Monday, August 7, 2017

Blood Pressure and The Joy of Buffering

After the party is over,

Yes the mood's taken a bit of a dip and yes, it is disappointing to find garments and footwear discarded in the bushes after I made it quite clear in my speech that it wasn't that kind of party.

Moving on, which is difficult as the photos continue to arrive intermittently via our third world internet connection. If you did send some photographs at the beginning of the week and have not received acknowledgement I apologise, they are still downloading.

For those hipsters with a beard formed from tofu who dream of days of yore and a world of buffering, don't be a stranger.

In these strange days when many look to the past for succour, there may even be some miles in us offering " buffering breaks" or "dial up day experiences"

Because yes, we still buffer.

It may be quicker to print the photos off and pop them in the post.

More news from your current affairs correspondent via a third world broadband supply to follow after news from our man on the river,

Which, after staff cuts, also happens to be me,

What weather events we have had. Intense showers have seen several trees come down, including a leaf laden weeping willow on the bend below the fishing hut. This morning we received word of friends in a neighbouring village who had the top half of a substantial beech tree blocking their drive. Everything is looking a little more leggy and increasingly verdant, but in terms of aquifer replenishment it's the face washing equivalent of splashing water on your face as opposed to a prolonged ducking and a vigorous scrub with a flannel behind the ears administered by a grandparent's hand. It's a fresher river, and chalk streams give thanks for what they have received but the level of the groundwater that feeds this river remains pitifully low

Fishing has been fairly productive. We've a fairly long injury list amongst our regulars and the river has not been fished as much as previous seasons, but the number of fish caught is well up on previous years. It isn't easy, but fresher water has stimulated fish that would normally assume a state of torpor at this time of the year. The adage that one fish in August is worth four at the end of May still holds, they have their eye in and cute presentation of dry fly or nymph is key.

Retaining what water we can remains key and bank side vegetation management plays a crucial role in this and is allowed to grow out into the stream to squeeze the flow as much as possible. Watercress is particularly good at doing this although it is important not to let it smother any ranunculus. It may make fishing in a few spots a little more tricky but the thicker fringe is a riot of colour with loosestrife, mint and monkey flower all in flower. We seem to be inundated with Muntjac who are not as shy as they used to be. One feeds regularly on kitchen scraps with the chooks and barks to other Muntjac in the wood on the other side of the river and fields beyond. It's an unmistakeable noise, particularly after hearing it at close quarters when one got its head stuck in the fence surrounding my vegetables in an attempted raid on my beans.

We seem to be well off for Kingfishers this year, It is difficult to walk up the river without seeing or hearing one, but they remain a little shy of the camera. We remain inundated with butterflies who are more than happy to sit for the camera.





This week we take delivery of three figures of pheasants, because yes after a five year hiatus we are back in the shooting game. The pen took a bit of putting back together after all those Christmas trees fell over and we have had to start again with feeders in the wood and I have had to knock up a dozen or more. Doors had to be replaced on the pen and a new electric fence attached, but now we are ready and on the next dry day the wood will once again be alive with the cheeps of eight week old pheasant poults.

Late last week the Dr'/s surgery called and left a message asking me to give them a ring. I haven't been to the Dr's since I fell off the roof, not because I am not a fan of their work, I am my Doctor is a very nice man who I have known for over twenty years, but because I haven't had real need to so to say I was confused when they gave me a ring would be an understatement. Had my great age triggered some alarm at the surgery or was it related to being married for twenty five years, scratching my head I gave them a call and was quickly informed that they had no records of me having any blood pressure. I assured them that I did have some blood pressure, sometimes it went up when groundwater levels or rural broadband were mentioned but it was blood pressure all the same. After a confusing conversation it became apparent that they had no records of my blood pressure ever being taken and could I pop in so that they could open a file. Which I did, my blood pressure was found, and measured and all is as it should be. IO offered up further bumps and lumps for checking but the nurse declined and asked me to leave, which I did safe in the knowledge that somewhere in a file is a piece of paper with a record of my blood pressure, the lark remained on the wing the snail upon the thorn and the world continued to turn.

Oh yes, my clever idiot proof Nikon D5200 continues to malfunction so today's offering have been brought to you by my Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ10

Friday, July 28, 2017

This Day of Days

Tadah!

Apologies for my absence and tardiness regarding posts, but we've been a bit busy

but now we're back, back back, so on with the guff,

But first can I scotch rumours that I have relinquished my full time position on the river to concentrate on royal duties,

Nice to have options.

Where was I? Oh yes, the principle reason for my silence in the past few weeks has been the advent of our silver wedding anniversary. Not in a "quiet reflection" kind of way but because preparations were being made for a hellzapoppin party held last Sunday. Vino was sourced en France, a barrel of beer from Betteridges micro brewery a few miles up the valley and a big bin of Pimms was mixed. We would dine on meat cooked on a barbecue by The Weyhill farm shop, a few leaves, a lot of smoked Dever Trout and some stunning cakes made by a friend of Madam.

So what of this day of days?

Ironically it rained,

a lot,

Which was celebrated by me and the other river keepers in attendance but not by the twenty or so people sitting under a gazebo that collapsed under the weight of water. River keepers, firemen and tractor drivers mustered and the thing was resurrected with the aid of several long poles, a roll of parcel tape and a table. Further drink was taken and the incident soon forgotten by the eighty odd people who seemed to have a high old time. Thank you to everyone who came along to help us celebrate 25 years of marriage and thirty years as a couple.

In among the mayhem that was the week before our bash, we travelled en famille to Cardiff for Child B's Graduation.
Like Child A he's done very well and also picked up a student award for some such thing or the other. He'll miss Cardiff, it's a tremendous city with some terrific places to eat (Portuguese for lunch on this trip) and some super shops in Victorian arcades. He's off to the Antipodes at the end of the summer for a bit of cricket and adventure which we are quite envious of.
Child A continues with the interminable quest to keep the streets of Thames Valley free from crime, she seems to be under quite a bit of pressure at times so come on people of the Thames Valley, up your game!

Well that's the family stuff and dedications done with so we'll move on to the river stuff.

We received word last week that the Upper Itchen had received the gift of thousands of half pound rainbow trout. Escapees from an as yet unnamed fish farm. The upper Itchen is a SAC, the highest level of environmental classification there is and let' s not forget that some of that water being pumped down the Candover stream in the name of protecting the SAC should be making its way into the Dever which is only a mere SSSI. It'll be a few years before the rainbows are hoovered up, but in that time predator numbers may spike when presented with such bounty and other fish species may suffer as a result.

We may have had rain, and the garden looks great but it has done little for the amount of water flowing down the chalk streams. Groundwater levels remain low and gravels that should be submerged still stand proud of the water. It was apparent during the July weed cut that the clearing off process (conducted in the half light after returning from Cardiff - we've been very busy people) took considerably longer than one would expect and when an exasperated angler threw his rod at me and charged me with catching some of these sodding somnolant fish. The fly that I presented to what should have been a rattling run of water under a branch on the far bank hardly moved at all on landing. There are plenty of fish, although they are starting to bunch up in deeper holes but spook one and it will charge around and disturb the rest of the gang. They do rise, if a little circumspectly, but many are now preoccupied with sub surface feeding, it's never the easiest time of the year for fishing on this river but numbers caught remain up on the previous two seasons and late summer fishing looks promising.

With the trees now displaying to the full it is all too apparent how many of the ash are in trouble, I've earmarked half a dozen substantial specimens that must come down this winter before they start shedding limbs. It is a little sad as ash make up a substantial percentage of the trees in the wood, but there are a few specimens that seem to be in good health so fingers crossed for them. The walnuts that we planted a few years ago are in good health and their noses are on the cusp of poking out of their guards.

The fringe is in full bloom and at its best with spikes of loosestrife, drifts of monkey flower and forget me not and substantial stands of hemp agrimony that continue to draw the eye of a variety of butterflies. This time of the year would normally see all manner of moths stuck to the our side wall in the morning, not seen so many this year although this may be down to us being more judicious when it comes to turning the outside light off at night.

What else?

Well there was the flying visit to France, the trip to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight for a Hampshire League match that was done in thirty overs and a jolly day fishing on the middle reaches of the Anton.

But I've run out of steam as it's been quite a hectic month and as was pointed out many times at our wedding anniversary where some of our wedding photos were displayed.

"Rachel hasn't changed a bit, but Chris?.....well"

So I'll drag this withered husk away for a restorative bath and seek succour in bubbles (bath) and wine (wine) and won't leave it so long next time.

This week's photographs have been brought to you by Child A and my Dad and thank you very much for that as my clever idiot proof camera is currently playing up.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's been an emotional time of late


Apologies, but it's been an emotional time of late


There is much to discuss and normal service will be resumed in the next 48 hours now that this day of days has passed



Oh yes, fishing's ok, but the rain's done nothing, feel free to use a nymph.

More soon.
.



Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who's In?

I don't mean to cause alarm, but does this recently received correspondence (see below) mean that air strikes are imminent?





Does our Defence Secretary know that Hacker's have already penetrated Parliament? Jim stood as PM in the early 80's


qaDearest,

I know this mail will come to you as a surprise since we haven't known or come across each other before considering the fact that I sourced your email contact through the Internet in search of trusted person who can assist me.

I am Miss Elodine Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly 24 years old female from the Republic of Ivory Coast,West Africa ,am the Daughter of Late Chief Sgt.Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly (a.k.a General IB ). My late father was a well known Ivory Coast militia leader . He died on Thursday 28 April 2011 following a fight with the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast(FRCI). I am constrained to contact you because of the maltreatment which I am receiving from my step mother.

She planned to take away all my late father's treasury and properties from me since the unexpected death of my beloved Father. Meanwhile I wanted to travel to Europe, but she hide away my international passport and other valuable documents. Luckily she did not discover where I kept my father's File which contained important documents. Now I am presently staying in the Mission in Burkina Faso.

I am seeking for long term relationship and investment assistance. My father of blessed memory deposited the sum of US$ 27.5 Million in one bank in Burkina Faso with my name as the next of kin. I had contacted the Bank to clear the deposit but the Branch Manager told me that being a refugee, my status according to the local law does not authorize me to carry out the operation. However, he advised me to provide a trustee who will stand on my behalf. I had wanted to inform my stepmother about this deposit but I am afraid that she will not offer me anything after the release of the money.

Therefore, I decide to seek for your help in transferring the money into your bank account while I will relocate to your country and settle down with you. As you indicated your interest to help me I will give you the account number and the contact of the bank where my late beloved father deposited the money with my name as the next of kin. It is my intention to compensate you with 40% of the total money for your assistance and the balance shall be my investment in any profitable venture which you will recommend to me as have no any idea about foreign investment. Please all communications should be through this email address for confidential purposes.(elodinecoulibaly@gmail.com)

Thanking you a lot in anticipation of your quick response. I will give you details in my next mail after receiving your acceptance mail to help me ,

Yours sincerely
Miss Elodine Warlord Ibrahim Coulibaly


I had one from her sister Susan as well so there may be something in it, watch this space.

This time next year Rodney, we'll be millionaires.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Things I Forgot to Mention Due to Offloading on Over Abstraction

But first a bucolic scene to serve as balm to previous ire on the impact of over abstraction on chalk streams.







Hurrah!

Since the previous spleen venting on the unsustainable use of groundwater supply it has not stopped raining.

Must offload more often.

Even the metrosexual tit (coming to a bird table near you) who hosts the breakfast radio commented that the rain was quite welcome,

It will freshen up the garden and turn brown grass back to green but will do little for already depleted aquifers.

In other news:

Contrary to the perennial propaganda campaign by the RSPB there are more than four pairs of Hen Harriers in England.

Oh yes,

I find the declaration by our Defence Secretary that future computer hacks could be met with air strikes a little disturbing. Ok the proposals of marriage from behind the iron curtain and business from the Central African Republic can be a little wearing, but air strikes?

Really?

What times we live in.

I think that was all.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Help! Water Shortage! Send Supplies Now!

To quote Old Albion's most inane rag

"Phew whot a scorcher!"

My clever digital weather station recorded a maximum temperature of 37. 4 Celsius last Wednesday afternoon or 99.32 Fantigrade according to the Reverend Richard Cole's mother. Heat remained oppressive until dusk for almost a week and fishing has been hard as a result. The first and the last few hours have seen fish feed a little but for the bit inbetween they have tucked themselves away and concentrated on just getting through the day. The water temperature is approaching twenty degrees celsius (68 degrees Fantigrade Mrs Cole) and is a few degrees higher further down the river. And while a cyprinid would be living it large and knocking back the doughnuts, a salmonid's struggles increase for each celsius the water temperature climbs beyond eighteen degrees as the water loses its capacity to hold onto oxygen. Thunder storms in such conditions can be devastating as low air pressure reduces further the ability of a body of water to hold onto its oxygen.

It's all a bit of a worry, as we still have a lot of summer to see out yet, who knows how this could end?

Writ large on the front page of a slightly larger newspaper that doesn't trumpet boobs and bums (Will we ever get over the 1970s) was the declaration that a large private water company was struggling to meet demand from its groundwater supply and this was the reason for the drop in water pressure in recent days.

The same private water company decreed that there would be no shortage of water this summer, press on regardless with your extravagant use of the eau and, yes, there had been adequate aquifer replenishment during the winter just past.

It is a bit late in the day now to start preserving groundwater stocks. The signs were there at Christmas, but with AGMs pending and a dividend to be paid this sort of thing sort of thing doesn't go down too well, maybe next month, so don't make too much of a fuss about it and fingers crossed for rain.

Private Water Companies: Self serving worms and weasels with scant regard for a ground water fed river.

and hey OFWAT and the Environment Agency feel free to call them to book on the impact of over abstraction at some point.

A position that was picked up by Paxo on Radio 4 (I know, I know) one morning this week when he echoed my sentiments regarding their exploitation of a natural resource for financial gain to the detriment of the aquatic environment. Richard Benyon was also in on the conversation and while he concurred with Paxo's sentiments his declaration that a few more reservoirs were the answer demonstrated a limited grasp of the situation he is faced with.

You might want to think about this a little longer Richard, and the way we use our groundwater in this parched alley of Albion and I shall be writing to you on the matter in due course.

There have been several articles in the national press about the plight of southern rivers, which is great, but these articles should have appeared six months ago. There are many of us who were shouting as loud as we could throughout a very dry winter. If any paper out there needs an environmental spokesman who lives and works in the natural environment don't be a stranger. I've lost a few writing gigs of late (The magic of the Mayfly -really? all a bit "vanilla" for me) and have some availability.

Paxo by the way, top banana, I don't know if I've ever mentioned it (I have, I have ) but we once shared a petri dish on an invertebrate sampling course, and I feel a bond was made.

Further evidence if further evidence were needed that the aquifers in the south east of England are slowly being trashed.

These streams through the Mill house garden increasingly run dry with each summer that passes.

They used to run year round and held fish.

The bed of this bridge (one of my first that I seemed to have constructed six inches lower than it needed to be) is fixed to its bearings because it would regularly lift up and float (once heading off down river) due to verdant weed growth downstream and good flow holding water up. The weed would have to be cut accordingly in June to settle the bed of the bridge back on its bearings. There is no verdant weed growth due to low flow and the water level is fourteen inches below the bed of the bridge.

This gravel should not be showing above the water.

Here's half way up the Mill Stream. Today it is a still water and has been for a year. It used to flow and contain ranunculus and fishing records will confirm, many fish.

This is the sluice. It was installed some years before Lou Nolan got his guns in a muddle at Balaclava and it still works as intended. It was designed to take an awful lot more water than it does today. That half inch of water spilling over the top is the sum total of the Mill stream's flow.

Were we still in the milling business there would be a shortage of flour this year.

Here's the Dever a few miles upstream. Thirty years ago I used to help stock this with two pound trout for a local fishing club. The fishing club disbanded ten or more years ago due to diminishing flow, the stretch would not now support two pound trout.

And then there's the borehole, one here and one at the cricket ground. No fancy graphs, or measuring equipment required. just take the cap off and shine a torch down. The groundwater level is very low and has been since the middle of last summer.

Here ends the case for the impact of over abstraction on the chalk stream environment.

On a lighter note,

Let me put that another way,

There is no lighter note where chalk stream water levels are concerned.

The groundwater resource in the South East of England is being over exploited. There is a gamble being played that aquifers are replenished each winter at a rate that will allow a certain level of abstraction.

This winter we once again lost that gamble,

the signs were obvious early in the year when quiet warnings should have been issued over the use of water instead of peddling the line that groundwater levels were OK when it was clear to many that they were not,

unless the bar for what's considered OK for groundwater levels has been conveniently lowered.

Over seventy percent of the planet's groundwater fed rivers (chalk streams) are in the UK. Over abstraction is impacting upon a unique aquatic environment and if such a thing were to occur in another country we would be quick to condemn it as corrupt.


looking up and not down,

Voles, ( I know they don't fly, but I do find them very soothing)

Are in pretty good health on this stretch of river, here's one of Ratty going about his business in front of the fishing hut. Apologies for the quality of the photo but it was taken on my clever phone rather than my idiot proof camera.

The Wind in the Willows feel to the morning continued as this Mole broke cover just outside the fishing hut, two days before a family of stoats were seen to run across the bridge and for several days we did have a gentle zephyr that did indeed disturb the willows. There was also a toad unfortunately flattened on the road.

There are also many damsel flies, butterflies and Moths but I don't think they made the cut in Kenneth Grahame's aquatic opus.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hooray! The Media Have Finally Noticed

Here's a link to an excellent piece in today's newspaper

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/england-drought-rivers-water-drained-removed-farms-homes-threat-farming-a7805156.html

Further guff as we have it

Friday, June 16, 2017

Beach Combing with Ming the Merciless

For those that have kindly been in touch,

No we haven't been away on holiday this week ,

although Madam is once again on the annual year 6 school residential trip to the activity centre at Calshot Spit, driving kayaks, building towers from crates and climbing up telegraph poles to stand on the top.

I have been at home, nose to the grindstone.

Two days to go before the end of the June Weed Cut and on this stretch of the river a bit of a non event bar a bit of fringing and tickling up ten yards of water celery. It may be a different story come the July cut. Mayfly continue to hatch, in comparative safety as it happens (are we still allowed to use this phrase Post Yewtree?) as few fish are interested in them anymore and many lie dogo on the bottom of the river after the excesses of recent weeks.

Note to self: If Buddha is right, and upon my demise I return to this earth as a Mayfly, don't go early on the hatching front.

What's the point of getting older if you don't get any wiser?

Fishing has steadied up a bit, as one would expect, but numbers of fish caught are well up on the last two or three years, with a senior brown trout of just over four pounds the biggest caught to date. Water quality remains reasonable and clarity is good, there is just not very much of it and bank side tree roots that are normally submerged stand proud of the water. Recent rain has done nothing for the aquifers and if a man in a van with a clipboard and toetectors tells you otherwise call him out as a Dimbulb before boxing his ears.

Recent rain has however done a tremendous amount for vegetation and most green things have shot up at an exponential rate. The wind that seems to have been blowing since the middle of March caused havoc with some top heavy willows that consequently leaned over a little too far and blocked the path through the wood and I was forced to fire up the orange saw and blunder about in four foot high nettles to resume access. Many of the bank-side willows have also dropped a little closer to the water and yes, some of those reaches that were identified by some as being too open at the end of the winter now exhibit vegetative growth that must be considered when casting a fly. Willow in water meadow will grow at an incredible rate and must be treated harshly in the winter as a result.

Here's one of the area that Lord Ludg went at with chainsaws the winter before last. Some substantial willows had become exposed to wind after a hundred or more Christmas Trees that afforded them shelter from prevailing winds fell over during floods. Exposed to the wind the willows fell in the river, we cut them back to the stumps and for a few months the area assumed an apocalyptic air.

It's almost impenetrable now. there's a Pheasant pen in there somewhere.

Bankside Willow management on chalk streams is very important. Crack Willow is the Ming the Merciless of the arboreal world and is on a quest to conquer this planet and the next. It will succeed if left unchecked and chalk stream biodiversity will be reduced as a result. I may have said it before, but chalk streams must be managed, they can't just be let go and if a man in a fine fleece with "Born to Rewild" embroidered on the back tells you otherwise, for the appropriate course of action see above re- man in van with clipboard and toetectors.

Hatches of Olives and Sedges are slowly building and one day this week during my early morning perambulations Otis and I came across a huge cloud of dancing olives, biggest I've seen since we were in Scotland on the Carron where there were many of the Blue Winged variety. The Fish may not care for too much for them other than as a nymph, but there are many Damsel flies around at the moment. Walk through the thick fen or lush meadow grass and squadrons of the malachite green insects take off.

While we are on meadows, marsh orchids are having a high old time of it.Theyseem to have appeared a little earlier than previous years and I can prove this by clever couple of clicks in my extensive catalogue of digital photos (approaching six figures) compiled over the last decade as I always get excited by orchids and rush up the river to photograph the first one that appears. "properties" buttons confirm that they have appeared nineteen days earlier than last year and twenty four days earlier than the year before that.

Now I could go on at length here about a theory I developed while walking about with my strimmer as to dry winters/depleted aquifers causing stresses that result in some parts of nature trying to get things done and dusted before parched conditions kick in towards the end of summer. I'm still mulling over the finer details, Orchids are renowned for the portential potential and I and may need to do more strimming to sharpen up my theory and hey I'll be called out as a crank once again, but what's new?

We've a goof of a Barn Owl about at the moment (the wise old owl thing is a myth).

It's feeding young somewhere nearby and hunts regularly in the morning and evening over the meadows and grass verge that borders the lane. We have seen numerous rodentia, from the smallest shrew through to ratus norvegicus, thrilled at their first experience of flight unaware of the grim end that awaits them at their destination which will not include walking on the beaches looking at the peaches.

And I thought security at the airport that serves the Highlands and Islands was the worst experience about flying.

I don't know how this happened but Child A turned 24 this week. Things may have gone awry when I was putting the clocks forward or we are all just ligging about in an episode of Quantum Leap, but I am sure I picked up her from the school bus stop only yesterday afternoon.

Further evidence of Quantum Physics and the failure of organising time with an eye to daylight management:

Child B has finished his studies at Cardiff University and will once again be plundering our fridge.

Which can't be right as he only started secondary school last week and he must be doing things arse about face as isn't he currently revising for his O levels?

And if further proof were needed that the world has turned on its axis and is now spinning the other way, in a few weeks time The lady who sleeps on my left and myself will have been married for twenty five years.

Twenty five years married,

How did that happen?

Now I've oft called to book the likes of Sam Fox, Chris Evans and Kylie Minogue over their interpretation of time, two of the above were once older than me and played significant roles in an older woman fantasy throughout several of my teenage years,

I'm older than the pair of them now.

From this we can conclude that time moves at different speeds for different people.

My own withered husk and addled mind points towards a life lived on fast forward,

While Madam's seems to have been stuck on pause and stands as a testament to taking marriage one day at a time.

Twenty Five years eh?

We are where we are.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Lake full of Vendace Surrounded by Bleached Peacocks

Apologies for the following photos and accompanying text bearing no relevance to my place of work, but half term has just passed and we've been away again, and I'll just break off there

I am aware of the whispering in corners as to how much time Madam and myself spend in other places but whisper away, as Madam and myself are currently operating under a mandate of once the work is done we're living for pleasure alone.

Mandate by the way, an unusual men's fragrance from the 1980's that preserved many a young buck's chastity - dreadful stuff.

Anyway

Italian lakes this time, Maggiore to be precise and a place that we visited a dozen or more years ago when children were small and we were camping in Switzerland and crossed the Alps via the Simplon Pass in search of warmth and cheese that tasted of something.

Gatwick was a trial and Milan Malpensa was a bit of a faff what with us landing in one terminal and the hire car being at the other forcing us to endure the interminable free bus ride with the spawn of Emerson Fittipaldi at the wheel that at one point may well have seen us skim Turin on two wheels.

Embedded in an apartment on a piazza named after that chap famed for his biscuits, a few yards from the shore in Pallanza and the ferry terminus that offered access to all that the magnificent Maggiore has to offer. There were restaurants nearby, a super bar within a stone's throw of our door where we took apperitivo each evening watching sparrows undertake their evening ablutions in a nearby fountain.

And so to our movements.

Borromean Islands first, Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola Superriore.

A forty minute ferry ride put us on Isola Bella, the summer retreat of the Borromea family. A stunning villa the size of which belies the fact that it was the principle summer drum of a little Italian Fella and his brood,

the ballroom alone is the stuff of the hall of the mountain kings.

Unlike many big old houses it is brim full of original objects and furniture,

the enormous windows are still thrown open and on a warm day a gentle breeze permeates the whole house.

Out in the gardens we came across a herd of bright white peacocks which added to the ethereal feel of the place.

The gardens are terraced and immaculately kept with views to all sides of the lake.

Isola Superriore next, also known as island of the fishermen. No big villa just a few small streets and a handful of boats casting nets into a lake brim full of fish. We saw many big ide, bream and roach and a new one for me the mythical Vendace. In Harry Potter terms it's the Hippogriff of the UK freshwater fish canon. A Coregonid, (freshwater whitefish cousin of herring) that is now only present in a brace of lakes in Cumbria it is a little like a grayling without the fancy fin. They don't get that big but this lake was full of the things as was the pond with fountain beside our apartament, and they even made the menu at some of the Trattoria on this island along with pike, zander and perch.

On to Isola Madre and another of the Borromea Familia's pads.

More understated this one, with an extensive collection of puppet theatres the scenery for which had been run up by the chap in charge of La Scala.

There were the requisite white peacocks and a pair of males provided some sport as they fought on the lawn

A large cyprus tree stands outside the villa held up by multiple hawsers. It toppled over in 2007 during a tornado and rather than go at with chainsaws and the medium of fire in the manner of Lord Ludgershall and myself the Borromea employed helicopters, winches and substantial funds to stand the thing up again. It's a fine tree, but the hawsers grate a tad.

Up the lake to Cannobio the next day.

Roads this time in a funky Fiat 500 that was good fun to drive. We soon mastered the practice of horn and finger as a means of communicating with fellow road users when confronted with the innumerable grey areas that are a feature of driving on Italian roads. It was a very easy car to park, which is just as well as parking can be a problem in many of these lakeside towns, it took us twenty minutes to find a space in Cannobio on a quiet midweek day, but it was worth the effort as it is a pretty place, very laid back and a town a few miles short of the Swiss border to which we would like to return.

Back home for lunch then a short walk to Villa Tarranto. Another big pile of bricks, this time on the mainland. Originally built by the Saveloy family famed for their shiny orange sausage.

Apologies, postprandial notes a little hard to read

The Savoy family and their associated hotels

It was moved on to a Scotsman around a hundred years ago who continued the work of the orange sausage dynasty and planted many things. The place is now owned by local government as it was handed over on the death of the Scottish chap in the 1960's . The house is now government offices and the gardens are a botanical affair, superbly laid out with different collections of species clearly labelled for Joe Public to understand. The Dahlia walk had yet to get going, but the collection of Acers was a highlight as were the magnolias and the unusual trees.

The next day we crossed the lake by foot on the car ferry to Levano

where we were hauled up the local alp in bins.

The bins deposited us nine tenths of the way up the alp and we completed our climb in thin air summiting around midday.

Sandwiches were taken and we were joined by a young lady with a big bag and I don't think it was anything we said

but after ten minutes she threw herself off the mountain,










With oxygen and time running out we began our descent and came across, and I may need some help here, as I know the collective term for larks is an exultation and for starlings the murmuration, for our friends the crows it's murder and geese are always a gaggle so if I've got this wrong forgive me as there's no clever sub editors here.

On our descent we came across an Infinity of Buzz Light Years. Fifty odd helmet clad men and women with wings on their back bumbling about in a narrow space on top of a mountain bumping wings and speaking in tongues



it may have been some kind of lemming worship

or possibly an Icarus cult

as one by one they threw themselves from this three and a half thousand feet summit out into the abyss.






Inevitably human nature kicks in and we tried to save the first few souls,







but were warned off by a guy in high viz replete with walkie talkie (do people still call them that?) who informed us that it was an international Hang Gliding competition and could we please stop shouting "Don't do it, nothing is as ever as bad as it seems"

Our oxygen bottles had run out and we were forced to the bins to descend. halfway down we passed a line of ascending bins full of cyclists with bikes hanging off the outside of the bins, and it dawned that all those fold up planes had made it up the mountains in bins too. Well done the cyclists by the way, get a lift up the thousand odd metre mountain in a bin and just do the downhill bit, who needs gears?

Stresa on the Saturday, a town that we visited twelve years ago, crossing the Alps via the Simplon Pass from our campsite in the Valais in search of sunshine and cheese that tasted of something.

It being the weekend everywhere was busy and the islands that we visited midweek that were quiet were now rammed with many Milanese,

security on the ferries had also slipped a bit.















Stresa was all that we remembered, if a little busier. We found the shop where Child B had purchased a faux Shevchenko Inter Milan shirt, the stall where Child A had punished the Gelato and the Cafe in the square where we took Pizza for lunch. A Margherita (Child A and Child B's pizza of first choice at the time) cost five euros back then, on this visit the price had rocketed to five euros fifty cents, so we withdrew our custom and took beer on the other side of the square.

Home the next day (It was only a few days, all those who say I should be working) from five days of thirty degree heat to rising winds and plummeting temperatures.

I have sunburn on my nose, am carrying a few extra pounds (weight! not money, definitely not money) but am replete following another splendid trip. It's a stunning place to spend a few days, and Milan Malpensa is a cheap place to fly to, food was terrific, gardens were stunning and all bar the parking was incredibly laid back,

Here's one of the Parking ticket committee


We've visited this country a few times in recent years and our grasp of the lingo now results in us being presented with the German version of the guidebook for whatever attraction that we are about to visit. I consider this progress, if not assimilation and we have subsequently put in a cheeky offer on this house.

It included the words "all that we have, benign labrador, at least two chickens and a whisky jar full of coppers" but we expect the vendor to question the positioning of the decimal point in the offer's final figure,

but we await a reply.