Monday 28 May 2018

Vision On and The Wheel of Justice

Ladies and Gentleman our house band The Detroit Spinners,

Weren't they great everyone?

Just back from another fun trip to the Carron, where, after three weeks without rain, the heavens opened the river rose eighteen inches overnight and fish ran the river. Unfortunatey the only fish I hooked came off quite quickly and then all too soon it was time to come home.

Oh well, but thanks as ever for the invitation.

I've just been informed (many times) that in the cause of protecting data I am required to offer you the opportunity of looking elsewhere should this guff have been forced upon you. Please be assured that the door is open and anyone can leave at anytime should they so wish.

Back on the Carron, throughout our stay there were men clad in high viz working with no little fever in and around a building by the road bridge on the Amat estate. I made enquiries and it turns out the small cluster of dwellings nine miles up a single track road in one of the more remote corners of these Isles is to receive the gift of super fast full fibre broadband.

Which is great.

So why can't this small cluster of houses less than an hour drive from what some would have as the greatest city on earth have it as well?

We remember fondly the days of our quarter meg dial up connection and my employer who uses the hopeless landline broadband connection, spends most days in a fug of buffering while we are forced to rely on our expensive 3G mobile provider for a speed of not much north of half a megabyte.

Anyway I'll avoid kicking off about Open Reach and BT as it will only make my eyes go all twitchy again.
The mayfly is finally underway and fish are coming out in numbers. Late afternoon through to early evening is currently the best time for peak rise with fish continuing to be a little picky early in the day.

The river is incredibly clear and lush weed growth is causing some bits of bank to become decidedly mushy. We have swifts, swallows and martins and our resident pair of swans have given birth to their perennial sygnet. I have already disturbed several grass snakes and recent intense storms have caused many bankside trees to dip a branch towards the water. It is now all too apparent which ash trees must be attended to next winter and also the following winters. .It seems to take five or six years between this insidious disease progressing from the outer reaches of the crown to the death of the tree.

This one's in the early stages of the disease, the dead shoots in the outermost points of the crown area as brittle as breadsticks

After three years of suffering

Five or six years in

This ash tree shows no sign of the disease.

Nor this pair of trees

because they are oak trees.

Dutch Elm disease gets all the heat when it comes to arboreal genocide but ash die back will push it close.

Oh yes, further bonifides required please Mr Gove. This time on sandwich fillings. Last week, in the resumption of his quest for higher office he implored us all to eat more lamb sandwiches.

I'm not a fan of the lamb sarnie. Chicken, beef and pork, pulled or otherwise are fine as fillings for a sunday evening sandwich in front of Arthur Negus et al but all sensible people (northern folk in particular) agree that the best treatment for leftover lamb is several days of slow cooking in red wine and herbs with some shallots and carrots topped with sliced potatoes and a big dollop of pickled cabbage (or sauerkraut if the EU is upon you) later in the week

The cove Gove seems to have been hewn from the same rock as Mr Mandleson who once famously entered a northern fish and chip shop and requested some of the mashed avocado with his chips

"That'll be mushy peas then" came the reply.

Yes, Bonafides please Mr Gove, Bonafides. Not only with regard to sandwich fillings but also for the post which you currently hold.

While we're on meat. In the name of cutting down on red meat in order to attain a perfect cholesterol level of four point something, we've just devoured a very nice piece of Hampshire Bred top rump. It came to light during this fine repast that with four jars of horseradish and four jars of mustard I had fast become the Imelda Marcos of the condiment world.

It was a shame that the Chairman of the EA's warning last week regarding the need to preserve our water supply in the decades to come was met with such derision in the media. I don't know if Mr Chair visits this house but regular readers/sufferers will know that we have been banging on about this very subject for many years. Editorial comment in several of supposedly more enlightened news papers demonstrated that we have a long way to go in getting the message across that our current method of sourciing water in the South is unsustainable and precious aquatic environments, principally groundwater fed chalk rivers, (85% of planet earth's chalk streams) will be impacted upon.

Later this week I will be charged with spinning the wheel of the justice.

The welcome pack from the Courts of Justice states that I cannot take my clever idiot proof camera into court so with a nod to Tony Hart I've whipped out the pastels and crayons, eschewed the kodachrome.

The next chunk of guff may be a little "Vision On" when it comes to images to serve as a reminder of my time in the wig, tights and cape.

In dog news, Otis has sore feet again.

It happens every year when he is in malt (hair falling out, he's not a whisky drinker) Hair folicles become infected between his toes and he assumes a mincing tread. A course of antibiotics have him podding about again within a week but getting him to swallow the things are a bit of a trial. His Uncle Zebo could famously eat around any peas placed in his dinner and while a knob of cheese with a pill hidden discretely within used to work for Otis, he now rejects any cheap cheese offered, will suffer 36 month old Davidstow, but wolfs down a pill wrapped in half a slice of Prosciutto or Serrano.

He has become quite the gourmand in later life and the cost of the delivery method of each pill may soon exceed the cost of the pill itself!

Names Currently under consideration for impending puppy.

Boots McArther - Came to me in a dream,
Pontebodkin - Bridge based which seems apt
Karius - Noooooooooooo!
Uncle Peter - I may have got stuck on Vic & Bob while undertakimg research for a film earlier in the piece.
Lister - Ditto
Michael Gove - Hmmmm, bonafides for work as a Labrador required.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Spinners, Gammon and a Sedan Chair

With the England team eschewing the chance to herald the disappointment of another early exit from a major international football competition tournament via the medium of song. This house has decided to buck the trend and will herald each chunk of impending disappointment with it's own anthem. Yes that's right, after a three year quest to secure a replacement for the over-rated Nicholas Chiantrelli Trio, our quest is now complete. We have found our new house band.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you

The Detroit Spinners:

Welcome aboard chaps, I look forward to working with you in the coming months.

Through with the theme tune we shall now attend to the meat of the business and an explanation of my movements throughout the preceding week.

Well it's all gone very green. Grass is remarkably lush and trees have assumed a sheen only present at this time of year. Conker trees are candled up and on bank holiday Monday Madam and myself kicked back in the garden with a glass of grown up Rose (for which we give great thanks) and burnt meat, only to be moved on by a swarm of bees passing through in search of a summer billet. The frost that we experienced during the first week of May doesn't seem to have been too catastrophic with the Wisteria now in full bloom,

Here's one of a specimen of twenty years that we must endure when we open the bedroom curtains in the morning. It came from Cornwall and seems to have settled well here.

The fruit trees are beginning the business of sorting the set fruit from the unset and it is becoming clear which ash trees we will have to target next winter in the drawn out battle to conquer ash die back disease. Fishing has been fair, but two weeks into the season most fish have gained a GCSE or two when it comes to differentiating between a natural fly and an artificial.

A fish of six pounds was returned in the opening week. A large hen fish the like of which we have not seen for a few years. She was in pristine condition and had obviously been in the river for some while. Why she decided to up sticks and pitch up here is anyone's guess, but she seems to be fairly settled now. The mayfly are delaying their entry with only a few seen during the day although there are reports that the mayfly have been about for a week or so on the middle main river.

Attending to the tree that fell across the Mill Stream proved eventful with the whole thing shifting position several times during dissection which added a certain frisson to proceedings.

Today ranunculus flowered in this river in May for the first time in four years.
And at this point can we remind ourselves what ranunculus requires to thrive and of its importance to invertebrate life in the chalk stream environment.

Well, it needs fast flowing water and highly oxygenated at that. An absence of algae and plenty of light are also preferable. I won't put up the photo of the field known across the ages as "Spring Bottom", but take it as read that it continues to be "sans spring". We are not experiencing exceptional discharges for this river, just what was to be expected ten years ago. The last three years have been very dry in these parts and aquifers became seriously depleted. It's just a shame that those charged with protecting the environment, or those who rely on it as a natural resource to generate income (yes, those weasels) didn't seem to notice, or at the very least make much mention of the fact during the past three summers. Donning the "buyer beware" crown of office it is during conditions such as these when the guard is down regarding depleted aquifers that we hear the cough and"ahem" from the corner of the aforementioned weasels and worms and the enquiry sotte voce

" now about all this water that seems to be sloshing around, well we'd like a little more please"

Apologies, I'll break off there.

I've just noticed that the "Alt" button is on the left hand side of the keyboard on my computer.

Will I have to move this button to the other side of the keyboard when we break away from Europe?

Oh yes, all this business about the use of the word Gammon as an insult is puzzling.

Harry Flashman and Bertie Wooster had a completely different take on the word that confuses the issue further.

Once again, what times we live in,

I'm with Flashie, Bertie and The Butcher regarding the word. I don't mind a bit of gammon. A Berni Inn special with a ring of pineapple, Serrano Ham, Proscuitto, Speck and heck even the occasional piece of obfuscation and jolly scheming in order to keep social events bouncing along.

Well I think we covered all bases there, so troll away please if you feel so inclined. I'll be over here with a swelling number of people waiting to step forward rubbing hands together to state "If you lot over there have quite finished and you lot over there have quite finished" We'll try and restore some normal service now that the fever has passed. As stated previously, troll away, troll away, troll away.

In other news we have just secured the services of another black labrador. As yet unamed and currently five weeks old he is not from the same line as Otis or Zebo but his parents are of a similar build. Discussions are underway over a name with the following list discounted already

Blondie - after 80's pop group Blondie
Hazel - after 80's TV detective Hazel played by Trevor Eve
Trevor Eve - Star of 80's detective series the title of which I forget.
Howard Moon - The Mighty Boosh
Dixon Bainbridge - The Mighty Boosh
Stephen Toast - Voiceover work and occasional actor

And finally,

I've been called to the bar. A wig, cape and some of those Persian slippers that curl up at the end have been purchased as the internet reliably informs me that this is what Judges wear although their shoes are rarely seen. A sedan chair (see left) will arrive each morning to carry me to court.

Jury service is imminent. Rachel was called up a few years ago and is the font of all knowledge regarding the market for crack cocaine among local town society.

Kinder Update:

Child A - Maisie, engaged with the forces of DIY while renovating a smashing two up two down terrace in Kingsclere, it even has three yards of chalk stream at the bottom of the garden.

Child B - William, engaged with the forces of a small camper van driving around New Zealand with two mates occasionally bothering trout. With the wind in the right direction we occasionally pick up their scent across the ten thousand mile divide.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Data Protection and Bagging Up on Amber Rudd

G'day everyone, did I mention that we'd been to Australia?

I did?

Ok, well there is still much to discuss on the matter but on this occasion I shall refrain so here's some parish messages.

With a nod to the current cult of Data Protection can all readers confirm that they arrived at this place of their own accord, nothing has been forced upon them or suggestions been made by way of spam email or leaflets through the post and there has been no mention of PPI or an offer made of marriage from the east.

Terms and conditions may/may not apply but things do seem to be getting a tad complicated with regard to chucking up guff.

Sign on the dotted line if you agree with the aforementioned and are happy/ resigned to peruse this nonsense further.


Data protection box ticked we shall now attend to recent events and the state of play for the impending trout fishing season.

With jetlag finally conquered (did I mention that we'd been away?) Exploits in the name of left foot right foot in order to prolong life have resumed. We seem to have developed a worrying propensity to turn a planned five miler into something nearer eight but there are worse places to bumble about blindly than the beeches and bluebells of Micheldever wood.

Four and a bit miles a little closer to home this weekend and at this point I'd ask you all to prepare yourselves for what some corners of the media would call a "reveal" Also known as a "revelation" I can reveal that it hasn't been as wet a winter as many are making out.

Or if it has been an unusually wet winter, the aquifers at the end of last summer were depleted way beyond what some would have us believe.

Yes the Fake News, and phoney figures have been a particular bugbear in this parish with regard to a variety of subjects so at this point we will assess the state of play by examining the actualite.

Here's one of Madam and Otis on the Common on Sunday afternoon. It is a path we have trodden for twenty six years. We find it very soothing as we are confident in the route and rarely get lost. At this point there is a fork in the road. Right leads through some boggy bits where springs should rise at this time of year, the world's worst spaniel got stuck in one once. To the left leads to slightly higher ground that the world's worst spaniel subsequently sought out on later visits no matter the time or year.

Today we swung right and made passage with ease.

Here's one of us cresting the summit of Postman's walk. We've walked this way before on recently cultivated fields and exited several inches taller with half the field stuck to our boots.

Today our cleats remained relatively free of organic matter.

and on the water meadow upstream, lambs gyre and gimble in the wabe with little fear of foot rot.

And then there is this field known across the ages as "Spring bottom" which has featured on here many times of late.

It remains spring free despite the "wet winter" touted in some quarters.

I could go on, and yes the river is in fine condition, but if the winter has been as wet as some are making out, the aquifers must have been depleted beyond what the same bunch had us believe over the past few years.

I'll leave it there, and just be thankful that the river is bank high and pushing through nicely. and well done the what used to be known as a "normal" winter for that.

The bridge is complete and Photoshop has levelled it up nicely. It was a steady job that took just over a week with materials for construction stored on higher ground a bit further away than one would normally have liked. Consequently The to-and-fro was increased by a factor of five and probably added a day or two to the job. Banks are decidedly squidgy and wellingtons are the footwear of first choice for the angler, as it should be at this time of the year. A brace of Great Egret flew by last week. Little Egret are a given in this valley but their blown up cousins are a little more rare. Roughly the size of a Heron they always seem a little short of confidence and are often moved on by a resident Heron or a couple of crows.

I'll just break off there.

Didn't pet shops used to sell Amber Rudd?

Or was it Golden Rudd?

It's one of the two but I remember bagging up on Amber/Golden Rudd in a match on a small estate lake when I was a student living and working on the middle main river.


Trout Fishing has just broken out in these parts with a brace of three pound fish already in the book albeit in chilly conditions. What hawthorn there were went early and the hatch was done and dusted late last week but the fish still know what they are. Olives are about and the vanguard of the Mayfly are on the cusp of entering stage left.

Everything is waking up and and all manner of creatures creep about the place, It's a terrific time of the year to be bumbling about in this special valley.

With another campaign medal earned orange saws briefly basked in two stroke valhalla before a substantial ash tree cashed in its chips and to lie prone across the Mill Stream. It's not causing any obstruction but it will have to be dealt with next week. The logs will be welcome but it always feels a little odd putting on the super warm chainsaw troos to tackle a tree which was on the cusp of bursting into life.

It was reported last week that aquifers in the Vosges in the North East of France were being put under pressure by over abstraction, principally by bottled water business in the town of Vittel.

Bottled water by the way is not bound by the rules that dictate Cornish Pasties and Melton Mowbray pies must come from the actual place they are named after. I once worked at a large trout hatchery with a million gallons a day of spring water bursting out of the ground that was purchased by Perrier because the water roughly matched the analysis of the water at the original Perrier spring.

Vittel are now having to seek another source for some of their water because the town is fast running dry and some of the stunning streams in the Jura are being impacted upon.

We walked their limestone banks a decade or so ago when children were children. The spectacular waterfalls will live long in the memory as will the hatch of olives and the numerous rises on a break abroad sans rods in the boot.