Friday 27 February 2015

Matters Arising from Previous Guff

Season rods available on short stretch of the river Itchen above Winchester. Trout season runs from middle of April to middle of October with the possibility of grayling fishing in the winter. It is main river, sit and watch water with a good head of fish and fishing hut. It would suit someone local to the area who may want to pop in for a few hours on a named day in the week. Please drop me a line if you are interested.

Henning Wehn was brilliant, the average speed check wasn't but we didn't expect it to be. We also didn't expect to meet Henning by the door where he posed for a photo and confirmed rumours that he is to join the list of challengers to Sepp Blatter's re-election to the top job at FIFA, who if reports in this weeks' papers are correct, are now taking the stance

"So what if we're with it, cos we ain't changing"

I was very kindly sent a short video by Madam's brother that highlighted how motorways once worked perfectly in a midlands utopia, it follows here:

See how far we have fallen.

Several have since been in touch over their concerns about the lack of rain so far this winter, it seems this is not the only river system in need of replenishment sometime during the next six weeks.

Minutes for next weeks' guff:

1.Why do many people now start sentences with the word "So"

2. When somebody replies "I'm good" to an enquiry as to their well being, is it ok to counter with "I'll be the judge of that"

3. The river

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Proportion and Scale with Vitus Gerulaitis and Wilkinson Sword

In my current role of woodcutter in the enchanted forest I have passed the house made of gingerbread, Rumpelstiltskin has blurted out his name and the saw currently addresses trees near a magical spring brim full of Will O' the Wisp whose waters promise eternal beauty when taken,

or salmonella at the very least.

It's just a bit of bog in a wood to some, but half a dozen springs spring forth in this muddy and woody morass and they need to be springing forth with a little more exuberance if we are to experience some decent summer flows in the Dever,

Yes, and I'm sorry for this, a little more rain in this valley please!

As I attend to fallen trees I have kept half an eye on the trees still standing, and rescue any trees that are at risk of being subsumed by the waxy leaves of energetic ivy. I don't like the stuff and it does no favours to a tree in high wind, but while wandering off briefly last week I came across the biggest piece of ivy I have ever seen. The photo is on here somewhere, and the little green dot is a tennis ball which I happened to have in my pocket, (a tip I picked up from Vitus Gerulaitis) as an aid to proportion and scale. The base of the ivy (plant, not the restaurant) must be eighteen inches across (four fifths of a peck, or a chain in contemporary measurements) and it gives battle with a substantial ash of a hundred years or more in the manner of Mowgli and Kaa, at which point I would like to add a soundtrack of "Trust in Me" but Disney copyright prevents. It's not a tree that comes under my jurisdiction, so I'll leave well alone, but once again it is the biggest bit of ivy I have ever seen.

The grayling have drawn some interest as they grow increasingly chubby as spawning approaches and the possibility of a PB for an angler increases. Today two chaps caught a dozen or so, with the biggest just under two pounds, which is not a bad fish for the Dever, I was also presented with some beautifully tied pike flies. Pictured left, they are as big as my hand, a zulu warrior may well opt to use them as earrings, but I will give them a flick later this week as they have esox lucius written all over them.

P Thanks to Wilkinson Sword for stepping into the breach to provide proportion and scale. Vitus is not a fan of chasing pike with a fly, they prefer to use jigs or dead baits in the Baltic states apparently.

The grayling anglers are also picking up a few rainbows, which are in superb condition and are probably the rearguard of fish that escaped into the river during the floods of last winter.

A few weeks ago Mick Lunn a third generation riverkeeper at the Houghton Club in Stockbridge cashed in his chips. He was born on the banks of the river, and eighty eight years later he died on the banks of the river. His father and grandfather are synonomous with the development of fly fishing and several artificial patterns bear the family name, Mick Lunn was headkeeper at the Houghton Fishing Club for forty four years. My first full time job on leaving college was at the Houghton Fishing Club, it was Mick Lunn's forty forth year, the next headkeeper had been appointed and I was coming in at the bottom. The interview for the job was held in the club room above the portico to the Grosvenor Hotel where Halford et al kicked back, and over a hundred years of fly fishing talk hung heavy in the air. I got the job, but unfortunately no accommodation, because Madam and myself were unmarried at the time so under club rules didn't qualify despite a house being available, so we continued to pay rent on our bedsit in a house on a neighbouring estate. Three months in and I was offered the job of managing a large trout hatchery which came with free accommodation ( by one of Mick Lunn's mates coincidentally) and I jumped ship. The hatchery folded within fifteen months of my arrival, I don't think through my incompetence, but it is now a water bottling plant making use of the million gallons a day of spring water that bubbles naturally out of the ground and provides more reliable income streams,

and who sowed the seed of that idea?


I rarely contemplate, what might have been, but a few years later the Houghton Fishing Club reduced the size of their fish production unit and laid off two keepers. As one of the last in and unmarried heathen to boot, I am sure I would have been one of the first to fall, so perhaps the time away at the unhappy hatchery wasn't a bad move. I hardly saw Mick Lunn when I worked at the club, but six weeks into my tenure at the unhappy hatchery a brown envelope arrived with a note " Your eel money boy" my share of the takings for the catch from the eel set during my brief time at the club. Some have sought to discredit his methods in recent times, but I reckon he was alright, the ability to alternate between dealing with recalcitrant under keepers and US Presidents is a difficult trick to pull off but he managed it, he was certainly "of his time" and probably had chalky water running through his veins.

Away from the river, we tripped up to Yorkshire for the day to touch base with ailing relatives. Uncle Dennis was asleep, which was a shame, but for all her ninety odd years, my Aunty Joyce was awake and right on it.
We would not have been forgiven if we had left Otis at home, as for many years they had labradors in the house, so prior to our visit as a bowel emptying exercise we delved deep into the dales to a fish farm where I once undertook three weeks work experience with a chap who now works in the warmer climes of the far east. The toilet was in a barn, the caravan in which we lived was ten foot long with no electricity and sited on the side of the valley where the sun never shone, Oh, and then it snowed. On at least two occasions we pulled frozen swedes and kale from nearby fields in order to provide sustenance and complete the Kolyma gulag feel. It was some experience, but the knowledge that your aunt and uncle were half an hour away with a warm bath and some roast chicken provided quite a bit of comfort. The fish farm looked a sight more welcoming than I remember, and parts of the villages are now decidedly "chi chi" But it must remain a difficult place to hatch fish because the low water temperature dictated that the eggs took forever to hatch and the Dalby Forest upstream meant that inlet screens must be attended to throughout the night to clear leaves and debris.

On our way out of the village we passed one of the most impressive garden ornaments I have ever seen, a life size model of Atilla the Hun on a horse herding some fibre glass lambs that frolicked further down the garden.

Quite stunning, something to aspire to and several levels up from the life sized plastic iguana that we have stuck to a tree in our garden.

and now here's Bob with the travel,

Half term last week and while Madam and myself have plans to travel to Italy once more at Easter, this school break we opted for the travails of travelling great distances on the UK motorway network. Simple calculations (for this is all that a failed A level in applied maths and statistics will permit) demonstrate that we completed a thousand miles on the UK's blue roads last week. Seventeen percent of our odyssey took us through road works where lengthy average speed checks were enforced. Fifteen mile stretches of motorway at fifty miles an hour must cause many an eye to half close. On one stretch of the M1, a lorry became stricken in the left hand lane and with no hard shoulder on which to lean, the lane closed and we ground to a halt. In the passenger seat Madam's teeth began to grind, and although half term was upon her she returned to her sums and teachings and once the traffic began to move once more, she leaned from the window and exhorted all around her to "do the Maths people! We've gone one mile at ten miles an hour, we can put the f****g hammer down through the rest of these road works!".

Parts of the UK motorway system are at the point of over saturation, and the next time I meet up with a big noise in the world of transport strategy I will upbraid him/her accordingly.

Why is so much freight consigned to the road? The A34 is a procession of car transporters moving automobiles to Southampton in order that the Grimaldis et al can ship them abroad, or occasionally park the odd consignment on a sand bar in Southampton water.

Early on in our journey north to visit ailing relatives, the radio trumpeted that a car transporter had fallen over on the A34 a few miles behind us and the road was closed. Thankfully no one was hurt and we felt sure that by the time we headed south around tea time somebody would have cleared it up. Twelve hours later two lanes remained closed, tailbacks were extensive and we got grumpy and teeth were once again ground although missing " Eastenders - Live!" and a long forgotten packet of polos provided some succour during our delay.
Later this week we must once again twice negotiate the fifteen miles of fifty miles an hour on the M3. It will be the eighth time in a week, which is small beer for some commuters, but I walk to work I'm not used to this motorway mayhem. Thirty miles of our forty minute journey on a major UK transport link will be conducted at fifty miles an hour. We are travelling up to some smoke to see Henning Wehn, a much appreciated Christmas treat from Child A and Child B, and a comedian who Madam and myself greatly favour after listening to a live performance via the miracle of podcast during our extensive motorway travels in Germany last year, where we cruised merrily at a speed approaching three figures, never saw a cone, no teeth were ground and there was plenty of room for everyone who wanted to use the road. My CSE grade 2 German confirms that there are no words in the German language for "average speed check"

Somebody sort our motorways out, and let's get a little more freight on the rails.

While we're on Europe, a twenty pound ticket and a favourable exchange rate saw us scuttling through Le Manche last week, for a "holiday in a day" A nice lunch, a little shopping and some confustication in French. Without average speed checks (sorry, them again) we can leave home and cross over to the other side in just over two hours, not quite as fast as Derek Acorah or Doris Stokes but relatively quickly nonetheless. Emerging blinking into the light we move very quickly on an excellent road for thirty minutes to be rewarded with the necessary retail and culinary experience before we bowl on back to blighty, thoroughly refreshed with our hat on three hairs, whistling dixie. The atmosphere on entering Calais was a little edgy, more and more young men up from the horn of Africa congregate in the town and a troop of armed police officers confronted fifty or more on the hard shoulder near the entrance to Eurotunnel. Two stepped out into our lane as we made our considered approach and, looking across to the line of freight on the bridge that leads to passport control we picked out a pair tugging at the rear doors of a lorry. It is desperate stuff, Paris was on edge when we visited a few years ago, goodness knows what it is like now, complicated times that will not be best served by extremes of view, and requires addressing not at a municipal level but internationally.

On occasion I'll turn to the Catholic Church for guidance,

Sorry that should read,

Sometimes I watch episodes of Father Ted back to back for hours on end.

A series of marches through every town in England with banners proclaiming " Careful Now" may not be a bad idea in the coming weeks

Tuesday 10 February 2015

The Face of Fabulon and the spirit of Owain Glyndwr

Snow fell last week, which when accompanied by the extended cold snap, should provide mother nature with a definitive full stop to the four seasons just past and preparations will now be underway for the next cycle of seasons. Winters without a cold snap can cause some confusion to flora and fauna in this valley but Jack Frost in residence for a fortnight acts as a clear signal as to when one year ends and the next begins.

It has been pointed out that there has been a dearth of videos with accompanying free jazz of late,

well a couple of emails from Keith Helt and The Nicholas Chienteralli trio anyway,

So here's a video I took of JJ Cale warming up in the studio, Keith and Nicholas you will note the proficiency of the people playing the music, the use of melody and structured verse and my introduction in Dutch.

Nice !

Such a loss

We are still besieged by birders, and a quick trawl of ornithological corners of the internet reveals forums full of short statements like "Great egret flushed by dog walkers" or " Shrike disturbed by black dog with owners aimlessly wandering" . It's still the Shrike show, the ravens remain, the hen harrier flops about, every species of native UK owl can be relied on to perform at some point and the merlin can pop in when it is not darting up the lane. All of this is five minutes from our door and we consider ourselves very lucky as some of these chaps with high end glass and a mind for furtive movement are driving hundreds of miles for the experience.

Through the miracle of Sky Plus Madam and Child A are watching yesterday's news today, or possibly the latest series of make do and mend and the quest to turn rags into ill fitting clothing as a form of entertainment on BBC2. Heaven forbid they try and resurrect interest in home-made wine making. My mother recently found a bottle of white I constructed from dubious fruit nearly twenty years ago, she dutifully gave it a go and managed half a glass before using it to clean the sink, which left the plughole gleaming. It may have lacked the required asbestos finings that CJ Berry espoused in the tome he produced in the 1960s "Winning Ways with Wine" but I maintain that producing essential items such as clothes and wine should be left squarely in the hands of the professionals and not become the subject of TV reality shows. Somebody is going to get hurt on one of these shows soon,they have to stop!

and while we're on TV, Hey Pop Factor, X Idol and Voice have a listen to this short clip,

you too Nicholas and Keith

Proper talent,

I'd trade all my musical tomorrows for one single yesterday,

bar Paolo Nutini, Sam Smith, George Ezra and Adele,

and yes Rita she was playing the guitar.

Work in the wood continues apace, smaller trees now along with half a dozen Christmas trees that went over a week ago. Lord Ludgershall's attendance is trumpeted in the court circular each day and he has taken to wearing his pink "Pride" pants which adds a little colour to the wood. The spirit of Owain Glyndwr is currently upon him and he is ring fencing the wood to keep out the English.

Not another cross border feud with the auld Ellmyn, but an amiable cove from the village with the surname "English" who Lord Ludgershall insists eyes the royal log stash with no little envy.

This time last year the wood was underwater as the Dever struck a new course on its way to meet the main river Test. There is no sign of a repeat performance, and it would be nice if we could fit in a few wet weeks sometime in the next couple of months, The trout are in very good condition and have made a nuisance of themselves to grayling anglers, two of whom have put fish of over two pounds on the bank, along with perch and some reasonable roach. Despite the cold weather there have been some hatches of fly and both trout and grayling have fed on the surface in the middle of the day. We still have a few Rainbows in the river, the rearguard of the fish that turned up in the Dever this time last year they are nice looking fish after twelve months in fast flowing water, are brighter than their pond dwelling brethren, but my moneys on them all being out by the end of the Mayfly, and a couple of them are over four pounds so get your oak chips ready Mr Smoker.

Two grayling anglers have reported hooking Sea Trout. I have on occasion taken some scales from very silver fish and sent them away for analysis to see if they have spent any time in salt water. To date all have been brown trout. Sorting through a stew pond full of brown trout often throws up a very silver fish, and it has been known for a brown trout to suddenly head out to sea and become a sea trout, the two species are genetically identical, but I have yet to see one here. Sea trout do run the main river, in fact the biggest sea trout ever caught was landed in Southampton water but it has always been thought that the sea trout that run this river system head up a tributary that flows from the west and is slightly more acidic than the remainder of the main river and its other tributaries.

Last week's snow confirmed that we continue to be blessed with otters, the six pound bream with a bite out of its shoulder on the bank of the flight pond suggested as much at the start of the New Year, but the grooves in the snow that could have been caused by a miniature canoe with four clawed feet fitted beneath, but is more likely to be good old Tarka, reveal that we have three in residence on this short stretch of river.

Which is great, because they should be in evidence on UK rivers, but when does the uncomfortable conversation about how many numbers of otters and potential impact on freshwater fish populations take place?

Standing back and undertaking a watching brief doesn't work. The last ten years in this valley should have taught us that much.

The many acres of rape behind our house are pulling in the pigeons and every hour we are startled by the report of a gas gun on top of the hill. I am waiting to be approached about the chooks entering the field and the finger to be pointed in their damage regarding nibbled leaves,

Oh for a jolly farmer etc etc

It may not be immediately apparent, but each day I undertake an intensive beauty regime that involves rubbing white cream into my face, it doesn't contain an oilatum from the anal gland of a venezualan grasshopper or any bifidus digesdivum (or was that the yoghurt) that purports to prevent saggy skin/look after my stomach flora. It is white and it is aquaeous, last week in bitter wind my porcelain flesh was so scorched that further remedies were required, Subsequently I reached into the cabinet and applied some organic stuff squeezed from the leaves of a seaweed that would restore this face to something close to Helen of Troy. A forgotten Christmas gift perhaps or an impulse purchase during a quest for lost youth, who knows how it came to be here.

The following morning I awoke looking like I had fallen face first into the fire.

Lotions were applied that instigated further stinging, so fresh air was sought which briefly provided some respite. The next day I was even redder and was conscious of appearing in public, an indoor cricket match was on offer but I would have cleared the room with the current concerns over ebola.

Today I have lumps on my neck and blotches all over my face , tennis elbow from tapping out this guff, and a fortnight ago I was informed by a straight talking optician from India (which is how I take my opthamology by the way, let's have no obsequiousness over my attempts to read the middle row ) that "You have very old eyes Mr de Cani"

And so with a nod to Keith and Nicholas et al it seems apposite to close with the following clip.

Medical Update: A visit to the local MASH unit and my blotchiness has been designated as the National collection of dermatitis, some acute, some chronic. Twenty four pounds worth of ointments and pills will put me back in the race to be the Face of Fabulon 2015 by the end of the week.