Tuesday 28 July 2020

The Home Bargains Incident and a Crock of Shite

Dear Hat Mancock, 

 Now that the 16th of March is the “new” 23rd of March. Does this mean that anyone born on the 16th of March now has two birthdays a year or no birthdays a year, and will the celebrant either age twice as fast as everyone else or stay at the same age in perpetuity.

Apologies for the query.

Everything else regarding current day to day doings is brim full of clarity, it was just that I needed to know when to send a card. 

 Oh yes, when is Christmas this year, or have I missed it? 

 Asking for a friend. 

 Once again, Are we not Mugs? 

 Well the July weed cut was another event. For the last few seasons weed has taken a turn for the worse through July in a river brim full of nutrients having been deprived a winter scour. Ranunculus remains in reasonable condition and shows little sign of being overcome by the filamentous algae that has made merry in the last six summers. Hatches of fly remain disappointing. There are a few sedge and a trickle of olives, but most fish feed sub surface or pick at terrestrial dainties blown from trees. A black fly or black emerger is worth a go, or a small drab nymph, as anything flashy or splashy will cause fish to spook and bow waves will result. Shock tactics with Daddies are also worth considering. Orchids are still putting in an appearance. Seed heads formed, I would normally be topping the meadow around this time but it will be August before I mount the swipe. 

In other time travelling news, during an evening preamble up the river a week or so ago I caught a few spent Mayfly making their way back onto the water. 

Spent Mayfly in July? 

Strange times, but referring back to the opening skirmishes of this chunk of guff, the new 8th of July may well now be May the 25th, We don’t know. But they were spent mayfly alright. 

Mayfly hatch throughout the summer on the Hampshire Avon. I once caught a fish rising to Mayflies at Middle Woodford while fishing as a guest of the “Sage” of Longparish in September. It was a Sunday and I was dipping in and out of an exciting Ryder Cup finish via a discrete ear piece. The Sage, a keen golfer and talented fly fisherman, approved when my cover was blown. 

I once sat next to him at a wedding in the church that his father used to run at in the nineties. The wedding clashed with a vital Calcutta cup match that would determine the “Five Nations” as was. Johnny produced a small portable TV from his morning suit (pre mobile phones) and we watched discretely as the union was made, the muffled “Oh bollocks” as Gavin Hastings secured the win and the slam for the Scots, can be heard on the video as the groom leads his bride down the aisle from the church. 

 Cricket’s back, and Madam’s scored a few games. 

It’s an odd affair with a Bedouin feel when it comes to changing and tea, but cricket all the same which is great, and it all feels well done and safe. Well done the Hampshire Cricket League, which also seems to incorporate large swathes of Berkshire, Dorset, Sussex and Wilts. 

In hair news, To avoid crowds I touched based with my Turkish barber last Sunday when Matins was on. 

It seemed like a plan. 

 Masks were worn, shearers were sanitised and the perpetual pitch for products that would do great things for my greying locks returned, despite the proprietors own salt and pepper bonce. 

Done with clippers, Attaturk flashed ups his lighter and singed out my nose,  then my ears and eyebrows were attended to, if there was hair anywhere, he was going to have it. 

He’d been shut down for twelve weeks, and was grateful for the government grant that covered basic costs and would have gone bust without it, so well done for that Mr Sunak.

 Currently the parish is abuzz with what is now known as “The Home Bargains” incident. 

 At five thirty on Saturday afternoon the Highway to the Sun became blocked by an accident, no surprise really as it’s been rammed for the past ten days and goodness the West Country must be cramped for room. 

Clearly on a promise, a driver on his way back to the iron age Home Bargains distribution centre which forms part of the Stonehenge complex fifteen miles to the west of here, sought an alternate route for his High Capacity articulated lorry via the medium of Sat Nav. 

 Pulling off at the Bransbury turning he soon realised the error of his decision (He missed the sign warning of a road width of 6ft 6in), there was no choice other than to press on regardless. 

 Which he did, 

bringing branches and foliage crashing down onto the road. 

 I don’t know what shape the lorry was in the next morning, there were reports that he got stuck in Chilbolton, having to reverse very slowly for several hundred yards to a symphony of beeping, but please Hampshire Couty Council could we have a sign stating that this road is unsuitable for Heavy Goods Vehicles.

 The last time it happened was on a Sunday night with a lost Portuguese seeking the world’s biggest provider of bagged salad. He knocked on our door and sought assistance, but my advice to back up the road got lost in translation and he crashed on up the road taking out the church wall in the process. 

 Catholic insouciance to the C of E, or just bad driving? 

we don’t know. 

 In allotment news, this week I dug up 32kg of second earlies. Variety – Charlotte they are the best crop I have ever had, and highlight that for twenty years on my old plot all I had been doing was feed the mother of all Sycamore trees. 

 We’ve a bounty of beans various, and carrots coming out of our ears. A polytunnel has been sourced and now stands in place of my imperial greenhouse and is currently plays host to a variety of salad. The highlight being a romaine lettuce called Forellenschluss. The name means “speckled like a trout” and it’s a cracker, if you like your lettuce give it a go.

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Thursday 16 July 2020

Hair, Butterflies and the Potato King

This week I rolled back the years, donned my denim jacket, put in my earing and brushed my hair.

I haven’t brushed my hair for twenty years or more.

I sort of remembered what to do, and goodness there were some tangles,

But hair that required a brush all the same.

I can only see the front bit and Madam informs me that there is some form of shelf shape going on round the back. Product has been googled, quiffs considered and who knows a change of colour may be imminent.

Bar brief skirmishes with the spaniel clippers around the sides it’s been one of the more successful re-wilding projects in these parts of late.

It’s hair folks so thank you lockdown for that,

Truly a new dawn of the age of Aquarius,

now where did I put that sunshine?

Brushing my hair was followed by brushing my eyebrows, platting my nasal hair and pulling a rake across my back and chest.

In other Lockdown news (and I’ll keep it brief) Madam emerged from her educational bubble one day the other week to declare that the school were down to their last few pairs of PPE gloves. They don’t wear PPE all the time, but there are certain tasks that they must wear PPE to undertake. Madam is a first aider and must get kitted up at any sign of an incident. The recommended suppliers of PPE to the educational establishment were asking just shy of twenty pounds for a box of gloves which Madam thought sounded a tad “toppy”

I asked Madam to send me a photo of the box of PPE gloves.

The PPE gloves are the very same PPE gloves that I am paying six pound fifty for in the local country store to glove up our anglers.

I purchased five hundred pairs of gloves and dropped them off at the school.

A few questions popped into my head:

1: Who decides on recommended suppliers to schools of PPE?

2: Who holds shares in companies on the list of recommended suppliers of PPE?

3: What shall I have for lunch?

4: Why have I turned left when I should have gone right?

You’ll be aware of a mental inertia and mind drift that has set in during these crazy times (see previous chunks of guff)

The river?

Well , the general consensus among keepers that I have bumped bones with, albeit at a suitably safe social distance, is that it’s been a funny old season. Most bemoan this year’s Mayfly and a general lack of fly. It is no mid July and as I wandered aimlessly up the river yesterday evening in the name of evacuating canine bowels I saw half a dozen spent mayfly bouncing about on the water.

Once again, it’s mid July.

Fishing isn’t easy, the occasional fish take a sedge as Moss myself and Otis head upstream each morning, but most fish feed subsurface throughout the day, with a few looking up in the evening. Hatches of olive have been a little underwhelming, but kick sampling reveals plenty of larvae ligging about the gravel and weed. Weed growth remains good, so maybe they are making the most of the favourable conditions on the bed of the river and will hatch when they are ready.

Loosestrife forms the vanguard of the mid summer show in the fringe and goodness we seem to be having a big year for butterflies. Orchids are still popping up so the meadow has yet be mown, the long grass rustles with creatures various on our morning perambulate of the local.

Ducks have had a good year, but our aged dominant pair of swans have been usurped by a young couple with three young from upstream. There was quite a stand off on the top shallows for a few days before victory was secured.

Whither Wor Jackie,

Football was a little different when he Jack Charlton defended a corner.

Free from the eye of the slow motion replay, VAR and the all seeing eye of multiple cameras around a stadium, there was an awful lot going on off the ball. A current premiership referee was recently asked to "virtually" re-officate the 1970 FA Cup final won by Leeds Utd. He picked out eleven red card offences (and those were only the one’s the camera caught) the referee on the day issued a single yellow card.

It was different game then, and one in which Jack Charlton thrived.

Whether his style of play would have thrived today is open to debate, but he had a motivational skill that flourished in management with memorable domestic campaigns from the early seventies (featuring an early incarnation of Caesar Souness) and international campaigns for Eire in the late eighties and early nineties. Peaking first with an appearance in a world cup quarter final and then again with a one nil win over favourites Italy, thanks to a goal by Ray Houghton - darling of the scousers on the kop, who had a Scottish accent and wound up playing for Ireland,

Catch the goal scored by Ronnie Whelan for Jack Charlton's Ireland against Russia in Euro 88.

Face facts Rory Delap (Arriviste), possibly the greatest goal ever scored from a long throw.

Jack made some very watchable angling programmes and was a great ambassador for the sport. I once went to talk by Jack with my Dad. It was an evening in a hall somewhere on the Wirral put on by Wirral Angling Association. It was a very cold night with snow lying on the road. I don’t remember a lot more about the night other than Jack was an entertaining speaker and new enough about angling.

Buried among the news this week was a warning from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that the UK was at serious risk of running out of water within 20 yrs because of policymakers, regulators and the water sector’s failure to respond to changing climate and increasing population.

Well done for that.

But nothing will happen to affect real change in my life time.

You can guess the weasels at Water UK’s response, “We’re doing our best and investing in infrastructure”

Not enough lads, so stop dishing out the big divvies and invest more in your infrastructure.

The rag that I once wrote for regularly used to begin it’s pitch with a quote from one of the King Edwards,

I don’t remember the number,

could have been the Confessor could have been the Potato King, we don't know,

but his sage words express the requirement to care for the countryside as we are but guardians of it for the next generation.

Well in this valley biodiversity has generally taken an upturn over the past few decades. The blue winged olive thing hasn't gone well and sorry kids for the experiments with bison and beaver.

Apologies kids for our abject failure in this corner of the country to respond to a changing climate and increasing demand on a precious groundwater resource.

Bome of us had a go at rootling the feckers. (See previous years of poorly written guff)

Apologies, again.