Friday, January 13, 2017

Something In the Air by Thunderclap Snow and the Met Office

Just finished my midday repast of jacket potato cottage cheese and sauerkraut, (the sustained consumption of which along with red wine, dark chocolate and regular gentle walking guarantees I will be dancing the funky chicken at the next millennium), and it has started to rain.

A weather event heralded throughout the week by a media who now seem to be using comics as a source for meteorological metaphors.

At the time of writing we are promised Thunder Snow, Power Rain and Menacing Fog as KAPOW! Storm Steve arrives in the West to deliver his deadly cargo of precipitation that will fall with a SPLAT! and a BDOING!

Seems the Meteorologists have now too taken the stance of "If we're not scared they're not doing their job" (and I'm pointing the finger at you for starting this Jeremy Vine) It's the first real rain we've had in the region for weeks so in the spirit of counter culture I have rented a village hall where all like minded people can meet for the launch of a new weather cult.

Think "Pagan lite" with all action kept above the waist line

The arrival of rain will be met with rejoicing, panpipe music, no little mead with every wet day declared a bank holiday.

There are many rivers in the South that are desperate for rain, but that story doesn't meet the demands of today's hyperbolic media. Springwatch Disneyfied the countryside, it now appears the media are Disneyfying the weather

and for that I blame Idina Menzel and her theme from Frozen,

Yes it's clearly Idina's fault.

Chainsaw work continues and to date we have managed to burn four of the big balsam poplar stumps that fell over four winters back. It's a steady business with each stump requiring a substantial amount of other wood as fuel for a fire hot enough to make any impact.

With one left to burn, we have several substantial willows to attend to on the river bank that will be felled and dragged to the remaining recalcitrant stump by the tractor and the vista will be complete.

Many moles have massed on the river bank and more hills appear with each passing day but we remain mercifully rat free, which is unusual for this time of year.

It may be that I move with more stealth as the years progress as I seem to be able to get a lot closer to a Muntjac than I used to. We have one who watches me split logs from behind a stick fifteen yards away and we regularly get within twenty yards of others when walking the dog. They used to be incredibly windy but seem to have become increasingly bold.

I recently received an invitation from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to a workshop on watercress in the headwaters of the Test and Itchen, I declined the invitation but well done the H&IOWWT (did I really just say that)
For a few years now we have allowed the cress to grow in during the second half of the season when often there isn't enough water to run a full river channel. It can help to pinch little rivers and maintain a speed of flow that limits the sinister siltation. It must be managed as it can choke a river and also smother good weed such as ranunculus and in the unlikely event of high water it can be cut back or pulled out, but it can serve a purpose for a few months of the year, although the first few frosts soon see it off.

We have yet to have anyone fish for grayling in 2017. The last chap who had a go was a big noise in the Environment Agency who enjoyed a productive day but commented on how high the banks were to which I replied it's not the banks that are high it's the river that's low,

much too low.

I would like to have taken him over to the Itchen where the gravel bar that stands clear of the water grows bigger with each passing week, and ask him if he believed the figures he was shown regarding river levels and discharge, but I didn't because it was Christmas and he was quite a nice chap. But instead informed him that there was less water flowing down this river than when I first started work here nearly twenty five years ago. The book will show that then fish were caught from the Millstream which remained fishable for much of the season, this is no longer the case. The hatch on the house was opened wider during winters twenty odd years ago to let water go, this is no longer the case. There are jobs that I now have to do differently to compensate for lower flow, I could go on, (and often do, interminably) but will leave it there, but can we all agree that this river's flow is diminishing as the years progress.

With some trepidation Madam and myself have resumed contact with HMRC and submitted forms relevant. You may recall that we spent the first half of last year giving battle with the revenue collectors after they insisted Madam had not filed a return. She had, and we were forced to invoke ministers and parliamentarians in order for them to relent and accept that there had been a problem at their end regarding their clever website. The wounds are still quite raw and this year paper copies, screen shots and photographs have been taken at every turn should the unfortunate experience be repeated.

Earlier this week I was summoned to Madam's chambers (which also doubles as the living room when I am tied to the kitchen table chucking up guff) to take in Rick Stein's series at 7pm on BBC2. To use contemporary parlance, Rick's lucked out and got the gig of taking short breaks in most of the European cities that we have visited in recent times.

Bologna (still one of our favourites) first.

My employer and one fat lady frequented Rick's place in Padstow many times and can confirm (my employer, as all fat ladies have left the room) that fish is Rick's thing.

It's all about the pasta in Bologna and Rick's fish free programme (bar a can of tuna) had us reaching for the tablets as we will be in Italy later this year and wondered if we could tag on a couple of days in La Rossa before returning home. Flight checks were made and instead of the usual "there are twelve other people looking at this flight" it flashed up there are four thousand and three people currently looking at this flight" It may have been an error or Rick's programme has done more for the food capital of Italy than the town tourist board,

Bologna could be quite busy this year.

Rick was in Lisbon the next day and we were again reminded of a tremendous time in a top city albeit with fish very much to the fore, some top trams, a bonkers outdoor lift and some wine glasses from a department store called Pollux that we somehow managed to get back to blighty in one piece,

one of which I am about to drain of delicious Douro before signing off.

And finally, news just in from Chick 'O' Land,

We have received the gift of egg and on the morrow the full family shall gather at the table in the manner of Tom and Barbara to share in the harvest,

Well done the chickens!

Oh yes, Happy New Year!

We've already done that one - ed

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