Monday 7 February 2022

Pineapples, Teamwork and il Vicepresidente

Bouna sera everyone, 

Forgive me if I continue in English as my Italiano is very poor. 

I seem to have written that last line many times recently when communicating with Air BnB owners, 

all booked now though. 

Most of my “seras” this week have begun with a thirty-minute session, tweezers in hand, delicately plucking small thorns from my hands and arms. 

We’ve been taking a stretch of non fishing bank in hand where the crack willow and brambles have been having a bit too much of a good time. We wrap a two tonne tree strop around a couple of boughs, address the boughs with the chainsaw, then pull them out of the river to be chopped up and burnt in the paddock. There is a rhythm to the work naturally created through team work, 

which came as a surprise as normally each of us forges our own path, working against the other with bickering very much to the fore in a bitter struggle of man against man. 

I jump in the river apply the strop, and attend to the crack willow with the chainsaw, I then pass the other end to Lord Ludgershall who attaches it to the tractor and pulls the fallen limbs out of the river to the fire where it is chopped up by The English and introduced to the fire. It’s gone very well and we have achieved lots, but at the coal face on the other bank there are some vicious brambles that have cut me to pieces despite tough gloves and a “thorn proof” coat. Brer bramble has also trashed a pair of neoprene waders and I arrive home each day both bloodied and damp, but satisfied that great work has been done in the battle with the combined forces of crack willow and brer bramble. 

A pretty stretch of the Dever at Bransbury it doesn’t feature often in the fishing book.  Any fish that are caught invariably lie in the deeper run under the far bank, but it is a popular spot for spawning. The river falls away a lot in the fifty-yard stretch but with good weed growth it is possible to “bar cut” the ranunculus and hold a few more inches of water on the more productive bends above. If the crack willow is allowed to shade the river too much, the ranunculus growth can be impeded and water can be lost if a bar of weed does not span the entire width of the river. 

It seems a fair bet that I’ll be cutting weed to hold water up rather than let water go this summer. There doesn’t seem to be any real rain on the horizon and the river has dropped since the start of the year.

On Boxing day we walked down onto Bransbury Common where there were a few puddles but nothing like the sheets of water a few inches deep that we have seen some winters. 

Last weekend Madam and myself donned the wellies and once again ventured out onto the common, we could have conducted our bumbling in our walking shoes. The place was more arid than it was on Boxing Day. We didn’t see any short eared owls, Bransbury Common is renowned for them. In normal winters, when sheets of standing water push the mice, shrews and voles onto slightly raised dry ground the short eared owls are easy to locate and photograph as they hunt in the day and zero in on easy prey in a smaller target area. We did however count over twenty hares on the fields bordering the common, and as I remarked to Madam that I hadn’t seen any fallow deer on the common for a while, twenty fallow deer crossed the path a few yards in front of us, which was a bit spooky, and as the light was fading we hastened home fast. 

We also completed a five mile bumble about the top of the Itchen where there seemed to be quite a bit more water. There is a spectacular garden that the owners have planted up with various types of dogwood, willow and trees to provide colour at this time of the year. It is visible from the opposite side of the valley and is very well thought out. 

It was a little disappointing to still see so many swans on this stretch, this bunch were having a high old time of it nibbling away at early shoots of ranunculus. 

Utilty Vehicle Review: Very good, struggles in mud, but a great piece of kit. 

In other news it’s almost a year since fire did for the thatched terrace known as “The Barracks” A listed building constructed not long after Waterloo, it has assumed the form of a polythene Ziggurat since the fire and looms large over The English’ garden creating a microclimate capable of producing coconuts and pineapples. 

Madam and myself are immensely honoured to have been appointed as Vice Presidents of our local cricket club, Longparish. 

We get to sit on a solid gold bench, ermine is on order along with epaulettes and members are required to avoid direct eye contact and walk two paces behind us at all times.  On entering black tie polite society events my arrival shall now be announced as - The questionable Christopher de Cani Esq OBE (pending), Riverkeeper, Hants FA Groundsman of the year 2011, Vice President Longparish Cricket Club

It was completely unexpected and there are far more deserving members at the club but thank you very much. 

We became involved at the club when Child B first picked up a bat around the age of eight after a prolonged period of me continually throwing balls at him as hard as I could. The ground is only a mile from our house and the club had just started fielding Colts teams. I was dragged from my place on the bench to take a course and help out with coaching, while Madam was sent away to learn how to score. We both sat on the fund raising committee for quite a few years pimping the colts teams in order to secure funding. I helped out around the ground for many years with wonky mowing and strimming, ran the website, wrote the newsletter, filed match reports and photographs to local press, while Madam continued to score, often up to five or six times a week.  She was rewarded a few years ago for her services to pens, rubbers and legers by The Hampshire Cricket League who invited her and a plus one down to The Rose Bowl for lunch and a day at the test match against India. 

Regular readers of this guff will know that Child B can bat a bit, and while offers from other "bigger" clubs in the area came in, he always declined, siting a willingness to play with his mates at Longparish. He turned down the opportunity to open the batting for Hampshire U16s because Longparish had a  National Village Knockout Trophy fixture on the same day. 


Here he is opening the batting for Peter Symonds College at The Rose Bowl against a KES college side featuring two England U19 players (now regular county cricketers) in the South of England College Cup Final. 

He top scored with 65 in a forty over affair, picked up three wickets and was man of the match as Peter Symonds took the trophy for the first time in 32 years. 

Three of the Peter Symonds side came up through the Longparish Colts machine from a very early age. One of them clean bowled the England U19 opener, a confident cove who now regularly bats in the top order for Hampshire in all formats of the game, but on the day received the send off "England my arse!"  

Well bowled Ben

With the England guys gone, the third of Longparish's contingent consented to have a bowl (I'm looking at you Alex)

It is a terrific club, in a very picturesque location with a thatched pavilion on the banks of the Test.  We have enjoyed our time at the club immensely and long may it continue. 

Coincidently we have just returned from the new leisure centre in Winchester where Madam continues to score matches in the Winchester & District indoor cricket league. 

The new leisure centre is all a bit “Nighthawks” with a foyer big enough for a game of five a side football. The old leisure centre had become a bit tired but was also on a prime piece of land in the centre of Venta Belgarum, the new leisure centre is a great addition to the city. 

Moss gave us a fright last week after having a couple of funny turns. He was “out of the room” with his body shaking and muscles in spasm for about a minute. He was back on his feet and charging around within a few minutes. The Vet advised that it may be an isolated incident in his life or something that he may have to live with till the end of the days, but the fact that he was back to normal in such a short space of time convinced him that we should maintain a watching brief for the moment. We didn’t mention that he had been high on the “urban living” the previous weekend. 

A recent report in the press that EA staff had been silenced by EA Directors over the reporting of pollution incidents comes as no surprise. There are some good people at the EA whose professional calling has been to protect the environment. Unfortunately there are “suits” at the EA who are cowed by the weasels at the water companies. The revelation that an underfunded and under staffed EA were instructed to ignore level 3 and level 4 pollution incidents (if there’s no dead fish don’t worry) comes as no surprise. I have reported several Level 3 and Level 4 incidents, mostly regarding excessive foam on a precious chalk stream a mile down stream from a water treatment facility, but little interest has been shown. It is terrific that awareness of the plight of our rivers has never been greater, but it is all too easily engulfed by the madness that has currently taken hold. 

Keep shouting everyone, especially you Fergal Sharkey, you’re good!