Friday 24 May 2019

Ash Trees,Scams & Thieves

It's oft said, but

Here I come again, lookin' better than a body has a right to.

For which we give thanks to Dolly and her kind words.

I may have dreamt that last bit, but with grass on the rise I currently chuck out this guff with a severe affliction of "Strimmer's hip"

Your correspondent's hips and knees ain't what they once were and discussion at our weekly meeting of OFAL (Old Fellas - Ageing Ligaments, both Michael Flatley and James Brown former presidents) centres around whose knees can make the most noise.

Anyway, ailments aside, fishing has been fairly good.

The mayfly are late, but then the cuckoo was a tad tardy. Fish now know what mayfly are and for much of the week, any fish caught in the afternoon have fallen to a mayfly pattern. Monday 20th of May was the first day that the fish fed hard on a heavy hatch of mayfly.

There is a dance,

albeit a reticent hop, with only a handful set to partners as we took chota pegs in the garden last evening.

A heavy hatch of mayfly remains a tremendous sight with creatures of all persuasions taking advantage of an easy hit of calories. I've said it before but if the Seventh Day Adventists are to be believed and on departing this earth we return as another form,

Or was it the Buddha?

at which point I could go on about the uselessness of a secondary education experiment in which a hundred teenagers were lumped into an open plan area to learn English Language, English Literature, Religious Studies and History under the umbrella subject called Humanities in which we would never sit an O level.

One hundred teenagers of mixed ability and interest in an open plan teaching area, what could possibly go wrong?

But no matter, Adventists or Buddhists, I'd rather not come back as a Mayfly as danger lurks at every corner.

We are experiencing one of the heaviest falls of willow blossom that I can remember. It lies like snow through the wood and the surface of the water is carpeted with the stuff. I don't know what it looks like from a brown trout's perspective but they seem to pick out the flies from the fluff.

I've had two reports of pike spawning in the valley although they seem to have done the business in these parts and currently kick back in a post coital reverie waiting for the munchies to strike.

I'll break off there for some consumer information. For reasons beyond my understanding I was dispatched to mix with the cream of local town society in one of the out of town retail emporia.

Tesco, to be exact and a quest to source three toilet brushes.

With the spirit of Esther Rantzen upon me,

Yes, I know she is still with us, but for the sake of the piece.

Esther Rantzen by the way, a tremendous force for good and a gifted raconteur.

I once attended an award ceremony hosted by Esther.

I wasn't up for any gongs as I rarely win anything,

although there was that Hants FA groundsman of the year award runner up in 2011.


I attended in order to provide a photographic record of of worthy winners.

Throughout the evening Esther held us in her palm (big hands) and made each recipient of a worthy award feel like they'd made the New Years Honours list.

I seem to have become distracted , where was I?

Oh yes, three toilet brushes.

Regular readers will remember the thing about product placement so here's the big p


Tesco currently bang out a plastic toilet brush for 80p, yes that's 80p. You heard it here first folks.

A few aisles over, the lowest priced toothbrush is 99p

There isn't too much maths to be done here, but the quest for three toilet brushes was raised to five and with adequate labelling nothing too much should go wrong.

What times we live in.


Back on the river there have been concerns aired regarding weed growth in the upper Dever. Weed is very slow to grow in this stretch this year, although the ranunculus on the top shallows has come on quite a bit in the past week with the first few flowers now poking out of the water.

There won't be much weed cut in June here, but over on the Itchen the ribbon weed is demonstrating no little vigour.

It is now all too apparent that this summer I will be walking around the wood with my pot of paint putting ticks on ash trees that appear healthy rather than crosses on trees that appear doomed.

This is what ash dieback looks like and it seems that most of the ash trees about the place are infected. There is much work in the wood for the big orange saw come winter.

I don't know why my family currently draw the eye of humankind's low life, but to the names of Tamas Lukas, Sabrine Zvitch and a frenchie called David Brown (I know, I know) can we add the C£$%s in Camden who broke into William's car and took his cricket bag and bike the night before he was down to turn out for Longparish CC

The velocipede had a bit of a sharp saddle and they're welcome to it, but it was a quite a good cricket bat and made to measure at that.

I could be wrong, but I'm pointing the finger at you David Warner, to whom the bat may well be suited.

I may not have been in the wagon of a travellin' show, but come on everyone join in:

Ash trees, Scammers and Thieves (Cher circa 1971)

I find singing alone in a dimly lit room quite soothing, although the dogs don't approve.


Footnote: To all those freelancers out there who are required to repeatedly remind the accounts department of Big Business about stumping up coin for words provided many months prior,

I hear ya Sista/Bro/Genda neutral.

I believe this kinda coda is current.

I am required to hit deadlines for written guff, how about hitting some deadlines regarding payment for guff provided.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

A Scam, by Tamas Lukas and Sabrine Zwich

On me everyone, as there is much to discuss.

Ok I've been a tad tardy with regard to posting guff of late but there are reasons for this of which you will be made aware later in the piece.

Despite a dearth of early season fly, fishing has been fairly productive. Numbers of fish caught are up on last year and a couple of leviathans have been pricked or lost. The first few flurries of Mayfly are underway but no fish have yet to fall to an artificial. Weed growth is sparse which may be due to cold water. I was planting ranunculus earlier in the week and my hands soon went numb, although this may be due to dwindling circulation. The marginal growth is also slow to get going and with little in and alongside the river, fish are easily spooked. You can take it as read that the level is low and concerns remain for mid to late summer, and at this point I'd like to draw you to an article that featured in the business section of the Sunday Thunderer the other day.

You may enquire as to what business have I perusing the Business section of the Sunday Thunderer.

Well we had a few cold nights that week and Madam requested that the wood burner be lit. The article described an investigation into dodgy data produced by several water companies in the UK. Our own water company was chief among the culprits and I'll repeat my assertion that data gathered by water companies and agencies charged with protecting aquifers does not reflect the true state of play with regard to groundwater levels in this chalk valley.

Water Companies and Dodgy Data? who'd a thought.

Weasels, weasels, weasels!

While we're on weasels, or perhaps another predator that strikes when it's victim least suspects, could I extend the very same sentiments to the organisation that scammed Madam and myself out of the best part of four figures of hard earned pocket money.

The houseboat in Amsterdam that these lowlife offered as a holiday let did not actually belong to them.
Advertised on, a website we have used previously, we were fortunately made aware of the scam weeks before we were due to travel. During the trepidatious quest for alternative accommodation we were twice warned by the host website (, formally Owners, a website that we have also used many times, mostly en France.) that the property we were enquiring about could be a scam.

Word at the forum has Amsterdam targeted by organised scammers for the past few months with bogus websites very much to the fore and good people's money siphoned off to all corners of the globe.

Pitch back through this interminable line of guff, and you will find that we have been booking trips online for fifteen years. The default state may appear to be addled, but we are reasonably confident booking travel online, even with wine onboard.

This scam was very convincing.

We've found an alternative boat and have spoken with the owner, or the person who purports to be the owner

and suddenly wounds received are reopened.

I'll own that the experience unnerved me for a few days.

The threat of physical assault was a given in this job back in the day, particularly post harvest when swathes of the surrounding countryside were considered open season for a particular section of society. I was once roughed up by four choice characters outside the village shop in the middle of the afternoon because I objected to their modus operanidi with regard to bothering wildlife in the local environs and I've suffered mental assault, principally when Richard Madeley is invited to fill in on BBC radio programmes.

This scamming experience with the possibility of identity theft has left me feeling more violated than either of the two examples already given. We were offered victim support, but the wounds were still a little raw and we were in "trust no-one mode" so the offer was politely declined.

To the ledger of weasels we can add the names Sabrine Zwich, Tamas Lukas, A Frenchman called David Brown (I know, I know) somebody called Susan plus the rest of the miscreants at the immoral and sophisticated organisation who are currently targeting honest people taking holiday lets in European cities,

and hey if any of you are your reading this chunk of guff,

a thousand curses on your icy souls.

The UK, Dutch Police and OLAF the EU fraud crime team are currently investigating a scam that has caught quite a few people out during the past few months.

Looking up and not down we see that all trees are now in leaf bar the ash trees, which is a bit of a worry. The valley always attains a certain sparkle at this time of the year with glossy leaves and hawthorn blossom. We are still short of swifts and swallows, the local cricket league got underway last weekend. A haven for swifts there were none in evidence during the season opener which is uncommon. Lord Ludg reports that there are squadrons of the things around Ludgershall Towers so perhaps they will enter stage left sometime soon.


Following recent events a reference to Partridge seems apposite.

Regular readers of this guff will appreciate that I am a keen listener to Danny Baker (Prodnose) and his Saturday morning radio show. A quick trawl of my bag of emails confirms that this house made just shy of sixty contributions to his show over the past few years as one of the "chiefly yourselves" The first as follow up to John McGovern singing AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie in the manner of Brian Clough. It was a tough gig but my tale of a French campsite reproduction of Riverdance, sans dance steps, which centred around campers linking arms and walking around on stage in lines may/may not have received a mixed reviews.

I didn't go a lot on his TV stuff but as a broadcaster, he is up there with Old Tel.

An error of judgement, and perhaps "of a piece" for a particular generation. For some time Danny has agonised on air over life's third act. I'll miss him on the radio on Saturday morning and I hope his third act centres around "living for pleasure alone" and he is not castigated too much by the media or his own mind.

Jonathan Ross (for whom he has written many a script) made his way back after a similar serious error of judgement, Fingers crossed Dan can do the same, because he's radio gold.

And hey Richard Madeley if you've any notion of a return to radio, you'll get a similar response to your previous efforts when you were picked up for playing fast and loose with planet earth's daily quota of the words I and Me.