Wednesday 20 April 2016

Sexed Up River Keepers Upbeat for Disney

Good evening everyone and apologies again for tardiness regarding posts,

been a bit busy and only now, with a week to go before the start of our trout fishing season, is their time to attend to a few loose ends and parish messages.

Tree work is all done. The logistics of how to move what remained of the two hundred year old ash tree were finally worked out and a sledge fashioned from tin to drag each ring of over three feet in diameter behind the tractor to the woodpile,

where I must now summon the strength and my trusty axe to smash this arboreal leviathan to smithereens, or wood-burner size pieces at the very least.

The rump of a balsam poplar that I have been trying to remove for much of the winter has finally yielded to my chronic persistence with the medium of fire. Little now remains and the short stretch of bank that it had rendered impassable is once again open for anglers.

Trees are waking up and there are definite signs of life in the fringe where the inky black flowers of sedge stand sentinel beside the more gaudy marsh marigold. The first swallows turned up on the 14th April which is a little later than most years and we have yet to hear a cuckoo. Fishermen arrived a few weeks ago for lunch and a walk of the river. I was once again required to account for my movements during the winter months, because the suspicion amongst anglers that river keepers take the winter off remains.

There were questions on missing trees, replacement seats and was that new bridge really safe, or had Otis, who initially refused to use it, seen something during construction that they should know about. It's always a fun day with an opportunity to catch up with "regulars" some of whom have fished here for thirty years, as well as serving as an indicator to the onset of spring.

Ludgershall still stalks the wood. Brooding on European matters, any fallen tree feels the full force of his chainsaw powered ire. We now have enough wood stacked up for the next two winters, and despite our frequent coffee housing and lengthy discourse on matters of state, we do seem to have got quite a lot done this winter, to which my back, laced up loins and knees would immediately concur. I now look forward to grass cutting, weed cutting and fiddling with flies and fish, if only to agitate a different set of muscles.

Oh no, not Victoria Wood.

A genius, she even managed to ease a laugh from Madam, mid labour with Child B,

a lady mid contraction must go down as a turn's more difficult audience, but the ballad of Barry and Freda set Madam chuckling.

Earlier in the month Madam and myself attended a theatrical performance in Winchester.

You may recall that I was visited by a proper writer some while back, who had been commissioned to write a play for a travelling theatre company in the south of England. Well I picked up plenty from our meeting and subsequent emails; principally that there is a bit more to chucking up written stuff than I had first thought and my secondary school English teacher may have been on to something in his annual report:

"Chris is blessed with little else but a native wit"

Anyway, circumstances conspired to make us miss the play in Andover, so we attended the performance in Winchester.

The piece explores the relationship between a brother and sister who are no strangers to the aquatic environment. I hadn't picked up on the fact that it was a musical until violins were produced and the fiddling began, which also took the lady, who on this night sat on my left, by surprise. As the two siblings trod their own paths with regard to the environment, we were guided through the piece by the sage River keeper, dressed in green with a northern accent and a distinctive gait. He reminded us of the threat to the aquatic environment, the importance of our rivers and the fragility of his role in looking after and protecting his friends the fish. I asked Madam at the interval if the sage River keeper reminded her of anyone in particular, to which she replied,

"not at all, he's a full head of hair, sings like a lark and can play the guitar properly, not like any river keeper I know"

Thank you Deborah Gearing, for your advice and kind words in the programme, and well done William Wolfe Hogan for "sexing up" river keepers.
It's called Upbeat, and I've already written to Disney about a prospective film as it trumpets all the right messages about rivers and the aquatic environment.

Theatrical review over, I'd like to briefly talk about teeth.

Just back from the dentist, a genial cove of a similar age who we have known for twenty years or more. He is now required to ask each victim laid before him how much alcohol they drink each week.

We exchanged a knowing glance, before he resumed reporting in tongues on the condition of my pre molars and molars.

I don't know the reasoning behind the question, but diktat may have been issued and a graph will one day be compiled to indicate a patient's consumption across the ages.

But shouldn't my NHS doctor be my first point of contact regarding discussion on alcohol consumption, and my NHS dentist charged with concerns over sugar, on how much J20, Coca Cola or Ready meals I plough through in a week?


Dons loin cloth retreats to cave fist waving angrily at outside world.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Flamenco and Old Sausage in Andalucia

Apologies for tardiness regarding posts but Madam and myself are fresh back from a week in the land of the orange.

Not the Netherlands, but the fabulous city that is Seville.

But first Madrid, a city we'd stayed in a couple of years ago (2002 apparently) two weeks after some trains were blown up by some followers of Osama, killing hundreds.

Well all those candles on Puerto del Sol have gone out now but other than that the old place remains pretty much the same.

After a night in a hotel a few notches up the ladder from the one we stayed in a few years ago, it was on to the train and the two hour trip at many hundreds of miles an hour to Seville.

Atocha station, the principle station in Madrid where the atrocity occurred, is a rival for the Eden project with tropical plants, ponds and penguins,

Not penguins, terrapins.

Our seats were booked several months ago with a guarantee that if we arrived five minutes late our fare would be refunded. Passing through land that spawned a plethora of Spaghetti westerns we reflected over fizzy wine and a sandwich that if we were ten minutes late we would not stake our claim, the return fare was less than £50 for two, and the whole train experience was a Jacuzzi shy of a spa break, so thank you Renfe AVE, and the EU for funding the whole high speed rail shebang.

Into Seville and twenty minutes of dragging suitcases through small cobble streets brought us to our billet for the week, a one bedroom apartment overlooking the cathedral that even my feeble arm could have hit with an orange should such a thing be at hand (which they invariably are in this tremendous city)

The following day my attempt to link up with a chap who chucked fluff at barbel on the mighty Guadalquivir failed miserably, due in part to the forces of Google translate that obviously turned "Meet me by the Isabella bride at 2pm" to "my head is made from ice cream and my feet from fudge, best avoid"

Fishing foiled it was on with the holiday. That evening we discovered that the atrium beneath our billet was the venue for a twice nightly flamenco show. The turn arrived an hour before curtain up and we took our chota pegs to a backing track of senora warming up her clackers.

Next day out to the Real Alcazar, and as Royal palaces go, not much to look at from the exterior, but once inside, wow!
Chucked up by the Moors who held sway in these parts for several hundred years, the interior and gardens are stunning.

The gardens are enough on their own, particularly with the orange blossom in full bloom as it was when we rocked up, but the intricacy of the guts of buildings are incredible.

These Moors could work an arch and must have been masters of mathematics as everything lines up, be it tiles, garden borders or arches.

With the temperature in the twenties we took our midday repast on the roof terrace of the apartment, a popular past time in this part of the world with its many roof top bars and restaurants.

After our daily dose of flamenco it was out for some superb tapas, the highlight of which was some braised oxtail. They're quite big on beef in Seville.

Up and out early for a market in La Macarena which was surprisingly well attended given that not much moves in this city before 10 am, then up some giant wooden mushrooms for a view of the city. Chucked up in the 1990's on the site of the old market for some Expo business they have drawn mixed reviews from the locals.

We liked the mushrooms, made from wood and with a free cup of coffee at the top included in the entrance fee of three Euros, they are an easy place to spend a couple of hours, and we confidently predict that tall wooden mushrooms will catch on.

Lunch and forty winks on the roof before a stroll along the river and a perambulation of one of the most famous bullrings in Spain. Not really our bag, but an impressive building all the same.

Further Flamenco, then out for some pucker Paella. Madam's brim full of fish, shells and other beach litter, mine a meat based affair with tiny chicken legs and ham.

Drink was taken on the way home at a terrific street bar that comprised little more than a window into somebody's house with one barman and one washer up. I was heckled by both over my north European shiny red head that had suffered from too many hours exposed to the sun on the roof.

Off to Cordoba the next day on another terrific train for more marvellous Moorish architecture.

The Mezquita started life as a Mosque when Cordoba was the capital of the caliphate that held sway in these parts, when the Christians returned, gothic modifications were made to the interior , but recognising the craftsman ship of the original builders much of the original structure remains.

Crossing the old Roman bridge, I cursed the angling gods for filling my case with fly fishing tackle as I took in some substantial common carp nose down in the middle of the river.

Cordoba is quite the draw for the cruising set from all corners of the globe and by lunchtime the place had taken on a multinational feel, so having taken some calamari and another slow cooked beef dish on board we headed for the station and returned to Seville to finally take in the Flamenco that had caused our preprandial drinks and teeth to rattle for the past few evenings.

And it was really good.

Bar the excellent guitarist, it appeared to be a family affair, with Mother belting out her rasping base baritone while son and daughter stomped about the stage clapping, with not a castanet in sight.

In a dance induced reverie, I departed the building with my guard down and was caught out by some old sausage in our evening tapas that laid me low for the next twenty four hours. I've had it before with Spanish sausage, and the effect can be quite unexpected and spectacular. Fortunately Madam is an old hand at my aversion and she nursed me through while continuing to punish the Ham and Cava as I starved for twenty fours.

Up and about the following day it was out into the shops,

I think Madam chose the right dress, it was paraded in daylight to make sure

a welcome return to food, before catching the train back to Madrid and a flight back to Blighty that passed without real incident bar an hour long chat on Seville and how we plan to return one day to this tremendous city,

who knows I may eventually meet up with that fisherman who offered to hook up by the Isabella bridge to bother barbel with a fly or perhaps I have been found out for one with feet made from fudge.