Sunday 23 December 2012

Friday 21 December 2012

Christmas Cards Part 2

Happy and Beneficent - Bernard Venables
Festival of Christmas - Bernard Venables
Comfort and Contentment - Bernard Venables

Thursday 20 December 2012

Christmas Cards Part 1

Midwinter in Appin - DJ Watkins-Pitchford
The Rival - DJ Watkins-Pitchford
The Lonely Road - DJ Watkins-Pitchford

One of the joys of knowing such lovely people as BB (DJ Watkins-Pitchford) and Bernard Venables was the eager anticipation at Christmas time awaiting the arrival of their card in the post - all kept as most treasured items and a splendid Christmas present in themselves.
Over the next few days I will do my best to share a few of them with you and hope you too enjoy them just as much.


Friday 7 December 2012

Where have all the leaves gone?

Something seems to have passed me by this late autumn. It only seems like yesterday that I was fishing a swollen Hampshire Avon in glorious autumn sunshine thinking of chub and perch. The leaves were still only just hanging on, the clouds mesmerising in their formation and movement and Christmas a fair way away.

I had planned a few bankside forays, but alas it was not to be and as if by magic here we are totally leafless, damp and cold - winter has come, the wood burner is belting out warmth and the yule log has already been gathered. I seem to have lost a complete month.

That was in fact my last trip out and a nice chub nudging five pounds was my reward from a river that was just coming out of bank and has pretty much stayed out of bank ever since. Even though the day was glorious I did hunker down under my old Efgeeco canvas brolly to escape the wind. Away with my thoughts watching the clouds and taking stock of the year so far. The pub, as ever, was very welcome at the end of the day after sloshing knee deep back to high ground.

All being well I'll manage a pre-Christmas trip before the traditional Boxing Day pike session which seems to involve more eating, drinking and merriment than normal and that's saying something.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Post Early!

Margaret Calkin James 1936
John Nash - Rural Postman Sketch 1935
Barnett Freedman 1938

Saturday 1 December 2012

When the Wolves Were Running

We are now at the time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas - we have started to read The Box of Delights (John Masefield 1935) as we do every year at this time. At some stage during advent we will watch the wonderful 1984 BBC TV adaptation. We usually time the last episode with Christmas Eve - a fully stoked fire, large pot of tea with muffins and crumpets galore.

Both of the Masefield Kay Harker adventures (The Midnight Folk 1927 and The Box of Delights) would firmly be on my desert island book list. I have not read any book that has transported me to other places as these two books have done - the joy of sharing it with my own children is just as exciting as the day I was given a copy at school.

As it happens the BBC Radio 4 programme A Good Read featured The Box of Delights this last week. Presenter Harriett Gilbert was joined by soon to be TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady and medical historian Ruth Richardson to discuss their favourite paperbacks. You can listen again here, but do not be put off by O'Grady's grumpish review.

Sara Ogilvie - Box of Delights Folio Society Edition
There will be more snippets from this delightful book over this advent period for which I offer no apology. If you watch the BBC TV adaptation, parts of it were filmed at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire. When Kay and the Jones children sail their boat and are spotted by Abner Browns gang it is only feet away from one of my very first wild carp fishing pitches! As a young lad I was driven to Eastnor on a regular basis to fish off the dam wall and had many an adventure of my own in the grounds of that magnificent castle. If only the wolves were running then.     

Thursday 8 November 2012

Walker's Pitch

A real treat for all you followers of Dick Walker - I found this by chance when looking for another castaway on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.

Dick Walker was Roy Plomley's castaway on Saturday 6th July 1974 - I am sure Dick would have been happier being interviewed by Kirsty Young! The programme was devised by Plomley and I was amazed to hear he presented it until 1985. I have been a regular listener and the only sour period was when the odious Sue Lawley presented for a few years.

Many anglers of the old guard idolised Dick - he was thought of as the father of modern carp angling and specimen hunting in general. He was a true all-rounder though. Just as happy casting a fly and I think in later life he prefered still water trout fishing. His angling feats were truly remarkable and he will always be remembered for the capture of the once record carp at 44lbs from Redmire Pool in 1952 - Dick neglected to tell Plomley that the fish spent the rest of its days in London Zoo after capture. I always preferred those who smelt the roses a bit more along the way such as Venables, Ingham and BB, but Dick was certainly a pioneer and prolific at that.

Of all his books I think No Need to Lie (Unwin 1964) is my favourite - probably for the lovely Reg Cooke illustrations which are luscious and atmospheric. When I bought this book, as a young lad, from a second hand book dealer in the early 1980's it really felt like treasure - I couldn't put it down and regularly pull it from the shelf today.

As a schoolboy reading his magazine articles I seem to recall I was quite fascinated by his hats. He was a regular hat wearer on the bank and the trilby was my favourite Walker hat. It is mentioned and illustrated in No Need to Lie - a magic hat indeed!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this broadcast as much as I did - he had a lovely voice did Dick, excellent at mimicking country dialects and I thought his record choices were interesting.

The highlight for me has to be Bernard Miles with one of his Old Charlie monologues.........think Stanley Holloway and Brown Boots - splendid stuff.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Goodbye light, hello dark

We had a late celebration to see in the dark part of the year at the family orchard in Gloucestershire - a few days after Samhain, but who cares, it was our way of celebrating what we have and to give thanks to what we have lost.

I guess the influence of the modern world has had an effect on many customs that until fairly recently were celebrated by many country folk. They are still celebrated, but many with a twist - pumpkins are now used as lanterns instead of a turnip, children no longer perform a traditional song or dance at Halloween, a shout of trick or treat is enough for a gift which is expected. Coal dust on the face to help blend with the spirits has now been replaced by bright and ghoulish fancy dress. At this time of year I also look forward to the Mummers plays around Christmas and the Twelfth Night wassail. 

The apple is always associated with this time of year for me - the annual harvest of Ashmead's Kernel would take place in early November and these delicious dessert apples would see us through the dark days.

This year the crop has been dire - all varieties have suffered. The seasons have been completely arse about face, we drove through snow as we dropped back down into Dorset and on our way north we were lucky enough to see the finest rainbows ever. Those apples we did harvest will keep us going for a short time at least. We spotted one lone apple blossom - It drew our eyes to it like a beacon and was taken as a good sign for the months ahead. 

We built a fire using apple wood, made a den, harvested apples, lit fireworks, ate and drank before the heavens opened. We had time to stare into the dying embers away with our thoughts and look forward to the winter ahead.