Thursday 23 April 2020

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Apologies everyone for the delay in posting guff. Seem to have lost track of time in lockdown so

Merry Christmas everyone,

Tree went up last week, the advent candle has been lit, although we have yet to source some crackers. Clearly another product that people have been panic buying.

I’ll own that a shortage of sauerkraut on the shelves came as a surprise.

I’m quite the proponent of fermented cabbage, and directly attribute my youthful complexion and regular bowel movements to the consumption of a large jar of the red variety each week. A large scoop with a wedge of brie (cottage cheese, if the pounds have piled on) and some serrano ham in a jacket potato is a dish that I thought was known only to myself and the gods, but the shelves have been clear of red sauerkraut for weeks.

Quite rightly, PPE and Corona Pop testing kits get all the heat when it comes to shortages and delivery dates, but the supply of red sauerkraut is fast becoming the elephant in the room come 5.00pm each evening.

Current delivery estimates for Dawton’s finest are around mid May. There is none to be had anywhere in these Isles.

Thanks very much to child A (Maisie) who managed to source online, the last two jars in a deli near her old Uni digs, They arrived in a box built for six bottles of wine - which immediately induced a certain state of anticipation, a state that was only increased further by the revelation that the box contained two jars of the “food of the gods” for which we give great thanks.

Back on the river, mothballs are very much the order of the day.

We’re good to go.

We’ve a plan in place on how our rods can fish safely and with minimum risk of spreading infection. It will require everyone to buy into the protocols and also for government consent for people to travel for exercise while maintaining social distancing.

Been cutting weed all week, which is a tremendous thing and I realise how lucky I am to be stood in the middle of a special chalk stream swishing a scythe in the sunshine. Hawthorn have hatched the past few afternoons, and yes, fish are looking up and taking bugs various from the surface. I considered putting a rod up and flicking a fly on video, but it doesn’t seem quite right at the moment, with advice from quarters various to refrain from fishing. Perhaps when rods are allowed back on the bank I’ll get out my rod.

With a nod to the bonce, when this nonsense is finally done and we all walk the streets for the first time it will be clear who had a hairdresser/barber in the house and who didn’t. The household of the hairdresser will emerge perfectly coiffured having had a member of the household, bored out of their minds, with scissors aplenty, keen to employ their skills every other day.

Yes, Some people will emerge from their isolation, blinking never having had hair so attended to.

Others however, and this is where dreams of a fringe return, will emerge with pigtails, buns and a hue of hair that close friends and associates may find quite surprising.

With a nod to weed cutting, I’ve a creative bent with a scythe and would welcome a new medium such as a barnet on a bonce.

I know cornrows and Nike ticks get all the heat when it comes to close cropped hair designs, but if anybody want a bar cut bonce delivered via the medium of turk scythe in waders, don’t be a stranger.

In wildlife news I can report that we have a bittern about, a cuckoo, a great grey shrike, great egret and several swallows. Not seen them myself , but sightings on the common just downstream have been reported on several birding sites by several people who have travelled many miles to peep through their binoodlers at feathered friends.


A standard for this house for the current season now follows:

Monday 13 April 2020

An Alder Fly on my Schnoz and Soothing Chooks

Good evening, and welcome to day ninety-five in the big brother house.

Our trout fishing season was due to start today, which lends a melancholy mood to the day. It is clear to even the most addled of eyes that the river has wintered well and is in prime condition (further films attached to demonstrate this fact)

A few olives have hatched during the fine weather, we have even seen a few sedge, and while sat on the bench outside the fishing hut shooting the breeze with imaginary anglers an alder fly landed on my schnoz.

It’s an odd state of affairs, and last week I was about to punch a silly old fool in Sainsburys who was not adhering to the self distancing advice and was clearly after some form of intimacy, before the penny dropped that I would need to wash my hands tout de suite and there was no sink to hand.

Although with the dearth of sport, old men fighting in the aisles of supermarkets could draw quite a crowd, with potential sponsorship deals.

Easter Sunday, and with a nod to the resurrection, we got our garden chairs and tables out of the garage and put the parasol up. The temperature hit twenty seven and a bit degrees in the shade of our garden over the weekend, which provided some succour for a cancelled trip to Porto, where it rained for most of the time we were due to visit (further succour)

There are reports of swallows, swifts and martins arriving in the principality of Ludgershall, but none have pitched up here yet.

The fridge just clicked on.

Currently a particular highlight of the day,

just the boiler kicking in to look forward to now and then it will be time for bed.

although I do appreciate how lucky I am to be able to live and work where I do and continue to be able to live a more normal life than many other people.

Spent most of the bank holiday looking for four figures worth of hearing aid in a stand of bamboo. I’d been cutting canes for runner beans in hot weather and in the hot sweaty conditions in my aural orifice, the trumpet jumped ship at some point.

Restored to my resting state of tinnitus and fug, I appreciate how much the thing was doing for me.

Ok I’ve paid less for motor cars, but it served a purpose.

If anybody finds a solid gold earpiece fashioned for my lugs, there is a reward of ten sides of smoked trout and a virtual handshake from a distance of two metres or more.

I'll close with a clip of our chooks dusting, which I find very soothing.

They dust in the gateway, and are photographed many times throughout the day. They've been deprived of dusting opportunities during the damp winter, although the wood shed has always provided a year round dusting opportunity of sorts.

With reduced traffic, and an increased footfall of pedestrians, they are reluctant to give up their station on the edge of the lane and may well have their own social media accounts,

They are currently quite the draw.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Wither Poor Bill and Planking Pine

Crikes what a lovely day,

and wither poor Bill.

During my time plodding about this planet, Bill Withers, live at Carnegie Hall, must be up there in the top ten albums that I have most listened to.

Ok the standards referencing sunshine and leaning on people,

and Yes the voice, Bernard on guitar and Mr James Gadson on drums (the coolest couple of hammers ever to knock a nail in),

but some of the lyrics are sublime. "I can't write left handed" is up there as one of the best anti war songs ever written (and Bill went to war) and the much sampled "Grandma's hands" will always leave a warm glow, and then there's the melancholy of "Hope she'll be happier" and the bounce of Harlem/ Cold Baloney.

Watch "Still Bill" online and you get a measure of the man, top bloke and super talented. Just wish he'd written more songs.

Bill Withers was something else.

Anyway the river.

Continues to clear, weed grows and flies hatch. This collection of short films sought to demonstrate fish rising to a fly. While I did my bit, the trout didn't comply. During the filming of each of these epics, fish rose off camera to a trickle of olives.

Which brings to mind a short piece I wrote for some magazine many years back. Sub editors are clever people who can put all the words the right way round for which we give great thanks, but the question "do trout prefer green or black olives, and will they mind if they are stuffed" demonstrated a degree of disconnect for the subject under discussion.

Been planking pine for a raised bed order the past few days. There's chalk to shovel tomorrow and a bridge to build next week. It's a shame we won't be opening on Easter Monday. I may put up a rod and flick a fly towards the water sometime next week by way of succour for all those who can't touch base with the river bank in the coming weeks.

Should be in Porto today. Punishing the Iberian beef and delicious Duoro at a much vaunted restaurant called Mu.

The sirloin and Duoro from Aldi provided a thin veneer of balm, for which we give thanks,

Well done everybody working in shops still open, we couldn't do without you,

Although BA are being a tad tardy regarding a refund for flights.

Friday 3 April 2020

Flying Kites and Horticulturists

More films, Here's one of the short stretch below the bottom bends that we have reopened this winter. It was out of bounds for a few years as my employer used the paddock annually to rear a litter of greyhound puppies.

People have commented that I seem to have acquired a bit of a tremor since isolation began.

I'll own that wine is being taken, and when will Faustino IV be assigned key worker status for his work in the world of Rioja?

To counter this criticism of shaky shots, I've mobilised the finest forces from Manfrotto.

This current crop of films are undoubtedly more steady with only the occasional jump during the difficult panning process.

These Red Kites were mucking about above my head for much of the day.

There now follows a short film for the horticulturists.

With the clocks gone on, I now spend most evenings up on my allotment. I arrive on my magic bike and it's my "safe space" nurturing many things to see us through the impending apocalypse is very6 soothing. I've always grown vegetables, but my principle patch at home has been claimed by the roots of a substantial sycamore and each year yields have declined a little more and the Sycamore has gone from strength to strength.

At this point, we would like to apologise to seasoned readers of this guff.

Several years ago we built a bridge and tried to pass off the person conducting the grand opening as The Duchess of Cambridge.

It wasn't The Duchess of Cambridge but Kylie Minogue.

We are very sorry for this misrepresentation but Kylie has previous in this field, just ask The Ivy, Tramp and The All England Tennis Club.

By way of penitence Kylie has subsequently been locked in the shed, for which she is very grateful as several have ended up headless in The Tower for this kind of thing

Wednesday 1 April 2020

A Quest for Cannes

And so our quest for recognition at the Cannes Film Festival continues.

I am aware that I am extremely fortunate to have suffered this commute for over twenty eight years.

The posting of these mood clips is not an act of braggadocio. The aim is to provide balm to all those anglers who can"t be on the bank at this time of the year. Particularly the bank of a river that has not been in this high end state for some years.

These were taken at 7.30 am this morning, the mist rising from the water had gone in five minutes.

I don't mean to rub salt into an angler's wound, but this afternoon we experienced a brief hatch of olives that drew the trouts' eyes upwards.

Yes, there were rising fish around 2pm this afternoon.

Cut some more weed today. Ranunculus mostly, that was threatening to push clear of the water's surface.

I have not had to cut ranunculus in April for many years. It used to be a reasonably regular occurrence and is entirely necessary due to adequate winter rain replenishing aquifers. Spring Bottom has fined down considerably and will probably have disappeared by the middle of next month.

Continuing to keep our heads down here and making a point of living reasonably high on the hog with regard to reserves from the freezer. I'm sure there will be "beans on toast" days to come, but at the moment a decent bottle of vino and a better cut of meat provide some succour at the denouement of each strange day.

As ever,

Keep Em Peeled.

Unless they are a high end new potato, in which case skins left on can provide a little interest and no little roughage.