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.


Mick Newey said...

Love that last pic, great read again, I enjoy your ramblings !!!

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Thanks for getting in touch Mick and for reading the rubbish that I write,

best wishes for the summer season


Nigel Ajax-Lewis said...

Always a good read, and I amazed that water companies might be exaggerating their water assets. When I was on the first gamekeeping and sporting management including water-keeping course at Sparsholt 46 years ago we were being told that the abstraction for Swindon meant the Avon flowed backwards on occasion. I never understood how that could in fact happen, but I am sure I put it in an exam answer. It was obviously pre-water privatisation, so perhaps that is where all the bad practice stems from.

Anyway, the reason for going into print at this moment is to issue a warning that you should look after yourself based upon your last photograph, and read the tree council’s website.

The problem being that the dying or dead ash tree is more of a danger to he who wishes to clear it away than anyone else. I am sure that the Lord Lug will be watching your activities from a safe 200 – 300 yards distance but this disease leaves some of these standing dead trunks with a seriously depleted structural integrity. So they could drop a very large and heavy branch on one if one sneezed too loudly.

The original “ash die back” fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus [try saying that after a session in the Peat Spade] is only the precursor of a cocktail of other infections often including honey fungus which appears to administer the “coup de grace”, but it quite a slow process with big specimens up to seven years and more. Whereas I almost emailed you a couple of winters ago, when you were planting ash sapling in the wood, to say not to bother. Because it is the small stems that get infected and die first.

Worse still some of these big trees might be able to fight the infect off, but we don’t know which. Some where between 2% - 10% survival rate is suggested, and it would be unfortunate if we clear all the big resistant stock.

Good luck, our ash trees are particularly common on calcareous soils, so you have a particular concentration of them on the chalk. Only the third commonest tree in England, they are the second commonest tree here in Wales.


P.S. I must send you a photograph of my great grandfather’s shepherd hut as I wondered whether it might not be your accommodation in Easton. I would not have thought that there were that many in the village.

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Hello Nigel, good to hear from you again,

Speaking as one who suffers from his own "seriously depleted structural identity" I empathise with your comments regarding the plight of ash trees in England & Wales. We seem to have a few trees around here that demonstrate immunity, but it will be several generations down the line before they recover to current numbers.

Good luck for the Sewin season and thanks as ever for reading the rubbish that I write,


Nigel Ajax-Lewis said...

Seriously depleted structural identity and integrity in my case I give you a decade and a half at least; should have retired in old money; hobble upstairs and then cannot remember why.

Was I right in thinking you use a shepherd's hut on the Easton beat? Just wondered. The same Great Grandfather John Tanner, leased Micheldever woods for shooting.

We await the Sewin and hope we do not build too many tidal lagoons, if any at all.


The Two Terriers said...


An excellent read, thank you. Water Companies adjusting data and statistics, you couldn't make it up. I love the picture of the pike, it looks as if it is in a glass case. I watching a big lady pike and male acolytes in a spawning dance the other day. having caught plenty of pike in the fens I would have put her in the mid-twenties in terms of weight and I reckon she could have scoffed any of her admiring retinue. Even my two Parson jack Russells were impressed. Tooth envy I think. Enjoy your river, it looks beautiful. Regards, John

Test Valley River Keeper said...

Apologies Nigel I forgot. There is a shepherds hut on the beat at Easton, the owner purchased it about five years ago. It was bright yellow and visible from space when it artived so we painted it Brunswick green, the same colour as The Flying Scotsman.

There is some superb shooting ground around Micheldever. Lord Rank and then Eagle Star built up a very senior partridge shoot with plenty of high hedges to the fore. Not so much goes on up that way now.


Nigel Ajax-Lewis said...

Many thanks Chris, our shepherd's hut doubtless went on a bonfire some decades ago; but I have some early memory of it on Denzil Ffennel's ground, when I was small. John Tanner died in 1947, and is in St. Mary's, with all the rest of my family on my mothers side.

And Sutton Scotney always was good for partridges in those days. Hedges don't look quite as good these days as I venture down the A34 for the boat and invade France for l'autoroute du Soleil.

Must get this Abbots Worthy book,

Kind regards


The Two Terriers said...

Chris, he's probably fast asleep now having his belly tickled by the weed. regards, John