Tuesday 30 June 2020

A Menage a Trois of Maud, Heidi and Bob Latchford

Come into the garden Maud,

for the black bat night has flown,

Except for Leicester,

whither poor Moley and the flat hills of his homeland.

On to the nonsense.

Bumped into The Earl English last week while mowing in the wood. With a virus on, he has eschewed mixing with the populace and wanders alone among the pines. His ginger curls are now beyond the aspirations of Heidi and approach Ronald Mcdonald proportions.

And while we are on Ronald Mcdonald, why is our lane the recipient of so much of their packaging in recent weeks. Madam was out walking the dogs the other evening when a car stopped and called for direction. With the necessary information duly imparted the lost tribe made their way up the lane spewing Big Mac, Filet “O” Fish and Mcflurry detritus as they went.

Anyway, where was I.

Oh Yes,

The Earl English, wandering about the wood.

Currently doesn’t like to mix and the wood and his estate share a boundary. A new path has been broken through the wood from the corner of his field that I now maintain on his behalf

Dubbed “The English Way” it should be coming to a Google map near you sometime soon.

Apologies to return to the current crisis, but just heard that the House of Commons Commission has rejected a proposal to reduce the safe social distance in Parliament from two metres to one metre.

You guys.......Tut

Please refer to title of last but one chunk of guff.

Apologies again,

Hang on,

Why do the learned members of the House (a big building) insist on maintaining a two metre social self distance while issuing instruction that it is ok for a fifty two year old pedagogue to engage with her charges (a sociable bunch) in a compact school building from a metre away as of next week?

I’ve had a few coves call about tardiness regarding posts in this corner of the internet.

Well, I’ll own that a certain mental inertia has taken hold and I spend an increasing amount of a day open mouthed staring off into space.

This week Madam joined me in this habit.

She has been back in school for a month, immersed in a bubble teaching the spawn of the loins of a dozen or more key workers. In preparation for the reopening of the school a fifty-page guidance document was distributed on advice on how schooling in a classroom should progress, the written advice on distance was two metres at all times. Madam still has the email.

Last week a member of the cabinet declared that the initial advice on social distance in schools was never so rigid as to insist on a distance of two metres at all times,

(although it is still rigidly enforced in Parliament – see guff above)

Once again,

You guys.....Tut

Once again, please refer to the title of the last but one chunk of guff.

I’ll pause briefly at this point for some breathing exercises in order to quell the vein on my forehead that has begun to throb again.

The river, yes the river.

Since the reopening of non essential shops the Fishing Hut is once again in use, as I do sell flies.

This reopening is in line with government advice and completely unrelated to the temporary gazebo collapsing spectacularly in a rain storm with two anglers taking Chota pegs while sheltering underneath it.

Well it was quite the June weed cut. As predicted I cut weed for seven or eight days and spent three days moving on cut weed.

Which is a good thing, as the June weed cut should be a heavy one.

Water levels remain good and the weed is growing again and should be clear of the water once more in July. No sign yet of any blanket weed or ugly algae and the gravel retains a sparkle that can only be imparted by reasonable winter flow. Hatches of fly have been a little disappointing and while a few fish look up, most have resorted to sub surface feeding. It may well be nymphs from the first of July. It’s been a windy week, which doesn’t help delicate invertebrates hatching from a river or an angler’s cast.

I’m no sailor, and I don’t see the point of wind.

There I said it, I don’t like wind.

Trees fall down, flicking a fly is difficult, gravid flies struggle to make it back to the water to release eggs and my hollyhocks fall over.

No, we would do well without wind.

Meadows and fen are coming into bloom and are alive with all things that buzz and flutter. The fen that we fire each year currently plays host to herds of Marble white butterflies that, like an elderly lady who I once knew are drawn like a magnet to the colour purple ( house, hair, hat and much more besides, all purple) We are bee rich and all manner of moths crash about the place at this time of the year. it’s just the aquatic inverts that are down in numbers, although there are plenty of damsel flies about the place.

Last weekend Madam, myself, Otis and Moss went for a bumble about Salisbury Plain. Moss covered most of the plain within thirty minutes of our six mile trudge up to the the little piece of Magdeburg that is the cold war mock up village at Copehill Down.

A Dystopian air hangs heavy in the air with burned out cars, a helicopter on its side and beat up village buildings. We sat down for our picnic sheltering from the wind behind the wreckage of a shot up Sikorsky.

The grass was long, Bonios were taken (Moss and Otis) and we tucked into home grown salad and eggs from our own hens and contemplated the bleak surroundings,

And then we saw them,

Orchids. Hundreds and hundreds of little orchids; vivid purple with a cone shaped head, we get a few at Bransbury, but not in this number.

We’d even sat upon a few.

And in this beat up shabby dystopian hellscape,

to a background track of twittering skylarks,

a Ready brek glow descended, and the travails of the last hundred days melted away.

An addendum:

And those who are not fans of football may want to dip out here, and apologies if I come over all Uncle Colm (Derry Girls by the way, brilliant comedy, but we do have to have the subtitles on)

It won’t sit well with some, but well done the Klopper

After thirty years Liverpool are League champions once again.

I’ve been a full on supporter of Liverpool FC from the age of 7, although the first football match I attended was Everton v Coventry City at Goodison Park on 27th November 1977 in which Bob Latchford scored a hat trick in a 6 - 0 win for the Toffees.

I first stood on the kop with my Dad on a Wednesday night in March. A derby with Everton that Liverpool won one one nil. While at secondary school I would regularly stand near the same spot on the kop with a few school mates. A couple of quid to get in, we caught the bus from Chester to Stanley Park or cadged a lift with a work colleague of my Dad (who was also a very good coarse fisherman, the work colleague, not my Dad) to park in a street near the ground where a kind local youth would “look after the car” for 50p.

I was present when Liverpool were presented with the league title twice (Liverpool always won the league back in the day) once against Aston Villa from a seat in the Anfield Rd end the Anfield Rd end (single tier then) and second against Norwich or possibly Southampton.

I was there when experiments with early kick offs were underway, 11.30am against Swansea sitting on wooden benches in the Kemlyn Rd stand. The game finished three nil to Liverpool (Ian Rush got one, who I also saw play for Chester). The reason for the early start? An attempt to boost the crowd at the Grand National later that afternoon.

This is one of two occasions When I saw a member of the 1966 World Cup winning side play. Martin Peters was skipper of Norwich and in his testimonial year. The other was when Alan Ball was in his final year at Southampton.

Saw them play three times at the old Wembley.

The West Ham Charity Shield game was a little lively pre match, and I do remember returning from the old Wembley by train from the game against Arsenal with somebody hiding from the police under our table. The men’s loos in the old Wembley were akin to the cascade at Chatsworth, the stench of ammonia hurt your eyes.

I don’t know why, but my Dad attended a testimonial dinner for old Crazy Horse himself at The Runcorn Eurocrest Hotel in November 1978.

Ginger McCain sat on their table and Red Rum was led into the room between courses.

the menu from the meal,

And the brochure for Emlyn’s testimonial.

The menu and brochure are signed by Bob Paisley, Steve Heighway, Alan Hansen, Phil Neal, Emlyn, Cliff Morgan, Terry McDermott, Ray Kennedy, David Fairclough, Jimmy Case, Colin Irwin and Ginger himself.

The day that Alan Kennedy signed for Liverpool for three hundred and thirty thousand pound, a British record for a fullback at the time, he was briefly billeted with another colleague of my Dad.

A ten year old me spoke to Alan on the phone, wished him well and informed him that my favourite Liverpool player would remain Kenny Dalglish. Despite this snub, Alan kindly sent me a signed photo, albeit in black and white, I still have it somewhere.

Alan went on to score the winning goal in two European Cup finals, first against Real Madrid and second in the penalty shoot out against Roma.

Alan or Barney as he became known (after Barney Rubble) was understandably a crowd favourite (but still not on the level of King Kenny), had a peach of a left foot but was sometimes found out with his right foot which always drew the sixteen or so thousand on the Kop (nobody knew how many people were really in there) to chant:

Barney’s got big boots on,
Barney’s got big boots on,

Which he would more often than not acknowledge with a wave.

watching a few reruns of their matches earlier this season served as to a reminder of the quality of football Liverpool were playing before the virus took hold. They are worthy winners of the league title, and for me, another step towards restoring normal order.

But then I would say that wouldn’t I.

Friday 12 June 2020

Poor Mayfly, Broad Beans and Fiddling with Time

Ave all,

Right, despite the best efforts of “Our Great Leader” and his cabal of clowns, (selected for their Cummings compliancy rating, there are more capable coves in the house) I’ll do my best to keep this one light.

No coughing here by the way, and we do take our temperature each day on the morn with graphs subsequently produced.

For the first time in many years hatches of mayfly have been disappointing. We have seen no significant hatch, dance or fall of spent. It is the same story on much of the river, with the Upper Itchen the only exception. Not sure as to the reason why. There will always be a downstream displacement of mayfly nymphs in times of high winter flow, but every Ephemera Danica that was washed downstream would be replaced by one from upstream. A brief shuffle in the gravel with a fine mesh net to sample invertebrates betrays numbers of mayfly nymphs and much more besides. A Mayfly can run on a one year or a two year contract on the bed of the river, although I’m not sure what triggers the critter to sign for the two year option. The odd yellow sally is now putting in an appearance. A portent of the end of the mayfly season for another year.

We’ve a few sedge about and a host of daddies regularly bumble about our kitchen. There are olives, caenis and a burgeoning number of odd moths.

The first marsh orchids are out and there are several broods of mallard about the place. The river retains the sparkle that is only imparted by a good scrub behind the ears from increased winter flow and weed is having a high old time of it.

This week saw the start of the June weed cut. Traditionally the heaviest cut of the year, last year, following a dry winter it was done and dusted in a matter of hours. This year will see me swishing a scythe for seven or eight days, with much clearing down of cut weed as the verdant weed growth extends for several miles upstream. Over on the short stretch of the Itchen that I fall in and out of the ribbon weed has been quick to put in an appearance but the ranunculus is a long way off flowering. The water has fined down considerably and while engaging the forces of ribbon weed via the medium of turk scythe I was entertained by a dozen or so swallows picking off olives hatching from the bridge pool, a few feet away from my head. I’ll own that despite these dodgy eyes I did duck several times which may have caused several walkers crossing the bridge to titter.

It has been a little disturbing to see the reports of “fish rescues” by the EA on The Angling Trust twitter feed. We seem to have got through an awful lot of that water that was around in February. We will not have enough water to run the Mill Stream in a week or so and weed has been cut with an eye to retaining water level. Not something I envisaged when I was cutting weed in April.

In other news, Child A turned twenty seven this week.

I don’t know how this happened.

Someone has fiddled with time.

Twenty seven years ago, on the opening day of the June weed cut I returned home from cutting weed on the top shallows to be informed that sandwiches were off, water had broken and we must make haste for Winchester County Hospital. It was a long process, but Child A eventually put in an appearance around lunch time the next day, perfectly healthy, if a little grey. Child A was given the moniker Maisie because it was still Mayfly time and Madam railed against my suggestion of Danica or Ephemera, a compromise was reached with Maisie. Child B’s launch followed a similar process. Born in January I initially suggested “Snowdrop”, with “Aconite” as a backup/middle name.

Both suggestions were dismissed out of hand by Madam.

Brief consideration was given to the name “Dangerous” as I felt doors would open later in life for someone called “Dangerous de Cani”, but once again I was overruled and he assumed the moniker “William” a week or so later. For the first fortnight of his life William was known only as “baby”. After a fortnight of tired Dirty Dancing references regarding his cot being placed in the corner of the room a suitable name was found.

In allotment news, we consume broad beans with gusto and there are four pound of the things frozen in the freezer. Rhubarb continues to thrive, runner beans display flowers and soon we will be digging potatoes. Onions are average, as are leeks and the crows plucked out half of my sweetcorn. Tomatoes, both plum and cherry, thrive and monster parsnips lurk in the corner, ready for harvest once they’ve had a frost on them. There’s a medium size ash tree on the bank of the spring ditch that carries water from the field known across the ages as spring bottom. It’s dry now, but I shan’t go on.

Anyway, the medium size ash tree is around thirty feet high and on several occasions that I have haunted the place in the name of weed removal the Merlin has perched in it’s upper branches. I’ve yet to get a photograph, and I’m not sure, but the frustrated falcon may have gone spooney over the plastic predator that sits on top of my shed.

Veterans readers of this chunk of guff will note the Duchess of Cambridge remains captive in the shed. With a nod to the lockdown she has eschewed hair cuts and is growing her mane in order to let down her hair and allow the Duke of Cambridge, a little fella to climb her locks to profess his undying love for her. I will then have a brace of Cambridge captive with which to scare the pigeons and crows.

That’s the tale I tell my fellow allotmenteers, who seem to give my plot an increasingly wide berth.

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Are We Not Mugs?

Apologies everyone regarding tardiness in chucking up guff on this platform, but for the past few weeks I’ve been stuck in a trance of incredulity at the shenanigans emanating from the cabal of political clowns who sit at the epicentre of the maelstrom of chaos in which we currently find ourselves.

Two weeks, sitting silently, gently rocking and open mouthed at the brass necked cheek of the piece. From Devious Dom, through disingenuous Johnson to Hat Mancock and his dodgy data.

I touched base with our local MP regarding a certain section of society who having attended several SAGE meetings and were right across what Joe Public were being asked to commit to, but drew the conclusion,

“well clearly, this doesn’t apply to me, powerful people have my back”

Principally Devious Dom.

Are we not mugs?

She’s an excellent constituency MP who was informed of “Our great leader’s decision recently to remove her from cabinet” on social media.

She currently sits as chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.

During “Our Great Leader’s” recent televised appearance in front of the Parliamentary Liaison Committee, she held his feet to the fire repeatedly over the lack of female involvement in the decision making process over the current crisis.

She signed off her prompt reply to my email with the following:

“I have no doubt as to the immense damage the PM has done by refusing to sack Cummings. He is seldom so out of step with public opinion, and I assume is hoping people have short memories. It is awful.”

I considered contacting her again on several occasions since Teflon Dom’s sojourn north on a variety of matters, but as I have already stated, I took the open mouthed trance of incredulity route.

The following statement was a standard of this house for many years, particularly during the implementation of The National Trout & Grayling Strategy in 2015, but it seem apposite to revisit the old mantra:

We are increasingly led by loons

Dons loin cloth, grows beard and retreats to cave angrily waving a fist at the outside world, which is pretty much where I’ve been for the past few weeks so apologies again for the dearth of guff regarding all things chalk stream.

It’s mayfly time again.

Only this year it hasn’t been so easy, and rods have had to earn their fish.

Mayfly are few in number and the dance of an evening has, with a nod to the current requirement for social distancing, been low in attendance. We have yet to experience a significant fall of spinners. Which comes a something of a surprise as kick sampling through the winter chucked up many mayfly nymphs lurking in the weed and gravel.

The mayfly hatch was late to start, and the timed arrival of swifts swallows and cuckoos has been all to cock, so maybe next week will be the week. Plenty of fish have been caught, but it hasn’t been easy fishing. A heavy hatch should spark the locals into action, as most of them sit there on the fin looking upwards in expectation, but with a river so clear, a single artificial alone without a procession of naturals is more often than not ignored.

You will see from the amateur photos that weed is having a high old time of it. Ranunculus is in full flower, and water celery is growing clear of the water. It’s weed having a wonderful time, which is tremendous news for all folk that live in a chalk stream.

The reason the weed is wearing it’s hat on three hairs?

Winter rain,

Once again,

Winter rain.

The water's receding at a remarkable rate. Both April and May were particularly arid, just to be clear that's the months and not Donald Duck's nieces. Rumours abound thatwe are on the cusp of having drought conditions declared in the south, but the evidence of the high winter flow remains with the river retaining a sparkle not seen at this time of the year for sometime.

In other news, we have finally been refunded the money for our early April six day trip to Porto.

It’s been a painful business with lots of wriggling by the online agent, and why we incurred a fifty pound admin fee for the issue of the refund was beyond me, but it extended my trance of open mouthed incredulity by a further three days.

Apologies, the name of the online agent…


That’s TRAVELUP everyone,

We won’t be using them again.

Returning to the virus.

No not that F*&^% virus, that keeps making me cross.

Ash dieback.

At this time of the year, it’s very apparent that we have a cluster of mature trees infected with the lurgy in the middle of the wood.

If anyone needs a rustic broom handle, don’t be a stranger.

Looking up and not down, we find that there are some trees that demonstrate immunity to the virus.

Here’s one of two ash trees on opposite sides of the river. Despite Suitable social distancing, one has succumbed to the virus, while the other seems to retain some immunity.

One will be felled and, following a period of maturation, be introduced to the wood burner.

The healthier tree will produce immune progeny and slowly a new population of immune ash trees will form.

If anyone was unsure, the infected ash tree is on the left.

This virus will impact on the make up of woods in this area for several generations, and take decades to be defeated.

Fingers crossed mankind comes up with a solution to the crafty covid 19 a little sooner than that.