Tuesday 31 March 2020

Balm, Succour and a Vat full of Ginkgo Jojoba

I wish I knew how, it would feel to be free, I wish I could break all the chains holding me,

And why not?

Prescient prose for current times,

and again,

And why not?

With a further nod to Baz Norman, here’s another film.

Not too much to report. The Osprey passed through and I’ve been cutting weed all day. Dropped the level by a couple of inches to allow some bank to dry out before we finally open for fishing (whenever that may be)

Not mixed with many this week.

Had to pop out to the chemist and superstore for messages for people various earlier this week.

The Pharmacy people were right across the social distancing thing and everyone kept the height of Richard Osman apart.

The superstore was a different matter, and I did get cross with several members of local town society who had clearly taken the view that, having won two world wars invincibility was a given and the pox could be beaten through gung ho, bully beef and pluck.

You don’t defeat viruses or other notifiable diseases through gung ho, bully beef or anything Mark Le Francois may promote.

Viruses are beaten by changes in behaviour by the intended target.

And if college Fishery Science serves, deny a virus a platform, it will go away and sulk.

And to the jellyfish who leaned across me, coughing, to access the last four pack of tinned tuna in oil (Madam is quite insistent on this matter, spring water and brine don’t quite cut the mustard)

“back off knobhead” provided some succour.

Lawks my skin's dry, with all this hand washing

Sunday 29 March 2020

Balm Extra

Well these short films seem to be quite popular, so here's another clip fresh off the floor of the Pathe newsroom.

It’s an odd state of affairs. We haven’t been out of the parish for a week. The road that runs alongside the river has never been busier with bumblers and bikers and we make an effort to touch base with each one we see from a safe distance.

I’ve been up on my allotment for much of the day, frantically bunging in potatoes should the place be shut down for a few weeks. Far better they’re in the ground than achieving “super chit” status sat on the bench in the shed.

Today I saw an Osprey.

Don’t see them very often, but they do drop in on their way north occasionally. This one didn’t hang about for long as it was mobbed by the resident red kite.

Black caps have suddenly turned up in the garden too.

Swans and water fowl are sitting on eggs and buds are about to break which is always a tremendous sign of the impending season, although Madam retiring to her craft room to bang out a batch of “Get Well Soon” cards in anticipation of a burgeoning market is a a little foreboding.

Thanks to everyone for getting in touch. Touching base seems to be quite an important thing to do at the Moment.


as ever,

Keep Em Peeled!

Saturday 28 March 2020

Further Balm

Back again with another episode of

“If you can't be on the riverbank. I'm happy to do it for you"

Fingers crossed this doesn’t turn into a feature to rival the longevity of Coronation Street.

In river news, today I cut weed. Haven’t had to cut it at this time of the year since 2014. It’s a tremendous feeling and all hail the forces of winter rain and reasonable groundwater flow. The aim was to reduce the river level by a few inches around the fishing hut in order to allow banks to dry out and a bridge of sorts to be fashioned and a bit of bank to be mended.

This week we received recommendations from on high that we must consider delaying the start of the season.

I’m not sure that there is a huge level of risk to be had from jumping in a car and driving to a mile and a bit of the best chalk stream in the world where the keeper has studied self distancing to Ninja level.

but hey, we are where we are,

Oh yes, our postponed trip to Porto. Air BnB chap was very understanding, but my goodness BA are wriggling over refunds for flights.

As ever,

Keep em Peeled

An addendum:

While the pervious clip of Shaw Taylor giving of his best was recorded in the year that I first started falling into this stretch of the Dever, any resemblance to either of the sketches of possible suspects, is purely coincidental.

Thursday 26 March 2020

Balm for a Self Isolated Fisher's Soul


Well that last film seemed to draw reasonable reviews, so by way of balm for a chalk stream fisher’s soul, here’s another.

Not much to report, other than river in great knick and today I fired up the mower for the first time in 2020. Washing hands furiously and packed up picking my nose.

It’s a day to day thing and while I know I am immensely privileged to move freely about this aquatic environs, my allotment has provided immense succour these past few weeks.

Unfortunately it may be out of bounds for a few weeks, which is a tremendous shame. I ride up on my bike, open the gate with my gloves on, keep my distance from other allotmenteers and grow food.

Not much social mixing there then.

Anyway, with regards to guff, little and often from now on.

More film footage to follow,

in the meantime,

Keep Em Peeled


Tuesday 24 March 2020

Shaw Taylor - It's beyond our ken.

With everybody hunkered and bunkered down, and with a nod to tea tine daily briefings, guff will be chucked up in a more concise form at increasingly regular intervals.

Here's a short film of the river at 7.00am this morning.

It’s no Hugh Miles, but you get the gist.

We are all staying local, with minimum movements between the breakfast table riverbank and allotment, which many would say is our default state.

Nobody is sneezing or wheezing and, as ever, social distance is our watchword.

The river is in tremendous knick, although the banks remain a bit mushy. Weed continues to have the time of its life and the voluble Ceti’s Warbler has turned up again.

Who Ceti was, and why he had a warbler remains beyond our ken.

Back soon with more river news, but with a nod to Shaw Taylor:

“Keep em Peeled”

Or was it Nick Cook and “Stay Safe”

We don’t know, just look after yourselves everybody.

Friday 20 March 2020

Loose Women and What Not to Wear

For those sofa surfers and self isolators out there who have been on to ask if that was m'goodself on today's episode of Loose Women,

Yes it was,

A thought piece about working from home and our canine friends response to social distancing and self isolation, I seemed to carry it off and it has since drawn excellent reviews.

Equity have been on, an agent secured and image rights nailed down.

A cape, cane and cravat have been source and make up alerted that there my be a big job on as next week as I am booked to appear on Nationwide, Pebble Mill at One and Gok Wan's What not to Wear.

I'll be sorry not to work with the dogs again. Starstruck, they have taken up with their own agent and have ambitions to work the reality TV circuit. It was a reasonably amicable split, and who knows, if it doesn't work out for them on Bonio Island and in The Big Brother Kennel we may well work again.

I'm not ruling anything out.

Thanks to everyone who made this late life leap for stardom possible.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

A Battered Bonce, Grade 3 Zither and 52

Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon his head.

Well maybe not Maxwell’s sterling persuader but my 25kg fence bumper.

I am not quite sure how it happened. I was working alone bumping a couple of posts into the river bank for a seat on the short stretch we have opened up below the bottom bends. I raised the bumper up above my head in order to deliver the opening blow, I lost my balance and the thing came down on my head sending me flat on my back into six inches of mud and water.

There’s no old man of Arron going round and a round but near a tree by a river there’s a hole in the ground with my hearing aid in it. As I hit the deck one of my hearing aids popped out. Scrabbling around in the mud for the expensive aural piece I was forced to abandon my search as I couldn’t see through my glasses for blood.

I hobbled home and dialled 111 who told me to dial 999. While waiting for the ambulance I climbed the stairs to take off my wet clothes where I went a bit wobbly in the bedroom and had to sit down on the bed. Covered in blood and mud the bedroom soon assumed a “Holby City” air.

The ambulance arrived in ten minutes and I then went into shock. I acquired a stutter, my blood pressure and heart rate shot up and I couldn’t stop shivering. The medicos were brilliant and deliberated between Basingstoke and Winchester as to which was the best place to take the patient.

Winchester it was, and after four hours I was on my way home with a head full of glue and a special dressing. A funny forty eight hours followed, with headaches, fogginess and an inability to sleep after my intense adrenaline high.

It’s all ok now and while some people following a bump on the bonce find they can suddenly speak Spanish or play the Zither to grade 3 level. I have not suddenly acquired any new talents other than a propensity to quote song lyrics in any guff I now chuck up.

Anyway the river.

It just about remains within it’s banks. The opening day of the trout season on this stretch is just under four weeks away and some bits of bank will be out of bounds for a few weeks.

Ranunculus is in fine form and will be cut in April. The river is losing colour and the gravel is sparkling with hardly a grain of silt to be seen, it is plain to even the most addled of eyes what a restorative effect high winter flow has on a chalk river. Ducks are getting fruity, which is always a sign that winter is nearly over. Mallard drakes are a horny beast in March and April and this morning Lord Ludg and myself caught four of the things in pursuit of a duck across a field a long way from the river.

Not seen any Lupine shenanigans in the field behind our house yet this year. It used to be a magnet at this time of year for hares driven mad by lust. There are more hares about here than there have been for a few years so I’ll keep looking. It’s the only place I’ve seen a parliament of the things with nine or ten of them formed up in a circle fifteen feet across. At one time it was common place to draw our bedroom curtains of a morning and see three or four Hartleys bumbling about the bottom corner of the field.

And then there’s the virus.

It is a thing, and the tone in some corners of the media has changed significantly in the last ten days. Less of the fact free, say what ever you like, reporting of the past three or four years, but a tacit acknowledgment that they have a responsibility to provide clear and accurate information to Joe public as opposed to pushing agendas various.
On "Our Great Leader's" advice we have cancelled our plans to visit Porto at Easter and are washing our hands furiously at every opportunity.

In my line of work, the majority of people I mix with are in the “vulnerable” group. We plan to open for fishing as normal. I will be even more socially distant than previous summers and will wash my hands regularly and check my temperature twice a day. I also promise to lock myself in the cupboard under the stairs for many days at the slightest hint of any lurgy.

It’s the sensible thing to do, and I hope will provide reassurance to many of our regulars who may consider themselves at risk. In conversation in the back of the ambulance last week, I raised the issue of self isolation. The Medico came back with “From what I’ve learnt about you in the past hour” (and there were many questions)“ You’ve pretty much been in self isolation for most of your working life”

I don’t know how this has happened (particularly considering recent events) but this week Madam and myself turned 52 years old.

The following has become a bit of a perennial standard for this house,

A google reveals that the number 52 is the natural number following 51 and preceding 53

The wraith of Paul Daniels or possibly Bruce Forsyth insists that a full pack of cards bar jokers numbers 52,

With a nod to the natural world, 52 is the number of Hertz that one particular whale emits when in song. An unusual range, he has been dubbed the Barry White of the whale world.

Numerologists have it that 52 carries a similar level of energy to the number 7, while Angel numbers teach us that the number 52 is a message that you have made the right choices and are on the perfect path for the realisation of your life’s higher purpose.

Whatever, we've both just turned 52.

Friday 6 March 2020

Free Brie, Flybe and a Threeway Light Affair

Still here,

I've an expensive ear trumpet to pay for and the car didn't fare too well in the MOT so been busy bunging stuff on ebay.

With a two week period of isolation on the cards for most of the populace of planet earth, the potential for online auction sales has opened up immensely.

And at this point can we all remember the covert mantra of the mainstream media over the past few years – “If we’re not scared, they’re not doing their job”.

We had a brace of dry days at the beginning of the week and the water levels on the fields and in the river fell for a forty eight hour period.

Ditches are full and flowing and in some spots water is running down the road. On a visit to the stretch of the upper Itchen that I fall in out of, I came across a three way traffic light affair at Headbourne Worthy.

The springs had broken (the clue is there in the name of the village should anybody think this an unusual event) and water was running across the road.

The three way traffic light set up seemed a tad excessive and was further complicated by access to what all civilised people agree is the best farm shop in Britain (thanks in advance for the sample of free brie)

The Itchen was still behaving itself, but back in the Dever valley there is water running down the road that has yet to draw the eye of the traffic light wallahs.

Here is the road at Cocum, between Barton Stacey and the A30.

The water is flowing down the road before exiting stage right into the fields that lead down to Spring Bottom.

It’s groundwater flooding that isn’t going away anytime soon, and is a tremendous thing that bodes well for the impending trout season. We’ve a few dry days on the way before further rain is forecast.

In the quest to lengthen life via the medium of left foot, right foot. Weekend perambulations saw us push deep into the Anton valley before crossing the river to climb over the hill and down to the Test.

The Anton valley was relatively free of flooding

and the Test was bank high but reasonably prim and proper and behaving herself.

There was some standing water on Chilbolton Common, and for a hundred yards I had cause to bear Madam on my back, as yes, it was I who insisted that wellies were not necessary and walking shoes would suffice.

Oh yes, this

We draw a few fly tippers in the Dever valley.

In previous years our own parish has received the gift of sofas, carpets, fruit and veg, builder’s rubble, sump oil and much more besides.

The fly tippers currently seem to be concentrating their efforts on the outskirts of Winchester.

Has something happened to cause this antisocial behaviour?

We now have to register with our local council to use the local town tip, else we incur a five pound charge for each visit, is this the case in Winchester and if so,

could there be a link?

With water all through the wood and any movement with the tractor on the riverbank likely to create more work, we have moved to other areas of work. A bridge has been built from wood grown, felled and processed on site. A rustic affair, it breaks new ground in bridge design, although the requirement to break step when crossing cannot be emphasised enough. With a nod to sustainability we have planted forty odd golden willows through the wood. Now that the ash trees cashing in their chips at a remarkable rate there is a need for a fast growing tree to fill a few gaps. I’ve also another homespun bridge with a folksy feel to build when the water level drops a few inches.

The trout season seems to be rushing towards us and there is still much to be done. The river is rammed with fish, trout mostly, that will be super fit having overwintered in rapid flow. Tarka’s been about this week and either end of a double figure pike pitched up on the bank one morning. Graculus has also upped his presence in the area. Faster flow and deeper water may provide some succour for brer brown trout from Tarka, but it increases Graculus’s prospects of filling his boots. With an extra foot of water in depth of the flight pond the silver fish have taken a bit of a hammering.

Wither poor Flybe.

We had some tremendous times in their care pitching out from the world’s best airport at Southampton.

Ok, Ok the carbon footprint of flying,

but I plant a lot of trees (see somewhere above) and have done many things to promote biodiversity in my workplace and clean up as much air as possible. I also recycle like a fiend and would never dream of introducing a log to the burner with a moisture content higher than 20%, and anyway, most of Flybe’s planes have propellers and I was always led to believe that they didn't burn aviation fuel but are instead propelled by big rubber bands.

So forgive us a few flights from the world's best airport that is Southampton.

Fingers crossed another airline comes forward to maintain the routes from what is, and I'll say it again, the world's best airport.

Oh yes,

Only fifty days ago "Our Great Leader" declared:

“Be in no doubt that we see the importance of Flybe in delivering connectivity across the whole United Kingdom”

Funding was promised,

It didn’t come.

How many other tales have been told this past few years?