Wednesday 21 December 2011

Time and tide and buttered eggs wait for no man

The wonder of Christmas through a childs eyes is something to behold especially when you see them take part and consume the rituals that have been with a parent for many a moon. We have many - the specific Thomas Hardy location where the holly is cut, the yule log and Christmas Eve Kelly Kettle brew up and fire. There is one other however that brings more excitement than all the others put together and that is The Box of Delights.

If we are lucky we get to read the book by John Masefield (1935 - also known as When The Wolves Were Running) but the most eagerly awaited ritual is the delightful 1984 BBC adaptation starring Patrick Troughton as Cole Hawlings and Robert Stephens as the evil Abner Brown. A perfect BBC production at the time of the Radiophonic Workshop.

The central character is Kay Harker who, on returning from boarding school, finds himself mixed up in a battle to possess a magical box, which allows the owner to go small (shrink) and go swift (fly), experience magical wonders contained within the box and go into the past.

The owner of the box is an old Punch and Judy man called Cole Hawlings, whom Kay meets on a railway station. They have an instant rapport, and this leads Cole to confide that he is being chased by a man called Abner Brown and his gang. For safety, Cole entrusts the box to Kay, who then goes on to have many adventures which are set with a magical Christmas backdrop.

I can remember, back in 1984, excited beyond belief as on Christmas Eve the final episode was transmitted. The excitement begins a few days before we start the first episode and we finish on Christmas Eve with the last. The screams of excitement are just as loud as those on Christmas morning. Long may it continue - whatever our age. 

Monday 12 December 2011

Buried Treasure Part 2

This could so easily have ended up in a rubbish sack somewhere between 1968 and today. Thankfully it remained hidden away until recently - I can just about remember it from an early birthday and hope that somewhere there is similar wrapping paper being produced today. Delightful stuff. I particularly like that badger in his party hat!

Friday 9 December 2011

Thursday 8 December 2011

Reading Matter

My ever expanding pile of books to be read has just got bigger - a visit to two of my favourite Wessex bookshops yielded a volume from each by the most excellent Little Toller Books of Wimborne Minster. 

The Cross Keys Bookshop in Salisbury never ceases to amaze me. It hasn't failed me yet. I find books on the shelves of this orgasmic shop that I didn't even know had been published - new Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious titles that I hope and pray may reach my Christmas stocking. I came away with A Shepherd's Life by WH Hudson (originally published in 1910) - I am ashamed to say I have never read Hudson, he is now firmly in my reading pile. I know of him through the writings of "BB" and that is as far as it ever got with me. I do have an interest in shepherds though - the Gabriel Oak and Barclay Wills sort and this was my reason for purchasing this lovely Little Toller edition.  

The other book I have read and will do so again. I originally came across Kenneth Allsop when I first read In The Country back in the 1980's when bunking off from college studies. I found a 1970's edition and I couldn't put it down - it's strange looking back now as I sit only a couple of miles away from his Mill at West Milton, West Dorset that our paths would cross in some sort of way. Such an interesting chap (known to millions in the 1960's through the Tonight programme on the BBC which was the first early evening news programme).

I have him to thank, for if it were not for him I wouldn't spend so much time enjoying the delights of Powerstock Common with my children. He fought bitterly with the Forestry Commission to stop them clear-felling Powerstock Common (now a most lovely Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserve) which follows the old Bridport to Maiden Newton railway line and it is now enjoyed by many thanks to him.

I came across the new edition quite by chance in Bridports delightful bookshop (one of the top 50 bookshops in the UK - The Guardian and The Independent). I also found out that the recently cancelled Kenneth Allsop memorial talk, as part of the Bridport Literary Festival, will take place in the new year with Ronald Blythe. Certainly something to look forward to in the dull days of new year!

Look after your local bookshops, support them and love them. Support the Indie Bound Get Local campaign and keep books on the high street - keep money in the local economy, embrace what makes them unique, help the environment, create more choice, benefit from their expertise, make them a destination and importantly keep the high street healthy!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Buried Treasure Part 1

We are currently in the throes of decorating and general decluttering ahead of a house move - I'm not too keen on the decluttering side of things as it usually means I have to decide whether to keep, throw out or charity shop something which ordinarily I would like to keep for a rainy day.

I have treasure scattered everywhere. Sheds, garages, lofts, in the boot of my car, bags under sofas........I'm sure you get the picture. More often than not I do forget what I have and this was the case when the magnificent haul you see here was recently re-discovered in a box in my parents loft.

Everything you see in the pictures (bar the rod stoppers) belonged to my grandfather. After he died, my father presented me with a carrier bag which contained this and much more. The joy of finding long forgotten treasure like this is certainly something that gives me the utmost pleasure.

The leather wallet is a coarse fisherman's compartment wallet by A. Carter & Co. Ltd of Roseberry Avenue, St Johns St Road, London EC - in perfect condition it contains many packets of hook to nylon including the delightful Bombyx hooks to gut, Milwards Cormorant, Express using finest drawn Spanish silkworm and the ever reliable Allcocks Model Perfect!

I was particularly pleased to reacquaint myself with the lovely bait tin which I shall use for worms. I have many of the bigger diameter tins for maggots and find them more pleasing on the eye than a plastic tub. You will also see a split shot tin, pike trace, various implements for removing hooks and attaching bait, two porcupine quill floats and little packets containing hooks and float rubbers.

The rod stoppers are my own and these were also tucked away and long forgotten. They will soon be reunited with their rods. The brass stoppers are from a B.James whole cane Avocet and the aluminium stoppers are from my Allcocks Lucky Strike.

Buried treasure indeed!  



Thursday 10 November 2011

gadda da vida, white rabbit!

I only found this little gem (above) a few days ago - there is so much coming out now by the magnificent 13th Floor Elevators it's getting hard to keep up. Box sets galore and mostly out of my price range but the lovely Albums Collection (1966-69 Charly Records) was more suited to my often light pocket. Digitally remastered albums: The Psychedelic Sounds Of..., Easter Everywhere, Live and Bull Of The Woods - it's hardly been off the CD player of late. All housed in a super box with splendid booklet it is amazing value at £12.99!

It brings back memories of when I started to get into this stuff back in about 1983. Actually, that's not entirely true as I didn't really see the genius of Roky Erickson and the band until some years later. It was certainly an article in the NME (December 1983) "Tales From The Drug Attic" by Julian Cope extolling the virtues of pyschedelia that really got me hooked. I was an Electric Prunes fan at the time - Copey was quite scathing of them in his article.

15 years old, at school, impressionable and a huge Teardrop Explodes fan anything that Copey was into was something certainly for me to investigate too. I still have the original article from the NME (link above) and the road I travelled after reading it is one I am still on today. My school pal Terry, who was a huge Bowie fan, understood a little I think but I certainly remember a new boy joining our clique - he asked me in a maths lesson who my favourite bands were - I replied "I'm really into Psych" - I laugh looking back, but not long after this Bam Caruso Records started up and they brought out some amazing releases. They must have been good as they also brought out the soundtrack to my favourite TV show at the time, The Prisoner, which was enjoying a re-run (its first I think since 1967/68) on CH4 in 1984. Phil Smee (Bam Caruso) and his Rubble series of psych gems really got me excited - I liked the cottage industry feel of Bam Caruso and also the smell of vinyl, inserts and heavy cardboard sleeves. The Remayns single was something so lovely, not only in sound, but also in looks - it was almost edible!

Thursday 27 October 2011

You'll have had your tea Mr Barbel?

The last couple of days have certainly brought some welcome rain to hopefully sustain our rivers over the winter months. Fishing can be difficult now, certainly if chub and barbel are your quarry. With low conditions, swift changes in both temperature and dissolved oxygen make them slightly edgy and even more difficult to catch than normal. With an autumn dollop of rain they will soon know winter is a coming in and hopefully feed like mad to build up fat reserves for the winter.

My trip last evening was certainly more difficult than the previous week where the lovely barbel you see above was one of a few caught to 9lbs 6oz along with some splendid chub and bream.

The river was slightly coloured after rain and the temperature had dropped making anything behave in an all too familiar edgy manner. Anyhow, one last trip before the clocks change would still mean an enjoyable mid-week interlude with fish or no fish.

More often than not I have this particular corner of nowhere to myself, but last night this was not to be. As I climbed the stile what greeted me brought a smile to my face and thoughts of how an incident could be averted. Two young likely lads, reclining in deck chairs sharing a bong and a beer and ledgering for anything that would care to take their bait.

"Afternoon, any good?" I say - "hello mate, nothing yet" says they. "Haven't seen you lads here before, you syndicate members?" says I. "Syndicate? We are waiting to buy a ticket when the bloke comes round" says one of them offering me the bong for a suck. "No thanks mate, but the keeper will be along shortly and it certainly isn't a day ticket water. He probably won't be too chuffed to see you here". BANG! - out of nowhere a duck shooter on the opposite bank shoots at and misses a poor unsuspecting mallard drake peppering BB shot over our heads and into the water at our feet. I decide to wend my way and so do they. I bid them farewell and as I look over my shoulder they are packing up. It's a difficult call really. I am pretty chilled out about the odd "poaching" trip, but I know others who fish here would have booted them in.

I arrive in my chosen nook to see that glorious crease in the river which tells me there might just be a fish on the prod and one that fancies a big lump of Spam for his tea. Tackled up in a jiffy, 3 swan shot is enough to just hold the river bed and a lump of fatty goodness on a size 6 hook will suffice. BANG! - my friend with the shotgun misses again and BB shot peppers me, my chosen pitch and more worryingly my prized B.James whole cane Avocet rod - that will not do. Some loud coughing on my part alerts Mr Gun that I am where I am and hopefully that's the end of it!

This short trip started to remind me of a delightful (but not for him) piece of writing by HT Sheringham entitled "A Day of Tribulation" - I can't remember which book of his it was in, but the gist of it is that everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Just as it does on certain fishing days when you feel it probably might just be best to pack up and go home. I hadn't got to that stage  just yet, I hadn't even cast a line yet when it all goes wrong again!

Two resident black swans decide to mug, rob, molest and nearly kill a lone mute swan who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ferocity of the attack really shocked me. The sound reminiscent of a Star Wars light sabre fight and after some minutes, barely able to move, the mute swan forced itself out of the river and sat down next to me. This I was not expecting and for the next twenty minutes I stroked and caressed the neck of this bird that I am sure actually realised I was a friend. I was not expecting to be doing this either when I came here to hopefully catch a fish. 

Now, I am not a huge fan of swans - people big them up far too much in my eyes, but I don't dislike them in a Dick Walker kind of way. He detested them (see Drop Me a Line). This poor old bird needed some help and that's what I hope I did for a while. In the end it joined me, by my side, as I fished for what was now becoming a very short trip indeed.

I finally cast my bait the short distance required and settled down for two very quiet hours of nothing - nothing other than the odd chat with my new feathered friend and the odd cup of tea, which was certainly welcome on this now chilly evening.

Two more casts were left until the very last cast and I drift away with my thoughts of what the late autumn and winter will bring to the river. BANG! Mr Gun brings me back to earth and at the same time my rod arches over - the bite of a barbel never ceases to amaze me and I guess it is my form of addiction, I return for more time and time again. Very other worldly and a weird connection between my life and something unseen in a watery world.

In the gathering dusk the fish takes me everywhere and anywhere it likes whilst my Altex clutch purrs and my white feathered friend watches my every move with some suspicion. He is eventually landed, stroked and admired just like my swan.

A beautiful autumn barbel of about 7lbs, gold and stunning in every way. With hands shaking and praise be to Izaac he is photographed, recuperated and returned to his watery world. I bid farewell to the river, my swan and leave in a vapour of ecstasy.

Thursday 20 October 2011

The Avon Roach Project

I can't believe it has been just over two weeks since the annual fundraising event for the Avon Roach Project which took place on the Somerley Estate on the Hampshire Avon. What amazes me is that it was 29 degrees centigrade that very day in early October and we had a frost here last night!

Some fifty anglers fished that day and not a great deal was caught which was due to all manner of valid excuses (the river being so very low, very warm bright conditions, lethargic fish, no fish, lethargic anglers blah de blah), but we all had a splendid day. Over £5,000 was raised between the ARP and the Barbel Society which will be monies well used by both groups for environmental projects. The work that is carried out by Budgie Price, Trevor Harrop, Pete Reading and Hugh Miles with a willing band of helpers is just astonishing. I salute you.

In a nutshell the ARP assists the reinstatement of a self sustaining population of Hampshire Avon roach, for which this most majestic of rivers was once famous. They collect spawn from from true Avon roach on home made spawning boards with a covering of old net to replicate Fontinalis weed - they then transport the spawn to holding tanks where they are nurtured, eggs hatched and raised to one year old fry before returning to the river at two years old. Of course there is more to it than this, but the dedication by this little band of knights in shining armour is something to behold when this most lovely of fish has so much to contend with just to survive the first two years of its life - Avon roach numbers have been decimated over the years, so a kind helpful hand may just give them a chance so future generations can enjoy their beauty.

Have a look at their website, support them if you can and watch the charming film that Hugh Miles has made for the project.

May the sun shine on the Avon Roach Project and roach everywhere this day and every day!

Market Finds No 1

Each week I head up to our Saturday market with some hope in my heart. Will the London dealers have bought all the goodies that I like before I get there? Will I find treasure or will it just be the usual newspaper, sausages and veg. I mostly return bereft of treasure, but sometimes find just the thing. I class this as treasure. Half the fun is the barter with the stall holder and the triumphant return home with prize aloft!

This is a Tri-ang Jones KL44 Crane - What a beauty! What I have been after is a Tri-ang Dock Crane - i'll keep you posted!

I intend to re-furbish & customise the KL44 in time for Christmas - I understand Tri-ang used cobblers twine for the jib & grab cable (at the time Tri-ang offered a hook, bucket or grab - they even did an electro-magnetic & Priestman grab. As you can imagine mighty rare items!).


Friday 14 October 2011

The Quiet Hunt

It hasn't been a bad shrooming season so far, but by the same token not a classic either. It started good, as it usually does, with my annual September trip West. Since then it has sort of fizzled out in this unseasonal weather. As per usual I spent far too much time poking around in the undergrowth than fishing for wild brown trout and drinking ale like my pals who seem to do more of the latter than the former.

My spring shrooming activities were non-existent. I never seem to get many St Georges and thankfully June brought a few Oyster on an old faithful tree stump I know and since then I have been praying for rain - not only for the funghi but our rivers that are desperately low and in need of some persistent rain to get them through the coming months.

Back to my September adventure and I did manage the splendid basket you see here (thanks to me old mucker Fennel for the pics by the way) which has kept me going in dried specimens (Ceps) for a few winter stews. I can confirm that those Chanterelles and Amethyst Deceivers you see were amazing.

It is a bit like fishing I guess - you just never know what you are going to get on the quiet hunt and that for me is half the pleasure of it. Although a few more wouldn't go amiss eh!


Thursday 14 July 2011

Invisible Dick

 I just love these old book covers and this is timely as my son and I have been reading some Blytons of late with a particularly portly rozzer pretty much as our friend looks above. Already I am digressing as this was to be a welcome and introductory post!
 I am Dickie, Dick, Rick, Richard - sometimes Straker and sometimes Angelus. Being such an enthusiast of most things musty, creaking, oily and old a few of my pals have scoffed at me indulging in such a modern form of communication as this blog..........I know it is contradictory, but I keep finding so many things that fuel / enthuse me that I have to store them all somewhere and if nobody is interested then fair enough - I like all this guff so if it keeps me happy then so be it. Toodle pip for now!