Friday 21 December 2018
Well, we've had some wonderful rain and gravels that were dry in October are now submerged, a great start to the winter, keep it coming please weather gods.
And we'll break off there for an appeal.Two Christamases ago I was gifted a drone, which, on its maiden flight got caught in a cross wind and buzzed off over the horizon. A replacement was purchased which was flown while in wine following a family dinner, this too sailed away, albeit on the gentlest of zephyrs. If anyone sees either of these two drones, don't be a stranger, I'd like them back.
Rumination on the past twelve months has been undertaken and river reports have been filed for both the Dever and the Itchen. Extreme temperatures featured highly, something that the climate change wallahs have been warning us about for some time, although the wetter winters that they predict have yet to materialise in these parts. It may seem a bit old fashioned but we still have a man arrive to read our electricity meter and another man arrive to check our tap water.
The water man was once a lady. He tests for various parameters but phosphate levels in our groundwater supply have risen year on year, which is a bit of a worry. The draft water resources management plan for 2019 drawn up by the weasels at the water company predicts that phosphate levels in groundwater in this region will continue to rise for decades to come. I'll say it again for the final time in 2018, we really need to start looking after our precious groundwater in this corner of England.
The electricity meter man has been coming here for twenty years or more and has a fund of tales, mostly about celebrity clients. He once knocked over a vase in Terry Wogan's house while reading the digits. Terry was quite sanguine but Mrs Wogan was less so and a dark cloud hung over subsequent visits. He also used to read the meter at Rolf Harris's house but says that he is no longer comfortable talking about that. I know Martin Lewis keeps advising us all to switch energy providers but I look forward to our meter man's arrival and his epic tales of celebrity meters and I'd miss him if we switched.
Algorithms seem to be quite the thing at the moment. I don't know what they are beyond a book with lots of numbers used to form graphs back in the day,
Or was that Logarithms?
There was a sine, a cosine and a tangent, definitely.
No matter, it is the algorithms or logarithms that try to tempt me back to Bologna, Seville or anywhere else we have visited, or urge me to make another purchase of odour eaters with their targeted adverts in the top or side bar of some websites that I visit. They also help Amazon suggest what I should be purchasing next, and google predict what it is that I am supposed to be searching for.
So here's the pitch,
an algorithm that detects when a keyboard warrior is getting a little heated under the collar. At the first indication of a fine bate brewing, a soothing advert appears in the top tool bar, a promotion for scented candles perhaps, or just a picture of a kitten or puppy but preferably not of one chewing a kitchen chair. There was a wonderful documentary on this week about the travels and travails of Billy Connolly. A tremendous force, it ended with a gentle exhortation from The Big Yin to be more kind to one another. Wogan said the same, many times, "if you can be anything in life, just be kind".
Trolls are an inevitable product of the wild west that is the internet, and at this point I'd like to propose another logarithm/algorithm.
One that flashes up a message as a finger moves to the send or post button, a message that reads "Is this a kind thing to do?"
Here endeth the house's Christmas message for 2018.
Best wishes for Christmas everyone and, as ever, thanks for reading the rubbish that I write.
Saturday 1 December 2018
Just back from a trip across the North South Divide that is the M4, to Swindon to source some more kitchen chairs for Moss to eat.
The stretch of the M4 that we traversed is one of the much vaunted new "smart" motorways and for five miles on the east bound carriageway the digital smart signs read "reports of animals"
Which is great,
and well done the smart motorways for being environmentally aware and right across the need to promote biodiversity.
The clever digital signs on the west bound carriageway remained blank, so we can conclude that the animals reported were obviously quite small and based in the north with an inherent aversion to central reservations.
I'll attend to river matters in a moment, but first, as promised in the last chunk of guff a brief word from Cambridge analytica on graphs recently presented.
A packet of papers wrapped in brown paper with the words "sensitive material" written diagonally across one side was recently pushed under the door. Contained within were the groundwater level readings taken since 1952 at Cranbourne in the upper Dever Valley.
let me put that another way,
a brief look at data collected since the start of the current millennium at Cranbourne throws up an anomaly which does not conform with experience on the ground. A public information request has gone into weasels at the water company for further groundwater data from another borehole in the valley. Further details and inevitable diatribe to follow.
We are confident that we have now attained a level of self sufficiency that should ease us through the shortages that seem to be scheduled for spring.
We've most things covered, but wine remains a worry. I've yet to sample a decent UK red and OK the English fizz, but it's a bit pricey when there's both an austerity and brexit on. My own efforts with the grape in the garden have been sharp at best, grapefruit bitter at worst. Next spring may be the time that the thirty two year old unopened bottle of Bacardi and the twenty year old bottle of Bells at the back of the cupboard come into their own to see us through the shortages.
A few brown trout are spawning and recent rain has been most welcome and has made more gravels accessible, although the river remains crystal clear and grayling fishing is quite challenging. We've had a few frosts but not enough to do for the stinging nettles. Temperatures today touched double figure in the afternoon and a few olives put in an appearance. Swans are beginning to gather on the water meadow upstream, although no sign of any geese yet. We've plenty of duck about and many moorhen scuttle across the lawn to feed on crumbs from the bird table. Coots and dabchick however are conspicuous by their absence. Both flightless and easily mistaken for an eel (An otter's principle source of sustenance according to some) they are easy pickings for the teeth of Tarka and numbers are down. Wither poor dabchick but brer coot could be a bit grumpy when it came to getting along with other water fowl.
Just heard that George Bush senior has died. I didn't know the fella but he liked his fishing and visited this parish several times. It was always apparent when he was flicking a fly on the Common as a couple of somnolent spooks would be posted on the road bridge in Bransbury. I don't think the present POTUS is a fly fisherman. His flight flew over Maisie's work place when he was last over here and she reports that security has been beefed up since George Bush senior fished at Bransbury. If half a dozen helicopters and a legion of special forces suddenly rock up on the Common, we can be fairly sure that The Donald is having a go at fly fishing.
Friday 16 November 2018
This week's chunk of guff is brought to you live on Talksport 2 from our kitchen floor, where your correspondent and his wife currently sit to break bread after new labrador Moss ate the kitchen table and chairs.
Here he is with big eyes for the fishing hut and my best bridge.
I've never known a dog like it for chewing stuff up. Zebo ate a Hardy fly rod and nephew Otis munched up our first digital camera, but Moss has a far more varied palate with skirting boards, door frames and kitchen chairs and tables featuring high on the menu. I'm sure he will grow out of it, but in the mean time we spend our time cross legged on the kitchen floor with a dog either side like a couple of candidates for the soup kitchen.
Dogs eh? tut
Oh no! Just heard that John Wilson has gone.
He fished here for roach and grayling many times, and I've his mobile phone number in my contact list (Ten percent of my contact list now no longer walk the earth, which is of increasing concern)
I grew up with his writings in the Angling Press and William and his mate Michael were hooked on his TV series Go Fishing. William once came home from school to find John and his mate using the facilities and having a post fishing cup of tea at our kitchen table. It would be remiss of me to say that William swooned, but his teenage form was definitely affected by the presence of one of angling's great personalities. Wilson always fished here with a float and the Rolls Royce of centre pin reels possibly formed from solid silver, and this place featured a few times in articles on fishing for chalk stream roach. I recall one conversation we had on the bank.
"Sorry about all these trout John, they can be a right pain when your fishing light tackle"
"Ha, ha, ha, Chris, I'm having to feed them away from my float in order to get down to the grayling"
Float dips under, John strikes and connects with a fish"
"Are you into a trout John?"
"Ha, ha, ha, these trout Chris, these trout, I don't know"
Lands large trout on fine tackle, chortles several more times before returning trout carefully to stream.
What you saw on the screen was what you got on the bank, he was a terrific chap, who did a tremendous amount for the sport that is angling.
How's Keith Arthur? Hewn from a similar seam of rock, he also fished here for roach with cameras from Sky.
We have enough inch thick pine planks to patch up the duck hides and build some raised beds for vegetable production in my employer's garden. There's a bit of a knack to using it and setting up the timber to be milled is key, but there is a substantial online community to provide support and advice to newbies and we finish the week feeling that we have done well.
Oh yes, almost forgot, this chunk of guff continues to be brought to you live by Talk Sport 2. There's an intriguing test series underway in Sri Lanka that Talk Sport 2 dip into now and again between adverts and declarations on what the listener is actually listening to. And at this point I'd like to ask the BBC to refund the part of my licence fee that they have previously apportioned to radio coverage of overseas cricket tours that has been such a big part of my life for forty odd years. The new "home of cricket" on Talk Sport 2 is pants.
here's a clip of "anchorman" Mark Nicholas taking his first steps in punditry, albeit in another game.
I like the wireless and use it a lot. For some it's a vital link to the rest of the world, but Bumble and Roshan apart Talksport 2 at the cricket is shitshow radio double dipped in hyperbole. Gareth Batty is clearly receiving payments from Aldous Huxley as every punditry stint begins with "It's a brave new world for this England side" and Darren Gough's "that's what they always sometimes say" requires some deciphering. Not for the first time this week I find myself muttering "how did it come to this?
I hear they will be also be covering the winter tour of the West Indies.
It could be a long winter, live on Talk Sport 2.
Over on Sky TV, Ernst Vettori's lad - Daniel, is a bit of a find. Breaking free from the shackles of several generations of ski jumpers, he became quite the off spin bowler. He is now a wry and insightful pundit.
Sign him up TMS, sign him up, and please don't ever allow Talk Sport 2 (the new home of cricket, apparently), cover Test cricket ever again.
Once again, how did it come to this?
Back on the river, we've the first few fish kicking up redds. Not where they normally disturb the gravels, but redds all the same.
Last week we were drawn to the smoke.
Not Maisie & Callum's new wood burner and freshly lined chimney, we're off over there this weekend, but William & Rosie's flat in Camden.
Chucked out of Oz on grounds of immigration, he is now employed as a planner with the authority charged with the ongoing development of the London Olympic Park and its environs.
Their flat sits a couple of minutes walk from the fleshpots and bazaars of Camden Lock. It's a great place to be for a couple at their time of life and we had a superb meal in a Greek restaurant somewhere on the other side of a hill.
Friday 9 November 2018
It's been a fairly productive twelve months for sodding Salix and some of the stuff that I pollarded only two years ago. Normally it would be a three year cycle but there is fifteen feet of growth on some bank side specimens and they could cause problems next summer. It's ideal work for the smaller nippier stihl chainsaw over the leviathanic new Husqvarna, which is a blessing for the arms and shoulders. We're burning the cut willow, which seems a shame, as I'm sure some clever person brimful of environmental zeal could compost it down or squash it into chips to form some sort of "eco fuel" to impart a warm glow and generally make us all feel better about things.
I shan't mention the groundwater levels again, but our concerns and others have been voiced to various parties. I received a graph today that demonstrates that groundwater levels in the Dever have suffered a chronic decline since the 1950s. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up and let us not forget the folly of Spring Bottom. Further discussion to follow once the data has been analysed in detail Live on Talk Sport II.
Oh yes, as this weekend marks a hundred years since the armistice was signed, here's one of my own familial link to the events of the time.
Grandpea and his wife Maggie.
UB 64 sank 29 British vessels, and was broken up just down the road at Fareham.
He was awarded the Iron Cross, Knights Cross and made the Admiralty in WWII before taking his own life in Norway in 1945.
Within a couple of weeks of the UB 64 torpedo incident, Grandpea
and here he is with Maggie plus offspring various one Christmas in the late seventies,
(I'm the one in the blue tracksuit at the front next to my younger brother who was quite the dandy in his formative years. His current apparel remains contemporary, if a little more staid as befits a man of his position)
was back waving flags and flashing lights on another boat, HMS Artois and once again making passage for Dakar. Four days out of Devonport, a U boat once again had them in its sights. This time the attack was unsuccessful and the Artois docked in Dakar eleven days later. He was demobbed on 31st January 1919 and his diary makes for interesting reading. My other Grandad, George wasn't old enough to serve in WW1.
Hubert and Maggie next door to the Riley car factory that was briefly converted to making munitions during WWII. Their house was 108 Beresford Avenue, the last one in the row on the bend of the road right next to the factory. The factory was targeted in the WWII German bombing campaign that hit Coventry hard and there was an anti aircraft gun on the railway at the bottom of the garden.
I think that's me they are holding in the picture as I am sure that my brother was already experimenting with check troos and cravats at that age
This chunk of guff has been brought to you Live on Talk Sport 2
Saturday 3 November 2018
A fabulous week in two terrific cities, we felt the first few drops of rain as we raced for the aerobus, post breakfast at the weekend, Turns out it didn't stop raining for the next four days and the Adige, Arno, Po and Tiber all bust their banks.
Anyway, there now follows a brief record of our movements during half term week,
let me put that another way,
There now follows a not so brief record of our movements during half term week. Regular visitors to this parish will be aware of a need to write things down else stuff gets forgotten as to where and when we have actually been.
Bologna first, with an early morning flight that we almost missed due to the M3/M25 junction being closed. Remember that smart motorway thing? the installation of all those clever digital boards imparting information and the very hell of several years of twenty odd miles of average speed control?
Well we passed many blank information boards to be met by the closure of the M3/M25 junction, we were then guided by cones through Richmond, Reigate and possibly Rochester to Gatwick with a minute or two to spare before boarding began.
Released from the shitshow that is the motorway system in the south east of England, we touched down in one of our favourite cities, where we visited the right restaurants, shopped in the right shops and generally spent a couple of days living high on the hog in brilliant Bologna.
If you've half a mind to visit anywhere in northern Italy, Bologna is a cheap place to fly to and a railway hub with most of what this corner of Europe has to offer less than two hours train ride away.
There's a lift up this tower and it gives a great view of the city and both appenine and alpine hills. For a substantial fee you can also hire the top deck for small functions and general hobknoberry.
Think on The Ageas Bowl
Church the next day.
The lumpen basilica is quite the thing in these parts and Verona has its fair share, and so it was that we donned the holy headsets of Cathederal Santa Maria Matricolare and its associated out buildings and campanile for a tour of its crypts and chattels.
Sited atop Roman remains, as much of the city is, it has an antechamber with enough symbology to set Dan Brown aquiver,
Very much the Frankie Boyle of his day, he was holed up with a rich family at the foot of the tower for a few years while the people of Florence demanded his head on a pike/pykee
With the Nazis sent packing, the locals painstakingly picked up the pieces and put the thing back together again,
as has been the case on so many occasions across the ages once the madness of war has passed.
There's a Funicular in Verona and once more we headed the morning queue, principally because we misread the opening time on the leaflet provided, and arrived half an hour early for our ride up to Castel San Pietro.
And then it was time to immerse ourselves in the Shakespearean theme park that draws a plethora of crocodile hordes led by umbrella toting guides.
(In the voice of the guy who introduced the acts on The Good Old Days, Andrew Sachs, i think) My Lords, Ladies and anyone else who cares to be in the vicinity, I give you...........The two Gentlemen of Verona!
From memory, and a dismal performance in A level English Literature may betray me here (which I directly attribute to the nonsense that is Joeffry Chaucer,the dirge of Gerard Manley Hopkins and a relatively hedonistic lifestyle for one of such young years), but the nuts of the plot centred around a complicated relationship where cross dressing is writ large, an unruly dog and violent relations cropping up late in the piece.
but Brodie's notes made no mention of this balcony,
Handy Travel Tip No. 342- The international signal of trying to prop something up (I am not warming my hands on Juliet's arse) can be applied to most significant sites when visiting Italy, from the leaning tower of Pisa, through Michelangelo's David to the Shroud of Turin.
Wasn't that the supermarket that Reg Holdsworth managed in Coronation St in the early 90s?
Take it as read that food and wine were tremendous and we lived fairly high on the hog. Beef cheek in amerone was a particular highlight as was the tortellini in Bologna.
As I said, I'm now of an age when I have to write stuff down, else it's all to easily forgotten, and anyway, you don't have to read it you know.
River news to follow shortly.