Monday 30 December 2013
But Hey Ho as long as Victor is happy.
Everyone’s a winner!
Despite protestations by the lady who sleeps on my left, the wind that blew earlier in the week across these environs has not been as voluble or strong for quite some years. Panel fences inevitably lay prone and wheelie bins wobbled over as peak wind speeds in this county were recorded at over ninety miles an hour. We lost power for half a day, not in a tin pot state coup kind of way; rather the lights wouldn’t come on. The neighbouring village was out for twenty two hours eventually hooking up to amps and ohms on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, a pole had bit the dust in the middle of the field behind our house and all the village’s electricity was piling into the earth. Ever helpful, the gamekeeper of the neighbouring estate who own the field was reluctant to provide access to the field in order that the gallant knights of Scottish and Southern Electric resurrect their poles and lines, but emboldened by the spirit of Christmas, said gamekeeper relented and drove the few miles from his home and flung open the gates allowing the power to return to the village,
Oh for a jolly farmer!
The power outage, as power cuts are now known, was relatively brief compared to the one that Mdme and myself experienced during the nineteen eighties. Michael Fish has squeezed many miles out of his performance, pre-hurricane in 1987, but for me The great storm of the last century was the winds of early 1990 which would undoubtedly be etched on our memories had Fish’s zephyr of 1987 not done for most wobbly trees. In 1987 I was living in Winchester as a student and subsequently slept through much of the blow waking in the morning to a call from my mother asking if the block of flats in which I was living was still standing as she had just seen a similar looking building on the BBC news lying on its side. The lights were still working so I got up, got in the car and after negotiating a few blocked roads I wiggled my way out of Winchester and returned to the North West of England as I had several loads of washing that needed attending to. Six months later I paid rent on a flat through weekend work in the middle river and spent many hours with a wizard of a riverkeeper planking up exotic wood that had been toppled in the estate’s ornamental garden. Slicing trunks of two types of walnut and a banana yellow acacia into inch thick planks for seasoning in his garden before assuming the shape of elaborate cabinets and chests during his retirement, he was quite a keeper and a very clever man.
Funny feathers are starting to visit this parish. For the first time we have blackcaps on our birdfeeders and with the thistles and diddy seeds done for in the wood we have today been invaded by goldfinches and siskin. A Boxing day bumble down on the common revealed the Short eared owls in fine form and eager to display their hunting routine late in the afternoon, laying water has concentrated the mice, shrews and rabbits in tight and high areas and the SEO, who are happy to hunt in the daylight, are relatively easy to locate to record their performance on camera.
Over on the Itchen, after four months of funny pills, Otis was reintroduced to the shooting environment with a twenty minute bumble about the meadows, flushing a dozen or more birds significantly raised his pecker and after four figures of purple pills he is almost back to the dog he was. At home flashes of water on the meadows are irresistible for dibbling ducks and few are currently visiting our pond.
Returning to cricket, I caught the end of a bizarre first test match between South Africa and India. In which South Africa had reduced a world record second innings target of 448 to 18 from 20 balls with 4 wickets remaining. Unwilling to push gently for a win they shut up shop and played out for a draw with the final ball of the game being hit for a six. If it had been a team drawn predominantly from the Hindu Kush questions would have been asked.
Of England I despair, each morning Mdme and myself have turned on the radio around 5am. Short of a death in the family overnight there cannot be too many depressing ways to start the day. Ian Bell is the best bat in Britain with weakest mind, Nathan Lyon has just taken his first five wicket haul and passed a hundred test wickets yet he wouldn’t bowl his full quota of overs in our village side. There is one Antipodean bowler who can bowl at over ninety miles an hour and he has wrought havoc, England have four who can hit the ninety mark but none have been able to do so this series. Time to take a look at those diet sheets perhaps, if this performance is a reflection of a surfeit of mung beans, to quote some old french tart:
"Let them eat Cake"
In all my life I don't think I have ever met anyone called Shula, did it not catch on?
Sorry, another intermission:
Just googled “Shula” turns out there is a chain of steak houses across the pond bearing her name, good to know she turned out ok.
Anyway, I took in the Archers well into my mid twenties until the levy broke one summer when Tony Archer took himself off to wash his Landrover one afternoon in the middle of harvest.
At harvest time dirty Landrovers can wait.
I pushed the button on the radio and never visited Ambridge again.
How on earth Radio 4's Farming Today has survived is anyone's guess, shame it's only ten minutes long? For all those needing a field sports fix on a moving screen give "The Field Sports Channel" on Youtube a go, a regular and informative half hour slot on country sports and the environment in which they take place.
Tuesday 17 December 2013
In an effort to be current I'll sum the whole lot up in one hundred and forty characters,
And there I’ll break off,
Bake Off, Masterchef, Match of the day, Peppa Pig and much more besides, all have succumbed to Twitter’s insidious advance. Conversation has been suppressed, and comment on cake, chef or a goal has been reduced to a series of staccato statements unrecognisable from the ebb and flow of normal communication. I don’t know the bloke, but the bumptious bespectacled cove on Masterchef who can’t be trusted to judge the professional chefs, continually spouts a series of statements of no more than a hundred and forty characters, verbal tweets you might say.
The one light shining bright through a fug of bizarre tele-visual conversation?
Ant & Dec, kings of the jungle, although Phil and Kirsty come close for those accustomed to pavements.
Sorry got distracted,
The year in less than one hundred and forty characters:
2013 on this river? Well it began full of hope, but ended in despondency, and not a little despair (phew! Made it, with several letters to spa
For some of the guff that has gone on these parts over the past year see list below:
1: A water company pumped filtered sewage down the Bourne, a SSSI, throughout last winter in full face of the agencies deigned to protect them
2: Europe’s premier packer and bagger of salad fined £5000 for sending oodles of diesel down the same stream, £1000 less than a similar pollution incident 16 years before.
3: A report costing close to six figures by a company of international repute that promised to highlight what needed to be done to get the chalk streams in better shape was cocked up.
4: An in-line lake in the middle of a neighbouring town was allowed to spew algae and gunk into the Anton for much of the summer, a process that was easily avoidable.
5: The Salmon & Trout Association and Angling Trust invoked European law to call government agencies to account over their failure to protect the chalkstream environment, specifically the Hampshire Avon.
6:The impending National Trout and Grayling Strategy, the most muddled piece of thinking that, on this river, will achieve precisely five eights of F*** A**
7: We’ll leave for Len
I’d better stop there as the lady who sleeps on my left has just quizzed me over the large vein pulsing on the side of my head. For more information on the above list and much more besides, feel free to rummage around the rubbish written on here in the past twelve months. It is not the ravings of a man entering middle aged grumpiness, I tend to save that for the likes of Richard Madeley et al, it is genuine concern and frustration over mistakes that continue to be made, The disjointed and complicated cabal charged with protecting the chalkstreams have proved weak and inefficient in the face of big business and the bottom line and the fear remains that they will be powerless in the face of a thirsty shale gas juggernaut which looms like Grendel’s mother over the groundwater supply to these valleys.
to quote current parlance "come on guys, we really need to raise our game"
In the spirit of reconciliation and all things Nelson Mandela, if sensible hats are worn, things are done well and mistakes are minimised I will shout it form the rooftops.
I hereby resolve in a New yearish kind of way not to get too worked up about these issues in 2014 because the Tony Blair in me (a reccurring nightmare) suggests that "things can only get better", and anyway Ron the Reiki man says I should pay more attention to my chakras, particularly the one on the side of my forehead that has come close to bursting through the skin this past twelve months.
Pre Pokemon, Gameboy and skateboards this guy was manna from entertainment heaven for the pre pubescent of the seventies, Derek Griffiths played a part, but you sensed they'd done their money when Yuffy lifted a finger and a mouse popped out.
How much was Brian Cant paid for Chigley?and why was Yuffy reduced to making paper chains from newspaper and the test card so prominent throughout the seventies?
Fishing, yes fishing; there’s a pastime to sooth the soul.
On a personal note I fished the prettiest salmon river I have ever had the fortune to thrash to a foam and even caught a few fish on a fly. Coarse fishing was intermittent. A trip to France was postponed after one of our party fell seriously ill. But thankfully a blast of grays from a ray gun that would have left Hans Zarkov slavering got him back on the bank with a rod in his hand, and a recent foray across La Manche was done for by heavy rain and wind. At home the Trout fishing season was in the words of Ron Manager ( Ron is a man of many hats} "a game of two halves". May and June were productive with plenty of water and the height of the mayfly hatch was nothing short of spectacular, but a dry summer saw this river drop at a remarkable rate and the fishing suffered. Coloured water for much of the season reduced the opportunities for sight fishing and numbers for July and August were well down on recent seasons. Fishing improved in September but the poor water quality remained throughout the year. From January to March grayling fishing was hard work as decent winter rain lifted a river to bank high for the first time in many years. October and November saw considerable success for some, but numbers of fish around the two pound mark seem to be down.
Monday 2 December 2013
Europe’s premium washer and packer of bagged salad and leading grower of watercress, who last year sent oodles of diesel down the neighbouring Bourne, for which they received a derisory fine, held their annual meeting on what to do about saving the chalkstreams. Several attended and the oodles of publicity that graced both national and local press pointed the finger of the chalkstream’s travails and increased levels of phosphates at those using dishwasher tablets that drained into a septic tank and soakaway . There were some big names in the house and call me a cynic but there didn’t seem to be mention made in the minutes of any discussion on the contribution to the phosphate loads of the river caused by the production of watercress. Maybe the biscuits are good.
In the next few years the chalkstreams face an increased threat from further groundwater abstraction as the potential for shale gas exploration is explored. The recent publication of the HS2 report stated that water supply from an already depleted groundwater reserve in the Chilterns would be impacted upon, potentially well into the 2060’s an environmental impact that must be tolerated in order to forge closer links between the north and south. Environmental impact does not seem to overly concern our current governors, if push comes to shove the trashing of a chalkstream will be a price worth paying if it aids the economy. For the Dever, Anton and Bourne in the Test Valley, read the Chess, Misbourne and Beane in the Chilterns.
It may be time for the plethora of interested parties who claim interest in the chalkstreams to face up to the real threat facing these rivers and stop worrying about length of grass, genetic purity or the "Godhead" Victor Vole and focus on the the threat of increased abstraction, else the next generation of policy makers may not have much of a river left on which to issue their lofty edicts.
If you are a fishermen or have an interest in the Aquatic Environment, get on and join The Angling Trust, they are a beacon of light that has emerged from the maelstrom of confusion and obfuscation during past twelve months and are doing great things.