Thursday 19 October 2017

Wonky Willows and Magnificent Mahogany Reredos

This next chunk of guff is being chucked up by a withered husk that has returned to chainsaw duties. Some of my meagre muscles may have kicked back a little too much last April when winter's chainsaw shenanigans were complete and we headed off to Italy. Soft summers of strimming, mowing and weed cutting inevitably result in a certain flaccidity setting in around the chain sawing areas of my form and this week has been a bit of a "wake up" call for the old anatomy.

The large weeping willow that I planted over twenty years ago was rent asunder during a particularly heavy summer shower. They're not the easiest tree to attend to as no branch grows in a straight line and when felled it is difficult to assess where weight lies and inevitably with the first chainsaw work of the winter the saw became stuck. Luckily I was joined in my task by Ludgershall and The English. A task such as this would take a couple of days on my own. Chopping the thing up in the river, attaching ropes and then pulling out limbs to be dissected on the bank before being fed to the fire is quite an undertaking for a lone fifty year old whose chest has slipped a bit, but such tasks are done in a morning when in company, so thank you very much to the two of you for that.

Although I know they're only in it for the logs and both Hookah and Bong may have to be invoked over discussion regarding distribution of ash in the coming months,

Apologies but I'll just break off there. The last question in this week's PMQ's was posed by The Beast of Bolsover.

The water supply to a part of his constituency had been impacted upon by an exploratory Fracking operation and he wanted to know what the government were going to do about it.

The Prime Minister vaguely replied that Fracking was an important process that would exploit a valuable natural resource that would help the recovery of the economy. Any impact would be assessed and addressed by the relevant agency.

He's not normally my cup of tea but well done The Beast for raising the issue.

For some time confusion reigned over which agency was responsible for monitoring the process. Much of it seems to have fallen in the lap of the over stretched and underfunded Environment Agency and Flash's reckless "Race to Frack" a few years back was only slowed by EU legislation that implemented safeguards on any fracking operation that required a risk assessment of potential environmental impact before any operation commenced rather than the UK requirement at the time for an impact statement after a few years of Fracking.

To paraphrase CJ

We didn't get where we are today through several years of reasoned debate, telling the truth or clarity of thought.


Looking up and not down, we once again sought succour in stand up comedy, and for Madam and myself it was back on the plane to Dublin that is cheaper than a train to London and another splendid night in that hotel that I've been plugging on here for the past few years.

By way of respite from the interminable plugs (which the house are no longer contractually obliged to display, so if there's any other hotels out there in need of a mention don't be a stranger, I'm all across the favourable review thing),

Here's one of the International bar.

A magnificent establishment with original Victorian fixtures and fittings including one of Thomas Crapper's finest pieces of work behind a screen in the corner and a magnificent mahogany reredos behind the bar. Michael Collins, James Joyce and many more used to drink here and it features in Ulysses under the name of it's proprietor as O'Donohue's (the family still own and run the place) and has a small stage upstairs that has played host to many from The Dubliners and Pogues through Dara O'Briain and David O'Doherty. Madam and myself popped in here for lunch on one of our trips and while the company was entertaining the Irish stew in the boiling bucket on the bar may well have been bubbling away when Joyce was a lad, but then again it's not famous for its cuisine.

We were in town this time to take in Dara O'Briain at The Vicar St theatre. Before each of his tours he undertakes a two week residency at the place to hone his act. Whether standing up at the back, sitting in the circle or around a table in front of the stage it's always a tremendous night and while we've seen him a few times before "The Dara" remains one of the best in the biz (show business parlance I believe). Catch him if you can on his UK tour next year.

Dublin was rammed with people from many nations and it's always a good weekend away. Vicar St, Whelans or The International Bar are all great places for live comedy but it might be our last trip to the place for a while as the price of having a good time in Dublin has increased markedly in the few years that we have been visiting.

Oh yes, the dog.

While we were over in Ireland, Otis spent the weekend with Child A at her flat in Newbury. Child A had many of her old Uni friends to stay for the weekend and not much sleep was taken. We picked up what remained of Otis on Sunday, a spent force following forty eight hours with only a couple of hours sleep.

It was suggested in the previous chunk of guff that Otis had no hope of a modelling career ( which drew quite a response let me tell you) a weekend with Child A confirms that he is no party animal either,

after his exemplary performance at two recent funerals (it's on here somewhere) it may be that he has a calling from a higher place and a white collar may be called for.

There is certainly something of the Reverand Richard Coles about him, particularly in the Cha Cha Cha.

Returning to the river, weed has been cut and the level has dropped six inches but it remains crystal clear and grayling fishing has been quite challenging. The trout show little interest in heading for the shallows and today's mid morning conversation in our riverside Kefeneion during a break from feeding fires and chainsaw work centred around a particularly active wren and trout and grayling rising to a steady trickle of olives. It is still very mild and grass grows at a remarkable rate. We await the first frost that will provide a full stop to the growing season of 2017 and force the legions of nettles that still stand in the wood to yield and cease their stingy ways.

Friday 13 October 2017

A Proposal from Marvin

An email from Marvin

Hello Sir/Madam,
Greetings for the day!
My name is Marvin Herold and I am a Website Consultant.
I found your email account online and would like to discuss some business opportunities with you, which you may find beneficial for your business. In today’s Web World, a website plays a vital role in gaining credibility & revenue for your business. We will help you develop an effective website for your business or will redesign your existing business website efficiently to ensure that your website converts more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search for a few of the select terms.
This is NOT like one of those foreign emails you probably get in your inbox every day. Just to be upfront, we have experienced and skilled SEO and Web Design/Development team, they are committed to perform White Hat SEO activities to bring organic traffic providing business oriented creative design to our client’s website.
I would just need to know which (if not both) services you're open to checking out information about, either SEO or Web Design/Development. Would you be open to seeing more brief info / quote for what I would like to accomplish?
Warm Regards,
Marvin Herold
Website Consultant
Website -
Ph - +1 (424) 625 4981, +45-36991545

Well that seems fairly straightforward,

Skype - Get-in-touch1

Thursday 12 October 2017

The Messiah, Proud Mary and Moses

Well that's it, trout fishing for 2017 done, and as ever bewilderment over the speeding up of time as wasn't the Mayfly only a few weeks ago?

A good number of trout were caught, many returned and many sent to the smoker. Perch, Pike and Roach have also featured although all to nymphs in the latter half of the season.

So on to the grayling who are in top trim. The river currently remains gin clear and sight fishing for fish to two pounds will draw a handful of grayling enthusiasts (who curse when bothered by trout) in the coming months.

Today I walked up the river and disturbed four kingfishers,

apologies, that sounds a tad messianic,

Today I walked up the riverbank and disturbed four kingfishers.

I don't think we have had as many of the things about the place in the twenty five years that I have been falling in and out of this stretch of river. Trotters for roach with bread flake will confirm that this reach of the Dever is infested with minnows and it is to this harvest that the eye of the "Blue Flash" is drawn.

Over on the Itchen we've received word of mink in the area which is a bit of a worry, as bar the thing that popped out of somebody's tummy in the film Alien there isn't a more nefarious creature on a river bank (Alien was set by the river, right? or have I remembered that wrong).
Traps are set and phasers are set not to stun but to destroy.

Oh yes, here's one of the dog.

Bred for field sports remember (but no mink hound unfortunately) and not a modelling career, although somebody needs to tell him.

It will come as no surprise that the river is very low.

It should be low at this time of the year and we cross our fingers for rain in the coming months.

Cress has been left in situ helping to pinch the flow and keep gravel clean for spawning. All bank side vegetation remains and will not be attended to until spawning is done and the river is on the rise.

It's a different method of preparing a river for winter than twenty years ago but then again it is a different valley and a different river from twenty years ago.

In recent months I have had cause to accompany Madam to various urban sites of less than ten years in age to collect eBay purchases for some such scheme that is currently upon her. The ratio of hard standing to soft earth on each of these new developments was quite depressing, and when will the penny drop with planners, developers and the general public that we have to soak more waste water back into the ground in this corner of Old Albion if we are to continue to use our groundwater supply in a sustainable manner.

It's been a while since I got cross about this matter, but it really is a no brainer, and to quell my ire I shall now attend to televisual matters as somebody has been on regarding the lack of TV critique in this guff in recent times so here goes.

Simon Blackwell's series "Back" is a pip, as is W1A and well done C4 and the BBC for that.

The dancing is back on, all hail the Claude and at this point I'd like to wish Alexandra Burke and Dave Arch all the best in their efforts to honour the force of nature that was Tina Turner in the late sixties, early seventies.

TV done.

We've a fair few fungi about, although the edible variety are a bit thin on the ground. Somebody seems to have found one of my more reliable haunts and the paddock from which at this time of year I would regularly pick a pound and half of field mushrooms each week has been cut to the length of a lawn and planted with grapes, lavender and a yurt.

Which is a shame.

The new chickens have been introduced to the attack chickens and are currently undergoing radicalisation with regard to crows. They all seem to get on, with a pecking order established and the briefest of admonishments over peas presented.

Left foot, right foot adventures this week found us circumnavigating the Standing Hatt inclosure on the outskirts of Brockenhurst.

Two questions nagged as we donned our walking shoes.

1: Why do they have "inclosures" in the New Forest and not "enclosures"

2: Would we bump into Steeleye Span who famously sang about walking around a hat and the merits of willow, and if so would it be ok to pick them up on the promotion of willow, as for the next three months I would be engaged in battle with the forces of Salix that ,if left unchallenged, could well take over planet earth.

Well we didn't meet Steeleye Span, but not for the first time we were approached by people lost in the forest seeking an exit route. Previously we have given direction via our excellent map and guide book and left them to it, wondering on our departure if they ever made it out.

This time we came across a party of thirty or so lost souls seeking passage out of the forest to gain sustenance and succour (some of them looked really hungry) a brief consultation of the map confirmed that unless they were prepared to forage it would be four and a half miles before they came across food if they maintained their current course.

And so it begat,

and I don't mean to come over all messianic for a second time in this current chunk of guff,

that, in the spirit of both Moses and Coach Trip I requisitioned the nearest umbrella, held it high and with an "On me everyone" led this lost fun bunch from the forest/desert/ round the sights of Bruges to food and safety.

There are a lot of criss-crossy paths in the New Forest, take a map next time.

Oh yes almost forgot,


The Fleet St Hotel, Dublin everyone

I think that's the contract completed

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Careful Corvids - Attack Chickens At Large

The last week of our Trout fishing season and as ever we finish with a flourish with two fish just shy of five pounds put on the bank. Circumspect fish that had either grown up in the river or were stocked several seasons ago as they don't go in to this stretch at that size. Both inevitably fell to a nymph and while the presence of one was known to many of our anglers, the fish that was taken forty yards upstream from the fishing hut seemed to appear from nowhere but was probably the large hen who has been tucked away all season under the alders downstream from the fishing hut. Where fish are bunched up there is a certain amount of "mucking about" going on with much jockeying for position.

The river has dropped a little these past two weeks as weed that has helped to hold up water levels for much of the summer is weakening. Blanket weed rolling away downstream will pull out weak weed

and these two swans aren't much help

But we'll settle for two over twenty that some beats must endure.

Several times this past week I have taken in the spectacle of competitive Kingfishers trying to kill each other.
The aeriel dogfights that take place up and down the millstream over masses of minnows are a feature of most summers. But this year it seems to be a little more physical and I have come across birds locked beak to beak on a branch of an overhanging hawthorn and a pair engaged in an avian sword fight on my employer's kitchen roof.

While we are on the brutality of birds, a crow was unfortunate to be trapped inside the chicken run where our chooks spend a morning until all eggs are expressed (an early release results in oeuf being passed hither and thither thus avoiding the fridge to pan to plate experience)

Our attack chickens didn't like the look of the captive corvid and in a matter of minutes had battered the thing to death.

We used to have a problem with crows flocking in to take scraps put out for the chooks but since the incident of the captured corvid they don't come down any more.

We've just taken delivery of some more chickens. They are about ten weeks old and will hopefully be on stream regarding eggs in the new year.
Hopefully the eggs will be as good as the ones that pop out of our "attack " chickens

which are some of the best we have ever had and as they graze on grass all day long, the eggs are rammed full of extra Omega 3's which we are currently told are a good thing to take on board,

but ten years hence, who knows?

My egg a day was shortening my life via the medium of Cholesterol once, now it's extending it through the power of the number 3 and all things linolenic.

I'm reluctant to invoke the spirit of Marvin Gaye as I'm sure he's a very busy man, but what's going on?

Apologies, almost forgot,

here's one of the dog.

Who assists me each day in a shared quest to keep our pheasants somewhere about the parish.

It is evident now that the birds have quite a bit of "Michigan Blue" in their line,

a bird that is renowned for its ability to fly well but also a penchant for a good long walk.

Oh yes, the Sunday Times Magazine was fairly prophetic last week. We were at Lords when Stokes hit the fastest ever Test century and he certainly is box office, although his latest blockbuster won't win him many awards.

Drink can be both a tremendous and terrible thing and I can't imagine that he is currently in a very good mental place, what with an impending wedding, possible prison sentence and a winter away from cricket. His two young children will provide succour and the subsequent contrition and enlightenment following an act of stupidity can often be the making of someone, David Beckham being a prime example and I hope to be present one day when Stokes hits another Test Century.

With the cricket season over for us (but not for Child B who is currently wafting the willow for South Yarra CC in Melbourne) It's back out with the walking shoes and knapsack at the weekend to resume efforts to proloungue life.

We have wandered up the Wallop Brook from Kings Sombourne which took a few hours and at one point we crossed the famous Horsebridge shallows which were completely weed free which was a surprise as I remember quite a bit of ranunculus there during my brief employment at The Houghton Club all those years ago.

Here's one for all those flat earthers who think the summer's been a wash out.

This should be the source of the River Itchen.

It currently rises quite a way down the valley towards the "Chi Chi" village of Cheriton.
We ended up walking around the back of Hinton Ampner
where Otis was welcomed by the National Trust and their signs.
Really National Trust?


It seemed to be a trip for signs as this was displayed on a bridge over the formative river Itchen, I may commission some for our own river crossings by way of a warning.

I'm sure Tarrant would have appreciated one having fallen through one of my older ones a few years back. I did tell him not to use it, but then Tiswas was always the anarchic alternative to Mr Tidy beard and his purple dinosaur and I suppose old habits die hard and if somebody tells you not go somewhere then you go there. Mary Berry did as she was told and was nothing short of effusive about our bridges at which point it seems relevant to put up this picture again

Apologies I couldn't find the photo of Mary on our bridge (it's on here somewhere from a few years ago and in the book) so here's one of her Mum attending to a fig on her market stall,

I think that's right, but it has been known for my complicated photographic cataloguing system to go awry.

No Matter

"Crossing over To the Other Side" a study of the efficacy of Britains best bridges is still available in all good book shops and should serve to the likes of Tarrant that if instruction is followed our bridges can be quiet an uplifting experience.

I seem to have dropped a few names in the last few lines, for which I apologise, there are other "names" I could mention that were indifferent about our river crossings but I'll save them for the book.


" It isn't the best bridge I've been over nor the worst, but it's prime function is beyond doubt"

Googie Withers

Just the other day it was off up the Itchen again, this time to Easton and after a quick perusal of the short stretch that I am charged with falling in and out of, it was off upstream to Itchen Abbas, via Chilland and then on to Avington Park.

Avington was quite the thing in Put and Take Trout Fishery circles in the late 70's and early 80's, rarely out of the angling press at one point it held all of the various UK trout records, mostly caught by Tony Pawson. I was lucky enough to fish it with my father when we travelled over for the day while holidaying in Swanage. We caught fish and flicking a fly aged twelve or possibly thirteen on the carrier that winds between the lakes was my first time on a chalk stream. We caught some big Rainbows that were standard for the venue and a great day was had by all but I don't remember the house (pictured left) being there.

Our excellent Ordnance Survey circular walking guide ( the walks are circular, not the guide, coincidentally written by someone in the village where we live who is also not circular) states that the house has been in situ for over four hundred years but neither I nor my father remember it being there,

and at this point I'd like to pose the question that while all this walking is balm to the body "one foot two foot" may be starting to affect the mind and memory.

I remember much about the lakes and the day, but the house just over our shoulder?

Not a bit.

Oh yes almost forgot, if you ever wash up on the other side of the Irish Sea we are contractually obliged to suggest that you stay here.

But if you do go choose your airline well. Those paragons of virtue at Ryanair on hearing that Monarch airlines had gone tits up bumped up all their fares by fifty percent on routes they once shared with Monarch.

Flybe didn't, we've always flown Flybe to Dublin.

And there we have it, a season review to follow, but I think we have one or more surprises to come this week with regard to fish put on the bank. Chainsaw muscles that have grown slack on a diet of mowing and strimming will soon be required to return to action as there is much to be done with the orange saws this winter. We are currently "log rich" but we do seem to be whacking through them at quite a rate. The last knockings of an old oak at the moment that fell over in the flooding of 2013/14 but well seasoned (it hasn't got salt and pepper on, it's been down and drying for two years) all the way once the oak is gone.

We have a few rods booked in for bothering Grayling during the winter months and a half rod (one fixed day a fortnight) available for trout fishing next year, if you're interested in either don't be a stranger.