Wednesday 16 December 2015

If we're not frightened, they're not doing their job (I'm looking at you Jeremy Vine)

There are daffodils in bloom in a garden a few doors down the road, the nettles in the wood remain green and hot, and during the first week of December I spent two days on the tractor cutting grass before bumbling about with the strimmer.

When will winter start in the south of England?

This is a valid question that many forms of media would do well to ask.

But if we're not frightened they're not doing their job (and I'm looking at you in particular Jeremy Vine) so weather fronts sweeping in from the west attain bogeyman status as they approach the south, rain is the very essence of evil, snow and frost a threat to civilisation itself, and the vat of lost knowledge regarding the four seasons continues to fill.

In this region we need rain, in the north they have obviously had their fill, and hey, how about that national water grid? Our intrepid news hounds who flocked to the floods seeking the "money shot" of an elderly dame afloat in her nightgown, or spread eagled on the bonnet of a landrover are quick to point fingers and attempt to apportion blame. A foot and a half of rain fell in the lake district in twenty four hours. The most intense twenty four hour period of rain ever recorded in the UK, the previous highest being the fourteen inches that fell in 2009 in the same region, the Lynton flood in the 1950's and the Boscastle flood a few years ago were caused by around ten inches in twenty four hours. I like a grey area, and obfuscation is a much favoured modus operandi, but these kind of facts are worth a mention in the media, striking a balance they used to call it, as opposed to seeking a scapegoat.

Madam will confirm that as the years progress I am keen to try new things, so here goes with a few hundred words in support of the Environment Agency.

Within twenty four hours of the Cocker and Eden bursting their banks, questions were being asked about money spent on flood defence. One of the Eagles, Don Henley or possibly Glen Frey, filled in for Wolfie at PMQs and offered the opinion that a few more million should have been spent on flood defence to prevent this kind of event.

Hey Eagles (I think that's Angela on the right) lay off the hydrology and stick to soft rock, did Canute teach us nothing?

Flood defences can reduce the risk of flooding, but will rarely eliminate the risk altogether. A foot and a half of rain falling in twenty four hours on high hills with rapid run off are exceptional circumstances that shouldn't be factored into the costings and design of flood defences, the EA have had their annual budget cut and do not need to be pressurised into increasing the percentage they spend on flood defence, they have more pressing matters to attend to.

Having your house flooded must be a terrible experience, with the impact prolonged, and if it happens again a few years later even more galling, Child A has been in Carlisle for two days helping to clear out the new Sainsburys and little was saved, but when it rains a lot in some parts of the country, rivers will flood,

Always have, always will.

We have just returned from a flying visit to Yorkshire, where there was a lot of flooding. York has extensive flood defences, but the Ouse remains prone to perambulate the city's pavements at some point most winters.

Doesn't make the news, not sure why, nor do spectacular increases in discharge in many Scottish rivers.

I don't mean to stereotype, but during the drive down the country it was all too apparent that the north is currently cold and wet, and the south is warm and dry. We left our billet at Appleton le Moors at midday with echoes of Sheila Ferguson. Glitter was on our noses from a Christmas card and the car thermometer was stuck on three degrees. The rain was on the cusp of turning to sleet but somewhere around Birmingham an urban heat haze developed and ten degrees were added, clothes were removed and we arrived home in short sleeve order.

Preparations for an unlikely flooding event in this valley remain ok, with most culverts able to cope if the groundwater comes up, although some have resumed the modern fad of filling them with branches and brash that they don't know what to do with, which is a little disappointing. Recent rain should work its way down into the aquifers and we may see the river rise a little towards the end of the year, but the springs in the ditches and the pond that feed into this stretch are not running yet.
We have many duck on both the river and the pond, and I have already seen more cormorants flighting this valley than all of last winter. There are quite a few heron about too, who are making the most of the shallow clear water to stab away at any fish they can find. The goldfinches have obviously finished whatever they were feeding on in the wood and we have many plundering our offerings of niger seeds, no siskin yet although we have a nuthatch and marsh tit most days in among the regulars.
There are many brown trout in the river up to around a pound in weight although no sign of any leviathan's that often appear out of the shadows to spawn on the gravel on the shallows. The big hen of around five pound that spent much of the summer parading in front of the fishing hut seems to have moved elsewhere, although she may yet return to her summer haunt. The grayling are in tip top condition and continue to be caught off the top as fly continue to hatch most afternoons in the mild weather.

As I write there is coverage of a door being opened in space to allow this country's first representative to sojourn on the International space station. There seems to be a problem with the key, the doorbell may not be working and this kind of thing never happened on Pigs in Space.
We've paid for Tim's ticket, and I don't recall the government reaching into their pockets when we were required to fork out six hundred zobs a year for Child A and Child B to ride the bus to study A levels, and it is hoped Tim will turn a few tricks in the coming months to justify the expense. Don't get me wrong, I like the International Space Station, its provided a welcome distraction on many a fishless night behind the bite alarms as it makes its way across the night sky, but Sarah Brightman would have paid a lot of money to be in Tim's shoes, and with an austerity on, the money could have been used elsewhere, flood defence perhaps? and an engineering project to put old Albion's rivers into a series of sealed concrete pipes,

Please no, lets just enjoy the space thing

Hey Flash, run that that pre election pledge not to frack under National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty by me one more time.

It didn't apply to this valley, as the Government map for potential licences demonstrates that there are no areas that would concern any fracking operation.
Flash and George's "Race to Frack" mid coalition was frightening and all geared towards the bottom line and a fixation with the long term economic plan.
At least now we have had a period of considered thought, the relevant impact studies will be undertaken and we have men of the calibre of Generalissimo Smith overseeing operations,

Good Grief.

At the first sign of trouble I'm piling what little money I have into desalination companies, because that's where the water will be coming from as, if things go awry, it will be the equivalent of pissing in a fast diminishing well. High stakes stuff indeed in the south of England.

Thanks very much to the kind chap from Berry Bros & Rudd and reader of this guff who dropped by with a box containing wine.

Not the Chateau Cardboard that seems to have become part of our staple diet, but a great big bottle of Chianti in a wooden box, produced not far from where we stayed in Firenze. He recommended laying it down for a few years in order to appreciate it fully, although I fear it won't make the new year.
Thank you again, and at this point could I point you all towards previous posts from Rheims, the Mosel Valley, Loire Valley and Burgundy.

Oh yes, fishing.

P (Product Placement - remember this?)

Rods on this stretch of river come up fairly infrequently, and we are lucky enough to have a short waiting list. If anyone out there is interested in adding their name to the list feel free to drop us a line and I'll happily furnish you with the details.

Thank you for reading the rubbish that I write, have a Happy Christmas.

Friday 27 November 2015

Felicity Frost, Immolation and Toast

The PC brigade did for Al Jolson and his associated minstrels back in the day.

Their silence ( the PC brigade not Al Jolson, he had plenty to say) on "Black Friday" speaks volumes, and I wear the boot polish on my face today as a symbol of defiance to their meddling ways

Ok, my mistake,

Here goes with some more despondency and doom,

But first, here's Bob with the weather

Why are we now attributing a name to every low pressure system that sweeps across the Atlantic?
Will banks of fog and frosty mornings receive similar treatment and how far are we from Fred Fog and Felicity Frost? The disneyfication of the countryside in recent decades signalled a disconnect from reality, now we have the disneyfication of meteorology and a similar disconnection from reality.

The UK should be subject to wind rain and cold through the winter months, bands of low pressure sweeping across the Atlantic provide welcome succour to much diminshed aquifers and river systems, so could somebody in the media concerned with weather actually come out and say so, and stop spooking Joe public over a few damp days and a gentle zephyr.

The river is in reasonable condition and after twenty four hours without rain runs clearer than it did in July and August. I don't think I can remember a season with so few fish on the spawning gravels, there is a dearth of sexually mature brown trout in the river for which we have implementation of The National Trout and Grayling Strategy and a plethora of otters to thank. There are many small brown trout in the river, it remains to be seen whether this will still be the case in five years time. Grayling fishing has been ok, with the few anglers that have arrived putting reasonable numbers of fish on the bank on both dry flies and nymphs and we still have sedge hatching in the last knockings of the day.

Trotting on Sunday afternoons has yet to produce any roach to my rod, although a few have been caught to just shy of two pounds by others, and I have had pike to four pound on both the fly, and a wobbled sprat. The weather hasn't turned cold enough for any unusual avian visitors to turn up yet, although a few nights of frost served as a full stop to much flora and fauna that last year is over and time now rejuvenate through sleep tin preparation for next year. Otis put up the first snipe of the winter at the weekend while skirting the common before bumbling back down the hill into the village. My eye was caught during descent by multiple ziggurat learing through the verdant fringe of the village.

I'm sure they are very nice, and seven figures for five bedrooms replete with sweeping drive and a view of the field will be value to some, but a cuckoo's egg in the nest of a tit sprang quickly to mind.

Well done to the two local purchasers of the "affordable" option.

Freedom for Tooting! come the revolution..etc etc

The River!

but soft, another "R" word


Cheltenham last week and countryside day at the November meeting. It sometimes serves as a bellwether for festival horses a few years hence and can draw quite the crowd. I don't think I've had a duff day at Cheltenham yet. Ok, the ledger is inevitably coloured red at the denouement and sometimes in November it rains (take note TV weathermen and radio presenters) but it is a great atmosphere, and all the more impressive this year for the opening of the new stand and viewing area around the parade ring, which is stunning , user friendly with a top notch sports stadium feel (after Alan Partridge)

The river,

Sorry TV, and the excellent TV series -The Big Fish.

Aired on BBC 2,

and well done BBC for that,

it is hosted by Ben Fogle and Matt Hayes. Anglers were presented with a variety of angling challenges in order to determine all round angling ability. I no longer possess the intensity to fish in that way and am too easily distracted by other things, but well done BBC for putting the show together (on quite a budget judging by the locations) and displaying angling as a positive life skill.

Other TV highlights, in what is always the best time of the year for TV, include The Dancing (a given, and all hail the genius of Winkleman) The Jungle (a given and all hail the genius of Ant & Bee) Catastrophe (a more givens ed) Catastrophe is really good, catch it if you can, and what must be the highest end hour of comedy since Alan Partridge served as warm up for Phoenix Nights (albeit on different channels) just after the turn of the millennium. It takes place on a Tuesday when the final series of The Peep Show is followed by Toast of London ( Bainbridge lite from the Boosh) and the genius that is Mary's lad, Matt Berry (enough geniuses, ed)

Sorry Ed, you can never have enough comedy geniuses, and Matt Berry is one.

The river,

The requirement for a replacement tractor is currently being addressed. The previous implement, whose seat is shaped to my own, and is twenty three years old, is like many a wayward twenty year old, smoking and banging a bit, and is on the cusp of entering agricultural Valhalla. It has done great service and will sit at the right hand of Odin, several seats higher up the salt than Thor. It has served as my own "hammer of the gods" in many situations in the wood and on the bank, and tears will flow when it is cast away burning on to the water to make its way downstream to the Test Valley Valhalla, which with a nod to Hogwarts can only be reached via a magical hatch that leads to an enchanted carrier stream that ends at Asgard, a little known beat on the middle river and its magical hall/fishing hut, where all the river keepers and their equipment that are cast into the river end up.

Reading this bit back, I may have dreamt that last few hundred words, but if there were an Asgard on the middle river it would be full of pole scythes and spectacles, because surveys will confirm that these are the two most popular items that are accidentally flung away into the flow.

There are many trees to attend to on the river bank, and some bends will have quite a different appearance come the spring. A bridge must be attended to and fen must be fired, and then there's the pheasant pen to sort out. We seem to have acquired some more tame ducks, and these must also be housed and then there's the fish, the silt, the bits of bank that are maybe starting to encroach a little, Oh yes and the paperwork, because yes paper crops up increasingly in this line of work, when the chap from CEFAS turns up to inspect records and contingency plans, that for form's sake, must now be written down, because yes, if fish start flashing on the bottom or look a little "gilly" I will resort to reading what I wrote down rather than using my brain to remember what I did the last time such an event occurred. He's a top bloke the CEFAS man, as were the few others who have visited during my time here, and protocol requires that they don't get too chummy during their visits, which is tricky, as bonds are formed over time. They are a beleaguered bunch, who have been subject to significant cuts and do great work in keeping some nasty fish diseases at bay that are rife a few miles away across La Manche.

Last week I had a haircut. It doesn't take long and styles are limited. I used to go to a Turkish chap in Basingstoke who didn't do conversation, but surprised me on my final visit by striking a match without warning and burning off my nasal hair and ear hair. I just sat there in a state of shock, violated,

nay immolated.

I never went back, despite being two stickers away from my free hair cut, the bad dream in which I suffered torture by fire from a mute Ottoman with big scissors proved a clincher.

In recent times I have given myself up to another eccentric (and cheap) coiffeur who likes to open proceeding by swinging his scissors around on his index finger, gunslinger style before asking me how I want my hair (like he can do a range of styles) He's not from this country, and I think I can say with some confidence that I have not had my hair cut by someone from the mother country for some years. Even on the barest of bonces, he is one for a flourish and signs off the briefest period of clipping with a waft. He doesn't do conversation, but sings, in both of my ears, and thankfully my head of hair only gives time for a song and a half of warbling, but as the business of attending to what remains of my fringe approached, he ceased his serenade for conversation, Which began:

"What about this front bit then? there's not a lot there. I don't know what I can do. You know Wayne Rooney had a bit put back in, but that cost thirty five grand, you don't look like no footballer and you ain't got that money no? Ok I'll do what I can for ten pound"

If there is an award for comedy barber, please can I make a nomination

Monday 16 November 2015

Liberty Equality Brotherhood

Thursday 5 November 2015


A brief message from Madam and myself

If you missed the clue in the title of the song, the travel duds (that dress sees me sail through security every time, leatherman an all) should serve as a clue that yes, we're off again

Half term, and so to Firenze.

Not the former Divination teacher who turned into a centaur and saved the day when he carried Harry Potter away from Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest

But Florence

Not the female lead in the Magic Roundabout who hung around with a dog on wheels and a spaced out rabbit (Kids, you may need to look this one up)

But the city of Florence, yes that's it, that's where we went, got back a few days ago, still a bit jetlagged and yes Mr Zebedee it may well be "time for bed"

The City of Florence we shall attend to presently, but first we went to Pisa, to take in the Tower, Duomo and Baptistry . I had visited thirty four years before on a school trip, the Wright brothers had yet to come up with the idea of motorised fixed wing flight and we undertook a two day coach journey to Rome (where stones were thrown at our coach during a transport strike), Florence and Pisa, where we spent half a day running up and down the tower free of charge, unsupervised, with every tier open to the public, safe in the knowledge that the small chain strung between each pillar would prevent any child falling off. We had a picnic on the grass at the bottom, pretty much had the place to ourselves and played football for half an hour with the odd wayward shot bouncing off the Duomo.

It's a little different now.

It would warm the heart of Il Duce to see the number of people undertaking the old salute, for what now passes as the international jape of having your photo taken while pretending to hold the tower up.

We had a go ourselves, and it was a lot of fun, but we may need to work a little on the punch line and possibly pick the right building, although none of the three buildings would bear up to a plumb line, it's just the tower that gets all the wonky plaudits.

After some fabulous pasta in the evening we climbed the sunshine mountain for some shuteye before boarding a two tier train to Firenze,

An hour on a train that hit speeds well over a hundred mile an hour, for the princely sum of eight euros.

Winchester to Waterloo, a similar journey, price £35,

For shame UK Rail Network, For shame!

During my previous visit to Florence I had ignored all that the Medici had put on for us, opting instead to watch a fishing match on the Arno. Our apartment was on the river so I was fairly confident that I could find the old girl's banks. Fifteen minutes later found us on the banks of the Arno, and a further five minutes on found us embedded, deep cover in our apartment just off the end of the Ponte Vecchio.

Fishing first, and I'm sorry Mr Medici you may work a good statue or church but I don't think you appreciated what you had on your hands here.

Prior research on the internet had been undertaken, and on our first night in what the lady who sleeps on my left had earlier described as "one of the most romantic cities she had ever visited", I found myself in a bar at a table piled high with fly boxes and terminal tackle talking fishing with a chap called Oliver.

Sorry Madam, L'amore must wait, there's fish need bothering here.

A life-long angler, Oliver graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Literature but decided that Fishing was the future. Oliver sounded like my kind of guy and two hours before dawn the next day we met again with an armful of rods, for our morning on the river. I won't go into too many details because I have had to chuck up guff elsewhere, but highlights included:

many Zander caught just upstream from the Ponte Vecchio, sight fishing for wels catfish, fly fishing for wels catfish, the stunning bird life of the Arno,
the interesting plants that line the river,
a twenty two pound common carp on floating crust, the substantial catfish that vied with the carp for the crust, probing the offering with its eight inch long whiskers before the carp sucked the bait in, and an entertaining and knowledgeable host.

I don't normally do commerce or adverts but if you wish to find out more about fly fishing in the centre of Florence please visit

that's folks

Fishing done, and suitably showered, I had points to make up in the L'amore stakes, so it was off up to Piazza Michaelangelo on the other side of the river for liquid refreshment and a view of the city, and then on to the Uffizi and the parade of todgers that is the upstairs gallery with its many naked statues.

Vassari corridor next. Built by the Medici, in order that they could move between palaces without mixing with the masses,
it is undoubtedly a corridor, but now serves as an extension of the Uffizi art gallery. Mostly renaissance but also an extensive collection of self portraits. Linking Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river Vassari's corridor, was built for a wedding in a matter of months,
it passes through the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio, where Il Duce put in a picture window to give Hitler a better view when he popped in one afternoon, around a tower, whose occupiers wouldn't allow the Medici to knock it down for a straighter corridor (and well done for that by the way, these Medici's had some side!)
through a church (see previous note about Medici having some side)

and out into the spectacular Bobili gardens of Palazzo Pitti, a lumpen pile of bricks if ever I saw one..

At which point we'll break off.

The new Pottery programme is on in the next room and I'm sorry but they've lifted more than a few lines from Finbarr Saunders and his double entendres,

Bake Off do the same now and again, all that's missing is a Phnaar, Phnaar, Titter, Titter,

The Duomo next day, a building so big it is impossible to do it justice with a camera from the ground. So up the Campenile we went, the third floor in Debenhams gives me the willies, but wracked with guilt after my happy time fishing, I ascended the stairs. I'd been lured up a similar tower in Bologna while three parts foxed on Prosecco in search of the loo, but this was mid morning with only coffee and pastry onboard.

It's a narrow staircase up the campenile, which is used to both ascend and descend, because it's very old and they were all little fellas back in the day. Four floors up we were met by Chuck or possibly Jan, who was very wide and very tall, and acted as a rod would to a drain, as we were swept out into the street as Chuck/Jan made his descent.

At Thorpe Park little guys aren't allowed on the big rides, there's a line drawn as a guide to minimum height, it's not discriminatory it's for safety. At the base of the campanile, and other such dangerous towers there should be a door that you have to walk through without touching the sides before you are allowed to ascend...It's just a thought.

The Duomo is enormous, and I'll say it again, too big to photograph effectively from the ground. Inside is cavernous if a little underwhelming as much of the decor, including all of Donatello's and Michaelangelo's, handiwork has been moved to the museum at the edge of the square.

There were shops, of course, and we seem to have come home with an awful lot of leather.
The central part of the city is an outdoor gallery of sculpture, some original, some copies, some to impress, some to strike fear. In the street behind our apartment there was a more modern piece to mark the spot where the mafia blew up a Fiat full of explosives in the early 1990's, killing six, injuring forty eight and busting up the Uffizi in retribution for privileges being removed from some of their incarcerated contemporaries.

I don't mean to let daylight in upon magic, but I think we came across a future episode of Dr Who being filmed. Possibly a sequel to the one where statues creep up on their victims, there looked to be somebody dressed like a cyberman, although I could be wrong as we were in a particularly fashionable quarter where all dress sense was in danger of being lost.

There are some stunning buildings, and all draw a crowd, plus a maze of back streets in which I frequently lost all sense of direction, that or someone was moving the Duomo,

but as ever in Italy the provender on offer is always a highlight.

I can confirm that I like Chianti, and Madam has a taste for mid range Prosecco. The best Pizza in town was taken at an establishment that offered just six different types. Cutlery and cups were all plastic, tables were shared and people from many nations joined us at our table, because yes, we eat slowly on holiday.
The couple from California were a blast, although the stressed out Scandinavian who was fourth onto our table that seemed to operate as the house sin bin, and who took this photo, had spent the whole day in a dark room at his hotel, oblivious to all that the Medici had put on for us (hang on, haven't I heard that before somewhere) served as a signal to draw the night to a close, which I feel is betrayed in our eyes, although his wife was great fun.

Oliver had provided us with a few Trattoria to visit, all on the other side of the river from the Duomo, where prices are generally 20 euro cheaper on a meal for two, and we ate at our favourite three nights during our stay, I'll not list what we had here but we didn't have a duff meal all week.

Our flight home was delayed by four hours due to fog, I only fell out with two people at the airport, both younger than me who had become frustrated at my addled bumblings. Several flights were cancelled, and in a Brian Hanrahabn moment, ours was the last out of Pisa and the last into Gatwick.

It's a magnificent city that no longer holds fishing matches, and we plan to return.

Amo Firenze

Not you Centaur


Thursday 22 October 2015

Popping Bubbles to a Well-Puffed Panpipe

I completely forgot to mention, but we had a small flurry of Mayflies in the middle of September. Fish wouldn't touch them, and I have seen the odd one in previous Septembers, but there were definitely more this year. It's not that unusual over on the Avon, and I have caught trout in a hatch of mayflies in the third week of September while listening to Europe reclaim the Ryder Cup, which serves as chronological confirmation that it was indeed September.
The first grayling fishermen have turned up, and after remarking on the colour of the water, caught fish, although nothing huge. Olives and sedge continue to hatch throughout the day and it is still possible to take a fish off the top. The Trout show no sign of gearing up for spawning and there are no fish on the shallows, which is just as well as we are inundated with herons.

I was
kindly invited down to the middle river last week for some fishing and food with a bunch of other keepers. I hadn't seen several for quite a while, and there were concerns that the hair on my face was the early onset of radicalisation, would we be Christmasing in Syria and was I now cutting weed in a Salwar Kameez? I explained that I had never grown such a thing before, it happened on holiday, and I had read somewhere that a touch of swarthiness can make a maiden swoon, ( I'm still waiting for this bit so I may need to acquire an eye patch or some other piratical adornment)
It's always tremendous fun with top nosh, beer, fishing and spirited verbal sparring which belies a bunch who often work alone.

I may have made mention of the house next door, which used to be two cottages, one of which was inhabited by an elderly supporter of our cricket club when as a young lad his father passed the day banging out cartwheels, a 1920's Kwikfit if you will. More recently it was occupied by Mary Gunn, who was particularly fond of Child A and Child B in their primary school years and remained a great friend even after she shuffled off to Overton, and then on to Bullington Churchyard.
It is now owned by people in Fulham, Cottagers in name only, and is a Holiday Let, along with many of the sheds, garages and outbuildings. It's an investment and must make money. This week, "the venue" for this is what it has now become and we are told we have farmers markets and opera to look forward to, is hosting a "Boot Camp" exercise programme.

There is a charge of course, the place was purchased to generate income, and to quote Sir Geoffrey,

"good luck with that love" but......

Hang on, we're missing a trick here. We have the bits of a two hundred year old Ash tree to chop and move on the other side of the fence from their "Boot Camp" If we undercut next door by a few guineas and call the axe, log and stacking process "Boot camp" its bookoo bank brother (urban parlance I believe, although perhaps not Fulham).
Market forces I think this kind of thing is called and a sign will be placed by the road presently, reading thus:

Boot Camp Exercise
£5 per session
Free gloves and chopper
no leotards or lycra

Yup, We're going into the Boot Camp Business!

News just in:

A water company in the south with a recently perceived surplus which was duly allocated to new development in other parts of the region has now informed the government that it will not have enough water for said supply.

An Environment agency report has stated that river flows in the region will decline by between fifteen and twenty percent in the next few decades.

A Government statement released a month ago detailed changes to the planning process for shale gas extraction allowing the Secretary of State to personally intervene in cases where a decision may be delayed/not quite the desired outcome.

Chalk rivers are fast plummeting down the list of things we ought to be looking after while we fill the South East of England up.

I don't mean to continue the dark theme to this guff,

Let me put that another way,

More bad news folks.

Cutting weed all week it is apparent just how much muck there is in the Dever this year. A quick shuffle of the feet is all it takes to turn the river to cocoa, and there is far more blanket weed in among the good weed on the shallows than there should be. It's much better on the Itchen where I have also been cutting weed and not causing anywhere near as much colour, and there is also far less blanket weed, and then there was all that foam through the summer and if someone comes at me stating that our rivers have never had it so good a personal tipping point may have been reached.

I'd report it to someone if I could, but who,

Nigel in Sheffield, Miriam in Lowestoft,

Hang on, I did,

The EA, Southern Water, National Pollution Incident line (which doesn't work), Wessex Chalk Streams Trust all were contacted, and then I wrote about it at length in a national magazine as well as getting cross about it on here.

and while we're in such a fine bate, who let Richard Madeley back on the radio?

Poor Judy.

It may be best, if I disappear for a few minutes to undertake a more soothing task such as filling the bird feeders.

But even that is not soothing, as I struggle to come to grips with the mixed messages sent out by various environmental trusts.
Brown Trout "experts" espouse genetic purity, natural selection and only the strong shall survive and eschew the release of fertile farm raised fish, yet our ornithological friends don't mind the release of fertile stock raised through breeding programmes and encourage feeding the birds, allowing some that wouldn't otherwise make it through a harsh winter to go on and breed the following year,.....Nuts-literally.

Sorry, something soothing,

Ah yes bubble wrap, that'll do it.

A few hours in your own company popping bubbles to the accompaniment of a well-puffed panpipe is surprisingly soothing.

Monday 12 October 2015

When will Sam Fox and Kylie be Brought to Book over Time

Last week, confident in our prediction of a Rugby world cup final featuring England and Italy, Madam and myself booked a trip to Firenze to coincide with the tournament's denouement. We anticipated a febrile atmosphere as the two countries engaged for the tournaments spoils and a night we would never forget.

Turns out Tokyo would have been a better option, or possibly Dublin or Cardiff

For the remainder of the World Cup, we are putting our support behind Japan, Ok Rose and Blanche were treated pretty poorly in Tenko, but come on everybody that was a looooong time ago. They are great to watch, (the Japanese rugby team, not Tenko)

Oh yes, and we'll also give Wales a cheer, as Child B has a friend who he was with in halls at Cardiff Uni who plays on the wing.

While we're on the subject of University life, Child B's University fees for his year out working in industry at the fancy planners, come in just shy of two thousand pounds, a significant reduction on the nine thousand pounds for the few hours of lecturing when he is in attendance, but this is a year in which he will not attend any lectures, have minimal contact with the university, and submit six pieces of work, which if my numerically challenged mind serves, is just over £300 for each piece of marking.

Can I do some marking please?

I believe the number sign is still current


At home, fishing picked up no end in the last knockings of the season. Tarka tottered off and fish were far more settled. There are no signs of the pre spawning shenanigans that are often a feature of late season fishing as cocks swelling with testosterone begin to get a bit chippy with each other and you could make a case for fishing on for another few weeks this year. We have many brown trout in the river of less than a pound which bodes well for next season although we seem to be missing a few big grayling and roach. There are a couple of large pike on the bottom bends that I have begun to harass with my fly rod although the half of a double figure fish I found dead on the bank proved unresponsive.

Last week we underwent surgery, albeit arboreal.

Following inspection of the two hundred year old conker tree that dropped a limb onto the electric lines a few months ago, it was declared to be in rude health and its errant limb was typical of a tree of such a great age, the two hundred year old beech was given a reasonable bill of health but would benefit from further survey work but the two hundred year old ash that lost its top last summer was on the verge of cashing in its chips and must come down tout de suite. If it was in the middle of the wood or the meadow, I'd readily go at it myself, it doesn't matter where it falls. I tackled the tree that toppled onto our home on Valentine's day this year, without a thought, but this ash borders the road and is flanked by two sets of electric lines.

I have just been reminded that it was Valentine's day last year that the tree fell on the roof, and we are approaching the end of 2015,
Which doesn't seem right.

Chronologically I'm still at the turn of the millennium, I don't know where these grown up children came from,

sorry, let me rephrase that,

I do know where these grown up children came from, but they seem to have grown up very quickly, and when did this extra flesh arrive around my middle and my chest slip a bit. Sam Fox and Kylie Minogue, who once served as a reliable bellwether as to the chronological order of things, have much to be held accountable for. Both were older than me once, now I am older than them, and that chap on the radio in the morning who is taking over Top Gear used to be eight years older than me (and there are books that back this up) but is now only two years ahead. Anyway I digress, but can we all agree that it is no longer possible to trust time.

Now where was I,

Oh yes, the tree,

It's a two hundred year old ash tree that is fast rotting from the roots up. It took three days to take the thing down which had to be undertaken from a cherry picker as opposed to a man climbing and swinging from ropes, due to safety issues, it really was on its last legs. Now it is down and we have next winter's wood sorted.

Hard on the heels of the VW expose comes the resignation of Teflon Sepp and his protege, Fingers Platini. More of a slow burner this one as it has been clear for aeons that most at FIFA were up to their eyes in it. A few names are being put forward, including that of a Mr Tokyo Sexwhale, well good luck Fiona Bruce with announcing his appointment on the six o'clock news. Google confirms that he has made many films with a limited wardrobe budget and once puffed up the cushions at Heff's place, or is possibly up to his eyes in dubious business dealings in southern Africa, it's one of the two and Google images suggests the latter, so no change there then.

Tear it apart, Tear it apart, this is Juan Antonio Samaranch all over again.

Counting back the years we can confirm that Madam and myself are indeed forty seven years old. This may account for the fact that the first thing we reach for of a morning are our tablets. Not Sanatogen or ginseng, but our clever ipads. Madam is quick to quell the evil forces of Candy Crush who seem to regroup each night while we are asleep, or consults something called Pininterest. For me it is a push of the button and my daily newspaper appears. I'll not say which one, but it has a good sports section, some entertaining and informative columnists and I like the style of the news reporting. It's a habit I picked up at an early age, for which I blame my parents and John Keith who was charged with reporting on Liverpool FC's endeavours that I would read each morning at breakfast. Today, I could quite happily get by with just my digital copy of the paper but habitually retain the hard copy because the sports section was just about the only bit of recreational reading that Child B would undertake in his school years, Child A devoured books, still does, but a well written sports section has an educational value that some fail to appreciate as books ain't everybody's bag.

Anyway, my digital copy has recently been "refreshed", improvements that will make my experience all the more rich, with many more photos and a different layout,

Somebody's obviously had an idea.

Each morning this week my mood has lifted at the pop as the paper appears on the screen, I am still amazed by clever stuff like this. It has taken a little longer to download each copy and navigation has proved a little tricky as everything has moved around, but then I am forty seven years old and this kind of thing is difficult to a person of such years.

At the end of the week, our internet ran out, and my tablet issued a statement in which it declared that it was replete with newspapers.

I may have made mention that the internet via the poles and lines to this village, forty minutes from, what we are told, is one of greatest cities in the world (population eight million and counting) is now unusable. We are forced to rely on a 3G service that provides 15GB for £25 a month, which we just about got by on until somebody in newspaper land had a great idea that increased the file size of each daily edition by tenfold. To download the paper for a month we would have to top up our data account (and here's where the mobile companies are making a mint) by a further £75 a month. If we connected to the tenth of a meg poles and lines service we are offered we would get yesterday's news today,
which is a little like being on holiday,

But it's not, because we received a far superior internet service on an island an hour's ferry ride from a city ( population less than a quarter of a million) in a country new to the EU

When my cartilage finally turns to dust and I am incapable of carrying out my duties on the river and I must eke out a meagre living from chucking up guff and restaurant work, I will be far better served on a small island in the aegean, than half an hour from the third biggest city in Europe.

Is it me?

I have the beard, I am in the process of knitting a loin cloth, and I have identified a cave to which I will eventually retreat shaking my fist at an outside world that grows more bonkers by the day.

I am on the cusp of a plan coming together, which would greatly please B.A Baracus et al

I almost forgot, a friend emailed this article. I'll look in on the house now and again, but the sports pages don't cut the mustard, however this article pushes all the right buttons.