Sunday 19 July 2015

Pianos to Pluto and The Generalissimo returns

Well here we are again with another blank page.

I only planned to chuck up this guff for a year, to serve as a reminder to a mind that was fast turning to mush, as to what it was meant to be doing from one day to the next, and here we are seven months beyond that twelve month period in the summer of 2009.


It's 2015?

If this is indeed the case, then that would make me 47 years old and that is clearly preposterous as it is plain that I have only just turned 40. I recognise the ploy in one day cricket of bowlers rushing through their overs to catch the opposing side out, but today's paper confirms that it is indeed 2015, so the gods must have bought the spinners on to get through a few years because I am increasingly aware that time is flying by. At which point it may be pertinent to consult the sage of Chigley on matters arising.

Bleep and Booster may have been wrong about the Hover Shoes but they nailed the bit about Pluto, as this week we sent one of Steinway's finest grand piano's with camera attached to take pictures of what some would have as a planet and some wouldn't. It looks great and the review on Trip Advisor suggests it's one to add to the bucket list (Rain made from Nitrogen sounds like a blast!)

The way that NASA handles these events is to be commended, it is widely accepted that sciencey types monitoring data and the path of grand piano on its way to the outer reaches of our solar system are not prone to outpourings of emotion, it's all about the science, and rightly so, because science does do great things that would not be aided by emotion, so well done NASA for bringing in the "whoopin and a hollerin" crew to perform the necessary countdown at critical moments and convey the message with the required emotion to laymen such as myself with no knowledge of quarks and querks (I think that's right) that yes, something really big did just happen, we just flew a piano to the outer reaches of space,

let's hope those Plutorians get Gershwin.

And while we're on space, the washing machine that was popped onto a comet has just entered the spin cycle, and plans are afoot to introduce a George Foreman grill (model 18910 with floating hinge) to a black hole.

Returning from space to attend to matters on the river, July fishing is everything you would expect it to be, even a succession of grey and gloomy days with much mizzle and drizzle (that does nothing for the aquifers by the way) have not distracted soporific brown trout from a diet of late night sedge, and on occasion, they will even, like a student polishing off the remains of a late night take away at breakfast, nose at what sedge remains the following morning. The July weed cut is underway and it's all about titivation and retaining water. There isn't enough water to run a full channel, so the margins are allowed to grow in and squeeze any flow that remains. The onset of insidious blanket weed has begun and much of the good weed is beginning to succumb. The river is full of circumspect fish tucking themselves away, any deigning to put in an appearance take up station in ribbons of fast water over clear gravel. The hideaways bang into my legs as I blunder about with my scythe, and I can report that there are two fish of over six pound around the fishing hut, I have the bruised shins to prove it. It seems a bit early to make mention of this but late season fishing could be spectacular as all these fish will feel the need to feed at some point.

I have just been summoned to the settee to deliver vital provisions and by way of maintaining an even keel on the marital vessel, took in ten minutes of a programme called Emergency A&E , which I can only assume is a sequel to MASH sans Klinger and Hotlips Hoolehan. The script seems to have taken a dip, with sharp one liners, kookiness and quips a tad thin on the ground, and where was that fine pillar of the medical establishment, Sherman T Potter and his horse?

Today Madam and myself have been married for 23 years, and together for 28. An event that we are currently marking by scoring a cricket match while I sit below a tree with Otis who is in disgrace because he has just emptied his bladder on a fellow spectator's jumper.

On our way home this evening we plan to visit the finest fish and chip emporium in the neighbouring town for chips and mushy peas (avocado to Peter Mandleson)

It's a long time 23 years and at this point I'd like to quote The Smiths, as it was they who stood sentinel alongside Jim Morrison and the cast of Rainbow on the wall of the first bedsit that we shared,

"Why pamper life's complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?"

Nope, not that one,

now let me see,

Ah yes, here it is.

"There is a light and it never goes out"

I didn't expect the first thing that we reach for each morning to be tablets until sometime around our ruby wedding anniversary, but each morning I reach for the morning paper delivered via the miracle of the internet to my bedside table while Madam reaches for Candy Crush, not an exotic Californian wrestler on roller skates, but a series of coloured beans that seem to regroup each night before resuming their quest to conquer earth. But sleep easy folks, Madam's all over them!

She's always been a one for a puzzle has the lady who has slept on my left for the past twenty three years of marriage, and sharing a bed with Candy Crush is infinitely preferential to jigsaws or jenga.

Returning to more urgent matters.

As expected with the hoopla of the election done, the government are making preparations to slacken shackles on potential applications to frack. A U turn is already being talked about with regard to National Parks and sensitive sites. Fortunately a Shale Gas Task Force has been convened to make sure all is well with regard to Fracking although dig a little deeper and we find that the task force is funded by the fracking industry and headed by Generalissimo Smith, the very same man who the EA paid a six figure salary for 3 days work a week who during a period of drought demonstrated his lack of knowledge on his brief with some bonkers talk about types of rain, and in the floods of 2013/14 demonstrated inspirational leadership by offering up the view that it was a straight choice between flooding towns or countryside. Forgive the repetition, but some of the nonsense that took place on his watch in this valley included Europe's leading supplier of bagged salad sending a thousand litres of derv down a chalkstream for which they received a swingeing fine of £5000, £1000 less than they were fined sixteen years previously for a similar event, and water companies sending raw sewage down the same stream for months on end one winter when groundwater was on the rise. Oh yes, I almost forgot the commissioning of a report at a cost approaching six figures into work required to bring the chalkstreams into line with EU habitat directive that was riddled with inaccuracies and has now been discredited.

Oh yes, the Fracking industry knew which man they wanted for the chair of the Shale Gas Task Force,

Summon the Generalissimo!

His credentials are kind of bona fide and he won't do the job of monitoring a safe shale gas operation too efficiently, worth every penny.

Turning to Sturgeon, and if you fish this river please don't rush for beefed up tackle, the sturgeon that escaped into the river during the floods of 2013/14 was recaptured on the forecourt of the garage outside Romsey.

The Sturgeon to which I refer is the Scottish variety, prefix Nicola and well done for resorting to nationalistic type to display no little snide with regard to voting on matters south of the border, and if you voted for an SNP MP and you don't agree with their recent modus operandi, do let them know, although the triumphalism displayed by some of the hunting fraternity after the election did nothing to further their own cause on such matters.

It may not have been apparent, but groundwater levels have been on my mind for a while. Hours on end perusing aquifer porn, have thrown up many incidences of re-injecting waste water, post treatment, back into the aquifers as opposed to sending it out to sea and relying on the water cycle to return enough for our needs. In an arid area of Israel a city with a population of 1.3 million is served in this manner. The aquifer must possess particular characteristics, and investigations have been made into applying the process in this country at various times during the last decade. Today we have only one such aquifer replenishment scheme in place, in the Lea Valley north of London, where it works very well.

Please Mr Cameron, can we revisit this idea in other areas of south east England.

Southern Water's drought plan for this area, speaks of a surplus of groundwater, there is much in the ground and houses will never run out of eau. The EA's take on the regions' groundwater puts it at risk, with no more available without impact on the aquatic environment. Southern Waters' remit is to guarantee water supply, the EA's is to protect the aquatic environment, but it is clear who holds sway when the bottom line approaches. Southern water's drought action plan is hopelessly outdated and needs revisiting.

To continue the theme, we still have foam on the water, but I've given up reporting it. Southern water's response on hearing of the froth, ten days after the initial event was almost instant, and a man was on the scene in a trice. We didn't find anything, and one of the reasons proffered was, the default - faulty septic tank, (obvs it's always somebody's septic tank. that chap from the bagged salad company said as much in the national press before his remarkable tea time TV mea culpa that perhaps his business may have had something to do with poor water quality after all) or possibly something else that had been washed into a ditch that fed into the river.

One day last week I crossed the parish boundary of the village immediately upstream from here to find a torrent of murky water making its way down the road to a ditch that fed into the river upstream. Water quality and general murk have been a bit of a blight on this season, so in the spirit of Scooby Doo I followed the trail up the road to a team of chaps who had dug a hole in the road and were pumping dirty water down the road for much of the afternoon.

The logo writ large on the side of their van?

Southern Water.

Oh yes, the cricket, is now a good time to have that talk about Kevin?

Thursday 9 July 2015

Forget Black Holes, Bindweed is the real threat to life on Earth

If anybody has any spare water can we please have some in Hampshire. There are a few furrowed brows in this valley over the state of play come the end of September. Of course it hasn't made the media yet, the slightest shower of rain at this time of year causes hyperbolic hysteria on the breakfast show and the lunchtime presenter last week declared that we had experienced a wet winter. When did our empathy towards the four seasons start to dwindle? The advent of the silicon chip or the industrial revolution when we all started working indoors? It's beyond me but it would be refreshing to hear a radio presenter, when faced with a day of rain, put a positive spin on the event and say that it is most welcome in certain corners of England, and at this point I would like to make my biennial appeal for Danny Baker to be given the Breakfast show, since Old Tel shuffled off, Prodnose is the most entertaining broadcaster we have, which is how I like to start the day, not uninformed preaching ( The new Top Gear presenter - and good luck with that) or the oily delivery of Nicholas Andrew Argyll Campbell, the Today Programme just makes me cross, and classical music sends me back to sleep so it's a Danny Baker (and Lynsey) Saturday Show Podcast for me of a morning to put a little bounce in my step,

Who needs the real world, with all its' insane and inhuman horror?

Oh yes, the fishing,

Fishing has been hard work if not infuriating. Fish have been feeding both sub surface and also off the top, water clarity is not what one would expect for the current flow and the river retains a certain tint, however the fish have their eye in and in cricketing terms are seeing it like a football. Only perfectly presented flies on fined down tackle are catching fish, several fish are preoccupied with nymphing but anything splashy or flashy has sent them scuttling, to date only one fish has been taken on a nymph. Several anglers have got stuck on fish that rise regularly giving the impression that the rod is in with a chance, only to go through their fly box having each offering inspected sometimes nudged sometimes nosed, sometimes drowned. Conditions are right for camping on a fish and going through the fly box, but it's the fish's prerogative to decline, which is all too often the case at the moment at which point I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for our fussy fish. A big fish of four pounds or more was lost on the top shallows, falling for a sedge it ploughed about in some deeper water above a hatch pool before diving through the hatch, forcing the angler to lie prone on the bank with his rod under the bridge playing the fish in the pool below, the leader gave way a foot from the point as he was drawing it to the net, which confirms the trout fishing gods have taken a dim view of proceedings on this stretch of river of late so a sacrifice was made and I went out and shot an Otter.

I didn't, I didn't, just joking, it would be a life in gaol if I had, which wouldn't suit as the only time I ever donned the gloves my team lost nineteen nil to Mouldsworth (yes it's a real place and not a place invented by Charles Dickens), I let in ten in the first half and was switched to my usual duties on the left wing at half time.

Returning to the radio, our breakfast show presenter, today raised the question of whether some rain would be welcome in this corner of England, his pots were drying out and staff were spending an inordinate time bustling about with watering cans. His mind was set at ease by a call from our man at Command Centre Central who assured our presenter that groundwater levels are absolutely fine in the south east of England.

That may be the case in some areas, but in others they are not. Now I'm no conspiracy theorist,

Sorry, let me rephrase that,

I am fast becoming a conspiracy theorist,

But with the race to Frack once more underway, any light shone on a diminishing resource that Freddie The Fracker would like to use could cause complications.

Oh yes I almost forgot, the Government's secret Shale gas rural impacts paper has been published after a request to the Information Commissioner. (Thanks Mr Mole) The author/authors names have been redacted, but it makes interesting reading. One bit jumps out under the heading of "Likely Significant effects of Shale gas drilling for the UK"

"The potential impacts are on water resource availability,aquatic habitats and ecosystems and water quality"

If you would like to read the report for yourself, you can do so at

Removing my cap of conspiracy to don my footwear of fact. The river is very low, springs that should have broken last winter didn't, the river that Otis and I ford every day, often with great care because wellingtons are only so tall we can currently do in muck boots. The outfield of our local cricket pitch has turned brown and crispy and a hole in the ground that I can look down to shine a light on the groundwater, reveals a water level a very long way down indeed
Has the "normal" range been reassessed and over what period of time is the "normal" range now calculated? While we are on what is now considered to be "normal" this stretch of the Dever still froths with foam and the water continues to retain a faint milky hue. Nobody seems too worried about it, which may be the first few steps of these conditions now being considered the "norm"

Chronic decline of the chalk streams anyone?

I have just finished cutting the weed over on the short stretch of the Itchen that I fall in and out of, and there is no foam over there, and the water is clear for a river of its size. Mid-summer fishing is similar to the Dever with one fish in this month worth four in May and squadrons of swallows, swifts and martins betray some healthy hatches of fly.

I drift along the oceans,
Dead Lifeboats in the sun
and come undone
Pleasantly caving in
I come undone,

QOTSA - 2002

Last week I climbed back into bed with Lucifer.

Child A and Child B are back and broadband has once again become an issue for this house.

Understandably their spell of urbanity has inferred an acceptance that broadband works properly and many things are possible over the ether in town than is the case in this rural spot.They have much to do on the internet regarding their studies, and Madam and myself seem to run an increasing part of our life through the broadband connection.

It seems difficult to function without broadband.

There are substantial parts of the third world that enjoy a better service than we do at home through the poles and lines that form the ancient telegraphic spur that serves these four houses.

As a result we are forced to rely on mobile internet for our house supply, which Madam and myself can just about get by on, and is a reasonable price at £15 a month, but watching any moving pictures or Skype are the stuff of dreams. Once we exceed our mobile limit for the month, swingeing financial penalties are applied. The cost of the first month of four people using this 3G mobile supply ran into three figures - which we fully understand and completely agree with Mr Mobile broadband provider.

So this month we have had to reconnect to Britain's leading telecommunications provider whose poles and lines deliver half a MB supply, albeit for a third of the price of the mobile provider.

It was half a MB when we cut our ties with the company five or more years ago, and today's devices suck up a lot more bytes than they used to. After a five year battle, over the quality of the broadband to these four houses (the remainder of the surrounding houses connect to a different exchange that provides an excellent broadband service) that resulted in a stress related eye condition and a lengthy exchange of personal emails with the CEO's office over the matter, I vowed never to ride their line again.

But with the only alternative to pay a hundred pound a month to a mobile company, and no other internet provider willing to offer a contract on such a weak signal, we have no choice but to return to our nemesis.

Hence this rather tetchy post.

The forty minute phone call to reconnect wasn't the greatest start to our rekindled relationship, and we were required to sever our telephone calls contract with the provider whose service had been both adequate and cheap.The experience of returning to this company may trim several years from my life, and the vein on my temple has already begun to pulse ominously at the recollection of the company replacing thirty two poles and a mile and a bit of line by way of maintenance, rather than connect to a pole in a neighbouring garden fifty yards away that links to a different exchange that provides an excellent broadband connection.

I dread twelve months of dealing with BT Broadband and it may prove to be the tipping point that finally sees me enter the cave, bearded, clad in a loin cloth shaking my fist angrily at the outside world. In order to make preparation for that day I have now buried my razor and ceased shaving, donning the loin cloth will serve as the rubicon.

Apologies for the downbeat tone of this post, but there do seem to have been a lot of things to shake a head at of late, Oh yes and rather hot too (did I mention the lack of water) normal service will be resumed as soon as it starts raining in this valley.

Matters I meant to attend to before the EA and BT got in the way:

1: Greece
2: The Budget - George O "I want people to be richer" Avarice anyone? how about kinder, or more human?
3: Inhuman and barbaric behavior in North Africa
4: Winning ways with scallops on the barbecue.
5: Forget Black holes and Colliding particles, Bindweed is the real threat to life on earth.

At least the cricket started well, and Andy's made a semi, married life seems to suit him, I reckon he'll be a Dad within the year.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Finding truth through delight, let out a little more string in your kite

Two weeks ago I spent half a day flying a kite.

It is a pastime I am going to undertake on a more regular basis, as things have moved on significantly since the days of Peter Powell and his stunt kite which had the capacity to clear a Welsh beach with a single uncontrollable strafe as it sped sideways at many miles an hour, pointy end to the fore, a few feet from the floor.

It's quite the thing in some cultures, as a means of taking your ease. Others use a kite for fishing and a method of presenting a floating bait for big game fish far out at sea, while those seething with a significant mass of testosterone can see no other use for a kite than to have a fight.

Almost two years ago to the day I chucked up some guff, in which I got cross about the management of the lake that serves as an environmental experience for local town society (A Mobility Scooter ride to Eutrophia-1st July 20013)
I was subsequently contacted by someone called Cindy, who was undertaking studies in London, who too had a shared interest in photographs of algae. The difference being that she took her snaps from many metres up, while I took mine clinging to the handrail of a bridge as my quivering anger was interrupting camera focus.

Cindy is on the cusp of completing her PHD and flies kites to obtain her aerial images for fun in many locations. She sympathised with my opinion of the proliferation of the evil algae in this river system produced in poorly managed -line lakes and kindly offered to come and take some photos from the air. Principally to provide images of algae on the up but also as a means of succour to sooth my ire, as flying a kite really is a balm to a pulsing vein on the temple. Recent issues over foam are providing a reminder of the exasperating summer of 2013.

Two weeks ago the planets aligned conditions were ok and Cindy and Savina, a post grad student keen to get into aerial mapping, arrived by train with a bag full of bits of kite and several cameras. The premise is to fly a kite at a thousand feet with a camera suspended thirty feet or so below. Two sets of photos are taken, one with a normal camera, the second with the infrared filter removed as infrared images show the early onset of any algal blooms.

There is some very expensive equipment available for gathering this type of data, but Cindy has worked out a cheap and cost effective way of undertaking the operation. First a snap and shoot camera is taken apart and the infrared filter removed, this is then attached to a wooden frame with elastic bands and the camera set to continuous shoot mode. A final elastic band is then added that holds the shoot button down. The camera is pointed at the horizon to focus on infinity and the frame and camera is then attached to a complicated and well thought out series of strings and pulleys that serve as a gimbal. The Kite, which has been specially made and screams stealth, is then launched and when around thirty feet high the strings pulleys wooden frame are attached and then, to quote Yazz and the Plastic Population, the only way is up.

To one thousand feet,

which is really high,

and well above some helicopters and planes, and at this point I remembered that I was supposed to contact the civil aviation authority and nearby military base, but no matter, we were up and away now and at one thousand feet the kite is dot. Ten minutes of flying over a lake in a neighbouring valley filled the SD card and provided the local Kite and Buzzard population with a new point of interest.

Positioning the kite over the lake takes a bit of working out, in order to place the camera over the required subject and while the wind may be blowing in one direction at ground level it may be coming from a different direction once the kite rises above the sides of the valley.

Drones can also be used but are an expensive alternative and won't fly as high as a kite.
The images we obtained highlighted the genesis of an algal bloom that is currently enjoying the warm weather and low water, and well done to whoever has since put a screen on the outlet from the lake to prevent large lumps of gloop continually making their way into the river.

Good luck ladies with your studies and thanks very much for a fun and informative day, and I'm sold on the idea of pictures from the air as a means of presenting evidence of environmental impact on the aquatic habit, but whether it's a kite, a drone or those Hover shoes that Blue Peter promised us back in the day,

time will tell.