Friday 20 April 2018

Emu and The Wraith of Tony Hart

If memory serves a TV frog once proclaimed that "it's not easy being green"

Before the wrong end of the stick is selected and we assume another examination of the Cove Gove and his latest push for the top job. The green I refer to is the injection of chlorophyl that currently surges through the turf in these parts and the verdant ranunculus that will need cutting in April for the first time in five springs and well done the winter rain for that.

Apologies Kermit (Jim Henson's creation not the Cove Gove) but it's very easy being green in this valley. I'll refrain from mentioning Oz again, but while we were basking in two weeks of sun the aquifers of old Albion seemed to have received some serious replenishment.

The Dever is bank high and there are some spots that may be inaccessible to anglers in the opening weeks of the season. There is an oft quoted downstream keeper of no little venerability who insists that we have only had enough winter rain if you have to think twice about driving around the meadows in your 4x4. Well today I got in a tight spot with the tractor and trailer and if all it takes to make it rain in these parts is for Madam and myself to undertake long haul flights and live high on the hog on the other side of the world then I propose a crowd funding page to send the pair of us away for a fortnight sometime next March.

It's a cross we are prepared to bear for the good of the river and sufficient aquifer replenishment.

By the way, this:

Hosah! water in the spring ditch by the football pitch.

But despite what some would describe as a "wet winter" still no sign of any eau in the field known across the ages as "Spring Bottom"

Chronic depletion of the aquifers anyone?

Been building a bridge for much of the week. Replacing one I built in 1995 a few months after William was born. I find that I banged posts into the ground with a little more vigour when I was 27 and these replacements may not have gone into the gravel quite as far as they did 23 years ago so if we could all agree to break step and cross fingers during each crossing.

I am chucking up this guff in the garden replete having devoured a fine repast of locally sourced red meat.

Sourced that is from the barbecue that rises again each Easter from the garage to provide us with a festival of meat and fish.

I have just heard a cuckoo for the first time this year. A few weeks later than one would expect, but a cuckoo all the same. No sign of any swallows, swifts or martins yet although I have seen hawthorn flies bumbling about in the recent warm spell and was inundated with alder flies landing on posts I was banging into the riverbed. I may have squished the odd one so apologies to the Invertebrate gods who may reiprocate via the medium of horse fly later in the year.

Our resident pair of swans currently nurture their egg and are increasingly protective of their prospective charge. The Cob spent much of yesterday lunchtime raging against the scaffold tower I had positioned in the river to aid my building of bridges. Charging it every five minutes with wings held wide, he may share my affliction of myopia.

Grayling have appeared on the shallows and with a reasonable depth of water, have gone about the business of spawning unnoticed by heron and egret who do great damage in times of low water. Some seriously senior hen fish of over two pounds have been kicking up on the ford through the Mill Stream.

In other news, Lord Ludgershall has added to the house menagerie.

Here's one of an Emu tapping at the door of the Orangery attached to the East wing at Ludgershall Hall. I know it's an Emu because our guide pointed one out to us on our recent trip to Oz (did I mention we'd been away?).

Dodos are promised, along with a Pushmepullyou and Griffon to further bolster the collection of wildlife at Ludgershall Hall.

Apologies about the unusual appearance of the photos in this post.

Setting S was accidentally selected on the idiot proof camera while it was bouncing about in the back of my trailer, or it may still be something to do with jet lag.

No matter, setting S it is and S stands for "gloom" on planet Nikon so I have had to fill in the colours on the computer.

Derek Acorah confirms that the wraith of Tony Hart approves of such work.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Two weeks around the World, Come on Jules Verne, Up Your Game!

Apologies everyone but I've once again donned the travel kaftan and Madam has picked up the guitar of transition.

We've been away again and this report could take some time.

Oz for Easter,

Dress Code: Sports Casual

and a land where they put salt and vinegar crisps in a pink packet

which seems the work of a troublemaker and causes a cove to assume the status of "buyer beware"

We were in to Melbourne to visit William and his Pals who are in hiatus having recently completed their cricket season and are two weeks away from driving a camper van around New Zealand.

Ethiad bumped us down gently in Tullamarine at 5.00 am on a Saturday morning where we received word from the carefully booked taxi that he would be with us in twenty four hours, as I had apparently made a mistake regarding dates. Sixty five bucks (yes, they call money bucks) to a man in yellow taxi got us to our billet in Southbank a twenty minute walk from most things including William's flat in South Yarra.

And at this point can I address what is one of the last medical taboos.

ME and Mumps get all the heat when it comes to debilitating conditions, but why are there no support groups or treatment centres for Jetlag?

We'd been advised to push on through the first day and try to eat and sleep at normal local time.

Madam's clever watch recorded twenty four thousand steps during our opening skirmishes in Melbourne but I can only remember half of them so dazed was my state.

We ate in the evening with William and his mates and when I sat down in our apartment with a postprandial glass of grog an hour later my head fell off my shoulders and wine went all over the floor, I then fell asleep cleaning my teeth.

The following day was Easter Sunday and the clocks went back an hour in the night further confusing the body clock. We caught the tram to St Kilda for lunch or possibly breakfast.

where there were penguins pelicans and lots of hipsters treading the boardwalk and beach.

Easter Monday found us attending "The G" or the MCG as it used to be known for an AFL game between The Hawthorn Hawks and The Geelong Cats.

Each team enters the field to a team song plucked from an episode of It ain't half hot mum or possibly Monty Python

The G wasn't quite full but a few shy of 75,000 enjoyed an exciting game that ended 118 - 117 to The Hawks.

I won't pretend we knew what was going on for much of the game, an awful lot of what the late great Bill Mclaren would have termed "argy bargy" went on off the ball which didn't seem to bother the nine or ten match officials required to cover what is a rough game on a very big field.

National Gallery of Victoria next. A free gig a five minute walk from our front door, it is a tremendous place to spend half a day.

From the wonderfully whacky, through the Ming and the Qing to the European stuff from many ages, it is very well done. Sprinkled with blockbusters, cleverly mingled rather than put on a stage with fanfare and lights, it is remarkably unstuffy.

The contemporary stuff was all that one would expect although sometimes it was difficult to equate the artist's meaning of the piece with what was placed before us. We seemed to be doing all the heavy lifting for the Japanese artist who took the credit for the interior of a house adorned with red chrysanthemums. Each person who entered was given a red chrysanthe to stick somewhere on the piece. Is this conceptual art? If it is, it seems nice work if you can get it.

Tucked in a corner was a Rembrandt of an old man that once adorned the front cover of a Ladybird book on Dutch artists. A Picasso of a distraught woman pulled from his much bigger piece Guernica popped up and there standing full square was Elizabeth Thompson's work depicting the remnants of the 28th at Quatre Bas repelling Marshall Ney's Cuirassiers which feature's in many books, TV programmes and articles on the battle of Waterloo. I had no idea it was this far from home.

The Melbourne Comedy Festival was underway throughout our stay and we met up with William and a couple of mates to take in David O'Doherty in the Forum Theatre. A small venue, we were aware of his work having seen him before in Vicar St in Dublin. This was the opening of his next tour that will be in the UK later this year. Catch him if you can, he's very good.

On the tram to the regenerated Docklands next with William and his friend Rosie. The Docklands are everything that Ocean Village in Southampton wanted to be bar the swarms of jellyfish. The walk back along the river was undertaken in high heat (did I mention it was in the mid to high twenties for most of our stay) with lunch taken outside. Madam and myself headed home mid afternoon as we were due to catch an early morning plane to Sydney the following day.

The taxi cleverly booked to take us to Tullamarien airport had arrived twenty four hours early so another booking was made and with the Freeway being dug up we were the last people to check in for the hour long flight to Syders.

Down to Darling Harbour first for a bit of a bumble about before catching the ferry round the corner and under the bridge to Circular Quay and the site of the first footfall of chancers and ne'r do wells back in the 1700s.

Off the ferry and a close inspection of an Opera house that was not quite the colour that I expected before hiking round to Mrs Macackers corner ( I think that's her name) pausing briefly for coffee, before taking in one of the best views of the bay.

Back through the stunning Botanical gardens to the centre of town where there is some seriously swanky shopping to be had, along with some stunning late Victorian shopping arcades.

There are some lovely green spaces in Sydney but they do like a sign. Warning of Tree failure seemed a little extreme, isn't this what trees do?

A branch not much thicker than my arm fell off a Mentholyptus tree outside our apartment and the road was closed and the Fire service summoned.

A bit different to the response a fallen branch in Bransbury receives.

Kangaroo fillet for dinner in Darling Harbour with Dumbledore's pensieve for a side show, but for Fawkes the Phoenix, read ladies in scanties pushing some pretty average chocolate.

It was clever stuff with much smoke and mirrors with the odd light thrown in and might be something we should think about incorporating on the River Dever.

In high heat we rode train and bus to Bondi the next morning to touch base with Kertbox et al.

For those unaware of their work or who do not have CBS Reality TV Channel, it's a programme starring the Waverley Council Life Guards of which Madam and William have long been big fans.

In perfect conditions I had a go at surfing and it seemed to go well.

Madam's day was capped by the blue board being invoked to perform a rescue in some waves that are bit bigger in real life than on the TV. We identified backpacker's rip and walked around to Tamaramarama beach for lunch before heading back into central city to catch a train to the airport and a flight back to Melbourne.

Back in Melbourne we gave up on the taxi service and hired a car for five days.

South Melbourne market in the morning

before a closer examination of the stunning Botanical gardens in the heart of this city.

Less formal than the Sydney botanical gardens there are many informative signs

with some sensible messages regarding water and managing habitat to improve biodiversity in billabongs.

but calling Invertebrates Minibeasts?

Out in the car the following day. Passing within a mile of Neighbours' Ramsey St and Patterson Lakes, the setting for the brilliant "Kath & Kim"

we made our way along Mornington Peninsula to Rye where our blankets were laid on the beach and we dipped bread into some excellent dainties purchased from a hip deli in Elwood.

Aussie Rules Football practice to follow where we were joined by a portly labrador who kept rushing into the sea to shake his head underwater. The beach was stunning and quiet with loads of space for both budding "footy" players and many dogs.

Early afternoon we transferred to Blairgowrie. Rye is a gentle sea within the Melbourne lagoon, Blairgowrie is on the ocean side and the waves are fresh in from the Southern Ocean and have a little more momentum behind them. We walked through some scrub to a beach where Rachel used skills acquired at Calshot to clamber down and up cliffs to a stunning beach where there are high rocks that the younger generation are drawn to jump off into a messy sea.

The weather can change quite quickly here, clouds rolled in mid afternoon so we repaired to Arthur's Mount a country park on top of a high hill,

to use the municipal barbecues. Chef cooked a selection of snags sourced from a cricket club contact who is a supplier of meat.

The view of the peninsula was stunning and we saw numerous birds from Eagles to Cockatiels

and bumped into our first live Kangaroos.

Back in the car to join the hoards from downtown Melbourne who spend the weekend on the peninsula for an hour and a half drive up the freeway.

Turns out it was "Take your parents to work" day in Melbourne the following day,

Madam got to go on the photocopier and I got to send a fax.

Back in the car, we headed up the Yarra valley to a winery growing grapes introduced in the the 1850's from a region of Italy we were bumbling about in this time last year.

We made a purchase and it was very nice, but it's all gone now.

Out to Yarra Glen next and up through the Christmas Hills where there was no sign of Santa

but we came across the Kangaroo Garden war memorial

which afforded a peach of a view back to Melbourne and quite a story about the original curator who somehow made it through most of the major battles of the first world war. He planted the Rosemary bushes around the base of the tower with seeds he gathered at Gallipoli.

Back in the white Pantechnicon that serves as an everyday car in these parts to hit the Great Ocean Rd and an appointment with a beachside apartment in Apollo Bay.

It's a spectacular drive with the road hugging the coast for fifty miles or more. There were many surfers and also the remnants of a Rip curl event with stands and marquees clinging to the cliffs in order to take in the world class froth, carve and bings (contemporary surf parlance I believe) in the surf below.

Lunch by the sea at Lorn, or was it Larn?

No matter, further down the coast road on a brief bladder break we ticked another box with a couple of Koalas up a nearby mentholyptus tree along with parakeets, cockatiels and a great egret on the River Kennet.

Not quite as clear as the Berkshire stream at home but brim full of fish all the same, although akin to its Berkshire namesake there are trout to be targeted in its headwaters, and at this point I could go expand on the argument for non native species that are not invasive, but will refrain, as I appreciate that this chunk of guff is assuming Ken Dodd proportions.

We demolished various bits of lamb, chicken and local sausage on the barbecue having failed to harvest anything from the sea after an hour or so fishing.

A surprise thunderstorm forced us to put the carbon rods away on the cusp of "bagging up" on Australian salmon and flatheads.

Up and out of Apollo Bay to the Otway peninsula. A National Park brim full of wildlife with beautiful walks and beaches and silent bar the native twitterings of birds various that we completely failed to identify.

According to the internet, Koala sleep for twenty hours a day and today we saw several up and about feeding, so we consider ourselves quite lucky.

The walk to Crayfish bay calmed Madam's fitbit following a prolonged period of chauffer service. Pitching up on the sands we had the place pretty much to ourselves. There were many interesting things in among the rocks including some micro mussels and funny starfish, some very big waves and it is a place that we will remember for a long time.

Back on the road past a kangaroo who had clearly been a member of the Tufty Club and was making preparations to carefully cross the road, to drive back up the Great Ocean Road (and it is great) pausing briefly for lunch at a craft beer place (they're big on "craft" beer in these parts) to Melbourne.

Spent the last two days bumbling about Melbourne shops and kicking back in the hot tub and pool

before a final meal together and our flights home.

It's a tremendous city to visit.

It would be interesting to return in ten years time to see how the rapid expansion that is currently underway has progressed.

Fourteen hours on a plane got us to Abu Dhabi where we spent two hours before a seven hour flight back to Blighty. Two hours into phase two of our journey as we were passing over the Middle East, we received word that Donald, Makro and May,finest purveyors of arms and ordnance, had set off a few missiles in the immediate vicinity and could we head east for a bit, which added a certain frisson to the flying experience.

Touchdown complete we gave battle with the hopelessness that is the M25 and the marginally better M3 before arriving home and forming a pioneering support group for victims of Jetlag.

Thank you very much to the support group who filled in at home while we were away.

I seem to have gone on a bit, further river guff to follow.