Wednesday 23 April 2014
Recent weeks have seen a reduction in the amount of chain sawing, the carnage in the wood will wait until autumn as final preparations must be made for the impending arrival of the Trout anglers. Our regulars arrived for lunch a few weeks ago, tide marks on trees betrayed the highest winter water level which occurred around Valentine’s Day, and several expressed surprise at the river’s current level having retreated well within its banks. Last week I trundled around with the tractor and mower, last year at the same time of year I did the same and repeatedly got the tractor stuck and had to resort to a winch and the full gamut of swear words to extract it from the mire. This year the banks have dried out to such an extent that I hardly made a skid mark. I have said it on several occasions in recent years but during periods when it is unsustained by rain this river seems to drop at a far quicker rate than it did ten years ago. Water quality remains a problem in this river during the spring months with a large amount of brown gunk present that lifts from the river bed in the sunshine, before breaking up in broken water to add a milky hue to what should be a gin clear river.
Weed has been cut here in April for the first time in a few years, particularly on the top shallows where the ranunculus grew clear of the water by the second week of April. It was the same during the last “once in a hundred years” conditions in 2001 when ranunculus flourished throughout the summer, unfortunately it failed the following summer in the kind of “Boom and bust” scenario that Gordon assured us he had abolished, I won’t mention the brainless sale of a nations’s gold at a giveaway price and a vindictive raid on personal pensions.
Sorry, mustn’t do politics,
back to the aquatic environment.
She had yet to return to her home.
If you are in Romsey during the festival get on down to the Memorial Park and show your support.
This week I took the first step of twelve on the road to recovery from a surfeit of shenanigans in the chalkstream environment. My exasperation may have become apparent over the past two years, and on occasion even bubbled over into despair. It seems trite to compare this process to a recovery from addiction, but forgive me if I suggest that this winter saw rock bottom reached and a corner turned. Twice in the past fortnight we have been visited by significant “others” from the complicated cabal charged with restoring the chalkstream environment and attaining the standard required by EU Habitat directive.
In a refreshing shift in position, the supercilious tone that emanated on occasion from other quarters of the cabal seems somewhat diminished and successive afternoons of sensible discussion on chalkstream management were a welcome surprise.
River Restoration Strategies are a good thing, but this river was let down to the tune of nearly six figures, by a two year report that cannot be relied upon to recommend a course of action for significant stretches of this river. A strong report would have provided the strategy team with a substantial tool with which to persuade riparian owners and keepers of particular restorative courses of action.
On a personal note I was particularly upset by the reports findings as for the two stretches of river that I look after it intimated that I had not been doing my job properly. On the second of recent visits the conclusion was reached that the report's findings were wrong, all is well on this stretch of river and we had in fact been doing some good things.
Not that any endorsement was needed, press on regardless was tattooed across this arse at a young age.
River Restoration isn’t all about Victor Vole, Dickie the Damsel Fly or preserving genetic purity, it’s about the whole kit caboodle. Man is a part of the chalkstream environment and has been for thousands of years, he has an important role to play in it, so long as he takes care to do so in a sympathetic way.
Thanks for coming out, and the refreshing change in mindset and tone is most welcome and encouraging, but lets just take it one step at a time.
On a lighter note, I was contacted by somebody who enquired as to why Trout liked Olives, and did it matter if they were soaked in oil, brine or stuffed with a Jalapeno. Images of green and black olives bobbing downstream sprung to mind and I will now take a closer eye as to what the anglers are using on the end of their line when they record their catch as falling to an olive.
Monday 21 April 2014
La la la la............ etc etc
On days like these when skies are blue and fields are green
On the waterfront, Marlon was conspicuous by his absence but “The Bigo” had been chucked up, not in his honour, but as nod to the importance of the port. Erected during the city’s tenure as European city of culture it was designed by Renzo Piano and is reassuringly over engineered, it is inspired by a ship’s derrick that lifts loads into the hold. The structure dominated the harbour and included a lift of sorts that purported to be the finest view in Genoa, and did indeed provide a great view of the water and boats, even for one not so comfortable with heights.
Madam thought she had stumbled across the world’s biggest Plasma screen TV and waited patiently for Pointless, but it was a side viewing window for the gargantuan tank and the two dolphins who sped into view were immediately christened Xander and Richard
Emerging blinking into the sun we wandered the streets of the medieval quarter for the remainder of the day, taking in all manner of shops some of which were marginally bigger than our airing cupboard. A dog friendly city, they are frequent visitors to shops, sometimes on a lead, sometimes not. A dachschund we encountered on the second floor of a department store contemplated a purchase in the haberdashery department, which in the grand scheme of things didn't seem too remarkable until you consider that the only way it could have got up to the needles and pins department was via the escalator.
Dining in a covered arcade at the unimaginatively titled but highly recommended Europa Restaurant we were served and entertained by Charles, a genial cove of Nigerian descent with a razor sharp wit and fluent in ten languages. He ran through half of his repertoire during our short stay and ought to be employed in the United Nations. The food was ok, but Charles was the highlight of the evening, as he thanked our country for colonising his in the Nineteenth century providing him with the opportunity to learn the beautiful English Language.
The next day we shuffled along Via Garibaldi, a remarkable street of palaces built by the nobs in the sixteenth century, to Palazzo Rosso, which was red and adorned with something called “Stucco”. Elaborately decorated inside with gilt, fancy frescos and spooky cherubs, the paintings weren’t up to much and the main drawing room was closed for restoration, so a chap in a smart jacket who spoke six languages and possibly worked at the Palazzo, asked us if we had a head for heights. In a pan european mix up of languages “Si” was confused with “No” “Bonjour” and “Uno Cerveza Por favour” and we were whisked up to the roof. Not to a window with safety rails looking out from under the rafters but a small platform precariously perched on the ridge of the six storey Palazzo where, if I had opened my eyes, I would have taken in one of the finest views in Genoa.
Next, an afternoon perusing downtown Genoa , where there are big shops and every ten yards a beggar on his knees in the middle of the pavement with his hand held out. I am sure terrible circumstances have led them to this way of life, but several old boys spent all day on their knees on cold concrete. Five minutes on my knees and the agonyometer soon starts to rise, as an opening gambit to getting your life back on track try standing up to shake your plastic cup. One chap lay face down in the street for much of the day which added to the drama of the begging experience, before we saw him strolling past our hotel later in the evening with several bags of shopping and a slightly scuffed nose.
The crusades feature highly in many of the churches, and the Genoese flag mimics the flag of St George. One small church in the shopping district had enough Knights templar imagery to cure Dan Brown’s erectile dysfunction at a single stroke,
Should he ever suffer from such a condition,
Which I am sure he doesn’t, as he’s virility personified on the inside jacket of his books......... Grrrrrr!.
With a twitch of the eye (it was very strong coffee) we moved on to our next Funicular, a proper train type, rack and pinion affair that we honoured through the medium of song. As our ascent commenced our lung bursting “Jammo, Jammo, Funiculi, Funicular” drew mixed reviews from the remainder of the carriage which consisted mostly of casalinga and kids on their way back from school. We curtailed our rendition after the first verse and peered down at our shoes for the remainder of the journey.
We descended in silence, bar a brief burst of Torno a Surriento which seemed to upset some, who were understandably proud of their home town.
More shopping for Madam so I exited stage left and headed for the home of The Doge, The Palazzo Ducale, and with the furniture cleared out, now an art gallery hosting some swirly if disappointingly undisturbing pictures by Edvard Munch which was ok if a little limited. Downstairs, two hours flew by in a exhibition of photos by Gianni Berengo Gardin, a Genoese photographer who took photos when skill was required and cameras were not idiot proof. He turned down a proposal to join Robert Cappa et al at Magnum (nothing to do with Tom Selleck) preferring to work off his own bat; principally in Italy but also in other areas of Europe.
Culture done, it was time for food. A restaurant was identified via the internet and we set out on our quest. After an hour bumbling about little streets, Madam’s ire, fuelled by no little hunger, brought about a relatively bloodless coup. I was required to relinquish my role as navigator, maps were handed over and I subsequently followed on a few yards behind as Madam forged a path to a restaurant titled Il Genovese.
I’d go again. But stay at the Bristol Palace hotel. it's something else.
To the extent that Bristol Palace are now our football team of first choice.
Tuesday 15 April 2014
Not an April sabbatical but a brief period of tail chasing and a trip abroad, more of which to follow.
But first here’s Mike with the obituaries:
The Tree on Hairy Hill
There is a hill that borders a straight stretch of the A30, that for years played host to a tree that stood sentinel for miles around. A distinctive landmark for those who knew in which direction to look, that I nearly toppled while learning to reverse a tractor and trailer while employed as corn cart at the age of nineteen on the estate that farmed the hill. The venerable chap whose instruction I was under advised that “ yon tree can be seen from half of Hampshire” which in my enlightened nineteen year old way I instantly dismissed and reversed on regardless, but he wasn’t far wrong, and now it lies prone following what was for trees, a spiteful winter.
A triumvirate of saplings are vying for succession, but I will have long cashed in my chips before their profile is visible from this valley and beyond.
One Fat Lady
A regular visitor to these quarters, and a good friend of my employer, she may not have been to everyone’s taste, but she wasn’t a bad old fruit and who needs anodyne?
A source of great encouragement and advice when it came to words, she even gave this written rubbish the odd mention in books, we also shared a common bond over black pudding and a wide range of foods that many would have us discard.
Dear Mrs Townsend,
I am writing to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your books.
I too am partial to putting words into sentences and once attended a writer’s retreat holiday at which you were to appear. Unfortunately due to an overbooking I was moved to the group hosted by a second cousin of Jeffrey Archer, as a result I was unable to tell you this in person.
From an early age, books were forced upon my brother and I by my mother, who held sway at a library in the provinces, and kept her numbers up by taking home twenty to thirty books a week for our various pets, who had inadvertently elected to join the library.
It was in one of these piles of books, sandwiched between the dog’s bed and the goldfish tank, that I first came across your work, discarded by a dog who would look at nothing but a Daphne Du Maurier.
Moley is brilliant, and is read over and over again in this house,
Thank you very much,
I (along with many others) remain, Madam,
your most humble and obedient servant
C.A de Cani
Fishing, The River and for me The "Trip to Italy" (Coogan and Brydon take note) to follow