Wednesday 16 September 2020

Baz Norman, Errant Chooks and a Funny Old Season

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

Welcome one and all to a Joy of six movie week special,

And why not.

Future son in law has a new drone and it’s quite the thing.

Regular takers of this chunk of guff will recall that my own attempts at a career in the drones, sailed away several times on the wind. This short film has been been retitled “An allegorical piece portraying our Great Leader's governance of Old Albion in 2020”.

This new remote control whirlygig is several generations on from my own effort at flight,

Think Wilbur & Orville Wright to Messrs Lockhead & Lightning,

I was invited to take control and pilot the thing but declined the offer on memory of previous mishaps.

There now follows a short film

It is apparent from up in the air that the river is incredibly clear, look closely and you can pick out the odd fish, most accustomed to sticking two fins up to any artificial offering presented. It’s fine tackle time because in ultra clear eater brer brown trout with its’ eye in, gets a clear look at whatever sits on the surface of the water.

You will also note from the aerial footage the onset of ash dieback in the wood and the occasional healthy ash.

I did wonder how our resident birds of prey would respond. Many years ago a friend shooting pigeons had a peregrine falcon stoop on his plastic flappy pigeon decoy. Village elders who massed for a falconry display, tea and cake in the garden, bore witness to a sparrowhawk’s attempt to take out the turn’s pet kookaburra.

It drew no avian interest but plenty of human interest. It’s a quality bit of kit.

Future features are planned, including autumn colour, spawning trout (they are not disturbed by the drone) ripening fruit and moles emerging.

Fishing is hard work, hatches of fly remain disappointing and most fish caught fall to a nymph. September normally sees an improvement but we’re nearly half way through now. Most keepers I have touched base with this past month report a similar situation.

Last week the chooks decided enough was enough and made an attempt to head off on holiday, it has happened a few time this year and I can empathise with their desire to get away for a short break.

We’ve a short staycation booked sometime soon but goodness it would be good to have some time overseas booked up.

With the current quarantine rules that can pop up and change in a matter of hours, it seems irresponsible for a pedagogue to travel abroad with the risk of incurring a fortnight quarantine on return forcing them to take time off school.

You will recall that three weeks ago I showed a few of the symptoms of C19 so followed advice and took a test.

and it all worked very well.

The testing station I attended has now been closed down.

This is the message that has been message displayed all week to those in our region showing symptoms and seeking to take a test.

I was kindly invited to fish the upper Avon last week.

Always a fun and relaxed day, I bagged a tiny truite and grayling on a nymph, as hatching fly and rising fish were few and far between. It’s club water, and great work has been done on the top section with sexy wiggles and gravels introduced.

Well done, and thanks as ever for the invitation.

Sunday is currently my favourite day of the week.

There I said it.

A statement that my teenage self would find difficult to comprehend.

No epiphany.

Just the third series of Mortimer & Whitehouse Gone Fishing.

Fishing programmes vary vastly in their quality and watchability, this is up there with the best, think “A passion for angling” with clever humour ranging from the light to the edgy. Whitehouse is some fisherman, Mortimer not so, but their day on the bank is everything a day fishing should be. The fourth episode was filmed on a stretch of the the middle Test that I know well and also a stretch a mile or so downstream from here, and did great things in highlighting the precious status of chalk rivers.


Been getting the flight pond ready for duck shooting this week.

Phragmites has been having a high old time of it and there is much to be cut back.

There are a few duck about, some were stubbling on the field by the football pitch before it was put to the plough and there are a few on the pond each day. Mallard and gadwall mostly with the odd tuftie.

We don’t put any duck down and we’ll only shoot the pond two or three times this winter when the weather is right. Good dogs for picking up birds in the dark are essential and I have been blessed with two dogs , Zebo and Otis who excelled at this task for twenty years. It’s a bit much for Otis now and I’m not sure Moss will be up to it so we may need to get a couple of dogs along to pick up. Half a dozen to a dozen is a good nights flighting for us, it’s a tricky business shooting in the half light and now completely beyond my ailing eyes, but wild duck breast with a blackberry gravy/jus is the food of the gods.

Only a few weeks of the trout fishing season to go, grass is enjoying a late season flush and there is the interminable business of cutting hedges to be undertaken before saws are drawn and we tackle a couple of senior aspen that cashed in their chips earlier in the year.

It’s been a summer that will live long in the memory, and goodness it was good to get some fishing in, as half way through March and with everyone stuck indoors the prospect of flicking a fly seemed a distant prospect.

Fingers crossed for a normal (old normal, not new normal) season next year.

Thursday 3 September 2020

The Parsnips of Easter Island and Further Matters

Apologies, been deep cover behind closed lines undetectable in my mask.

A Spitting Image style Ronald Reagan number in 4mm silicon.

You could get away with all sorts of misdemeanours behind some of these face coverings, and goodness the identity parade at the plod shop must be a bit hit and miss at the moment.

Oh yes, big bird news, we’ve a Hoopoe in the valley.

Not seen it yet myself but a superb photo of himself adorns the front cover of the parish magazine, well done to ever clicked the shutter. I’ve occasionally seen them when fishing in middle and southern France and northern Spain, but never in Old Albion, so peepers are currently keenly peeled. and lenses fully cocked.

The August weedcut was a bit of a non event.

Ranunculus is on the wain, water celery struggles and only the ribbon weed needed tickling up with the scythe.

It is apparent that blanket weed is much diminished this summer, a direct result of the river receiving a good scrub behind the ears from last winter’s increased flow.

Same again this winter please.

The wind doesn’t seem to have stopped blowing all week and around a week ago we experienced a spectacular weather event when, one afternoon, around an inch of rain fell in fifteen minutes. Madam was out walking the dogs and the trio returned looking like something from the Deadliest Catch, or possibly Ice Road Truckers,

I don’t know,

TV increasingly seems to blend into one at the moment,

Although Diane Morgan’s short series “Mandy” provided a bit of a fillip. First came across her in Phoenix Nights, loved her Cunk and relished Motherland, her stand up’s worth a watch too.

That’s Mandy everyone, written, starring and directed by Diane Morgan.

Oh yes the rain,

an inch fell in fifteen minutes that briefly left the lower high street in Venta Belgarum under eighteen inches of water. There was also a landslip on the railway line at Micheldever. The weather event, as I believe such occasions are now termed, freshened up the river and added a little colour but didn’t raise the level by much.

Conversations with keepers various over the past few weeks confirm that hatches of fly on the river this year have been particularly disappointing.

August is always a difficult month on this river.

Our catch records confirm that we are about right for the month, one fish in August has always been worth four fish in May and June, and fishing always improves in September and often into early October particularly during the afternoon.

Fingers crossed that trickle of late summer olives that perennially put in an appearance from midday inducing brer brown trout to look up again and feed off the top.

This roe deer is bit bold and we bump into it most mornings.

I had the doofus dogs with me when I took this snap.

We’ve had Muntjac like this before (see previous chunks of guff) who seem to think they are invisible and that a human and hounds pose no danger to their daily doings.

In allotment good news, we are harvesting hard and have had to purchase another chest freezer to store our hoard.

We’ve potatoes in the clamp, onion ropes a hangin, big bags of beans ( French, runner and broad), in the freezer alongside a dustbin full of plum tomatoes, cobs of corn, the interminable courgettes, and trays of tender stem broccoli.

Last week five cauliflowers were plucked that have been batch cooked in cheese sauce and frozen for the ages.

Madam and her charges (Otis loves a blackberry) have hung about hedges ad nauseum and we have eight jars of jam, and enough blackberry and apple laid down for a crumble every Sunday for the next year.

Against all advice I’ve also pulled a parsnip before the first frost. It was as big as my head and similarly shaped, and poked clear of the ground like a mysterious statue on Easter Island, which brings me back to my head which has, on occasion, drawn similar reviews.

In allotment bad news, some sprouts have blown, strawberries have been a struggle and all the flowers on my butternut squash appear to be male,

I planted it late, a butternut baggot perhaps?

Had a bit of a funny forty eight hours last week.

I was stung on the tongue by a vindictive wasp, antihistamine was taken, the tongue swelled up and Sunday afternoon disappeared in a haze.

I believe we attended an al fresco soiree to mark our daughter’s engagement and watched a cricket match. I don’t know I was in a bit of a fug.

The next morning I woke up with a bad cough, temperature and a funny taste in my mouth.

Following current advice, I booked a test for lurgy19 and attended the testing centre at the park & ride in Winchester. Business was brisk but all done in fifteen minutes. Eighteen hours later the results were in and I received a text informing me of a negative result.

A few days ago they closed the testing centre in Winchester.

By way of research, today I ran through the postcode business of sourcing my local testing station. Salisbury and Swindon were offered. Our MP (Con) tried to book a test for her daughter and was offered Inverness.

Back to school for Madam this week. Teacher training, much chat and risk assessments for two days before the children return on Monday.

Madam finds school work very rewarding and the time she spent in class earlier in lockdown with the children of key workers went well. The social distancing thing was roughly maintained at a metre and bubbles worked.

Next week, when the full complement of charges returns, social distancing (staff to child, staff to staff, child to child) will be difficult in a small school, bubbles will be compromised and they will do their best to keep a metre apart.

Parliament voted to maintain social distancing in the house at two metres.

Which doesn’t look great when we are all supposed to be in this together with the emphasis on the common good (D Cummings esq apart)