Thursday, December 22, 2016

Over and Out for 2016 - Phew!

With the season now upon us (take note shops and radio 2 breakfast show who herald the onset of festivities earlier with each passing year) I feel a carol coming on (not you Vorderman!)

But soft, an adjust of approach and apologies, but the long run is marked.

Recently I was made party to a series of emails regarding river business, a proposal had been made (an excellent and enlightened one ) and opinions were being sought from a range of interested parties. It was a "reply to all" fandango and a private one at that so I won't pick over the bones too much in this piece,

But twice during the ethereal exchange it was suggested that a particular generation of keepers had had a negative impact on the river and the sooner they shuffled off the better.

With the spectre of raising a bat to fifty fast approaching I declared an interest and opted out of further discussion regarding the matter, opting instead to sit seething, occasionally popping outside to furiously dig holes in the garden,
it's a practice I picked up from Alan Partridge and his Forward Solutions and it never fails to quell an ire.
Each generation considers itself more enlightened than the last, failing to consider that circumstances at the time were probably very different when compared to the present day.

It's a cheap shot, and the chap who made the assertion should know better.

When I bounced into this valley in the mid 80's priorities were different. Throughout my three years at Sparsholt studying fish farming and fishery management we were instructed that following some highly publicised famine in Africa we were going to feed the world via fish farming. I still have the T shirt from the fish feed company with the slogan " I can feed millions" across the chest. The fishery management tuition was also vastly different from what we undertake today.

I can only speak for myself but cast out onto the river bank alone with only my contemporaries and prospective bride for countenance I would seek succour from agencies and trusts who purported to have a handle on how things should roll along in a chalk valley.

We were advised to fence banks in one year and remove fencing a few years hence. A nearby estate won a senior conservation award for restoring hatches for flooding meadows, a few years later there was a push to remove all hatches from the river system. A six figure report by a company of international repute to formulate a plan for the implementation of habitat directive was cocked up and recommendations made for some beats (including one I am charged with looking after) were clearly nonsense, and derided by any as such.

Faced with such a chaotic lead, is it any wonder that a generation of keepers came to the conclusion that those in higher places clearly had no idea as to how to proceed and opted to trust in their own judgement.

Currently there are some good things being done on the chalk streams.

Today I manage the fishery in a very different way as to how I did thirty years ago,

You never stop learning,

But then it is a very different river from thirty years ago.

Biodiversity has undoubtedly increased, while flow, water quality and fly life has decreased. The river goes up and down a lot quicker than it used to and angler's expectations of a day on a chalk stream have changed. The number of oversize fish tipped in has reduced. Many keepers have bent with the wind and adapted to a changing chalk stream habitat. It's no a surprise that a supercilious tone emanates from some quarters, twas ever thus with a certain bunch of coves brimful of internet enlightenment who once filled my inbox with messages mentioning dinosaurs.
And hey,

I'll chuck it in again,

Following a visit from the senior fishery management strategy maker for the south east we received a glowing report for the way we went about our business.

Not bad for a bunch of small minded dinosaurs.

What will the current movers and shakers regarding chalk stream policy be remembered for ?

Well they've a fixation with genetic purity which is all a bit odd, and to my small mind, born out of some remarkably muddled thinking.

and they'd like to be regarded as the ones who gave woody debris to the world, they didn't, some keepers were using it before they could even raise wood

They have undoubtedly changed expectations as to what one can expect while fishing a chalk stream, so well done for that, but there is a complete failure to address over abstraction and water quality - the two principle threats to these rivers.

Come on all you trusts and agencies, to use contemporary parlance you're regularly" mugged off" on these issues. It all seems to get a bit cosy over the fine coffee and posh biscuits at some of these meetings with big business and corporations.

If the river dries up or becomes a fetid phosphate filled ditch, what will we have to fall out about.

With the current state of bate swiftly attaining the status of "fine" I shall now attend to the FA.

For several years I served on the committee of our local youth football league. The FA representatives who occasionally attended our meetings were everything I expected.

Ted Croker clones: blue blazer, gold buttons, grey staypress action slacks, side parting who enjoyed the status of sitting on committee

Following the revelations regarding the behaviour of some youth football coaches there has been a call to have a look at how the FA operates.

Hear hear to that!

At one meeting we spent more time sorting out who sat next to who at the end of season dinner than an issue I raised over the particularly poor quality of the pitches assigned for that years' junior cup finals; rock hard and elaborately bouncy they subsequently reduced each game to a lottery.

Fines from the adult Sunday leagues in the area have filled the county FA's coffers to the tune of six figures, and well done local town society for that, but there it sits. Grass roots facilities, addressing the issue of players dropping out of football between U16 and U18 (and yes, the way local town society conducts itself on a Sunday morning has much to do with that) training of officials, incentives for ex players to become officials.

During my time serving my local club we were required to fund raise and seek sponsorship for all kit and equipment. We paid to attend FA coaching courses but did receive a ffree poster to put up in dressing rooms championing the "Respect" campaign which was a joke because if the likes of Ferguson and Mourinho give it little credence it has little chance in the lower levels.

The FA has much to address and has been letting the "beautiful game" down for far too long.

The signs were there when your correspondent was declared Hants FA Groundsman of the year for 2011. A quick deco at google earth would have revealed the pitch was not quite the shape it should have been and the awarding of such a trophy to the incumbent of the groundsman's shoes was a farce.

Enough of the long run so we break for drinks and bring the spinners on.

What a shame about Adrian Gill.

Always entertaining, inevitably irascible it seems surreal that I won't be reading his reviews on the weekend. I never met him, although I know keepers who did, as he liked his fishing and all said what a top bloke on the bank he was. His final piece for the paper regarding the onset of his cancer was particularly poignant, made even more so with good friends going through a similar experience.

The coal face of the NHS is manned by some remarkable people from many nations who are perpetually frustrated by meddling bureaucracy.

Recently I had cause to accompany a neighbour to our local A&E.

It was Sunday night post Songs of Praise and a fall had occurred, it was nothing to do with Songs of Praise but a head was bumped and a large gash resulted.

Madam was magnificent and administered first aid (she's trained in the art) until the blue lights arrived. A blue light delivery of the patient and myself (with the opening salvo of the evening's wine already on board) to our local A&E and the patient joined a four hour queue of trolleys in a corridor before her head wound was attended to. Thirteen stitches later she returned home an hour before dawn.

Yesterday I paused for conversation with a newly retired local farmer. He'd recently had a stroke and ran me through the chain of events. Sunday evening (again!) he'd felt a little peculiar while watching the TV (again, nothing to do with Songs of Praise) he shrugged it off (he's a farmer) and braved it out through Countryfile (who doesn't) before confessing to his wife that he couldn't lift his left arm. Off to the same A&E where it was confirmed he had suffered a stroke. Apparently time is everything with a stroke, and if a particular drug can be administered within a certain time frame the patient will be up and about and dancing the funky chicken within a week.
He missed the cut off point for the administration of the drug while waiting in the corridor.

But thankfully made a complete recovery all the same(he's a farmer)

I've had great faith in the NHS up until now,

My own recent bumps bangs and hernias have always been well attended to by staff from many nations, some of whom didn't appear old enough to be let loose with the knives.

But crikes it all seems a little stretched at the moment.

Oh yes, it's Christmas, best lighten the mood.

The river remains close to its end of summer level and we need much rain,

No that's not lightening the mood.

Oh yes, Otis returned to the field of shooting last week picking up a dozen or more birds on a local shoot. A fun crowd, I learned of a game farmer who was charging £160 for a Turkey and had lengthy discourse with a pig farmer who sends his sows for slaughter in Germany bringing the carcasses back to a butchers block in the UK because it comes in twenty five percent cheaper than the slaughter house a few miles up the road.

This isn't lightening the mood either

Vista creation continues with Lord Lugg, which isn't exactly soothing and my back has been playing up, but the view from the loo in my employer's pile of bricks improves with each week.

Yes the mood's definitely turned a corner there.

A keeper from downstream whom I have known for thirty years dropped in this morning. After twenty five years employment the estate on which he works grants an employee six months leave. He'd just returned from two month antipodean odyssey and had popped in to drop off a Christmas card, completely forgetting that he'd sent an identical card two weeks ago in the post.

Mood on the rise, good old Neil.

Child A and Child B are both in residence and the flag on the roof flies at the appropriate height. We have a house full of people for seasonal festivities and both fridge and larder assume the status of "well stocked"

All will serve as balm to a year that has overflowed with poison and spite and seen too many good people exit stage left.

Mood kind of restored,

Oh yes the perfect restorative for the season




thanks for reading the rubbish that I write.

Merry Christmas and here's to next year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

News Just In From The Sofa

Live from the settee, I can report that sport has seen me pile on a few pounds these past few weeks. Successive Saturdays (think Frankie Bridge et al doing the conga) have begun with Test Cricket until late morning a brief pause to undertake tasks assigned or pop out for messages, a flying lunch before back to back rugby matches, an early evening of dancing and then off to the jungle. This kind of thing would never have happened in the day of the Test Card, It's the stuff of students and I'm on the cusp of signing up for a course......

Possibly of tablets, as it's been an emotional roller coaster.

Not the sport, I've a lifelong habit of that kind of thing and am relatively inured to all but the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the sporting arena. No, two glasses into the dancing and I'm unable to control my Tourettes and a succession of "F$£K you Ed Balls" comes flying out whether we are in company or alone.

Thankfully he has failed to make the final and will now return to politics where others can take up the cause of my heckling.

I am normally comfortable with The Jungle and we all delight in the tremendous talent that is the Ant and the Dec, but this year Prodnose has entered the fray and my nerves were in shreds with each passing episode. Since Old Tel shuffled off Prodnose is my favourite broadcaster (and is only on once a week, come on BBC) I'll own up to a dozen or more contributions to his show via the medium of email ( as I did to Tel in his final years) but have always declined the invitation to ring in and make a personal contribution as I'm afraid I'd be incoherent and lose the power of speech as its quite a skill taking your ease on the radio, which is partly what makes Prodnose such a genius of the airwaves.

I didn't go much on him on the TV and I'm not sure a life in the Jungle requires the same qualities as king of the airwaves and each evening I watched peeping through my fingers hoping that he didn't give off too many sparks, because when he goes he goes, albeit eloquently.

If the term "pin headed weasels" is uttered you can be sure that things have taken a turn for the worse.

To my relief, he's out now and set up on the beach. The sooner he's back on the radio on Saturday mornings the better.

While we're on the Jungle, Madam and myself would like to pitch an idea to Nick Park of Wallace and Gromit fame. I know he visits this parish from time to time and it occurred to us the other evening while in wine on the sofa that an animated "Creature Comforts" type of film centred around the animals in the bush tucker challenge could have legs. The toads and frogs would bemoan the star status of the spiders, the eels would be in the Hello/OK magazine demographic and would be star struck at every celebrity who entered their tank. There would be a lonely crocodile, a camp snake, rats with a fear of he who should not be named (Gino DeCampo who famously caught and cooked one on the show)
The story centres around a Witchetty Grub who lives in fear of the SS ( Stacey Solomon) who eventually catches up with Brer Witchetty during a bush tucker challenge, at which point I'll issue a spoiler alert.

It's just a thought, and remember you heard it here first.

Don't be a stranger Nick.

Back at work, it rained the wind blew, the river didn't flood and no trees fell over. Normal stuff for November along with the requisite media over reaction to a weather event that is not a hot day in summer. We continue to nurture a burgeoning urban based generation whose understanding of the seasons extends no further than the decision as to whether to sit on the pavement or in the shop to take Mocha Cocha Latte and pastry on board.

The river has risen an inch and there is now enough water on the spawning gravels to accommodate sexually mature brown trout. Although they are particularly thin on the ground . What hens we have are fattening up nicely and redds are beginning to be dug, but cock fish are few and far between. Ten years ago the weeks preceding spawning would see cock fish charging about in shallow water aggressively competing with fellow cocks over any fat hen who kicked up a redd.

Walks through the wood betray a number of Woodcock which suggests low temperatures in the east, I put three up this afternoon while bumbling about with a bucket full of corn.

I'm slowly putting the river to bed. Years ago this task would have begun as soon as the trout season ended with the fringe knocked off, edged in and weed cut in order to carry out and complete electro fishing before all present were summoned to the hatchery for egg picking duties. Today I still knock the fringe off and edge in, although not as hard as I once did. It helps maintain the maximum marginal growth and remains a viable habitat for beasts of the bank throughout the winter. I also engage the forces of Willow with my big orange store (If you want a mention on here Stihl you'll have to offer some incentives)

Doh!

It makes sense to prepare the river for winter only when there is sufficient flow. Leaving as much cover as possible to decrease the impact of avian predation on fish in shallow water until the river starts to rise. Once the river is on the rise and carrying a little colour then the fringe can be attended to. With spawning done and the trout off the shallows the willows can then be engaged. Sympathetic management with an eye to both habitat and flood defence by a full time keeper. Could a contractor or part timer be allowed such flexibility. The decline in the number of full time keepering jobs on the chalk streams is both a concern and short sighted,

fingers crossed it's a fad.

Chainsaw work has begun and the solemn procession of one (Still waist deep in Wodehouse and one of the trees we must address is a beech) that is the ermine clad Lord Ludgershall has presented for work in the wood via the medium of sedan chair. We are currently employed in the business of Vista creation. There's three months of chainsaw work and myself and all the woodland creatures are honoured by his presence. Poplars at the moment, young trees that didn't look very well. Dissection by chainsaw confirmed the diagnosis with rot set in at the base, which was a shame as we only planted them twelve years ago

Is it me or are the papers obsessed with the ageing process at the moment. My weekend papers that I perused on the sofa between cricket, rugby, dancing and jungle where full of "Life after fifty " features and with the event a mere sixteen months away for Madam and myself, we are told that we will embrace lycra, ride more bikes, discover yoga, go to University and achieve a level of life wisdom that Confucious would covet. There was no mention of more time on the sofa in front of sporting events, a bad back, creaky knees, embracing the postprandial ziz and completely forgetting why you have gone upstairs.

Cheltenham last week, the perennial trip on countryside Friday with fifteen to twenty thousand other souls to take in some tremendous racing at what is now a tremendous sporting venue. The new work is complete and my ire at being charged five pound for a pint and five pound for bacon roll was tempered a week later when on the 18th November we entered the legions of shiplap sheds that serve as the Winchester Christmas market where sausage from the Teutons and a thimble fill of Grimm gluhwein was on offer for a comparable price.
I bumped into Child B and one of his associates by the Cheltenham parade ring. Over the course of the following four races our fortunes took different paths. Child B picked three second place horses on each way bets and was 55p up when I left him, his mate backed one winner while I dipped out after two races to conserve funds as Madam had one of her card club days on the morrow and I had been made aware of the need for ready funds for the event.





River reports are written and dispatched (sent to the intended recipient as opposed to being put out of their misery, although....) and final deadlines for magazines before all involved down tools for the Christmas break are impending. I'm supposed to be chucking some other guff together but things don't seem to be progressing as intended.

Easily distracted?

Undoubtedly,

and the internet doesn't help here with minds that are prone to drift. But a bit of a break from deadlines and questions and the shame of failing to produce feature pieces promised may serve as tinder to chuck up further guff.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Top Billing on The Shelf of Shame

I had to pop up to the smokery this afternoon to pick up the final tranche of smoked fish for 2016. Unfortunately I had omitted to pay when dropping the fish off for smoking and my bag of smoked fish had been placed on the shelf of shame and their position in the walk in fridge displayed on the wipe board outside.
I received top billing with my name displayed in the largest lettering (Stephen Toast teaches us that this kind of thing matters) above a leviathan of UK comedy and someone of whom I have been a lifelong fan,

An honour to share the shelf of shame with you sir,










That's not him





nor that one, that's Dave Angel that is

That's him,

Brilliaaaant!

Made my day, and a lesson to all you prompt payers out there.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Football and Ed Balls and Molly Malone - brought to you this week by the Fleet St Hotel, Dublin

I'll begin this latest puff of guff with a little reminder as to the FA's response to an invitation to visit the Somme on the centenary of the battle during their preparations for the England football team's hapless campaign in the European championships.

No thanks, the forty minutes in a coach to visit Thiepval or the memorial at Deauville Wood to the many professional footballers who died on the Somme would disrupt our training programme

Only now, when it is convenient do they remember, and make great play of kicking up a fuss with FIFA over poppies on armbands.

Oh yes, how did that competition go after all that careful preparation?

Note to self, treat ninety nine point nine percent of supposed noble behaviour in top flight football, on and off the pitch with contempt. Morally it's rarely a beautiful game.

P: Remember this?

we'll be right back after a brief word from our sponsor.



The Fleet St Hotel in Dublin is the ideal location to visit all that the capital of the emerald isle has to offer. Situated in the lively Temple Bar district the Boutique hotel is an oasis of quiet calm. Trinity College and the Book of Kells are two minutes walk away and the shops of Grafton St and O'Connell St a mere five minutes, fall out of the door and you are in amongst the numerous bars and restaurants of Temple Bar.

That's the Fleet St Hotel Folks. www.fleethoteltemplebar.com

Anyway, spawning is a little slow to get going and our fears of fewer sexually mature brown trout in the river seem to be borne out. The river remains low and we have just received word that command centre central are worried about aquifer levels. You can take it as read that we need more rain.

A couple of sharp frosts have provided the requisite full stop for vegetative growth and leaves have been sent a tumblin, although somebody needs to tell the nettles in the wood as they retain some of their spite.

I've not picked many mushrooms this year, which is a shame. Not sure why but fungi in general seem a little thin on the ground. The first skein of geese have arrived to take up residence on the water meadow upstream, around thirty in number their arrival usually means that it is cold somewhere else.


Work for the winter is upon us and once the last of the topping is complete it 'll be into the wood with the chainsaw while what few fish remain go through the process of spawning. There are many willows to be attended to along with some malformed poplars and a cricket bat willow that mysteriously cashed in its chips in the middle of summer. I've a new chainsaw to take into the wood and I'll not raise the P at this point as Stihl declined my offer of a mention if they reduced the price a tad,

Doh!

By way of balance, the previous Husqvarna gave sterling service and has been retired to two stroke Valhalla where it sits to at the right hand of the two stroke Thor that was my Honda long handled hedge cutter.

Research shows that more purchases are made on ebay late in the evening when wine has been taken.

So why no bar/complimentary drinks during Flog It or Homes under the Hammer?

Assuming the guise of community champion ( I can't find my photo of Esther Rantzen so here's one of a chicken to which I have become attached) I'd like to issue an alert about the scam that is The Virgin Wines Club.
I received through the ether a voucher for a case of cut price wine delivered straight to my door. The Wine was reasonable and swiftly consumed and I thought no more of it. This week I received a paypal notification that Virgin Wines was taking a monthly payment of £25 for my membership of their wine club. A quick call to Mike Oldfield confirmed that Branson is notorious for this kind of thing so a call was put in and the accusation of "sharp practice" made. Yes the wine had been reasonable value and of reasonable quality but at no point was I made aware that I was joining a wine club and regular monthly payments would be taken via the medium of paypal.

With some relief I am now blackballed from the club but will not be welcome on the isle of Necker at any point.

We seem to be jumping around a little here, but goodness there are a lot of little egret about. It's common to see half a dozen in a day at the moment. The few grayling fishers who have been attendance have enjoyed reasonable sport. Two today caught twenty odd fish with the biggest an 18inch torpedo a smidge under a pound and three quarters. Roach are not quite as abundant as they were a few years ago, but their numbers seem to be on the up and the two grayling anglers today even had a go at bothering a few perch. Big Pike are conspicuously absent.

Oh yes Ed Balls, hopeless hubristic hoofer whose place in Strictly is being maintained by a left of centre campaign to produce a populist contender to challenge Jez. Expect a denunciation of anything to do with dancing by comrade Jez sometime soon.

Freedom for Tooting!/Islington.

P:

This last weekend we caught a plane to Dublin from what is widely acknowledged as the world's best airport,

Ladies and Gentleman I give you,

Southampton airport.

Our tickets with the world's leading budget airline that eschews all things green or orange cost the equivalent of a return train ticket from our local railway station to the capital of Britain and well done the trains of the south of England for that. Our bedside alarm sounded at home at 5.00am, at 8.50am I was plonking our case down on the bed at The Fleet St Hotel in the Temple bar district of Dublin.

Book of Kells first.

Fast track tickets had been purchased and we were first through the door and ran past the book and up to the library, which is stunning and within twenty minutes was rammed.
Back down to the book where I was admonished for preparing to take a photo, twenty years ago I'd have been stripped of my film, so the camera was put away and we spent an hour perusing the exhibits.





Out into town and the shops of Grafton St for an hour or so before seeking sustenance (beer) at The International bar also known as O'Donohue's. The bar features in the festival of bonkers that is James Joyce's Ulysses or possibly Dubliners. He frequented the establishment once upon a time, along with Michael Collins, Ronnie Drew and Dara O'Briain who had all popped in for pints at some point.
We shared the bar with a trio of locals and the current member of the O'Donohue clan to occupy the front of house shoes.
There were several posters on the wall commemorating the centenary of the 1916 Rising and as is always the case in a Dublin bar we were swiftly enrolled into general conversation which, despite our best efforts at "easy and light", rapidly turned to politics, both national and international.
I'd commented to madam earlier in the day that there is something lyrical about the Irish brogue, every letter is pronounced, no words are omitted I have come across few that you could accuse of lazy speech. Despite this we emptied our glasses and left, we have both had our fill of politics for this year, but thanks all the same for an entertaining half hour and a far richer experience than ice cream at the the deli across the road.

There were no rods packed for this flying visit and this stretch of the Liffy never looks that productive, but I may be wrong.

Back to the hotel and a bathroom big enough to park your car in (should you eschew the aforementioned cheap flight provider) before hitting the town for an excellent meal and a night at the premier comedy venue that is the Vicar St Theatre. We'd seen Dara o'Brien here two years ago and were drawn to another Irish comedian with the same initials.

David O'Doherty is his name, and you may have seen him on shows such as Would I Lie to You, and Eight of Ten Cats. He was accompanied by Aisling Bea who also appears on such shows. Both were on top form and it was another memorable night at this intimate venue.





A twenty minute walk back to the Fleet St Hotel and an undisturbed night in one of the best beds we have slept in.
Breakfast was a triumph and replete with sausage, bacon egg and a suitable volume of yoghurt we hopped on the airport bus outside the hotel and were back in Bransbury for Sunday lunch.
We're going back in February to take in Jack Whitehall. It's an effortless trip to a terrific city and if you do give it a go, stay at this hotel (but please mention this house/parish/my name) The "Elegance" rooms are particularly swish.

Back in Bransbury, having done the hedges I'm just finishing some topping. Alan Partridge's new audio book - Nomad has been my companion throughout my thrashing with the swipe,

It is a brilliant addition to the canon of the bard of Norwich.

Walking will never be the same again

Other reading has seen me retreat to Blandings, where Emsworth and Psmith et al provide sanctuary from a world that, as 2016 progresses, continues to lose some of its lustre,

Although well done David Attenborough for restoring some sheen to planet earth with his tales of baby lizards being chased down the beach by gangs of snakes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Slow Plane to Lugdunum

Half term was once again upon us so it's on with the wig and kaftan for me and the platform shoes and big glasses for madam and a brief rendition of our favourite half term song, and following a request from a Juan and Jaunita Hernandez, with accompanying subtitles in Spanish.



Except it wasn't a jet plane but one with two whisks on the wings ( propellers I believe they call them in the aeroplane industry ) that carried us sedately from the world's best airport at Southampton. (Park your car, walk into a terminal devoid of queues get on plane, fly away - simples) all the way to Lyon.

Lugdunum to those versed in all things Asterix, gastronomic capital of all Gaul situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhone and Soane and brim full of fish but more of that later.

After a thirty minute train ride and some bumbling about on the metro we dragged our cases across the cobbles to our billet in Vieux Lyon, the old part of town situated on the banks of the Saone. We were staying in a third floor apartment in a sixteenth century building once occupied by some silk weavers synonymous with the arrondissement.

To prevent their cloth getting wet, they covered over some of the narrow alleys and it was up one of these "traboules"

that we found our apartment which was reached via a stone stair case that was the stuff of Rapunzel.

The apartment was perfect, smartly appointed and despite the antiquity of the situation in which we found ourselves, we enjoyed superfast high speed broadband throughout our stay.

Out on the street it became quickly apparent that it is all about the food in Lyon. Settling down for our first lunch in a small square not far from our door every table was soon taken and we tucked into our first odd sausage of the week. There aren't many bits of a pig that they won't put in a sausage in these parts and by day two I'm sure we had sampled most parts. Quenelles were ok although I avoided the pike, and we had some surprisingly good steak. Madam was fond of some fluffy potato thing with ham and cheese whose name escapes me but I think began with the letter "T"

There was one exception to the "full tables at lunch time rule" This may have been something to do with Brexit or possibly the Lyonnaise are that food savvy that they realise that this kind of thing should only ever be sampled in the North of England where they are particularly adept at the dish and the requisite gravy.

Paul Bocuse is a big noise when it comes to French food, he was a pioneer of Nouvelle cuisine and he has his own hall dedicated to his methods in the newer part of town near the central station. There is much on offer, and it is possible to sample most things. We tried a few dainties, plus some madeleines and some super quiche. Most of the stalls have an area where you can sit down and feed on their fayre for lunch, but it isn't cheap, although most places were full by one o'clock.

Food done, we turn our attention to all else that this tremendous town has to offer. The rods were in and there were people fishing the river but that had to wait as we had a mountain to climb. On the hill overlooking the town is an enormous Basillica and a tower that is an exact replica of the top third of the Eifel tower.

There are many routes up the hill to Fourviere with many steps but we opted for a Funicular driven by a close relative of Miriam Margolyes.

The Basilica is mightily impressive. It isn't that old and was chucked up in the 19th century. The mosaics on the walls and floor are particularly impressive and the crypt is enormous, big enough to have a game of football in. The replica of the top third of the Eifel tower was erected around the same time as a symbol of progress, which left the two of us leaving the hill scratching our heads a little.

Around the back of the Basilica there are some well preserved remains of Lugdunum. A brace of roman theatres, one big, one small, both of which still stage live performances, and an old aqueduct.

Back down to the river and the inevitable cruisers. The Saone has a series of low bridges and we paused to watch a Swiss vessel negotiate the centre of town.

All of the rooftop tables and chairs were folded away and the handrails removed as the craft squeezed under two bridges by a matter of inches.

It has been suggested I make mention of the shops.

There are shops, many shops, Lyon is very good for shopping, our suitcase was four kilos over its limit on our return.

Toward s the end of our stay we caught a very smart vaporetto down the Saone to the regenerated area at the confluence of the two rivers. it is very well done .

There is the inevitable shopping centre, innumerable and individual smart flats

and a museum containing at least one dinosaur that highlights the history, ecology and importance of the two rivers in a building that is unique in design.
And while Madam went shopping, I went fishing.

I'd done the internet research beforehand, and even purchased my licence, as for a few euros the Carte de Peche de Vacances is easily purchased online. I'd hoped to repeat the fly fishing for catfish tactics that I employed with Oliver on the Arno in Florence last year. The Tarpon rod with 12wt line was in along with the requisite beefed up leaders and flies and the landing glove. There are many catfish in both rivers and Youtube will confirm that they are often caught from the bank. But the Wels catfish is a complex creature that switches from scavenging during low water to predation during high water and water was low and I'd have had more chance legering some unusual sausage than with my efforts with the fly. Although the fly fishing in the centre of town method is quite the conversation opener and I spent quite a lot of the time chatting. I spent the final afternoon working my way through town with my travel spinning rod chasing Zander and Pike. I regret not putting a carp rod in (note to self, buy a travel carp rod) as there were several good fish evident, and I may have enjoyed better results fishing at night, and if I was ten years younger I may well have done that, but the lure of the food and the wine prove too much in the evening.

After recent events elsewhere en France, there is understandably a high security presence and we came across groups of machine gun clad soldiers on patrol regularly throughout the stay, the Police are just as jumpy and several times a squadron of vehicles containing men with guns cocked roared through the streets with blue lights a flashing and sirens a wailing.

These are the times we live in, but it didn't detract from a superb stay.

The return flights from Southampton to Lyon with one case in the hold cost £100 each.

Five days in an apartment sleeping 2/4 in the centre of Lyon booked through AirBnb cost £350.

If you like food, shopping and fishing in a town brim full of history and culture give Lyon a go.








Oh yes the TV



Even with the English subtitles we remain baffled.

Answers on a postcard please