Monday 31 August 2015

Mummy Mummy, that man's drinking wine!

On a plane to Jamaica
I sat next to a Faker
whose Goya had made her
lots of peseta
I said, a plane to Jamaica
that's a fine dream maker
but she wrote on some paper
Croatia not Jamaica

After Dr Seuss.... or possibly Dr Pepper

And so we found ourselves on a stunning island that could pass for Santorini with the blue printer ribbon run out.

All of the houses are the same colour and there seems to be only one supplier of roof tiles. There is an awful lot of white, with the older houses constructed from the same stone as the Vimy Ridge memorial on top of a hill near the road to Arras.
The island is a fifty minute ferry ride from Split, and I can concur with Child A's opinion, as it was her who put us on to the place, that the Dalmation coast and its islands are stunning.
Driving here is easy and the Croation government are investing heavily in their road system and the islands are served by an excellent and extensive ferry service plus a squadron of sea planes operating out of Split.

Three days in to our stay and we had done little but chip away at a personal veneer built up over a hectic six months, when Melinda, a small girl aged 7 (I'm guessing) ran around the pool shouting.

"Mummy, Mummy that man's drinking wine"

I resisted the opportunity to quote Bill Hicks

"Like a f%$&ing fiend"

I should make it clear that I was not sitting on a park bench in unsavoury trousers, lurching through the middle of town, bottle in hand or seated on a back pew in Church. I was sitting on the balcony of our apartment overlooking the Adriatic preparing to take lunch with Madam, whose imbibing went unnoticed by Melinda, and imagine the scandal at the revelation that Madam worked in education - the shame!

How did it come to this?

I'm all for getting the right message across with regard to alcohol, but come on Melinda, and good luck with your family's quest for everlasting life, but give a guy a break on his hols.
They didn't see our plate of cheese, ham and nubs of bread and I'm sorry Melinda but I may have lapsed with regard to my five a day during my stay, but hey, things will get back on track as soon as we get home.

We continued with our lunch, of course, and hatched a plan that including ending my morning dip, that served as a livener to shift the fug of all this hedonism, to run to Madam on her recliner and remark.

"Rachel, Rachel, they're doing Zumba by the pool"


Melinda will confirm that we spent most days in wine. Madam is making the most of the excellent internet connection that serves this remote isle, by each evening watching ancient episodes of Magnum, Monk and Quantum Leap - sorry Melinda's Mum, there's no documentaries being taken in on this trip, and hey Flash, there's a better internet service on this isle than the one we receive forty minutes from the UK's capital where we can but dream of "live stream". This Croatian service even coped with the arrival of a teutonic Wifi harvester midway through our stay as a trio of teenagers fresh in from Jutland gave battle via the medium of FIFA football online.

The facts as we have them:

Can "Live Stream" on an island - population 14,000, fifty minutes from mainland city - population 150,000

Can't "Live Stream" forty minutes from capital of G8 country = population approaching 9,000,000

Wildlife included hundreds of swifts and swallows in the town that performed each evening over dinner,

a snake,
a cat that lived in a telephone box
and plenty of Pomegranates.

Croatia's take on Pointless was a sombre affair with few jokes or banter,

and their version of Richard Osman was of average height but still claimed the table and chair option.

Each afternoon we hit the pebbles that serve as a beach in these parts. This part of the Adriatic is as clear as the spring fed waters off Corfu and the snorkelling is close to spectacular, there are many fish

The Shimano multi-purpose many piece rod that serves for spinning and float fishing made the trip, and the harbour offered great sport on light tackle with float fished bread fished on the drop between the boats, but I have recently acquired a 9ft, 8# Airflo four piece that conveniently fitted into the case (little did Madam know that the portmanteau was selected with this in mind) and a box full of pike flies that also made the trip and I spent a few hours working my way around a quiet bay bothering the bass before taking beer on board by the beach.

We made one excursion to the highest point of the island, It seems like a good idea most years, but inevitably ends up as a discussion on "scariest roads we have driven" The view from the top, taking in the sandy beach at Bol and the island of Hvar was worth the worry of sharp bends and precipitous drops.

We also visited several coastal villages, there are very few in the middle which is mix of olives, vines and scrub. Not once did we find a crowd on the island bar the queue for the ferry in the island's capital, and for a couple of middle agers looking to recharge and defragment, the quiet atmosphere is perfect.

Split was the exception, to the crowd rule. An interesting City it was popular with tourists, back packers and the cruising set,
many guided tours were underway where the fine details of the fascinating Diocletian palace which sits at the heart of the city were being explained in many languages.
There were also many opportunities to have a photo taken with what must have been a cohort and a half of roman centurions

Food was fine, with fish inevitably to the fore, the Italian influence is obvious, understandable, and very well done in most cases and the wine was ok. The big surprise was the quality of the steak that we were served, nothing short of sensational and good value with our bill rarely more than thirty pounds.

It was on returning from one of these gastronomic adventures that Madam made the observation that there is hardly a scrap of litter to be found anywhere on island, in the street, side of the road on the beach, in the sea. A second observation followed that there was also very little graffiti, and suggested the local population take great pride in their environs. Whether this is a natural symptom of a country still in the infancy of independence or perhaps it has always been thus.

Church on Sunday was quite the draw with standing room only and quite a social scene in the few coffee houses on the front followed the preaching.
There was even a cessation in the regular games of cards played by a particular generation of men each morning on the tables along the front when church commenced but the dealing was done again soon after. the church doors closed.

There has been much in the news recently about the "swarm" of boats on this ocean moving people from many nations without the required permission. There was no sign of this activity until one night we were visited by an armada of fifty or more boats manned by tribes from many nations,
"The yacht week" they call it, and if you feel so inclined give it a google,
In simple terms it comprises a flotilla of boats carrying five hundred souls or more, rocking up on the beach opposite your apartment with their own disco. It didn't seem to sit well in this quiet spot, and the five minutes chanting of "Yew es Ay, Yew es Ay" at four in the morning in response to triumph in some international drinking game wasn't appreciated on this side of the creek.

The contrast if they came across a boat brim full of desperation further down the coast couldn't be more stark.

There was further stark contrast to be found in the evening as some seriously big boats rocked up for tea to mix with the contented locals. Ear wigging conversation at neighbouring tables, where despite the bling, Versace and Armani, conversation often betrayed heads too far up their own backsides and kids forced to behave noisily or badly to seek attention, it was plain to us as to which side of the divide we would prefer to fall.

Louis de B was again the choice of reading matter and his latest book "The Dust that Falls from Dreams" It's ok, but not nearly as affecting as "Birds without Wings" or as unputdownable as "Corelli and his mandolin" but the "War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts" and the rest of the trilogy always serves as reliable read and it was that with which the week was finished.

And so there you have it we didn't do an awful lot in the week but returned thoroughly refreshed. I had grown a "holiday beard" a la Paxman and Milliband, its a patchy affair with bits of grey and gold among the brown, Madam is unsure, but is adamant that it is preferential to the "holiday nasal hair" I usually cultivate. Like our elders we did a lot of sitting , cup in hand silently taking in the ocean. It may not be the tartan flask in a Ford Anglia on the front at New Brighton, but you know what Melinda,

Sometimes you just gotta sit, with liquid refreshment to hand, and stare at the sea - it's good for the soul.

Matters arising that I forgot to mention during preparations for our trip.
1: Southern Electric - not the biggest fan of their billing department, but the gang who rocked up in the middle of the night to restore power after a horse chestnut cashed in its chips and left lines draped across the roof of our home were brilliant, we never lost an oven chip ( apologies again Melinda)
2: Fishing picked up a little, although Otter's had been about. Many fish in unexpected places avoiding the deeper reaches where they were vulnerable to Tarka. Plenty of sedge and a trickle of olives proved tempting to less nervy fish
3: Rain in the middle of the month, freshened things up a little , and grass has once more gone green, rain will only help.

Normal service will be resumed sometime soon

Monday 3 August 2015

Lord Sewel and and Changing Rooms in La Senza

Now I'm all for each to their own, and if the chairman of a Standard and Ethics committee feels the need to don a scarlet brassiere and leather jacket to snort coke from the decolletage of his houri, and at this point it may be pertinent to examine the influence of Max Moseley and Dominic Strauss Kahn on their contemporaries, although Cynthia Payne did make a mint from the political elite in the sixties and seventies for similar services, so maybe Max and Dom are not to blame.

What the bestockinged Sewel gets up to behind closed doors is his own business, good luck with the mirror in the cold light of dawn, and how long before a motion is passed decreeing that all branches of La Senza must provide both male and female changing rooms, but the tone and subject of his language during his after hours adventures are more of a concern for a man in his parliamentary position than his choice of underwear and the strength of his snuff.

In a brief lifting of Operation Stack, Madam and myself conducted an early morning retail raid on positions across La Manche. The visit passed without incident. Buying wine is a given, as is olive oil and enough baguettes to fill the freezer as it is about the only bread that doesn't make us bloat (what goes into some UK bread at the moment) We filled up with diesel at 78p a litre, bought three months worth of Lavazza coffee at a third of the price of any supermarket over here, stocked up on runny cheese and pate, took lunch and were back home by 3pm. Three hours later, operation Stack was once again in place as two thousand souls up from the horn of Africa, who had been hiding over the brow of the hill tried to storm the tunnel, halting all trains.

Now I'm no radical, but putting my blue sky, let's throw some ideas up in the air, shoes on, how about this for a solution.

For one week a choice few will be given a medium sized car and a set budget and invited to ride the roads of Northern France, for the second week they will be asked to ride the rails of the same area, throughout this time they will only be allowed to shop in a French supermarket, any money they have left at the end of two weeks they can keep. They will then be invited to repeat the same experiment with the same budget in the south east of England, at the end of the four week period they will be asked where they would now like to claim political asylum, I am confident that two weeks of the UK motorway and rail system may sharpen the mind and empty the pocket a little, and your average Pierre must look at a UK supermarket deli and think " Is that it? at home we have them this wide(sweeps arm with gallic flourish)

News in from the correspondent on my other shoulder:

We have fantastic ferry workers, cheddar cheese, imperious sausage, black pudding, magnificent beef, lamb, venison, pork, we're having a go at wine - and one day who knows? Our potatoes remain unmatched by any nation in the world (Francis Drake knew what he was up to, bar the cigars) and at this point could we examine what has happened to Jersey potatoes in recent times. I don't mean to sound like my Grandma, but Jersey potatoes just don't taste the same as they used to (reaches for slice of half moon and further Craven A)

On reflection this proposal may not fly, UK sausage will prove to be the clincher, but our motorways and national rail network are not that great, and hey Flash, now you've got full power, how long before you propose we trade the accountant and oil worker surfing the top of that Norbert Dentressengle lorry for a few trade unionists or environmental campaigners?

During our drive back through the 50mph average speed check that stretches across much of Surrey and Hampshire it became apparent what a much trumpeted "smart motorway" actually is.

In an attempt to add a human touch to the extensive roadwork experience, new signs in the shape of smart phone text message speech bubbles were displayed amongst the cones and inert diggers, proclaiming "welcome to our work place" and " Broken Down? we come to you" the thought of someone breaking down, then being attended by someone rushing up first to erect a sign by your stranded vehicle reading " We're Here!" followed by a second one saying " It looks like you've broken down" only to reach in his van to erect a third with the message " I am very sorry, but I do not have my Happy to Help sign" before driving off, did cross our minds, but how about some more appropriate signs such as "Here all Year" or " We've gathered lots of cones and we will use them"

Through the froth, we shall now attend to the river.

Where there is still froth. But that's ok according to a piece in our local paper reassuring a member of our local town society who expressed concern over the colour of the water in the river near the high street. He had highlighted the brown gunk that was slowly smothering the weed and the cloudiness of the water, tests were carried out and according to those charged with protecting the environment everything was ok, and conditions were within the required normal centiles.

There, they said it, brown gunk cloudy water and poor water quality in this chalk river are now considered a normal occurrence in summer.

This shouldn't be the case.

An inch and a half of rain in a day may have spread panic throughout the hermatically sealed radio studios of this land ( I shan't go on, a little more Prodnose please, and much less vanilla) but it freshened up the river and perked up the fish no end with ten fish caught over the weekend, the biggest a senior brown trout of four pound taken off the top in the middle of the morning. A platoon of otters in residence for forty eight hours saw some circumspect fish and a trail of half eaten fish on the bank (grayling, pike, trout and a roach of more than two pounds) but hey that's what Otters do, the UK Fish population can take the hit........... can't it?
There may be a difficult conversation that needs to take place, and at some point somebody needs to be brave enough to start it.

One fish that continues to evade capture and so far the Otters, is the star of last year's mayfly video "Yoinks Grendel's Mor Cometh" - June 2014. She is now a substantial fish approaching five pounds and her shape can just be glimpsed in the bottom right hand corner of this photograph of the fishing hut. She has seen her fair share of artificial flies and when she is not in the mood she melts away into the far bank for some respite. If she doesn't succumb to Tarka I have every confidence that she will be in the same place this time next year only a pound or more bigger. Oh yes, there are some canny trout in this stretch of the Dever.

The weed isn't in great shape with brown gunk smothering any that isn't in the flow, and it may be the case that some starts to pull out during the next few weeks. There are also a few fish with the odd speck of fungus on their nose, which is a sign of stressful conditions. The top meadow that we subject to the medium of fire is about to burst into colour, principally with hemp agrimony but also loosestrife, willow herb and other stuff and will soon be alive with butterflies, and the moth count of an evening is also on the rise.

We are also inundated with gulls I read in the paper about a new craze that has kicked off with the youth of today. Gull running is vaunted as the new Nintendo, and involves holding a piece of pasty, chips or a crust of bread on your head and seeing how far you can run along a particular pier or promenade before the offering is taken by a gull. It is a shame it wasn't on the list for the 2012 Olympics, but with a little practice I can see medals in this for the UK.

We are not being mobbed by gulls in this valley, but we now see them and hear them on a daily basis, whereas it used to be only the odd occasion.

And so to the North, to visit Aunty Joyce in Pickering after a brief stop in Stamford to see friends, and then on to The Game Fair for the first time in over ten years. Soon after entering the Harewood House show ground we came across "Nige" who was embedded "deep cover" eschewing his usual beer and a fag for a cup of beautiful British cappuccino in order to avoid detection. It didn't seem to be very busy and the fishing area was much diminished from when I last attended the fair at Broadlands, when The Hampshire Riverkeepers Association had a stand. Many big names associated with all things angling were surprisingly absent and somehow I missed the couple of people who I was meant to be meeting but, but hey ho, there's always email, and thanks to the ST for the entrance passes and offer of free food.

I shan't bore you with our return on the highways of these Isles, but it was both prolonged, and harrowing and it is plain that all too often key road links are simply overwhelmed by the number of people using them and they fail to function as they should.

Now if only I knew a big noise in transport strategy circles,

Wait a minute.......

This written rubbish has been brought to you by an internet connection provided by a mobile phone company and not the leading telecommunications provider in these isles,

Which is my pocket money done for this month, but at least I didn't spend it all on sweets Grandma

Sunday 2 August 2015



There is much to discuss, but currently we are scuppered by the broadband service provided via the ancient telegraphic spur that serves these four houses courtesy of the nation's principle telecommunications company.

It has taken much of the afternoon to upload two photographs to a cricket club website, there are eighteen more to could be a long night.

Previously this kind of event has resulted in a throbbing vein and a funny eye. A stress related condition oft experienced by airline pilots (true) for which I have been prescribed a glass of Rose and some sunshine, which is currently doing the trick.

For the record, I am writing this in the most crowded corner of a country that purports to be a member of S Club 7,

or was it G7?

I have had a better internet connection on rivers so remote they have yet to be named (that last bit may not be true, but they were a long way away from anywhere else)

If all concerned wish to continue reading this guff, please send your name and address to,

Frustrated BT customer
Crowded corner of developed nation

and I will willingly sever my ties with the poles and lines people and send copies out in the post.

BT Poles and lines broadband service in this corner of Hampshire?


F£$%$ing hopeless

To the Rose methinks