Wednesday 20 December 2017

Digger Donovan and some Super Sexy Wiggles

Well, we'll begin this latest chunk of guff with a good news story and some high praise for a big corporation. Having sourced the few items that one is allowed to send in the post to Australia, a box was purchased and a hefty chunk of moolah handed over to the post office wallah on the penultimate day for posting to Australia in time for Yuletide. Five days later we received word via something called Whatsapp that it had arrived at Child B's flat in Melbourne. So well done the Post Office or whoever it is that deals with that kind of delivery, and at this point I'll pause to consider how such a transaction occurs, Yes the post office cove picks up the money but how does Digger Donovan at the other need get his cut for taking the box from the plane to the door.

And not just Digger Donovan, how do all the overseas posties get their slice of the money furnished for stamps at a UK post office to send items overseas?

I have given it quite a bit of thought and it's beyond me. I don't know how overseas post works and all this thinking about international matters is starting to hurt so I'll return to the business in hand of managing a short stretch of chalk stream and its valley.

Here's a link to an interesting article that was referenced in The Times earlier this week

We've turned the chainsaw's attention to the Mill Stream, which has been mothballed due to lack of water for almost three years. To recap, the millstream is the half mile long man made channel used to carry water to drive the wheel at the Mill.

Uniform in length and initially canal like, over the last twenty years we have been attempting to make it a more natural environment. Reed and sedge have been planted and used to pinch and flick the flow and create a few sexy wiggles and lines. Cut back completely the Mill stream is a featureless channel with a silty bottom but pinching and flicking the flow keeps the gravel bed a little cleaner and allows weed to grow where it previously didn't.

As I have previously mentioned we haven't had the water to run the Mill stream for the past three summers as the main river must take precedence and if we were still in the business of grinding flour there may also have been limited supply of bread these past three summers. Of course there is willow to attend to interspersed with some particularly vicious bramble and thorn, and currently I sit chucking up this guff in a haze of TCP that has been dabbed on the many scratches and pricks on all parts of the body, the blackthorn in particular laughs in the face of the toughest chainsaw trouser. It's a steady business as most of the tree work is in the water and wood must be dropped in the river and then pulled out on the other side for introduction to the fire.

We had a second wander about with guns last week. I was a little disappointed at the number of pheasant that were in the parish on our first day. I was aware that despite the best efforts of Otis and myself each day a significant percentage of our birds wandered up to a neighbours block of maize.

Here's one of our neighbour taking pot shots at them as they fly home. Which is fair enough, as he doesn't get much shooting and warming the barrels as twenty or thirty of your neighbour's birds steadily exit stage left out of the side of the drive provided him with some much needed sport.


For whatever reason, we saw many more birds on our maraud through the woods this week. The cold weather earlier in the week had brought quite a few teal into the valley along with fifty odd geese and the occasional woodcock. It's not about the numbers and it's always a fun and relaxing day with a long lunch to finish. Thanks very much to everyone who turned out to worry the wildlife.

If we can all hum the Nina Simone somg "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free" for the next few lines the ambience will be significantly improved.

I have been invited to review a film. Not the current smash about Neil and Christine titled Hamilton, or the new Star Trek feature. It's called "Chalk" and its centred around either the end of a snooker cue, a day in the life of a blackboard or a chalk river, we don't know. But as soon as I have got around to watching the thing and chuck some words together about what I think it is all about I will let you know on here.

And there we have it, almost made it through another year. I don't know how it happened but twenty five years have just passed and Madam and myself will be on our own on Christmas morning for the first time in all that time,

which will be a bit odd,

although the bacon in the sandwiches at breakfast may be a little thicker than the previous twenty five years with a top brand name brown sauce on the table rather than the usual supermarket's own version sauce.

Yes we miss the kids, they are now very grown-ups and goodness how fast does time fly but we must look up and not down and acknowledge the fact that we now eat considerably better cuts of meat than we used to and don't have to share/fight over roast potatoes.

Oh yes, almost forgot,


because no Christmas is complete without them

Happy Christmas everyone and thank you for reading the rubbish that I write.

Friday 1 December 2017

Postal Problems and Difficulties with The Duchess of Cambridge

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,

Stop right there festive Freddie as it's still many weeks away and it has long been a tradition in this house not to consider a modicum of tinsel until the business of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year has been attended to. I know some look to the heavens for guidance as to when to put the tree up and to the good book for a date to topple the thing but in this house the state TV channel's annual gong giving has always served as a marker for the opening skirmishes of Yuletide.

Only this year we have had to go early.

Not due to capitulation in the face of a relentless campaign by retail and media to get festivities underway sometime in September, but because the final day for sending stuff to Child B in Australia in order for it to arrive in time for Jesus's birthday is December the 9th, which is one day before Gary Lineker and Clare Balding dish out the gongs.

And it grates a tad.

As does the long list of things that we are unable to send to the Antipodes. I find shopping hard enough and normally once what I consider to be the ideal gift has been sourced a purchase is quickly made before doubt can set in. Of course this hasn't always gone well and can go a bit meatloaf (two out of three ain't bad) but when a list of prohibited items is introduced the process becomes even more complicated.

Ok dogs continue to be a controversial choice when it comes to Christmas, they are for life after all and quite rightly this festive rule holds when sending gifts to Australia. But it is not just a dog that the Australian's balk at receiving through the post. Erasers are out, so the stationary set was returned to the store and try the following for size:

"The importation of written matter relating to goods that purport to be for therapeutic purposes and containing any statements or claims that are misleading , false or extravagant "

Online analytics demonstrate that this house has a small band of followers in Oz who, judging by the previous statement, may well be in jeopardy.

Used or second hand bedding is a no no, paint brushes are out as are wooden clogs, chocolate is discouraged and locomotives are more than frowned upon.

All of which may/may not have featured on prospective presents for Child B had he been back in Old Albion.

Christmas shopping seems to have become complicated quite early this winter.

You are allowed to post cricket bats.

Playing Grade cricket for South Yarra recently, Child B bust his best bat in the nets. With the second day of a league game with Flemington imminent and his second best bat summoned from the bag, he made efforts to source another bat for backup.

Unfortunately a bat of equivalent quality in Australia is twice the price it is in the UK, so it was on the email to the chap up the road who has made Child B's bats for some years (Chase cricket - if you've a requirement for a bespoke bat give Dan a call) who is aware of his requirements. A new bat is now winging its way around the world for several hundred dollars less than a bat of equal quality in the Antipodes. It's common practice apparently and hey Theresa, when discussion over trade deals comes up with Oz it might be worth mentioning English Willow (not the Crack variety, although with The Ashes in mind a few phoney bats made from crack willow may not be a bad idea) as they can't get enough of a beautiful British bat on the other side of the world, they'll stick those sponsor labels on any bat. A Kookaburra sticker on an Aussie pro's bat doesn't mean that the bat was made in the Kookaburra factory.

In Other News.

Here's one of a recently cleared out spring ditch that has remained dry for the last three winters.

This valley and its aquifers now need rain, so come on Madam Water Cycle and all you weather gods, it's time to turn the taps on. There are spring ditches in this parish staring at a fourth consecutive year of redundancy.

I won't go on, but can we all agree that if it rains a lot in the South East of England in the next few months it will be a blessing and not the apocalypse that many in the media would have us believe.

While we're on the much diminished aquifers and over exploited groundwater supply, it was recently reported by OFWAT that there are numerous basic errors in the reporting of data by both Southern Water and Thames Valley Water.

"The trouble is the system incentivises water companies to report better data rather than improve performance, said David Hall, professor at Greenwich University. The reliance on self reporting also extends to information on water leaks and sewage. Thames Water is responsible for self monitoring the amount of sewage it pours into the Thames but only reports 61% of the actual volume according to the EA"

Here's the link to the BBC report on the weasels that are water companies and their dodgy data.

Private Water Companies?

Weasels! Weasels! Weasels!

Chainsaw work continues, and the battle with the forces of crack willow was briefly parked when a sycamore cashed in its chips and fell across the mill stream during a bit of a blow one night last week.

Today we have been coppicing hazel a little further up the Mill stream bank in order to let in a little more light.

We seem to have several Waterail about the place, both on the river and pond and last week the geese turned up and even lifted off the water on our short shoot day which didn't go well with birds flying every which way but over the guns and a fox putting in an appearance on the second drive. We'll have another go just before Christmas and fingers crossed for a more productive day. Although there is no shortage of birds on the market. Five pheasant for ten pound were peddled by vendors various on Winchester market.
Heron are proving to be a particular nuisance at the moment and we have lost more spawning brown trout than previous years to their stabbing in low clear water.

Oh yes, almost forgot,

The dog

Apologies, that's Henry Moore's cucumber, now where did I put it,

Ah yes, here it is

The dog

Almost forgot, remember this?

Well we've another bridge to build early in the new year and while the Duchess of Cambridge was a delight when she deigned to open our last bridge after Lord Ludg called in a few favours a couple of years back (see left),

there's a new princess in town, so thanks for the offer of a return visit Kate but I'm afraid Princess Meghan has agreed to open our next crossing.

I trust this won't be the cause of any trouble around the family dinner table during the festive season.