Wednesday 22 October 2014

Euphoria followed, so we skipped home, pausing only for pints

Recent rain has added a taint to the river that continues to maintain a reasonable level. Weed has been cut back and the fringe knocked off to a height that still provides a viable winter habitat for creatures that enjoy such spaces. A few olives continue to put in an appearance and fish that have no interest in spawning continue to fill their boots. Twelve months ago several keepers in the upper reaches dropped to their knees to pray for rain or, inspired by all things "strictly", jigged around with the odd ronde to invoke rain gods to fill the river. A wet winter would be welcome as it is undoubtedly an aid to performing the task well, and in my capacity as water supply manager for these environs, recent records confirm that there is sufficient space in the ground to accommodate significant precipitation.

Planning ahead (a rare occurrence in these befuddled parts) much of this winter will be spent chainsaw in hand dealing with trees that tumbled over last winter. The forces of crack willow who,after last winter's out of bank experience, can lay claim to the upper hand, will once again be re-engaged and forced to bow to the shock and awe of my saw to promote biodiversity in the chalkstream environment.

The newspapers from yesterday and today, carry the tale of a Swedish Navy feverishly hunting down a secretive soviet submarine that has bumped into one of their archipelagos. Principle evidence for invasion by the Russian Bear is a reported sighting of a shadowy figure by a bay,

who, it has now been revealed, was a pensioner fishing for trout.

Here on the Dever we keenly anticipate a visit from NATO's Baltic Fleet to inspect our fun bunch whose days of peeking for Ivan have long been been replaced by an ambition to put a fish on the bank.

There's no secret submarines here.

A few Fridays ago I was kindly invited to lunch by a lake further down the valley with optional fishing. I've bumbled along several times in years gone by to talk shop, take a ribbing for rubbish that I have written and touch base with keepers who I may not have seen for an entire season. As ever there was exasperation at guff emanating from the complicated cabal who lay claim to the title of saviors of the chalk stream environs, although fewer grumbles than previous years. Food was fantastic although I didn't do much fishing: too busy chatting or ear-wigging discourse on best methods for fly fishing for pike, which I will be implementing sometime this winter.

Thanks for the invite, it's always a great day and a great opportunity to talk.

Two Sunday's ago The lady who sleeps on my left and myself combined a trip to hang curtains and rail in Child A's new digs, that she shares with three others ( one of whom is a semi professional wrestler - and there's an exotic tale of items that have entered my washing machine to be told another day) to take in Lee Mack at the Guildhall. Prior to Mr Mack, who Madam and myself both greatly favour, particularly on WILTY. and while curtains were being chucked up, I popped next door to a beautiful British pub to take in England's Euro qualifier against Estonia with some of Fratton's finest. I'll admit to feeling a little under-dressed sans the requisite ink, but a first half passed without incident both on the pitch or in the pub, and I didn't mention the home town team who have experienced a spectacular decline in recent times. Six years on from winning the FA Cup they languish in the bottom division of the football league, which will make some in Southampton smile, but the people of Pompey could be forgiven for asking,

What happened there?

Lee Mack was ill, but still brilliant and soldiered on, dealing efficiently with the inevitable hecklers before exiting stage left after just over an hour.

One week on and Madam and myself have just returned from thirty six hours in Dublin to take in Dara O'Briain at the Vicar St theatre, a tiny venue that sold out in minutes once the dates were tweeted on Twitter six months ago.

Pick your spot, and it is possible to fly to and from Dublin from our local airport in less time, and for fewer pennies, than the train ticket from Winchester to Waterloo and back. A fifty minute flight dropped us off in Dublin in time for breakfast at O'Brien's where a homeward bound Hibernian took an immediate, and understandable, shine to Madam and made great play while I punished the bacon and white pudding.

Relinquishment from imagined clutches was swift and decisive, and we headed into the heart of Temple bar to ditch our cases before tackling the town where we found the pin we dropped on Google maps stuck smack in the middle of O'Connell Street.

It's called the spire, is very high and there is much mischief to be made with statues a camera and attention to depth of field, that I won't chuck up here for fear of offending.

Later on while Madam rummaged for smalls on Grafton St, I entered Peter's pub for a post prandial pint, the cost of which shook me somewhat and endorsed a burgeoning suspicion that this city was not the cheapest place in which to hang my hat. However the chat was great, the decor comforting, more seventies sitcom than the clich├ęd "Irish bar" to be found in many a city, and after a five minute discourse mostly on the merits of Italian beer, the conclusion drawn was:

"who'd a thought a bunch of fancy cooks and bottom pinchers could come up with some good beer amongst all that bunga bunga"

the price of my pint of froth was soon forgotten.

Which may have been the plan all along.......Doh!

Craic costs

A surfeit of bacon, cabbage and mash was taken in the early evening with wine and no dark brew before Madam and myself sloped along to Vicar St to take in Dara O'Briain and a night that will live long in the memory. Lee Mack may have been ill, and the Portsmouth Guildhall may not posess the conviviality of Vicar St, but I doubt given the same stage Mr Mack could top "The Dara" who, eschewed the option of a warm up act, and completed over two hours of razor sharp stand up working the room magnificently. If you get the chance to see his UK tour next year, don't pass up the opportunity.

A euphoric Madam and myself, linked arms and skipped home, pausing briefly for pints.

Trinity College the next morning, an oasis of tranquillity and a buff library that could draw the eye of some I know for more than a week. A lightening lunch next before a flight home to the river, and a week of work before heading off to the Moselle next week to resume our 2014 tour of the axis powers with five days of chub chasing, wine tasting and Germanic japes (report to follow).

It may seem like a lot of gadding about but , but to quote Prodnose,

" we only walk this earth for eighty or so summers at best"

and in footballing terms Madam and myself would hope that we are five or ten minutes into the second half so forgive us a "redbull" moment with our frantic running about.

Or perhaps it was just a calendar cock up when booking the comedy tickets many months ago.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Fences and walls, the future of boundary demarcation

Plenty of fish caught last week including several off the top. The dry spell of weather has broken and the first significant rain has fallen for a few weeks. Gaps in the weather invoke a trickle of olives and some fluttering sedge that fish are finally taking an interest in, along with good numbers of trout, several large grayling of well over a pound have also been put on the bank. The weed remains in fantastic condition in a reasonable flow fro this time of year, there are a few gaps in the bars which is not weed weakened by low flow, high temperatures and the proliferation of filamentous algae but we have had swans at work and the finger of blame for most of the gaps in the weed can be pointed firmly in their direction. Recent misty mornings have also revealed the stunning results of the labours of legions of spiders in the meadow where silver webs are draped liberally from every point in what must be the very image of hell for an arachnophobe. This week a squadron of graculus strafed the valley for the first time this autumn, we haven't been bothered much all summer but the unmistakable shadow of Noggin the Nog's parrot cast an ominous shadow on any fish of less than a couple of pounds in weight who will be an easy meal to a lazy bird. On this stretch this is the last week of our trout fishing season, and a time that traditionally sees me cutting all the hedges around here as the next few weeks will be hastily taken up readying the river before stepping discretely away and averting my gaze as the brown trout get jiggy. I fully understand the environmental boon that is a flourishing hedgerow, but as this broken body eases into a hot bath dosed with embrocation, liniment and a glass of wine for succour, there is a case to be made for fences and brick walls as the future of boundary demarcation.

Earlier this year, this small splash in a puddle bordering an insignificant bay of the great lakes of the internet, featured a short piece of filmic flim flam.
Sans Free jazz, it starred a Brown Trout that fed hard on mayflies for over forty five minutes; although the film was mercifully edited down to ten. Our hero still remains, she has a distinctive mark on her left flank, and has sat in front of the fishing hut for much of the season and regularly gave a repeat performance of the filmed feasting. It has seen more artificial flies than any other fish in this river, is a little more circumspect now and decidedly camera shy. She is well over three pounds and will spawn on the shallow upstream from where she lies, if she stays where she is for the remainder of the winter she will be an easy target for stabby avian predators, if she drops back into deeper water she will be a sucker for good old tarka who stalks this valley in increasing numbers and apparently only eats eels; which if true, let's draw up a couple of columns with tarka's travails and merits on one side and anguilla anguilla's on the other. The european eel is a remarkable creature that deserves far more than the role of otter fodder.

To return to our heroine, if she makes next year she will be a fine fish of over four pounds and as wise as wise can be, and will hopefully continue her run in front of the fishing hut, if a vice and feathers were staked to the bed of the river she could tie every fly in the book. To pop a few balloons, she is a diploid brown trout probably stocked several years ago at a few ounces, been subject to a significant amount of natural selection, although many will insist she is wild (whatever wild is in this river) As of next year we will not be permitted to continue with this practice after the implication of a National Strategy that was driven home by supercilious twerps befuddled in the fug of muddled thinking that prevailed in these valleys and many others five to ten years ago

Regional strategies will always be the way where rivers are concerned.

Apologies for returning to this thorny issue, I will calm down, adjust my loin cloth and retreat to my cave with fist waving accordingly.

Or perhaps not,

Last week, I received another badge of office to wear alongside, Riverkeeper, Fishery Manager, Fish Farm Manager, Biosecurity Manager, Assistant Biosecurity Manager, Live Animal Transport Manager, Keeper of the Aquatic Medical Records, Keeper of the SSSI, the Man who went to mow a meadow, keeper of the keys and resident fruitcake.

Following an annual visit from Environmental Health to poke and prod at the borehole, I have been appointed the Domestic Water Supply Manager for these environs.
My duties are to regularly check the water supply and keep records of inspection for an annual audit which will probably read as follows:

cleaned teeth in the morning and evening, cup of tea tasted ok,

writ 365 times.

I must then produce a map clearly showing the site of the borehole and keep it on file, lest I forget its location, In the event that I suffer a complete black out I must keep written contingencies of action to be taken should the pump fail or the well run dry, which will read as follows:

Use bottled water until problem has passed.

For taste, our water supply is the envy of all who visit, it is as hard as nails and the purchase of expensive kettles and irons is a pointless exercise. It is a steady ten degrees celsius and completely untreated. It currently supplies water to four people, there is no evidence of contamination in extensive records stretching back many decades, but Environmental Health would prefer it to be treated,

It will remain untreated

The chap was probably paid a salary that attracted the highest rate of income tax and we bowled along famously during a two hour inspection of the site, and how we laughed as we worked our way through a sixteen page form and what appeared to be the mother of all box ticking exercises, but with two sites a few miles from here owned by an oil company with fracking reasonably foremost in its mind (not heard too much about that of late, Oh yes, general election pending) closer monitoring of groundwater may not be such a bad idea.
My daily toilet has now assumed a more scientific air and the moniker of Domestic Water Supply Manager coupled with the requisite high viz and size nine toe-tectors may serve to open a few doors when I have to knock hard on some Fracker's door asking for an explanation as to why my cup of tea has taken a bit of a turn.

Last week Showbiz came to stay, and big budget stuff at that. Confidentiality clauses were produced and far be it from me to spoil the result of the next series of "Britain & Ireland's next top model" but I remain tantastic and have high hopes of a contract.

Confidentiality is paramount in circles such as this, what goes on in showbiz circles stays in showbiz circles, so once you have read this written rubbish please dispose of it by any means. A dozen or more crew, make up, hair, gofers, a particularly humorous cameraman with a fund of tales and a host of assistants with cameras, a witty director, a lovely stills photographer for the subsequent book and a star of the show who has been described as TV royalty and was absolutely charming.
It will be on the TV sometime next year, and if you have visited here and half recognise the place in the background, the bridges were made to look level during the edit which is why it may seem slightly unfamiliar.

Last week the family name cropped up on the Sunday politics show, the forename however belonged to my much cleverer younger brother, who gamely endured so many fishing holidays in his childhood despite having no interest in the sport. He is a bit of a whizz with planning transport systems in and around London and was in debate with a couple of politicians on a magical ride called the Bakerloo Line. I didn't understand much of it, and when we last spoke, the best I could proffer in acknowledgement was brief speculation on Andrew Neil's hair.

While we are on London, Madam, Myself and Otis headed to Das Capital last Sunday to take in the tower and the million ceramic poppies that are currently being installed in the moat to mark the centenary of World War I. Otis has never been to central London before but with the spirit of Ant & Bee he boarded the train at Richmond and plodded up the South Back without batting an eye, crossed Tower Bridge took in the Poppies, which make quite an impact, negotiated the huge crowds, enjoyed a picnic on a bench with a couple of tramps and their bottles of booze (me - bottle of beer, madam - Pimms and lemonade, mit cheese,apples and crisps) before heading down the other side of the river across the wobbly bridge and back to Waterloo to return to Richmond.

If Leslie grows tired of having Mr Carlton-Hayes under his feet around the house and urges him to reopen his bookshop. Kevin Pietersen is a shoe in for the role of assistant now that Moley's no longer with us. He's shifted a few units judging by this week's furore.

He's selling a book, and he's selling it very well!

Coming to a charity shop near you six months hence.

The Bake Off final is nigh and while it is amongst our most favoured viewing, (the French version we caught last year during our sojourn in Champagne has added a comedic twist) I do have a little grievance. The wine police undertake an interminable quest to quell my excessive consumption through their unit system and suggestions on safe limits, and throughout my time as a smoker I was continually warned of the risk of premature birth, to the extent that I gave up on the 18th November 1991 the day after Terry Waite was released. I don't know why I remember that as it has no relevance to why I gave up, and neither did the fear of premature birth. but Juju, chakras and feng shui will confirm that a period of rebirth on this date was writ large in several pieces of wood, a stiff back and a misplaced bedside table.

If, as we are increasingly told, we stand on the cusp of an obesity crisis then let's chuck up a few pointers on portion control.

It is not unusual to see the cream of our local town society plonk themselves down in a Cafe Nero or somewhere similar and do their entire "recommended" daily calorific intake at a single mid morning/afternoon sitting, and return daily to repeat the process, and if indeed we are heading into the critical state on the obesityometer, where is the onus on the proprietor to sell cake responsibly and do his bit to stave off this obesity crisis.

When the contestants chuck up their wares for Ming the Merciless and Mary, perhaps somebody could pipe up that the cake presented should feed twelve, or display a "serves 12" caption at the bottom of the screen, or a brief bit of blurb preceding the credits asking us all to eat cake in moderation, as a little guidance to those who have lost their way with regard to portion control.