out of the village we passed one of the most impressive garden ornaments I have ever seen, a life size model of Atilla the Hun on a horse herding some fibre glass lambs that frolicked further down the garden.

Quite stunning, something to aspire to and several levels up from the life sized plastic iguana that we have stuck to a tree in our garden.

and now here's Bob with the travel,

Half term last week and while Madam and myself have plans to travel to Italy once more at Easter, this school break we opted for the travails of travelling great distances on the UK motorway network. Simple calculations (for this is all that a failed A level in applied maths and statistics will permit) demonstrate that we completed a thousand miles on the UK's blue roads last week. Seventeen percent of our odyssey took us through road works where lengthy average speed checks were enforced. Fifteen mile stretches of motorway at fifty miles an hour must cause many an eye to half close. On one stretch of the M1, a lorry became stricken in the left hand lane and with no hard shoulder on which to lean, the lane closed and we ground to a halt. In the passenger seat Madam's teeth began to grind, and although half term was upon her she returned to her sums and teachings and once the traffic began to move once more, she leaned from the window and exhorted all around her to "do the Maths people! We've gone one mile at ten miles an hour, we can put the f****g hammer down through the rest of these road works!".

Parts of the UK motorway system are at the point of over saturation, and the next time I meet up with a big noise in the world of transport strategy I will upbraid him/her accordingly.

Why is so much freight consigned to the road? The A34 is a procession of car transporters moving automobiles to Southampton in order that the Grimaldis et al can ship them abroad, or occasionally park the odd consignment on a sand bar in Southampton water.

Early on in our journey north to visit ailing relatives, the radio trumpeted that a car transporter had fallen over on the A34 a few miles behind us and the road was closed. Thankfully no one was hurt and we felt sure that by the time we headed south around tea time somebody would have cleared it up. Twelve hours later two lanes remained closed, tailbacks were extensive and we got grumpy and teeth were once again ground although missing " Eastenders - Live!" and a long forgotten packet of polos provided some succour during our delay.
Later this week we must once again twice negotiate the fifteen miles of fifty miles an hour on the M3. It will be the eighth time in a week, which is small beer for some commuters, but I walk to work I'm not used to this motorway mayhem. Thirty miles of our forty minute journey on a major UK transport link will be conducted at fifty miles an hour. We are travelling up to some smoke to see Henning Wehn, a much appreciated Christmas treat from Child A and Child B, and a comedian who Madam and myself greatly favour after listening to a live performance via the miracle of podcast during our extensive motorway travels in Germany last year, where we cruised merrily at a speed approaching three figures, never saw a cone, no teeth were ground and there was plenty of room for everyone who wanted to use the road. My CSE grade 2 German confirms that there are no words in the German language for "average speed check"

Somebody sort our motorways out, and let's get a little more freight on the rails.

While we're on Europe, a twenty pound ticket and a favourable exchange rate saw us scuttling through Le Manche last week, for a "holiday in a day" A nice lunch, a little shopping and some confustication in French. Without average speed checks (sorry, them again) we can leave home and cross over to the other side in just over two hours, not quite as fast as Derek Acorah or Doris Stokes but relatively quickly nonetheless. Emerging blinking into the light we move very quickly on an excellent road for thirty minutes to be rewarded with the necessary retail and culinary experience before we bowl on back to blighty, thoroughly refreshed with our hat on three hairs, whistling dixie. The atmosphere on entering Calais was a little edgy, more and more young men up from the horn of Africa congregate in the town and a troop of armed police officers confronted fifty or more on the hard shoulder near the entrance to Eurotunnel. Two stepped out into our lane as we made our considered approach and, looking across to the line of freight on the bridge that leads to passport control we picked out a pair tugging at the rear doors of a lorry. It is desperate stuff, Paris was on edge when we visited a few years ago, goodness knows what it is like now, complicated times that will not be best served by extremes of view, and requires addressing not at a municipal level but internationally.

On occasion I'll turn to the Catholic Church for guidance,

Sorry that should read,

Sometimes I watch episodes of Father Ted back to back for hours on end.

A series of marches through every town in England with banners proclaiming " Careful Now" may not be a bad idea in the coming weeks


Monty Dalrymple said...

Nice Obituary to Mick "Valentine" Lunn in The Times this week.

I've ordered a copy of A Particular Lunn today. The tale in The Times of a Houghton Club member fishing from a Bentley, while being driven by Mick made me chuckle.

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Yes it was wasn't it, I had no idea he played the piano either, although there was no mention of his fondness for salmon fishing or pheasant shooting.

Like your blog by the way, I'll look in again.

Thanks for the comments, and for reading the rubbish that I write.