Wednesday 20 September 2017

Cold War, Sweeps and Oz

A few weeks to go and September fishing for brown trout is uncharacteristically tedious.

There are plenty of fish about, too many on some bends as a plop of a clunky nymph can send several charging about on the bottom. The water is incredibly clear, but that's the case most Septembers, and there is fly and the occasional fish deigns to rise but to call the things suspicious would be to underplay the situation. I've a suspicion we've once again drawn the eye of the Otter which will put all bar the dumbest fish on edge and I do feel obliged to offer apologies for our fish's circumspection as another frustrated angler heads home. It could pick up yet as fish will undoubtedly feed before spawning but it will more than likely be sub surface and its carefully placed drab nymphs that enter the water with the least splash that will take fish.

That or shock them with a Daddy Long Legs as their numbers are currently on the rise in our kitchen.

I'll break off there as it's that time of year again when we are contractually obliged to mention the establishment featured on the left.

That's the Fleet St Hotel folks, if you're ever in Dublin and I'd recommend a visit for the stand up comedy alone, give this place a go
(if you do check in, please mention this house)

Pheasants have found their feet and starting to wander and each day Otis and I must remind them of where they are supposed to be.

The previous piece of guff drew comment that the dog didn't feature often enough and could we see more of the thing on these pages.

It's a populist trick much pulled by the likes of Monty Don, John Noakes and Bob Carolgees to garner support for their work,

but one that I personally feel would dilute the gravity of the piece should it be employed here,

Lord Ludgershall is still with us and while we have had no requests for further pictures of "His Eminence", here's one of him in his new role of sweep (note the ermine disguised as fleece)

He came across some clever chimney cleaning equipment on the internet while undertaking a search of the amazon for a "small child to send up chimney"

I think that's what he said. my ears aren't what they were

The chimney sweep kit is driven by an electric drill and does a very good job, Ok you don't get a certificate, but I am reliably informed such things can be sourced on a Darkweb, whatever that is.

We have already booked Lord Ludg and his drill and brush combo for next year.

This week we said goodbye to our nonagenarian neighbour.

She's still alive and I'm confident she'll live for quite some years yet, but after a nasty fall one night last winter which required the expert first aid skills of the lady who sleeps on my left and a late night ride in an ambulance for myself three parts foxed and outside of two thirds of a bottle of claret after a particularly good piece of beef for dinner and the neighbour with a large hole in her head. It all ended well, although my recovery was significantly swifter than the neighbour's who was understandably shaken up by the experience (the fall, not the ride in the ambulance with me outside several glasses of red)

She drove her car past her ninetieth year and for some years used to pick up a lady in the next village who couldn't drive, who she would pay to do a few hours ironing . Collection included a mile long drive along the busy dual carriageway oft described as "The Highway to the Sun" A few years ago the lady detailed to undertake ironing duties expressed concerns about our neighbour driving along the dangerous stretch of road to pick her up and proposed that the arrangement should cease. To which our indomitable neighbour replied:

"Don't be silly Anne, I'd rather risk my life on the A303 than have to do my own ironing, I'll be over again next week!"

It was an important source of income for Anne and Mrs R didn't come across as someone who warmed to ironing, so the arrangement worked and continued for a few years after.

We gathered for tea they day before her departure and she held her own on discussion around the use of the pink ball in international cricket.

t won't be quite the same next door but I think it is for the best and the decision to take up the offer to live with her daughter was one that she was able to make for herself.

In other news:

With academic stuff and the cricket season done, Child B has hit the yellow brick road and currently resides in Oz.

Melbourne to be precise,

a bit of work, a bit of cricket with South Yarra CC and a bit of a look around.

Which is terrific, Madam and myself are tres envious and may pop over one weekend, although I do know a little about the place after receiving a small cheque some years ago for a piece of written guff regarding things to do and places to stay for an American website.

Wikipedia and Google served as my guide and it was quite a bizarre experience and if we do ever visit the place I don't think I'll be re- reading my recommendations, but when you next read a travel review for some such place or other, have at the back of your mind that the writer of the piece may not have actually visited the place.

I had cause to mix with local town society today. We kindly received a gift from family for our Silver Wedding anniversary of Thomas Cook travel tokens.
Never ones to hold on to trove for long we thought we'd get them spent and had an idea for a quick trip away. Unfortunately in the current age such things cannot be cashed in online and so it was that after walking dogs, and feeding both pheasants and fish I sallied forth to sample the anti meridian fleshpots of our local urban environs.

To find that my target travel agent didn't open until 10.00am on a Tuesday (staff training apparently)

With thirty minutes to lose I went for a walk, and at this point I could go on at length about the demise of our local high street. There are many coffee shops (some with parking for mobility scooters outside) many charity shops, many mobile phone shops and many empty units and a sound track provided by a large and aged burger van whose proprietor loudly proclaims wares of dubious source for the price of a pound to all who pass.

There are now a quartet of establishments of behemothic proportions that dominate the High St

The million dollar quartet are as follows:

Poundland, Poundworld, Poundstretcher and Wilkinson with The Range sitting on the subs bench down on the ring road.

Everything that Woolworths forgot to be,

Whither poor Winfield

Anyway, to the travel agents.

With the required time passed, I entered previously mentioned travel agent and expressed my disappointment that I had been forced to suffer the voluble burger man and early morning town society after not being able to complete my transaction online and could we seal the deal toute de suite as I had to get on? and didn't he know there was grass to be cut.

I presented my vouchers, drummed my fingers on the desk and waited for the assistant's response.

He studied my vouchers closely, raised his gaze to meet my eye and gently informed me that there were two travel agents in town beginning with the letter "T"

The one in which I currently resided was Thomson and he was very sorry but he would be unable to honour the vouchers and suggested I try the other travel agent that began with the letter T , the Thomas Cook establishment opposite Marks and Spencer.

I made my excuses and left muttering darkly about businesses sharing the opening four letters in their title, pausing on my way to the correct travel agent to make an appointment at Specsavers., which thankfully maintains a presence on our high street among the coffee emporia and charity parlours
Reports must soon be written and mental notes are being made while mowing about what to make mention of, most of which is forgotten by the time I sit down to write the things. Numbers of fish caught this year are up on the previous two seasons, despite a reduced number of hours of anglers being on the bank (we still maintain a long injury list amongst our regulars) Water levels at the beginning of the season were at frighteningly low levels, but we've muddled through thanks to a wet August and the powers that be refraining from drawing River Dever water out of the ground and sending it down the Candover stream. Hawthorn and Mayfly hatches were good but hatches of olives and sedge have been disappointing. Weed growth has been ok, although blanket weed has put in a late spurt and currently beach ball sized blobs of the stuff are rolling their way down the river.

I'm off the news at the moment (not in an newsworthy way) but the world's gone mad and several seem to be under the illusion that we have another planet to go to should things not go to plan on this one.

When faced with Armageddon this child of both the Cod and Cold wars found immersion in humour or nonsense deeply soothing,

and yes, dogs help,

but by way of balm, here's that video that broke the internet the other week,

Sunday 10 September 2017

We Have Nothing to Fear But the Sky Falling In On Our Heads

I don't know how it happened but it seems to be September.

The month in which fishing for trout usually picks up after the dog days of summer. Dipping into the archives our fishing books demonstrate that some of the biggest fish are caught during this month as hormones begin to kick in and appetite is raised in preparation for the rigors of spawning. After a desperate start to the season when the river remained at a lower level than the end of the previous season, the river has retained a reasonable level for the second half of the season with verdant weed growth undoubtedly having an effect. No groundwater intended for the Dever has been pumped down the Candover stream into the Itchen and consequently the much muttered mantra in these parts of "this river falls away far quicker than it used to during the summer" does not hold this year. Good luck to the Environment Agency in their battle with the weasels at the water company and the attempt to reduce the size of the abstraction licence for supplementary pumping of groundwater down the Candover stream. The impact of no supplementary pumping of groundwater into the Candover stream on the neighbouring Dever has been obvious even to this addled eye.

Blanket weed has come on quite a bit during the past month and competes with some surprisingly vigorous weed growth for space in the river. Trout seem to be bunched up and lurk mainly in deeper holes, although the top shallows that received the attention of our orange saws last winter have never been more productive with several good fish taken from both below and above the hatch.

There is a possibility that there may be a half rod (one fixed day a fortnight) next year. We've a bit of a waiting list, but sometimes the day presented doesn't suit the waiters, so if you would like to chuck your hat into the ring, don't be a stranger.

Watercress continues to creep out from the bank, pinching the river and helping to maintain a reasonable speed of flow, although the first frost will soon see it in retreat. Our heating clicked on this morning for the first time since last April, and it won't be long before the wood burner is back in action. I spent an hour last week walking around with a paint brush daubing crosses on ash trees that must be felled this winter. It's a fairly depressing business and one that I will have to repeat for several winters to come, but there are trees that currently show no sign of the disease that may have some degree of immunity so it may just be a cycle that the ash tree population must endure.

As the years progress I'll confess to an increasing appreciation of this time of year. An appreciation that is only increased by my employer's grandson's request for work before returning to Uni. I've long championed the wall and fence as the future of boundary demarcation over the medieval hedge, so it was with great relief that destitute grandson (he won't be cash poor for long as he's a year away from completing a law degree) set about the behemothic hedges that surround the place. Afters twenty five years of tackling the things, I'll attest to the theory that there is a bit of a knack to completing the job to the required level of satisfaction. These hedges will be viewed from all sides throughout the winter. A bit missed or a wonky line will grate for many months and don't get me on levels.

Anyway, aspiring law student completed the task to a high standard your honour, and in two thirds of the time that it takes these middle aged bones to complete the task, which was a little galling.

Late last month we took delivery of three figures worth of pheasant poults. It's the first time we've had the release pen up and running since all those Christmas trees fell over following flooding (it's on here somewhere)

It's good to have pheasants back in the wood and a few days shooting to look forward to. This bunch seem to have a sweet tooth and most afternoons this week an eating apple tree that borders my employer's garden has played host to thirty or forty pheasants pecking away at the ripe fallen apples.

Seed heads have now formed and I've now topped the meadows. I was surprised to disturb a couple of hares during my progress with the swipe. We don't see many hares up the river as a quick glance at google earth will reveal your correspondent driving a blue tractor and also confirm that the meadows are a long island and the hares have either swum the river or crossed one of three bridges. There were also several hedgehogs, many mice (that the barn owl missed) and an incredibly colourful spider that unbeknown to me hitched a lift home on what remains of my head of hair to put in an appearance at lunch when it dropped from my forehead onto my plate of cheese salad. if it had been the soup of the day before, he/she wouldn't have stood a chance.

After relocating Brer spider, (untroubled by his/her dip in the salad dressing) I returned to my lunchtime perusal of the newspaper and learnt that a book has been published by the author Andrew C Johnson that debunks all that Asterix taught us and lays claim to the lie that none of what that bunch of indomitable Gauls achieved actually happened.
I don't know what "La Johnson's" agenda is but I implore you not to buy this book,

Burn it if you can

All civilised people agree that Asterix and Oblelix actually happened, the danger of the sky falling in upon our heads remains and there is much to be learned from the writings of Gosciny and Uderzo.

And then there was the cricket.

The internet isn't big enough for me to provide a complete rundown of Longparish CC's dramatic season just completed,

although a brief summary can be found at where the photo gallery section is particularly apposite.

It's the first year since my children were born that I have not attended a Test match at Lords. I was kindly offered a ticket for the Saturday of the Test against South Africa earlier in the year, and a brace for the Friday of the Test against West Indies, but unfortunately circumstances conspired and I/we were unable to attend, which was a shame as it is always a tremendous day out.
This Test just passed was particularly poignant as it was Henry Blofeld's last stint at the TMS microphone. I've listened to TMS for most of my life. I can remember Arlott from Arlesford, Don Mosey, Tony Lewis, Trevor Bailey, Alan Mcgilvery, CMJ et al.

Blofeld has been an ever present throughout my time of listening.

The Times Cricket correspondent John Woodcock has been a part of cricket at my local club Longparish throughout his life and he was the driving force behind Blofeld switching from life in the city to a life in cricket correspondence. John is a terrific chap (he's the only doyen I know) and also a very good fisherman. He kindly took me several times as a guest to a stretch of the Avon where he had a rod for many years. He has also brought many of the great and the good in the world of cricket to the Longparish ground both to play and spectate, his photograph album is a procession of well known people from the cricketing world taking pegs at the Longparish ground.

Only last year the lady who sleeps on my left was slightly confused by the chap she had a conversation with who she thought she knew but could not quite place,

It was Aussie cricket commentator, Jim Maxwell.

The late Tony Cozier also caused some confusion a few years before.

There could be no mistaking Blofeld.

On two occasions I can remember popping into The Plough when he and John were taking pre-prandial pints. What you heard on the radio, was what you got in the pub. Holding Court and thoroughly entertaining with an amplification and turn of phrase that held the whole room rapt.

I'll miss him on the radio,

Monday 4 September 2017

Why Wander Odysseus, Why? Doh!

Still here,

Just had a few things on that's all, some semblance of normal service has now been restored, although a quick glance at the calendar confirms that there isn't much free time remaining this month either.

and yes, we've been away again, and the requisite report now follows, so if you only visited this house in search of enlightenment regarding chalk stream management or guidance in catching trout off the top, then on this occasion you will be disappointed,

Which is par for the course if we're honest,

Anyway, to the substance

On this year of years, and with the eye as ever on "Living for Pleasure Alone" we've been away again.

Cephalonia this time,

Inspired by all things Corelli (the brilliant book, not the dreadful film adaptation) it had been on the list of places to visit for a while and so it was that we set off in the early hours for Gatwick, keenly anticipating our first experience of the newly opened smart M3 motorway after many years of road works and average speed limits.

Unfortunately Smart motorways need at least eight hours sleep at night (who knew?) and the thing was closed from ten till six, so it was another "seat of your pants" hurtling along little roads in the hours before dawn trip to catch a plane at Gatwick.

Well done the roads of South East England, well done!

Into Argostoli and an hour drive over the mountains to the village of Agia Efimia, a onetime fishing village and a small community that now plays host to a well heeled yachting set from many nations, numerous Italian pedestrians and the occasional riverkeeper with spouse.

The heat was in the high thirties and after a brief pause for Mythos and cheese we hit the beach,

Which is where we remained for much of the week,

Each morning we woke to the sounds of goats with bells being herded up the adjacent hill, contemplated visiting somewhere in the morning, but ultimately opting for the beach as the Celsius count breached thirty by the middle of the morning.

We did visit the spectacular caves and the subterranean lakes which are a feature of this lump of limestone and are comfortably cool.

The whole island receives its water supply via a groundwater resource that is amply replenished by rain in the mountains that rise to five thousand feet, it is a surprisingly verdant island quenched by cycles of convectional rainfall

the theory of which confused our main man at command centre central a few years ago - it's on here here somewhere but here's a picture to be going on with

We experienced heavy rain on three occasions during our eight day stay.

The Melissani Cave system is an underground limestone river that could quite easily support a population of trout. The water temperature is a constant fifteen degrees and is slightly brackish due to its proximity to the sea, it supports a population of eels and the odd mullet and there were a few flies on the water. I did make enquiries about popping a few Rainbows in and offering guided fishing, although for overhanging branches claiming poorly presented flies read overhanging stalactites.

It is a spectacular setting and contains remains from prehistory on the river bed, along with offerings to the goddess Pan regarding uncoordinated dancing on Top of the Pops during the 1970's.

On from the caves, is the Port of Sami, which serves as a gateway to the island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus and another island to tick off one day. It's all about the ferry and the port in Sami and the contrast between a local population living a sustainable life on this isle and its well heeled visitors is particularly stark.

Myrtos beach next, a stunning location that regularly crops up in newspapers and magazines as one of Europe's beaches to take a look at. The drive down to the mile wide expanse of bright white shingle is a little hairy but the hundreds of feet high cliffs adorned with many goats (clappers removed) provide a stunning backdrop to a beach that borders the bluest of seas. It was the setting for the blowing up of the mine in the facsimile of a sham that was the film of Captain Corelli (there was a trilogy to be had from the one book alone) and on each of our many visits was never crowded.

Kicking back on any beach in Cephalonia the eye is drawn to an obvious line on rocks two feet above the water. It is a remnant of the 1953 earthquake, when four major shocks of over seven on the Richter scale between nine and eleven in the morning raised over ninety percent of the island's buildings to the ground. Fiskardo at the northern tip of the island was the only town to escape relatively unscathed. The whole island rose two feet, hence the water line on the shoreline rocks. As a result of the devastation a significant proportion of the island's population were forced to emigrate, principally to Australia and Canada.

It remains a point of chronological reference for many on the island with much referred to as "pre" or "post" earthquake.

And then we headed off up the straits of Ithaca for a day in a boat to the many beaches that are only accessible by sea.

I don't know why Ithaca's favourite son Odysseus went off a wandering because this corner of the island is a quiet piece of paradise.

For four hours Madam and myself enjoyed our own private beach and while Madam Crusoe read books,

I established "Man Friday" credentials by hopping on sand and worrying the local wildlife, principally the local the wrasse population, although it was bream I was after bothering.

More beach followed and yes, I did lap up all things Louis De B during our stay. We ate some superb Greek food, and I do seem to have punished the Rabbit Stifado somewhat. The Ribola was Ok and the Mythos following rigorous testing, was declared as good as it ever was.

We didn't get to climb Mount Aenos as we had initially intended, but we did see a Pine Martin, albeit dead on the road (wither poor Psipsina)

The drive back over the mountains was spectacular and we paused briefly to take in the view of Argostoli and Luxouri and doff our caps to the bones of St Gerasimos, before heading for the tiny airport that serves this tremendous Ionian Isle,

I don't know what the roads were like around the ancient city of Athens, but back in Blighty and what some would have as one of the greatest cities of the modern world, the M25 and the oh so clever new M3 were bunged up so it was the back lanes home from Gatwick again.

Note to Self: Two thousand words on why the road network of the South East no longer functions as originally intended and internet connection on an isolated Ionian Isle is fifty times faster than our own at home forty miles from previously mentioned claimant to greatest city on planet earth.

A terrific trip (bar the roads of England)

Further fishing stuff to follow