Wednesday 23 July 2014

A portal to middle earth and the aquatic Von Trapps

The principle reason for this second sudden post lies with the Nicholas Chientarolli Trio, whose agent is insistent that this site has failed to fulfil contractual requirements,

So here’s another film with musical accompaniment by THE NICHOLAS CHIENTAROLLI TRIO (Block capitals as requested)

Here’s hoping Nico has finally developed a feel for the flugelhorn.

The film strives to achieve an aquatic version of the Sound of Music, with the transit Von Trapps portrayed by a pod of grayling. The minnows are edelweiss, and the fronds of ranunculus are Alps swaying in the breeze/flow.

Somewhere in the mix is a juvenile brown trout, feeding hard. We are told that forty or more years of stocking with diploid trout will have rendered him extinct, but there he is, like will o the wisp, coping admirably with all around him bar a grumpy grayling.

National Strategies for Riverine Fishery Management - load of b*&*!"£s, Regional's the way

In all this media stuff, I forgot to mention the large hole in the riverbed that had passed unseen below luxuriant weed until the weed cut just past.

About a foot in diameter and a gateway to inner earth, it is manna to the likes of Jules Verne, and conclusive proof of the existence a subterranean world. In reality it is probably a dormant portal to a groundwater supply that was pressurised during the winter months and found a convenient release into a bend of the river that was at the time in a state of turmoil.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Crustacea are not to be trusted

The July weed cut and in a diminishing discharge, today’s clearing down of cut weed has taken twice as long as during the June weed cut. Fishing is also twice as hard, with gin clear water and educated fish, a fish off the top in these times is worth four fish in May. Many fish will only look up during the last hour of the day and stick to sub surface dainties for sustenance on sunny days.

The fringe is bursting into bloom with monkey flower, loosetrife, forget me knots and many species of mint most prominent, while along the edge of the river cress creeps out providing a welcome squeeze to the flow. Blanket weed is putting in an appearance although not to the extent of recent seasons, and ranunculus that this time last year was dying off in what was a pretty sick river, is still in pretty good nick. We have a huge Pike on our bottom bends that spends much of its time lurking in the shade of various willows and on the flight pond where lilies flower and fledgling Kingfishers dive in gin clear water for Roach, Rudd, Perch and Bream fry,

Here for the first time is a short feature showing life in the pond,

We are contractually obliged to provide a musical score by Nicholas Chientaroli Trio in their chosen (if not mastered) medium of free jazz,

for which I apologise,

Take it away Nicholas

Two, three, four

The principle weed in the pond is canadian pondweed, many aquaria will sell the stuff as an oxygenator, and on this bright sunny day the bubbles of oxygen it produces via photosynthesis can clearly be seen. Most with a modicum of CSE Biology will be aware that the stuff will switch to respiration when the sun goes down and the bubbles will be full of carbon dioxide which will reduce the dissolved oxygen content. Low pressure also reduces the ability of a body of water to hold onto oxygen, which is why fish with a high oxygen demand in weedy water in warm weather with thunder in the air can find life a struggle, although these Perch appear to be in mid-season from.

No large fish now remain in the pond, fifty double figure carp and a similar number of bream to eight pound have been dragged out by the Otter. For the fish populations in this river and those charged with their care, Tarka is fast becoming “the elephant in the room”

A decidedly dopey swan also hung around for a while before disappearing last week, and today one of our chooks, who obviously didn’t attend the Tufty Club, cashed in her chips on the road. I’m not normally one for road-kill but this was a young bird with jugs like Jordan and had led a good life, so into the freezer she went. The winter barley in the back field has been cut and most nights draws the attention of the owls of this parish, most of whom visit the sycamore tree ten yards from our bedroom window at some point of a night to conduct a reverie of screeches and hoots.

One month ago a Biosecurity alert flashed through the ether warning of the presence of Signal Crayfish in the middle Itchen. A non native species and carrier of the notifiable disease “Crayfish Plague” it is bad news for any populations of native crayfish. Provided it is not stressed a Signal Crayfish can cope with a dose of the pox, the native crayfish has no immunity and can succumb quite quickly. Populations of native crayfish in the Test and Itchen are few and far between, but if one is found, and powerful people are employed full time to seek them out with their traps and baits, security are summoned and pickets posted. I have only ever seen two native Crayfish in this river system, one in a stew pond on the middle river and the other in the middle of Whitchurch twenty five years ago. The signal crayfish was introduced to Europe from America in the 1960’s and into the UK in the 1970’s to replenish native populations of crayfish that had succumbed to the plague, unfortunately it was not known at the time that most signal crayfish were carriers of crayfish plague. At college during the mid 1980s when famine was all over the press and fish farmers were going to “feed the world” crayfish farming was promoted as a prime business opportunity and many lakes were seeded with signal crayfish. Successes were few and far between and yields were much lower than those promoting the schemes promised, one of the characteristics of the signal crayfish being that if it doesn’t like the pond it is in it will get up and walk and find a body of water more to its liking. I once worked on a fish farm on the River Chess that was riddled with the things, a large hatchery sat at the centre of the site and once a week eggs would be treated with the fungicide malachite green (since banned after it made the ears fall of some mice during trials in the US) the ponds that received the water flowing out of the hatchery were void of crayfish, they don’t like malachite green, so they climbed out and walked off to another pond.

A chap who had a contract with British Airways to supply flight meals for the nabobs in first class, regularly set traps in the gravel pits surrounding the site. Fishing one gravel pit for Tench early one morning I swung in a dozen or more signal crayfish that the chap later told me that at over 20cm in length would be too large for first class BA who despite being accommodating towards hand baggage had strict rules on oversized freshwater crustacea.

The chronic advance of the signal crayfish offers little succour for the native crayfish which may well suffer the same fate as the Dodo sometime this century.

I may be leaving myself a litle open at this point bit I should point out that I don’t dig crustaceans in any form,

never have, never will.

It’s spiders for some, latex and rubber for others but show me a crab or any of its associates and I am on the back foot. A scuttling habit that betrays their shiftiness they possess claws that can sever a limb in a trice.

Crabs are not to be trusted.

The lady who sleeps on my left will confirm that I once woke screaming following a surfeit of cheese, convinced that a six foot lobster had taken up residence under our kitchen table.

While working part time at a leading saltwater aquarium on the south coast that once boasted the largest tank (aquatic not artillery) in Europe, my phobia was picked up on at an early stage. Three weeks in I was asked to pick up a hammer and secure some floorboards in a raised floor behind one of the displays, Hammer raised I homed in on a nail protruding from the floor, only for the boards to part and the mother of all edible crabs (at least two feet across) was thrust towards me from a “colleague” concealed beneath the floor. I fled through the public aquarium, arms flailing while the mother of all crabs with a four inch nail protruding from her left claw was an attraction for quite some time, until the nail worked its way out.

No, crabs are not to be trusted, and positions must be defended with sufficient force.

Around the turn of the century, in an unintentional incident of carpet bagging, instigated by advice to opt out of Serps, Mdme and myself received a four figure windfall. Brief consideration was given to saving the money, paying off debts or investing wisely, which were swiftly dismissed, and the bunce blown on a three week trip to Sri Lanka to watch some cricket and sit on the beach. Not an official tour, we rocked up at Colombo with a six year old and eight year old to take in teeth in temples, orphaned elephants and a cricket crazy country. We hooked up with a tuk tuk driver called Jai who transported us everywhere and insisted we sit with his mates in the old Test Ground at Kandy for a ticket that cost fifty pence. Our hotel sat on top of the hill, had a swimming pool full of frogs and was surrounded by chattering monkeys. A spider as big as my hand resided briefly behind the loo in our room before it was carefully relocated outside at Madam’s request. Two weeks later we were ensconced in a bothy on a beach near Galle when, with night time ablutions complete, scuttling from underneath my bed came a crab, Madam returning from her toilet was unperturbed and bent down to relocate the errant crustacean when from over her shoulder came a shoe travelling at pace, that smote the invader and reduced it to a hundred pieces,

High on adrenalin standing on the bed fists tightly clenched and pumping, I was slowly coaxed back to planet earth. Child B, a budding cricketer was impressed with my throwing accuracy, but deep down the fatherly advice that I desperately want to pass on was that crabs are not to be trusted.

To carry on with cricket, Mdme and myself enjoyed the fourth day at the Lords Test. We are very fortunate to be chucked a couple of tickets by one of the regular rods, and one, both or child B and friends have been rocking up in the Member’s friends stand for over twenty years. I keep an unused ticket for the Ashes Test in 1993 in my wallet. I was due to attend but Mdme went into labour with Child A and I took in the game from the maternity ward, the ticket is regularly produced as evidence in discussions with Child A over sacrifices made over the past few years. In a West Indies Test Child B and myself were recruited as back ground eye candy to Channel 4’s pre match coverage and had to sit on a picnic table on the nursery ground next to a big West Indian man and a chap in stripey blazer and feign cricket based conversation, while Channel 4’s “stars” sallied forth on the issues of the day on the principle picnic table. Mike Atherton, Michael Holding and Simon Hughes all came over for a chat once a wrap had been called, and Mark Nicholas sailed by summoning subordinates, make-up and hair.

Top tier of the Warner stand is the goal, but seats are not allocated so a queue forms from 8am of members and friends. Once your seat is secured it is yours for the day a Duchess could dump her tiara on her seat in the Warner Stand and pootle off for a circuit of the ground in the knowledge that all will be in order on her return. Champagne corks are popped from 9.30 am onwards and many have dozed off by the start of play.

The men’s loos in the Warner stand have some of the few urinals at Test grounds that provide a clear view of play, I once relieved myself next to Brian Barwick former CEO of the FA, at the time I was on the committee of Barton Stacey Football Club and was particularly irked over the FA’s decision to ban any reporting or recording of Under 8 football results, while he battled to maintain a steady stream I struck, and in full flow, berated him on the FA’s position and also on their “Respect” campaign that grass roots clubs were earnestly trying to implement while the professional game paid it lip service. Barwick’s response of zipping up his flies and exiting stage left seemed a little unsatisfactory and I was more than a little pissed off, although the few drops spilt on his decidedly pricey shoes served as some recompense. I could go on, and have a fund of tales of brief encounters with all manner of celebs and sportsmen. Cricket highlights include an ugly double hundred by Graeme Smith that was not the most intriguing day’s cricket but a young Andrew Flintoff who never gave up despite Smith’s turgidity was an inspiration for a young Child B, and ticking the box that you have seen Tendulkar, Lara, Pietersen, Murali, Warne, Ambrose, Kallis may bore the next generation but may also serve to keep a flame burning in later life. The atmosphere at South Africa’s reintroduction to Test Cricket in 1994 was unforgettable, and the tension times ten that comes with watching Ashes cricket contrasts completely with the conviviality of the Lords crowd.

It is one of our favourite days out, and this year was no exception as the result hung in the balance for much of our stay throughout the fourth day.

Graduation day for Child A last week and a proud day for Madam and myself as Child A picked up her first class gong with honours. Sandy Toksvig head honcho of the establishment wore a hat and gave a brilliant speech. We returned home, pausing only for excessive consumption of Italian food and wine at one of Winchester’s finest Trattatatoria, The final pieces of the postgraduate study jigsaw are falling into place and will commence once a four week tour of Europe is completed.

Not on an open top bus,

but with a friend on an inter rail ticket, beginning in Bulgaria and ending on the beach in Croatia.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Chris and Glenn, Diamond Nights and Pulling Muscles

On the Dever conditions remain good with gin clear water and reasonable hatches of fly. This time last year blanket weed was blooming, weed was losing condition, and fishing was becoming increasingly difficult; this year fish continue to be caught although many are becoming increasingly fickle. Today a seriously senior fish that sat under the trunk of a large willow opposite the bench on the bottom bends for several years, was hooked and lost at the net. What caused its error of judgement in the middle of the afternoon on a bright June day we can only surmise, in cricketing terms the fish was in and seeing it like a football having grown large after accurately picking the googlies and flippers that man had flicked past his nose. The fish has returned to its lair and weighs between six and seven pounds with a commitment to stick to sub surface feeding and may offer another chance later in the season when nymphs are permitted, but I’d put money on it’s appearance at the same venue on the opening day of next season,

Otters permitting.

Parts of this river are currently being hammered by hungry Otters.

I could go on, but will refrain for fear of offending, but fish populations are seen as little more than fodder in some short sighted quarters.

The short stretch of the Itchen that I intermittently fall in and out of, does not seem to be faring as well. Flows remain good and weed growth is ok but hatches of fly and rising fish are not what they have been during the previous two seasons.

Back on the Dever we have quite a few Pike and adult eels with a mind to spawning are beginning to make their way downstream. The European eel population has been described as suffering a collapse during the last thirty years, numbers of adult eels in this river are certainly down and fewer eels are now caught commercially from this river compared to thirty years ago. Over exploitation in freshwater is not the cause of their decline, both this river and the neighbouring Itchen supported a commercial eel fishery using methods that had not changed for hundreds of years. The decline is evident across Europe and as with the Atlantic Salmon, another animal that splits its time between freshwater and the sea and encounter the travails of international waters, Anguilla Anguilla is an incredibly complex creature that may require a little help at an international level, although reports of increasing runs of glass eels in the Severn system offer some encouragement.

Anyone visiting Romsey in the coming weeks may care to tool down to the public park and river bank where, as part of the Romsey Festival, a group of locals and an environmental artist are aiming to raise awareness of the chalkstream environment, which many in the town may have fallen out with during the winter months as their front rooms became part of the chalkstream environment.

After visiting Romsey it is well worth sneaking the back way into the New Forest. Madam and myself needed to be out of the house for a day so we headed down the west side of Southampton water, taking in Eling Tide Mill, before entering Hythe for a coffee on the waterfront and a quick deco at the train on the Victorian pier that serves the Hythe to Southampton passenger ferry. Lepe next, a bit out of the way, but a great place for a picnic on an interesting beach with country park that still entertains the idea of dogs, which pleased Otis immensely. Ignoring Exbury Gardens where Child B once mistook large lily pads for stepping stones and discovered that he could not walk on water, and is now ridiculously overpriced, to peer briefly at Beaulieu before our last stop of the day at Lymington, a place that we have visited many times over the years and whose “chi chi” factor rises with each visit but still does great chips that were eaten by the harbour. A welcome recharge and a holiday in a day, the temptation is often to drive somewhere for a few hours in order to have a day out but it is very easy to forget what is to be had closer to home.

Last week we received our annual summer inspection by village elders. A difficult crowd who I have had dealings with on several occasions, they massed on the lawn to take in a fantastic falconry display before clearing a table bearing an enormous tea. Alan, the falconry man, always puts on a good show and brought many birds, including some really interesting owls and a Falkland Isle Caracara, a funny falcon that followed Alan around like a dog at heel making a right racket.

The man whose voice I have fallen asleep to on many occasion has now retired. Tributes flooded in, most concentrated on his no nonsense interviewing style and intolerance of flim flam, particularly when presented with an oily politico. Few mentioned his passion for fly fishing or his support for angling causes. I once shared a petri dish with the bloke on a Riverfly Partnership aquatic invertebrate day a few years ago. He wouldn't remember me, but across a four inch plastic dish with a pipet and tweezers Jeremy Paxman came across as a top bloke, very bright with a complete absence of airs and graces.

Football, well punditry mainly, as two weeks of middle aged males in shirts with big collars sitting smugly with their legs open inanely opining on games that they are paid to watch are starting to give me the pip,

I shall attend to Phil Neville presently

Groovy Lineker and Forrest Shearer et al’s contribution to the BBC’s coverage offer little value to the licence payer, but well done to Rio Ferdinand for using a nine letter word following the Brazil v Chile game (delicious)

On the other side the description of the match provides a field for an interminable battle of the tenses with Glen Hoddle and Sally Gunnel’s twin Andy Townsend in the thick of the action. Fabio Cannavaro remains stuck in a Dolce & Cabbana advert ( the label on the tight black undercrackers that I purchased on the market at 3 for £5 confirms that this spelling is correct) and Martin O’Neil has been summoned from the subs bench to string some sentences together.

TV sport’s fixation with using past players as pundits and commentators is contributing to a dumbing down of sport presentation, I have not seen him present on TV, but I have heard it said that following the curtailment of his football career it was revealed that Michael Owen is crafted entirely of wood and was first plucked from Gepetto’s bottom drawer, marked “requires more attention”

Chrissy Waddle is an exception and it is now clear who was the mental powerhouse behind the Chris and Glenn eighties combo who came up with the smash hits, Diamond Lights, Cool for Cats, Pulling Muscles and Up the Junction.

Quick thinking, bold and confident in his opinion he is a diamond amongst the Coles (Andy, Andrew, Ashley, Joe, Carlton, Old King, etc ete)

And then came Phil Neville,

Embarking on his punditry odyssey during the keenly anticipated competition opener for Old Albion against the Eye-ties (there speaks one raised on “Warlord” and “Battle & Action”) Phil was keen to gain gravitas and demonstrate that he could work a syllable or two.

From this day forward he would be known as Phillip.

His delivery, in the style of a man in a mac on a late night train, leaning in to a vulnerable lady with filth foremost on his mind, drew mixed reviews.

Why make his punditry debut in this game?

Mark Lawrenson is a safe pair of hands who has operated considerably above the bar set in recent weeks, why not stick with him and give Phillip nee Phil, a few Ryman league Two games to get his eye in,


Because Phillip nee Phil, is an ex footballer whose name is Neville and has a brother that has received much attention for his football punditry on another channel, although this has primarily been built on the back of a multitude of technological bells and whistles. Never mind Phillip’s inability to carry out the task presented, lack of intonation or knowledge of how to speak into a microphone, he had the right name and that was good enough for middle management decision makers at the BBC who must now grapple with the decision of which Neville next?

Odds are shortening on Tracey Neville for the quarter finals, Aaron Neville is a “shoe in” for the semis and brief interjections of Ivor Novello’s dittys at specific points during the final should provide some high points.

You heard it here first.

On the radio, the BBC can lay claim to England’s “stand out” performer of this world cup. Tim Vickery is the BBC’s South American football correspondent and has lived and breathed South American football for over twenty years. Where Forrest Shearer remarks “that fella in the white shirt with the number ten on the back kicked it with his right foot towards the goal” (for which Forrest is rewarded with a six figure plus salary). Vickery will proffer information on the striker’s performance for his club over the last few seasons, his first choice of easy listening music and his grandmother’s favoured nightcap. He mines a deep seam of southern hemisphere football knowledge and adds colour to the piece where TV punditry offers drab and stark negative.
Vickery is not an ex player, but a great communicator with a wide knowledge of his subject. Retired professional sportsmen do not always meet this remit, no matter how good they look in a sharp shirt, tight jeans, fresh out of the gym. Vickery should be at the centre of the BBC’s world cup coverage, for the first fortnight he has been consigned to late night work on the radio, which suggests he does not possess a sharp shirt and tight trousers, has not played the game professionally or his legs did not part to the width required while uttering a few words on a game that we have all just watched. Never mind the insight that he may have been able to provide, not only on the nub of the situation but the little bits around the edge.

BT Sports foresaw the dearth of personality in the mainstream channel's coverage and pitched the Baker & Kelly show between the first two games of each day. A supreme communicator with a spectacular grasp of english language, Baker does not have a past playing career, attend a gym or don high collared shirts, although he did shift some Daz. He may drink a little wine and ruffle a few feathers now and again, but he is a prime example of skilful broadcasting. His Saturday morning show on Radio 5 is the only show to which I will gather the family around the wireless in a 1950’s kind of way to smoke pipes and feast on powdered egg for two hours,

If we are in 2014 mode and are busy, we may catch the podcast later in the week. He has won countless Sony radio awards, his absence from the daily BBC radio schedule is beyond me.

Switching sports, cricket just about gets away with the ex player thing. Jon Agnew had a career in local radio prior to his elevation to TMS and Ed Smith, comes across as a bright light who will get better and better, but Simon Mann’s skill behind the microphone shines through, vindicating his career choice of professional broadcaster over gun running following his release from an Equatorial Guinea Gaol.

Tennis on the radio is poorer for John Inverdale’s absence. Bumbling about Crystal Palace on a family day out a few years ago we took in Kelly Holmes completing endless circuits of the athletics training track as a warm up to an important race at the Crystal Palace athletics meeting. Inverdale walked by and the lady who sleeps on my left remarked that “he was no looker” to which I replied “maybe, but he is very tall.”

Height now seems to preclude professional broadcasters from presenting tennis on the radio.

Inverdale’s place this year has been taken by Marion Bartoli, height 5 ft 7in.

The testosterone level of Radio 5 live’s afternoon radio has been turned down as atonement for Inverdale’s brief burst of louche vernacular last year and long periods now pass in the manner of Loose Women.

Adjusting the balance button on my radio does not rectify this,

Is it me?

Hermit’s Beard – Check
Loin Cloth – Check
Fist suitably clenched to wave at the outside world – Check

To the cave!