Tuesday 26 July 2016

To Infinity and Beyond!

Up your game Tim Peake,

I'm delivering for Amazon now!

Friday 22 July 2016

Poldark with a slipped chest and Pokemon

Apologies for the delay in posts, and to the person who got in touch to ask if there was job going,

I'm still here,

just been a bit busy keeping up with grass and marginal growth that is growing at a remarkable rate and one of the heaviest July weed cuts in recent years. I hit our weed reasonably hard for a July weed cut in order to keep the river within its banks. left unattended it would have choked the stream and flowed out across the meadow, at which point I could go on at length about the need to manage chalk streams properly, the nonsense of re-wilding and undertaking a watching brief on chalk rivers and hey, how did it go with some of that clever "woody debris" this weed cut.

But I won't as it's really hot and I am in wine attending to aches and pains that have developed on this husk of a body following days of work with a scythe.

Think Poldark with a slight stoop, high forehead and a chest that's slipped a bit and you'll get the picture. Otis has been out in weed cut taking the opportunity of a dip in the hot weather although he has been caught out a few times by rafts of weed that have affected his course while swimming.

As is often the case, mid summer fishing is challenging and many fish feed sub surface, as a result the "dry fly only" rule has been abandoned and we are hard at it with the nymphs, although fish rose to a good hatch of sedge in the last hour of light yesterday.

News just in, we have a Pokemon in our bedroom, I don't know which one or what it's intentions are but it promises to add a certain frisson to future night time activities. Pokemon were also present in the wine aisle at Tesco jigglypuffing up to some white Rioja on offer and we also saw Pokemon gathering at tables in Winchester and sneaked a photo, but are not sure which ones are which as our Pokadex is a little out of date.

Come on Yellow Pages, up your game!

I didn't understand Pokemon the first time round, but they're now the stuff of Derek Acorah, and I am working on my Yvette Fielding scream whenever I am informed of a Pokemon's presence.

We have a few broods of pheasant about, a few days old some of them, which does seem a little late. Most of the duck are fully grown and young kingfishers are on the wing, we have a merlin about again and a barn owl hunts the meadows most days. No sign of any woodcock nesting, despite perfect conditions, with much mud in which to probe. It's nearly twenty years since I disturbed a Mum with two young in the wood while mowing and she briefly flew around my head before dropping to the ground to lift each youngster eight or so feet away from the path of the tractor

I've been asked a few times about what Brexit will mean for fishing.

I won't go on, I've chucked up some guff on the matter for the magazine and have had my fill of the subject.

We are where we are, nobody needs to justify a decision or attempt to apportion blame, we must all unite on as one as only hate will thrive in any void left by division. Call me an old hippy possibly Doris Day because it may benefit us all to remember the lyrics of Que sera sera.....

I've just heard that Sam Allardyce has been appointed as manager of the England football team.

Sam Allardyce???

Good Grief!

Ok, we can breathe a sigh of relief that Alan Pardew wasn't considered, but Sam Allardyce, really? does nobody remember the style of football his teams play?

Andy Carroll kicks back and reaches for bubbles on reaching fifty caps for Old Albion

Child A's graduation last week for her Masters.

Sandi Toksvig hosted, and if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, don't pass it up, she is quite brilliant.

As is Child A,

who now has the letters BSc hons and MRes after her name, and has secured a position in the control centre of Thames Valley Police beginning in August.

Parents very proud, as we only have punctuation after our names,

sometimes a full stop,

occasionally a question mark.

once a semi colon.

Child B has almost completed his year working for a planning consultancy in Southampton and returns to Cardiff University in September to complete his studies. He currently has no letters after his name but is keen for it to be known that he was Longparish Cricket Club Fielder of the year in 2008 .

For the past few months Madam and myself have been engaged, deep cover, with the forces of HMRC.

Only now do we feel comfortable breaking cover to tell the tale of our travails with the collector of her majesty's taxes.

The battle began at the start of the year, when Madam received a directive that she had failed to file a tax return in time and consequently owed £100.

Our finances are not particularly complicated, but for ten years or so, Madam and myself have been required to submit self assessment tax returns, which we have diligently completed many months before the final deadline in order to have money owed applied to our PAYE tax code as we can't be trusted to squirrel money away, because hey, we like a holiday,

In October 2015 we held hands and dutifully entered figures for each of us onto the seven bridges of Konigsberg that is the You Gov website.

A few months later we received confirmation of our tax codes for the following year that acknowledged our little bit of income not covered by PAYE and, true to form, we kicked back and spent every last penny on our next trip, and then in February the email arrived informing Madam that she had not submitted a return and could HMRC have another £100. Phone calls were made and after many minutes on hold we were assured that the matter would be looked into.

After hearing nothing for two weeks Madam rang back and was informed that she now owed £200 and could she run through the course of events again as there didn't seem to be any record of her previous enquiry. Madam resubmitted her enquiry and, frustrated at her inability to resolve the problem, burst into tears and our jolly evening was gone.

Two weeks passed before Madam received another email, she now owed £300 and could she get in touch toute de suit to talk about it,

Which after many minutes on the phone, she did, and was advised to resubmit her tax return,

which she did,


with the HMRC chap on the other end of the phone, who assured Madam that a confirmation of receipt would arrive from the Yougov website by email within the hour.

Two hours later, a confirmation of receipt had failed to arrive and Madam burst into tears.

The following week she received an email informing her that if she didn't submit a tax return for the relevant period within a week the fine would increase to £400,

and tears flowed once again.

So a phone call was made, and, after many hours and another evening lost we paid the tax owed for the period in a lump sum rather than through the PAYE, but could we appeal against the fine?

Which we did, on three sheets of A4, detailing events and pleading our case, and that was another evening gone.

The following week Madam received an email informing her that she now owed £500.

You can take the tears and frustration as read, a phone call was made, many minutes were spent on hold and after much passing around we eventually spoke to someone who informed us that because we hadn't used the actual word "appeal" in our letter they could not consider our case, and did we know the fine was on the cusp of rolling over to £600.

We resubmitted our appeal with the word writ large in red all over the envelope and we also wrote to our MP Caroline Nokes,

another evening gone.

Today we have received a phone call from HMRC informing us of their error, no money was owed, all fines were off, the YouGov website did receive Madam's tax return in October and could we give them permission to contact Caroline Nokes to inform her that the matter is now resolved.

Which we did, and tears (of relief) flowed

There was no apology, and lesser ladies than Madam may have cut their losses at a few hundred pounds and stumped up.

It shouldn't have taken intervention at a ministerial level to resolve the matter. Madam made every effort to sort the situation out and was frustrated at every turn at the inability to speak to a human being with the required authority to sort out what was an error of their making through a Yougov website that has a plethora of glitches. .

The penalty system for late payment is akin to the methods of the mob, and if a payday loan shark applied a similar level of interest (Madam only owed four hundred pound) we would quickly condemn them as corrupt.

Today we also found out that the head of HMRC who left her post during these shenanigans due to an ineffectual performance and poor customer service received several million pounds on the way out of the door.

Well done! hasn't Old Albion been kind to you.

Thank you Caroline Nokes, you're a top banana and congratulations on your new job, I suggested to Dave in my last letter (remember broadband) that you should get a promotion. I've a met the odd oily MP but La Nokes is the real deal, as are a few others I have had dealings with in recent times.

On a lighter note we had a tremendous day at the Lords Test. Been every year since 1993 and it remains a highlight on the calendar. We enjoyed the extra leg room in the half built Warner stand, thank you very much Mr Graham for the tickets.

I also received another invitation to fish the Avon at Chisinbury, it isn't a big river but a great place to spend an afternoon fishing off a pub lunch. Mayfly hatched throughout the afternoon, as they do on the Avon although few fish rose, but I did catch two half pound trout on a caddis nymph near the top of a very long beat. Thank you Mr Hodder for once again inviting me.

And that's the end, I'll try not to leave it so long next time, but with the way of the world at the moment it takes a lot just to keep looking up and not down, and froth occasionally feels a little out of place.

Friday 1 July 2016

Oh Norman

Apparently there's been a referendum,

Who knew?

Graphs and charts demonstrate that baby boomers and the grey vote mustered in numbers to carry the day,

So we are where we are.

We all thought long and hard about our own decision based on facts presented and voted accordingly.

Democracy has been done,

Although Septuagenarian Norman, an ex pat in Torremolinos, who rang in on the radio one lunchtime this week did cause me to spill my soup when he explained that he had voted to leave the EU because of immigration.

Once again: We all thought long and hard about our own decision based on facts presented and voted accordingly..............

except Norman,

who may have been muddled by the moronic campaigning on both sides of the debate during the preceding weeks.


Democracy has been done,

Time to make the most of the situation we are presented with, make a few friends and attend to the Far Right who disturbingly seem to be under the misguided impression that their relevance has in some way increased.

Apologies, I'll have to break off there and pop out into the garden.

Back again,

Our garden parasol just shot past the window and now lies in many pieces.

Yes the Renewable energy and yes the Ben Ainslie, but in the modern age is there any real need for wind.

Anyway, how's this for irony?

Our local town, that last Thursday voted to leave the EU. This week ,for the first time, played host to a French market on its beleaguered high street. Real French people peddled their wares from Brittany, Normandy and Picardy and business was brisk.

To continue the theme of exits from Europe, the English football team continue to maintain their standards on the international stage.

And as to Roy Hodgson querying his attendance at a press conference following the debacle's denouement, you picked up fourteen million zobs for your four years and a few games of football Roy, the least you can do is rock up and offer a few thanks for the gig.

Having attended to Europe I shall now give a report of my recent movements.

Not a leger (should that be ledger as I've Arlesey bombs on my mind) of my time on the toilet, although I am increasingly aware of the necessity to keep an eye on such movements,

but my work on the river.

Earlier this week I was once again required to give an account of my movements to village elders via the medium of photographs and obfuscation. A difficult crowd, there were the usual troublemakers, but I like to think I justified my actions over the past twelve months while my employer distracted them with cakes and tea to draw their fire.

The river continues to be in tip top condition. With plenty of water, weed and fly, and few heron, cormorants and otters, the fish are having a high old time of it and numbers in the book are up for the time of the year. Some of the showers have been quite intense and with verdant growth both on the river and in the wood there are a lot of branches and vegetation that have dropped down across paths and into the river.

I spent one afternoon chopping up a substantial willow that cashed in its chips under the weight of its wet leaves and fell right across the road although I don't think we made the traffic news. We are still seeing the odd mayfly and a fish was caught on a spent pattern at the start of the week. With perfect conditions for grass growth mowing is proving to be an interminable business. Some years in July you could fish in suede loafers and not get your feet wet. Wellies are a must this year, with some bits of bank quite mushy and weed may have to be cut quite hard in July to drop the water an inch or two. Orchids are out in all the usual places, as are the lilies on the flight pond, the only obvious negative about a river valley that is currently in sparkling form are the ash trees, many of which look in pretty poor health.

I have just popped over to the Itchen and was delayed in the lane that exits the parish by a convoy of crack troops. They had taken a wrong turning somewhere as the dozen or more vehicles had to put in ten point turns to retrace their steps to the camp on the other side of the village. I don't know what went wrong and there are those that would point the finger at satellite navigation systems guided by malfunctioning space hardware that increasingly deliver long lorries to inaccessible small streets in Cornwall, or possibly Devon, but does this kind of thing happen often on manoeuvres? We were stuck for ten minutes, which I didn't mind as I found it quite amusing, but the sixty year old chap in the car in front got very cross and started stamping around in the road, until I pointed out to him that the convoy had machine guns and possible air support and shouldn't he return to his car and calm down.

On occasion I'll sign this guff off with the epithet "We are increasingly led by loons" but it doesn't seem appropriate at the moment as we appear to be a little short of leaders and a watching world that tutted last Friday, must now be pondering, whatever are they up to now?

Gripping stuff, but events over the past week or so may lead some to question their faith in Old Albion, although the excellent coverage both on radio and television of the battle of the Somme centenary must go some way towards a restoration of faith.
Well done the BBC for the coverage.