Friday, April 24, 2015

Scything Reluctant Ranunculus in Full Fig

This week I have been posed a few questions about working a scythe. I'd class myself as pretty proficient with such a tool after thirty years use on the river, principally cutting weed but occasionally cutting grass; one autumn I knocked off the fringe with my trusty turk as the brushcutter was not playing ball. The blade is set at a different angles for cutting weed and cutting grass, it's a rhythmical cutting motion and keeping the blade sharp is key, which is easier when cutting grass but contact with the river bed while cutting weed can soon take the edge off. I have even featured in a corner of a painting subsequently reproduced in prints while using my scythe, and look through a glass and it is apparent that I was fully clothed with mouth shut, sans speech bubble brim full of primitive grunts.

And a word to the wise Percy Poldark, if you're grunting your way across a meadow with a sweaty bare torso, you are not using your scythe in the correct manner.

This kind of gratuitous display of human flesh sent Titbits to the wall in the eighties, as a regular user of such a tool I feel grossly misrepresented..............nay violated!

The new season starts next week and in a low river brim full of ravenous trout keen to get on with the hawthorn, I expect the first fortnight to see many fish put on the bank. No sign of any hawthorn yet and there haven't been many olives putting in an appearance in the afternoon but the first significant hatch of any fly should see most fish break cover for a feed, although with a thin fringe and little weed they could spook quite easily.

The reluctance of ranunculus to get going is a little concerning, and at this point can we all agree that if men in fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes lay claim to understand this finicky weed, they shall be shown a dismissive hand. Parts of the growth cycle of this important aquatic weed remain a mystery, it is an enigmatic aquatic plant that sometimes doesn't follow the rules. It likes light and fast clean water, and the river may be a little cold for it at the moment, but in 2001 following a wet winter the ranunculus grew thick and up and out of the water, as it did last summer, in 2002 the ranunculus inexplicably failed in a reasonable flow of water, fingers crossed it is not repeated this year because it will have a vital part to play in holding water up.

Last week, for no apparent reason one of our most promising cricket bat willows fell apart. It looked full of runs but with swelling buds it split at the top of the ramrod straight trunk and half of it now lies on the floor. It is only half way to being harvested for bats, so it may still make something of itself, an amber around the garden did the same thing ten or more years ago but you would never know it was an amputee tree from its current crown. I shall attend to it in the coming weeks once my saw has returned from its sabbatical, as much of this week has been spent in a state of titivation preparing for the trout anglers' arrival next week.

There's been a cuckoo about for over a week, and as if Mother Nature had a plan, the cuckoo flower is out too. We have ducks on nests and this week Otis revived his Uncle Zebo's trick of picking a duck from her nest to present to me in the morning, his baleful look as I take the duck and put her back on the nest was also reminiscent of his distinguished Uncle, who once performed the trick for five consecutive days at the end of which the duck assumed a resigned air that seemed to say "not again"

She hatched off her brood eventually, in spite of her daily displacement.

A musical interlude

April, come she will, when streams are ripe and swelled with rain....

Just stop right there Simon & Garfunkel, this kind if thing no longer applies,

I shan't go on , but I am obliged to say that we have had a dry winter and many of the ditches that feed into this river are now dry, bridges are decidedly precipitous and we have gravel proud of the water. Thanks to the Test & Itchen Association for chucking some of my interminable guff regarding this subject into their annual river report.

If you want to read it it's in the paper copy, I won't repeat it here, but you can guess at the gist, with weed slow to grow this river is currently very low.

Bird News as we have it!

Two pairs of Kingfishers settling down at either end of the beat, expect some aggressive aeronautics over minnows around June, and the first four swallows have just turned up but show no interest in the affordable housing we chucked up for them over the winter. Just taken the hund out for dusk ablutions and took in two woodcock on a spoony rode. I may stake out the woods in early summer, as many years ago while mowing the rides I was treated to the spectacle of mother woodcock moving her brood by clutching them between her knees and embarking on a short hopping flight to avoid impending danger. She flew three times around my head before performing the feat and is the only time I have taken the event in. The wood seems quite dry for early summer probings with a long beak and I fully expect to be able to drive up to all our precious logs in the wood to transport them to a site closer to the wood burner.

More musical news, just in!

With the Nicholas Chienterelli trio failing to fill contractual obligations, I have picked up the baton of all things A&R and in my quest to secure a new house band for this production, I firmly believe we have discovered THE pop sensation of the next five years.

Kids, his name is Will Young, that's Will Young

and he is heading right to the top of the hit parade.

He has a disk out that channels the new northern soul sound and I confidently predict we have found the new Don Fardon.

You heard it here first!

May will be the final month that Madam and myself will have this place to ourselves, as Child A and Child B reappear.
Child B for fifteen months work experience with some fancy planners, and at this point we would like to make a request that he revisit his kitchen and toilet hygiene regimes as his Cardiff retreat had echoes of Yasser Arafat's refectory in downtown Beirut sometime in the 1980s, albeit with Sky Sports and Pizza Express.
Child A pops back for a night or two most weeks as she completes her complicated and increasingly relevant post-graduate studies, while working part time for a business up the road. Last week she returned to do some talking at a conference at another University , which sounded incredibly grown up, and understandably Madam and myself are sometimes asked " what plans for September?"

To which we reply, "Dunno, does it matter?"

And here I'd like to quote Baz Luhrmann at length, but will refrain and pick out the following lines

"The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know, still don't,

Get plenty of Calcium"

The calcium things a given with water drawn from a chalk valley, but I think I was in a minority among my contemporaries in that I knew from an early age what I wanted to do with my life when I was thirteen and chose my O levels accordingly. If Liverpool football club were not to come knocking (and look what happened to them) It was a life in fishing, or following a tour de force at the Gateway theatre as lead nurse in the annual gang show, possibly the stage.

Angling's gain is the theatrical world's loss

Struck numb by Gerard Manley Hopkins and flummoxed by Geoff Chaucer, my A level English teacher reported that Chris is blessed with little more than a native wit and has a propensity to play to the class when the opportunity arises. For my mock exam I had a head free of all things Gerrard and Geoff and proffered a couple of thousand words on life at an airport for a Saudi Arabian family stranded after missing their connection.

For reasons that remain unknown to me, but I suspect humiliation (a popular ploy in early 1980s state education at the slightest sign of spirit, and hey Eric Blair, you may have been on to something) it was read out to the class the following week by the head of the sixth form and drew, what I took, and indeed still take, as reasonable reviews (I'll take one hand clapping every time)

Which went down well.

At the age of eighteen I had no inkling that a few years past forty I would be fortunate enough to receive small cheques through the post for poorly prepared words chucked up in a couple of hours under exam conditions while in wine,

Post September, Child A may not have a clear career path, but that's no biggie. Circumstances often have a funny habit of falling into place if sufficient groundwork has been completed.

Do the business with the research and stuff, but with a fair complexion, don't forget the chuffin sunscreen.

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