Tuesday 20 October 2020

A Garbled Piece, A Fug Descends and the New Improved Google Blogger

Well, I’ve been staring at this blank sheet of digital paper for more than a week now and no guff seems to be forthcoming. 

Over the years I’ve spoken with numerous coves who manage to make a living out of this caper and several times advice regarding inertia when it comes to chucking up guff has centred around just get something chucked down on the page. 


They may be the first words binned on the final edit, but they will have served as to set cogs grinding. 

So there we go, 

and we’re off. 

Hang on, final edit? 

Ok there are clever sub editors when guff is chucked up for magazines, but here, in this house? 

Clearly there is no final edit, this material is in RAW format.

Right, well a hundred words should be enough to oil the wheels so we will now attend to matters arising since I was last on here. 

And once again the fug descends. 

The river, of course the river, where, in Toronto speak, we are approaching full fall.
Inevitably the last knockings have seen an increase in piscine activity. 

These trout know you know. 

A few fine fish were grassed, mostly to a nymph although the odd one to Daddy Long Legs shock tactics. The chunky triploids that have turned up the past few winters will continue to feed throughout the winter as they have no horse in the race when it comes to the business of reproduction. We’ve a few grayling about. Nothing like the numbers we played host to six or seven years ago, but some good fish that will provide sport on a fine day following a frost. We’ve had ice on the roof two mornings this past week and the sycamore, beech and chestnut are shedding leaves at quite a rate. Numbers of duck overnighting on the pond are increasing although the geese have yet to put in an appearance. Martins, swallows and swifts all pushed off the week before last and woodcock are back in the wood.

It’s a good year round here for mushrooms. 

I’ve been picking a bowl of the things every four or five days from a secret location nearby and man are they good squishy. 

 The village in Cheshire where I grew up was surrounded by dairy country. Grass fields, often with a half acre marl pit to provide liquid succour for cattle and free angling opportunities for locals. Mushrooms were plentiful in several of the fields. Knowledge of which fields provided such fungal trove was a closely guarded secret and pickers would rise at dawn, often taking a circuitous route to fungi Valhalla in order to throw any pursuers off the trail of the shroom. I had my sources, and searching a large grass field for white gold in the early morning runs float fishing close as an exercise in boosting mindfulness. 

Everything else melts away, there is only green in the quest for the little white dot. 

I’ve picked horse mushrooms here in the wood by the river but they have a peculiar flavour which I put down to the Christmas trees and a carpet of pine needles, although I am more than happy to be corrected on this theory. The current crop are particularly juicy and leave a deep dark liquor in the pan that is saved and used in stews, sauces and soups. 

One final thing on the shroom. There was one pond in a field that I fished regularly in my youth that always threw a crop of field mushrooms in July and August. We’d cook them for breakfast during early morning tench fishing sessions, I don’t know why they went early but they were pretty reliable on when they would put in an appearance.
Apologies, another final thing on the shroom. 

Our last automotive, a Teutonic piece that you couldn’t help but drive with a smile on your face, was purchased by an Italian sky diving instructor who resided in the Basingstoke environs. The test drive, in what was not a slow car, was all that one would expect from an Italian in his thirties who hurled himself out of a plane at ten thousand feet on a daily basis, and we kind off got on. 

Quite the foodie, as he counted out the cash in the kitchen he admired a bowl of freshly picked field mushrooms sat on the kitchen counter. I informed him that I had picked them that morning and popped a few in a paper bag for him to try. He thanked me for the mushrooms, and also the car and then said, 

 “there is a wood near Basingstoke that is filled with the most magnificent Chanterelle mushrooms I have ever tasted” 

 “Oh really” I replied, sensing an opportunity 

 “and where would that be?” I enquired almost innocently, 

 “If I told you where it was, I would then have to kill you” he replied,

 A foraging omerta if you will. The clandestine code of the mushroom picker is Pan European. 

 Our walks in the quest for prolonging life over the coming weeks are understandably centred around the woods of Basingstoke, albeit with a wary one eye over the shoulder. 

 Apologies if this has been a bit garbled, as I mentioned earlier a certain fug has taken hold, but also I've had to give battle again with the new improved version of google blogger, where, I am sure you have by now ascertained, it remains very difficult to form paragraphs, but that's progress for you.

Footnote: Subsequently found the paragraph button while having a go at sub editing. 

Friday 2 October 2020

An Ovine Experience, Toilet Fowl and The Future of Demarcation

A tricky trout season is on the cusp of termination.

It’ll be one that will live long in the memory and one, that earlier in the year, we did not think would happen,

But happen it has, which is a blessing despite poor hatches of fly and a dearth of free rising fish.

By way of distraction, here’s one of the chickens exiting the fishing loo,

The rear guard of the swallows and martins are making preparation for departure and concentrate their efforts of a final feed around the hedges and the fields rather than the river. Plenty of duck currently roost on the pond. Mostly mallard with a few gadwall intermingling. Hides are ready for evening flighting and the phragmites is dying off which will aid picking up dead duck in the dark, something that Otis was particularly adept at, although the task may a bit much for him now at such a great age. Moss is too obsessed with horse racing and shows little interest in picking up the corpses of quackers.
Trout are not yet making preparation for spawning. Some seasons saw fish in September getting territorial as hormones kicked in, but not this year, but then there are far fewer cock fish in the river than there were ten years ago.

Here’s one of some sheep in the fields behind our house.

Well yes, Chris, they are sheep alright but what’s your point, I hear you say.

These fields have not played host to any form of livestock, bovine, ovine or porcine, in my time falling in and out of this river. Thirty five years ago, pigs briefly put in an appearance and in the fifties and sixties cattle were present on much smaller fields of pasture that also provided a bounty of grey partridge.

The field is now a hundred acre affair and remains quite a grown up partridge drive although principally of the French variety and not the indigenous grey.

It appears that shooting has been scaled back significantly.

The process of planning for a winter of shooting begins in March with pens prepared for hens to lay eggs for artificial incubation. My mind’s been a bit numb for few months and memory sometimes doesn’t serve, but I think something happened in March.

Shooting may well be a bit different this winter.

I was kindly invited up to Scotland for a few days bothering salmon on the Tay.

Speeding through areas in the grip of lockdown with the blower off and windows steamed up, it was a self catering affair near Caputh.

I’ve been lucky enough to fish the beat a few times before and on each occasion I've been struck by the size of the river. Not quite the Loire, but big for Britain.

The fishing includes the stretch where Georgina Ballantine hooked and landed the largest freshwater fish ever caught in Great Britain.

Hooked behind the “Bargie Stone” in fading light on a two inch dace presented on a Malloch spinning mount, it took over two hours to land and weighed sixty four pounds, she had already caught three fish over twenty pounds earlier in the day.

Salmon fishing was a little different back in the day.

Miss Ballantine had a long association with the medical profession and had been decorated in the first world war for her work with the Red Cross in France.

After a plaster cast had been taken of the fish by way of record across the ages, the leviathan was donated to Perth hospital where all incumbents dined on salmon for over a week.

The cottage that she lived in sits by the bridge at Caputh. Riddled with arthritis at a young age she had both legs amputated. A popular member of village society, locals rallied around to look after her. A light was even fitted to the top of her cottage should she be in distress and require assistance.

My own thrashings behind the Bargie stone produced no reward,

although I did lose a fish on the first day having had it on for a few minutes.

Nicely alight and with a few glasses on board, I'll insist that it would have pushed Miss Ballantine’s fish close in size,

but in the cool light of dawn it was probably ten percent of the weight of her huge salmon.

Back in Bransbury, it’s nearly hedge cutting time, at which point I would like to make my perennial pitch for the future of demarcation to centre around brick walls and fences. Trees to follow, with the mother of all aspen to attend to and the inevitable dead ash and there is a bridge that needs rejigging in the wood. Grayling anglers are making enquiries and we’ve had our first frost which has brought our bumper bean crop to a close, much to Madam’s delight.

Little does she know that I now have an insulated poly tunnel. Replete with rocket wood burner with the mother of all post bumpers filled with water stood atop by way of a radiator. It's the post bumper that bumped me on the bonce earlier this year earning me a blue light trip to the infirmary (it's on here somewhere) so the thing owes me one

The aim is to produce further produce throughout the winter months to see us through the promised shortages next year.