Friday 24 April 2015

Scything Reluctant Ranunculus in Full Fig

This week I have been posed a few questions about working a scythe. I'd class myself as pretty proficient with such a tool after thirty years use on the river, principally cutting weed but occasionally cutting grass; one autumn I knocked off the fringe with my trusty turk as the brushcutter was not playing ball. The blade is set at a different angles for cutting weed and cutting grass, it's a rhythmical cutting motion and keeping the blade sharp is key, which is easier when cutting grass but contact with the river bed while cutting weed can soon take the edge off. I have even featured in a corner of a painting subsequently reproduced in prints while using my scythe, and look through a glass and it is apparent that I was fully clothed with mouth shut, sans speech bubble brim full of primitive grunts.

And a word to the wise Percy Poldark, if you're grunting your way across a meadow with a sweaty bare torso, you are not using your scythe in the correct manner.

This kind of gratuitous display of human flesh sent Titbits to the wall in the eighties, as a regular user of such a tool I feel grossly misrepresented..............nay violated!

The new season starts next week and in a low river brim full of ravenous trout keen to get on with the hawthorn, I expect the first fortnight to see many fish put on the bank. No sign of any hawthorn yet and there haven't been many olives putting in an appearance in the afternoon but the first significant hatch of any fly should see most fish break cover for a feed, although with a thin fringe and little weed they could spook quite easily.

The reluctance of ranunculus to get going is a little concerning, and at this point can we all agree that if men in fine fleece and cutting edge walking shoes lay claim to understand this finicky weed, they shall be shown a dismissive hand. Parts of the growth cycle of this important aquatic weed remain a mystery, it is an enigmatic aquatic plant that sometimes doesn't follow the rules. It likes light and fast clean water, and the river may be a little cold for it at the moment, but in 2001 following a wet winter the ranunculus grew thick and up and out of the water, as it did last summer, in 2002 the ranunculus inexplicably failed in a reasonable flow of water, fingers crossed it is not repeated this year because it will have a vital part to play in holding water up.

Last week, for no apparent reason one of our most promising cricket bat willows fell apart. It looked full of runs but with swelling buds it split at the top of the ramrod straight trunk and half of it now lies on the floor. It is only half way to being harvested for bats, so it may still make something of itself, an amber around the garden did the same thing ten or more years ago but you would never know it was an amputee tree from its current crown. I shall attend to it in the coming weeks once my saw has returned from its sabbatical, as much of this week has been spent in a state of titivation preparing for the trout anglers' arrival next week.

There's been a cuckoo about for over a week, and as if Mother Nature had a plan, the cuckoo flower is out too. We have ducks on nests and this week Otis revived his Uncle Zebo's trick of picking a duck from her nest to present to me in the morning, his baleful look as I take the duck and put her back on the nest was also reminiscent of his distinguished Uncle, who once performed the trick for five consecutive days at the end of which the duck assumed a resigned air that seemed to say "not again"

She hatched off her brood eventually, in spite of her daily displacement.

A musical interlude

April, come she will, when streams are ripe and swelled with rain....

Just stop right there Simon & Garfunkel, this kind if thing no longer applies,

I shan't go on , but I am obliged to say that we have had a dry winter and many of the ditches that feed into this river are now dry, bridges are decidedly precipitous and we have gravel proud of the water. Thanks to the Test & Itchen Association for chucking some of my interminable guff regarding this subject into their annual river report.

If you want to read it it's in the paper copy, I won't repeat it here, but you can guess at the gist, with weed slow to grow this river is currently very low.

Bird News as we have it!

Two pairs of Kingfishers settling down at either end of the beat, expect some aggressive aeronautics over minnows around June, and the first four swallows have just turned up but show no interest in the affordable housing we chucked up for them over the winter. Just taken the hund out for dusk ablutions and took in two woodcock on a spoony rode. I may stake out the woods in early summer, as many years ago while mowing the rides I was treated to the spectacle of mother woodcock moving her brood by clutching them between her knees and embarking on a short hopping flight to avoid impending danger. She flew three times around my head before performing the feat and is the only time I have taken the event in. The wood seems quite dry for early summer probings with a long beak and I fully expect to be able to drive up to all our precious logs in the wood to transport them to a site closer to the wood burner.

More musical news, just in!

With the Nicholas Chienterelli trio failing to fill contractual obligations, I have picked up the baton of all things A&R and in my quest to secure a new house band for this production, I firmly believe we have discovered THE pop sensation of the next five years.

Kids, his name is Will Young, that's Will Young

and he is heading right to the top of the hit parade.

He has a disk out that channels the new northern soul sound and I confidently predict we have found the new Don Fardon.

You heard it here first!

May will be the final month that Madam and myself will have this place to ourselves, as Child A and Child B reappear.
Child B for fifteen months work experience with some fancy planners, and at this point we would like to make a request that he revisit his kitchen and toilet hygiene regimes as his Cardiff retreat had echoes of Yasser Arafat's refectory in downtown Beirut sometime in the 1980s, albeit with Sky Sports and Pizza Express.
Child A pops back for a night or two most weeks as she completes her complicated and increasingly relevant post-graduate studies, while working part time for a business up the road. Last week she returned to do some talking at a conference at another University , which sounded incredibly grown up, and understandably Madam and myself are sometimes asked " what plans for September?"

To which we reply, "Dunno, does it matter?"

And here I'd like to quote Baz Luhrmann at length, but will refrain and pick out the following lines

"The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know, still don't,

Get plenty of Calcium"

The calcium things a given with water drawn from a chalk valley, but I think I was in a minority among my contemporaries in that I knew from an early age what I wanted to do with my life when I was thirteen and chose my O levels accordingly. If Liverpool football club were not to come knocking (and look what happened to them) It was a life in fishing, or following a tour de force at the Gateway theatre as lead nurse in the annual gang show, possibly the stage.

Angling's gain is the theatrical world's loss

Struck numb by Gerard Manley Hopkins and flummoxed by Geoff Chaucer, my A level English teacher reported that Chris is blessed with little more than a native wit and has a propensity to play to the class when the opportunity arises. For my mock exam I had a head free of all things Gerrard and Geoff and proffered a couple of thousand words on life at an airport for a Saudi Arabian family stranded after missing their connection.

For reasons that remain unknown to me, but I suspect humiliation (a popular ploy in early 1980s state education at the slightest sign of spirit, and hey Eric Blair, you may have been on to something) it was read out to the class the following week by the head of the sixth form and drew, what I took, and indeed still take, as reasonable reviews (I'll take one hand clapping every time)

Which went down well.

At the age of eighteen I had no inkling that a few years past forty I would be fortunate enough to receive small cheques through the post for poorly prepared words chucked up in a couple of hours under exam conditions while in wine,

Post September, Child A may not have a clear career path, but that's no biggie. Circumstances often have a funny habit of falling into place if sufficient groundwork has been completed.

Do the business with the research and stuff, but with a fair complexion, don't forget the chuffin sunscreen.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Thirty miles of Arcades Devoid of One Armed Bandits and Space Invaders

And so to Bologna and its 44km of arcades,

Well I can work a one armed bandit and it's been a while since I engaged the evil forces of space invaders so with a suitcase full of cents and with some air traffic wallahs on strike we headed south around France to the promise of Vegas in Southern Europe.

Within a few hours of landing it became quickly apparent that this was no Vegas or Rhyl, with not a fruit machine to be found,

No matter, we would spend our coins in some other fashion. Ensconced in a hotel on Via Independienze, the protracted celebrations for our silver wedding that could carry on for another few years continued as we were awarded the honeymoon room with a bucket of Italian bubbles as a bit of a livener. Emboldened by bubbles we hit the streets of Bologna with a bag full of brown coins looking for some where to spend them. Within ten minutes I was led through a door and up some wooden stairs that seemed to go on forever. A charge was taken on the third floor and in my slightly foxed condition I had unwittingly been press ganged into climbing what is sometimes acknowledged as the highest building in the world (and come on Petronas towers and Burg Khalifi, let's see you use a proper tape measure)

The remarkable thing about the tower which I was unwittingly climbing is that it is approaching its thousandth birthday. It is older than the church in our village at home and is still deemed safe to climb up, unsupervised, for what is a fabulous view of the City. There is a second tower a little shorter that stands next to it and this Italian version of the twin Towers is all that's left of the many towers that were erected in the city. If you were a big noise or a man of status in the 1100's in Bologna then a tower was quite the thing. Half way up the wooden stairs the reality dawned that a tower tumble down percentage in the high nineties was statistically not the greatest endorsement for the afternoon's adventure and for a few minutes I clung to the wall, gibbering in beads of sweat before resuming the ascent. Madam will confirm that the only way I can deal with heights is through the viewfinder of a camera. I find it helps not to face facts when it comes to high places and looking through a lens helps to make one feel that the current situation is not real, and the safe environs of level ground has not been discarded. At home we have an extensive collection of videos featuring drives around the alps and trips up the Amalfi coast, and now we have a complete panorama of Bologna formed from a couple of hundred shots taken from the top of this cockeyed high pile of bricks built for viewing herds of dinosaurs on the plain below,

I think that was the correct translation of the information board at its base.

The following day we had planned to travel to Florence by train, Bologna is a major railway hub and it is an hour or less to Florence, Venice, Verona, or Modena. The best priced tickets are available online, but the wifi wasn't playing ball so we tooled up to the station to book our tickets with an Italian lady behind some glass via a small audio link up. There are several train companies in Italy and during extensive negotiations with the mamma behind the glass, Madam assumed that negotiations were breaking down and was reduced to much spluttering as she misheard my "I would like to travel with Tran Italia" as I would like to travel with genitalia"

With language abandoned we ascertained through a series of pictures and mimes that the rail company were on strike and all the tickets to Firenze had been sold for a few days,

So we went to Venice instead.

A train that travelled at nearly two hundred miles took us across the broad valley of the Po to a city that I last visited in May in 1981 at the age of 13 when it was a bit niffy, the canals contained several dead dogs and St Marks square was empty and we enjoyed a cheap pizza sitting outside.

It's changed a bit.

No dead dogs and much cleaner water for one. We arrived at the station and walked our way across to St Marks square, pausing downstream of the Rialto to eat our picnic and take further prosecco on board. It was a sunny day and as we entered St Marks square we were greeted by a seething throng made up of many nations,

think the Olympic opening ceremony with selfie sticks instead of flags,

and there we must pause to examine the phenomenon that is the "selfie" and its accompanying stick.

Now for those who have fallen into this steaming barrel of guff before, you will be aware that I like taking photos. I have saved up many pennies for a bag of idiot proof photographic equipment. Day and night I am rarely without my camera on our trips out. Why over a hundred selfie stick sellers should shove a stick under my nose exhorting me to buy their product when I have an adequate piece of equipment on show and a glamorous assistant on hand should I decide that a photo of a particular palazzo can only be enhanced by my features being placed directly in the centre of the composition, is beyond my comprehension.

After the hundredth offer of such a stick in under ten minutes, it started to grate

It might be one for the marketing department lads, but please reassess your target audience.

Is Greek no longer on the school curriculum because this selfie fad is the stuff of Narcissus, with Vodafone playing Nemesis, Social media as Echo and a smart phone for a puddle of water.

I don't get it, and on a final note, you don't see the selfie stick sellers taking selfies of themselves in the spectacular environment in which they ply their trade.

Anyway, to return to Venizi, we walked along the front where everything seemed to be three times the price of the same item in Bologna and several chanced their arm with a fishing rod, which was not the case in 1981 as I spent half a day looking for any signs of people fishing in what was pretty filthy water. Three parts foxed following further prosecco (it really was rather good) we hopped onto the aquaporto that took us the wrong way around the lagoon before delivering us up the Grand Canal to the station with two minutes to spare.

Venice remains a spectacular place to visit but blimey was it busy, the highlights were undoubtedly the walk from the station to Square St Marco and the forty minute aquaporto ride that provided an aquatic tour for only seven euros each.

Oh yes, a message from Venice for the cream of our local town society now that the weather is warming up.

And then Richie Benaud died.

As a youngster I didn't know Richie Benaud had played cricket.

I assumed he was a professional commentator, or possibly somebody Peter West had bumped into on Come Dancing, he was a natty dresser was Richie. It was always the radio commentary for me if possible, but if no wireless was available Richie's take on the game was the next best thing.

Hendo provided the best summation for me (and why doesn't he write on cricket anymore)

"Less is more, Ah yes, but how difficult it is to master that apparently simple precept. Benaud never talked about himself, either on air or off it. He thought it vulgar, and besides his playing record was there for to see. As the captain of a side that thumped England 4-0 in 58/59, he is in the annals.
Compare that modesty with the modern manner, when a cricketer-turned- broadcaster like Ed Smith, who played three times for England in a thin year, mentions himself more often in a single session of play than Benaud did in five decades"

Richie Benaud played at our local club many times as part of an invitational side put together by the Times Cricket Correspondent of the day, and there are many old timers who haunt the boundary full of tales of games for Longparish against Benaud, Tyson, Inverarity et al.

Back in Bologna it became apparent midway through our sojourn that I was subconsciously missing taking Otis for a walk, as each day I would purloin a hard-boiled egg from the breakfast buffet pop it in my bag then carry it around all day.

On four consecutive days I took an egg out for the day.

The bottom of my camera bag resembled a hen house, Without doubt I was missing the dog and had subconsciously replaced our Otis with a replacement whose name bore three letters and ended in the letter g,

That or, I'd gone broody.

On Sunday we perused a market with a wide array of German WWII memorabilia, before taking in a bridge building competition in the city square.

The premise was to build a bridge with a seven metre span and a height of over a metre from thin cardboard strips .

There were fifty teams who had the whole day to complete their task. Now I'd back myself to work a bridge or two and it struck that if this new twist on recycling really works then we should put a recycling bin by the fishing hut for Sunday Supplements and the like, as materials for next year's new river crossing,so we hung around for the whole day.

After an hour the favourites were fairly clear, skill levels were varied.

Several teams had detailed plans laid out before them and the teamwork displayed by some of the University teams undoubtedly garnered an advantage until alcohol was introduced. There were several family teams, a group from the WI and a gang of middle aged men who were right on it from the first whistle, washing down a smorgasbord of local produce with a couple of crates of prosecco, that caused such confusion that they were not sure which way up their bridge was supposed to be at the close of the competition.

Radio Bruno provided commentary throughout the day, a niche market, bridge building commentary , but we can swiftly discount the excitable Bruno as the natural heir to Richie's crown.

The following day, with the rail strike still in force, we walked out of town to the church of someone or other on top of a hill. It was a photographic opportunity rather than veneration that we sought, and we set out through what is described as the longest portico in the world.

Five hundred years ago the good people of Bologna sought shade and shelter on their trip up the hill to what could be the church of San Luca, (it's coming back to me now)

Eschewing the umbrella and parasol option, they constructed a substantial portico that takes you out of town a thousand feet up the hill and is two and a half miles long, it may well be visible from space, we could certainly see it from the plane as we left.

It's tremendously bonkers, and somehow typical of this city that I suggest is a more convivial place than some of its celebrated near neighbours.

The many arcades, the small streets, lumpen basilica, the friendly people the wonky towers all go towards making this place a fabulous place to spend a few days, but the undisputed star of the show is the food.

We had carried out some research prior to our stay, and with Trip advisor as our guide, picked three trattoria in the top one hundred places for the city, ignoring any gelateria, or pricey places, and didn't eat anywhere else throughout our stay. All three were family run affairs, very busy, all freshly prepared and served with a smile. A typical meal of Antipasti, Primi of handmade Tortellini (worth the trip alone) followed by a plate of veal and a bowl of green stuff with coffee to follow on and seventy five centilitres of wine for two people came in south (Partridge) of fifty euros every time.

And at this point I'd like to say, hey Prizzo, Usk and Zosso, up your game a bit eh, it's pretty poor stuff you dish up in comparison and for twice the price!

Same to you Starburks, Costas, Cafe Mero,

Who seen to fear to mingle among the coffee bars of this town where a freshly ground brew can be had for under a pound.

We found ourselves saying "Wow" a lot during our dining, and while reflecting in bed in front of some Italian TV, we took in an episode of Italy's Junior Masterchef. The two teenagers competing had breathtaking culinary skills and demonstrated a deep understanding of fresh ingredients and their preparation and use.

They really got food, and worked coolly on a set which resembles a culinary coliseum with two presenters and two professional chefs gathering on a balcony above to bait them and deliver the thumbs up or the thumbs down at the shows denouement. It may be subjective to suggest, but either would have gone a long way in the adult version over here.

Bologna is an old, but vibrant city, reassuringly bonkers at times with the odd risque statue, beautiful, fun, friendly, and free of one armed bandits, it is a city comfortable in its own skin,

But the food, oh the food, they get the food thing more than anywhere we have visited.

We shall return,

After I've had a sandwich.


Previous readers of this guff may remember that each trip abroad I like to give the gift of a corkscrew to the chaps at airport security to facilitate our passage to the aircraft. This year I discretely placed our holiday corkscrew in Madam's handbag for our return journey, who found the item while bagging up her liquids of 100ml or more. Taking an alternative course of action to myself when previously placed in such a situation, she owned up to security, who consulted and reported back with "Don't worry madam it's only a picnic corkscrew, carry on through"
Aghast at Madam's fortune I reared up and bemoaned the fact that three times I had been required to hand over such an item that I had inadvertently retained in my camera bag, and what was it about my face that suggested I was hell bent on boring a hole in the cabin wall that was missing from Madam's demeanour, at which point a snap of the rubber gloves and Madam tugging at my elbow carried us away from the scene.

Friday 3 April 2015

Picasso, Admiral of the Fleet, does Yoga

Another dry week, and the river drops a little lower, there are a few too many tree roots on show in the margins for my liking at this time of year.

Please rain sometime soon.

I have heard several keepers of long standing express this view in recent weeks,

It's not just me, so I won't go on.

Well perhaps I will.

If winters like we have just had are now considered the norm and we continue our unsustainable method of pulling water out of the ground and sending it all away to sea, I predict the use by date for fishing this stretch of river will be sometime next century, when all that will remain is a spring ditch that flows after an occasional wet winter.

Pauses to prick finger and write Dever for Forever in blood on a piece of chalk before rummaging for old Madonna CD

Further musical analogy follows:

Aaaayyypril, come she will, when streams are ripe and swelled with rain.

Nope, sorry Art, your theory on flat rabbits may still be relevant, but this statement no longer applies.

Things are beginning to wake up, Yellow flags have cracked the surface of the water and now stand at six inches, while the inky black flowers of sedge in the fringe contrast with the elegantly curled leaves that give echoes of a fascinator atop a Judy at the rails taking in the Grand National.

The scorched earth policy continues and more reed beds have been burned, at one point I nearly reduced my chainsaw hat to a blob of melted plastic as I absent mindedly abandoned it in the track of a fast moving flames urged on by the merest zephyr.

And at this point we can report that the Merlin, that continues its sorcery about the parish, is currently capable of 35mph at low level flight. It appears, as if by magic, from the neighbouring hedge and flits up the road fifteen feet in front of the bumper, for what appears to be kicks alone, and while we're on cars, our mechanical marvel from the Bavarian motor company that caused such financial consternation earlier this year has been taken from us. We were visited (and while there may be some room for manoeuvre with regard to the actualite in much of this guff, this is as straight as Nelson and indeed his column) by an Italian skydiver from Basingstoke. The test drive was all that you would expect from an Italian who goes about his business accelerating at nine point eight meters per second squared, but he was good fun and his partner had won many medals in falling through the sky competitions. He didn't go a lot on Basingstoke, bar the opportunity to pick some five star Porcini mushrooms that the locals didn't seem too fussed about. He bought the car, was good fun and gave us several tips on tasks to undertake during our impending trip to Bologna.

And so with our fleet reduced to two, and yes I do don the tricorn hat of the Admiralty, particularly when MOTs and Tax hove into view on the horizon, we were left with Child B's ten year old Punto to potter about in, as he was away in Copenhagen looking at roads and buildings (finally some value for University fees) which focused the mind a little,

The ten year old Punto, not Child B's sojourn in the land of the midnight pastry.

Unbeknown to me, Madam had conducted extensive research into our next mode of transport and had identified the car that we should purchase next. More of the same apparently, and bugger the impracticality as an angling vehicle: it's fast, comfortable, economical and has a solid feel that she enjoys.

At which point I sighed and recognised a fait accompli when presented, and briefly pondered her use of the phrase "solid feel that she enjoys" but accepted the fact that the payback for driving a Citroen Picasso brim full of fishing tackle and bait to a river in mid Spain continues. We emerged at either end of our odyssey like the bones of Richard the third when they last held flesh and may well have uttered an exhortation for a horse,

The Picasso went at the end of that trip, but for an entirely different reason.

Making our way out of Spain we stopped at a garage to refuel, as I delivered the gas Madam visited the kiosk to hand over our zobs. Five miles up the road and approaching the border, Madam enquired as to why I had only put five zobs worth of petrol into the car, to which I replied that I hadn't, the tank was full and would see us some way past the Millau viaduct. As gun toting border control guards beckoned the penny dropped that we were the unwitting perpetrators of a fuel heist. Madam had got her dos and tres mixed up, a week fishing on the Ebro had led to her carrying the air of a biker moll and the kiosk clippy had assumed she was the pillion passenger of the scooter being refilled at the neighbouring pump.

We sweated our way across the border, then hightailed it across France and under the channel to home, where the Picasso was on ebay within a week, lest Interpol make enquiries.

At which point I'd like to balance this guff out with some positives on the Picasso. The chap who lives next door to my parents drives for a living and obviously looks after his, because here's a short film of his Diesel Picasso passing half a million miles:

Top effort, and practical as it was, I don't think I could suffer the stabbing pain in my left buttock that only ever occurred when I drove our Picasso, but that may well be down to the curve of my booty and nowt to do with the car.

Which brings us to comfort, which I am now told (and beginning to understand) is important. I have been fortunate enough to drive some very nice cars owned by my employer. I have driven for five hours in the early hours to Southport with a flatulent greyhound in the boot and emerged refreshed and full of vim, ready for all that the day may hold. By contrast I have popped to the shops in some models that we owned when money was tight (it still is, by the way) and hobbled to the till.

Comfort counts.

This all seems to be turning into a pitch for Clarkson's shoes, but to get to the point, Madam's point that comfort counts, sits well at the moment. The German thing was comfortable, half a day driving in any direction (often the wrong) was enjoyable, we took it to many corners of the continent and never had a doubt that we would get there or be in a crippled condition and no state to enjoy our new environs. No it wasn't so bad, it just didn't do fishing rods well, but hey ho!

Last week saw us braving the perils of the M25 in a squeaky Punto to parley with men of Kent over a similar motor. They had many many autos, a car supermarket I think they call it, and the deal was done in a day. Madam assures me that it will be just like the last one, bar the bills, but I'm not so sure, half way home it started talking to my mobile phone and outside the house it was intimate with Madam's phone. Chuck a tablet in the bag, and a cabal has been formed through the power of blue teeth that far outweighs the human input of clutch, brake and gear change operation. Some mats and some pots for growing herbs indoors on window sills have now turned up, it appears the car is ordering it's own accessories at Amazon.

It's clever stuff and baby steps towards driverless cars and I really like driving the thing, but issues remain over the carriage of fishing rods, so today a roof box and bars have been purloined to replace the roof box that is currently employed as a toboggan. The box is big enough to take a two piece carp rod and a fair amount of bait and has the added advantage of delivering an angler to a swim at a significant rate of knots,

Yes, with a little tweaking we can make this thing fit for fishing.

Just delivered Vino and the requested provender to Madam on the sofa and caught the warning on a TV show from across the pond that the following programme may contain scenes of an emotional nature,

emotional nature?

Violent and sexual, ok, you pays your money you takes your choice, but emotional?


emote away

I'd prefer to be warned of the anodyne if I'm honest.

The annual fishing lunch took place last week, which was a surprise because haven't we just had Christmas? Some crank posed the preposterous proposal that this year was 2015, a little too much "back to the Future" thought I, as it is only three years since the new millennium began, and if it was 2015 this would be the 29th year I have been winging this gig.

I humoured him of course, and peppered our conversation with oblique reference to Delorean cars and Michael J Fox. The queer looks he shot me, confirmed that he is clearly on the slide.

2015 indeed

If we examine this a little further, scripture from the 1970s tells us that in the year 2015 we will all be pulling on hover shoes and cars will have little wings, and no wheels (Bleep & Booster Blue Peter Annual 1974) although the premise that cars will be placing orders on Amazon receives no mention and the exhortation to produce a home made interweb via tin cans and bits of string comes over a little clunky, but the germ of the idea is clearly there.

Once again, 2015 indeed....Ha!

Anyway, returning to the REAL world, and important matters such as fishing, early season sport should be good. We have a river full of fish, hawthorn hatches should be reasonable after a winter of dry meadows, and plenty of mayfly got back on to the water last year to lay their eggs for this year's fly fishing fiesta.

Last week we went to church, no epiphany but a memorial service for one fat lady. The Church was St Brides just off Fleet St and the choir were the best I have ever heard. They are a professional bunch and conduct lunchtime recitals, to which I may drag madam one day. Particular highlights included a fantastic version of Boney M's Rasputin and a rendition of Verdi's Libiamo that sent many a neck hair erect. It was a great turn out, and we can report that Tim Wonnacot is currently a spectacular shade of orange although this may have something to do with a Strictly Come Dancing live tour. The uplifting mood was tempered however by the behaviour of Central London motorists who were rude, aggressive and a little too fond of the horn for this countryside cruiser. Emails were fired off to a big noise at Transport for London, in which the experience was likened to the lawless streets of Naples which we negotiated a few years back, although following one parp on a horn, mid Strand, I found myself shrugging my shoulders and uttering "Excuses je sui Anglais" a phrase I have proffered to a fellow motorist many times on the Peripherique.

Expect change soon, the emails were well worded and hard hitting, watch this space and the streets of central London.

With the mystical age of forty seven, now a reality, it has been pointed out that I occasionally talk in tongues,

Involuntarily and often inopportune, but tongues nonetheless.

A series of medical investigations and extensive research on the internet confirm that I have either early onset of Taurettes, something that can only be fixed with expensive juju wood, or a small spot in my lower back that makes me cry "Oh bugger" every time it is agitated.

An observation was made that I no longer glide across the ground in the manner that I used to in my twenties and at one stage the words stoop and stomp may have beeen used, so we have plumped for the small spot theory. Madam also gets a few knot spots in her upper back and during one of our, "we are not as young as we used to be and here is a list of our ailments" diatribes to Child A, she put us onto a Yoga App that she uses.

Now I remember the Beatles promoting this kind of caper sometime around the release of Rubber Soul, and at this point I'd like to remind all present that I fly in the face of Tofu and scoff at all chakras, but a week of subtle stretching that serves as gentle exercise has freed me up as would a prune to a recalcitrant colon. Ok, the leotard chafes a tad and the pan pipes and cowbells backing track grates a little, but the upside of being able to get down to clean out the woodburner without blurting out an "Oh bugger" is fair recompense.

My name is Chris de Cani and I am currently a Yogaist,

There I said it..........I'll give it a week, tops.