Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Birthday Bernard!

My friend, Bernard Venables, would have been 107 years old today - it is hard to believe that thirteen years have passed since he sadly passed away in 2001. He was an inspiration to many - to me he epitomised good angling, good values, ideals, friendship, traditionalism and kindness. Bernard is everything that I hold dear with angling and I know that I am not alone.

Bernard Venables, self portrait - Memorial Service 2001
I am re-reading some of his wonderful books - A Rise To The Fly (Robert Hale Ltd) came out in 2000 and as I read it now I can hear Bernard's lovely dulcet tones as I turn each page. When I first met him he told me "first and foremost I am artist, an artist who just happens to go fishing". 

1948 FA Book for Boys
1949 FA Book for Boys
I surprised and excited him on subsequent meetings by showing him various other books and bits of ephemera he had illustrated and were long forgotten. Since his passing I have amassed quite a collection and on this special day I share a small selection with you.

Deerskin Island Mystery - 1945
The Hunting of Zakaroff - 1946

The picture below brings a smile to my face - just after it was taken, the assembled members of the Golden Scale Club let off a superb rocket from the pub garden (I won't name the hostelry!). We all whooped with joy, no-one more so than Bernard. The landlord ran out of the pub and banned us all instantly - he looked at BV and said "..and you are old enough to know better" - a magical memory.

Gerry Berth-Jones, Maurice Ingham, Ferneyhough Yates and BV - GSC AGM Hampshire, 1996

I am sure I will not be alone when I raise a glass of ale and give thanks to Bernard this evening.   

Tanks - Country Life, 1942

Monday, 10 February 2014

What's the secret?

I love fly fishing, but fly fishing books bore the pants off me...............well, the majority of them do. I don't quite know what it is, but something to do with all the macho posturing with gear and making everything over technical for the sake of it. It doesn't help matters and means fly fishing titles are thin on the ground in my library.

The only writings I have really enjoyed are those by Bernard Venables, Oliver Kite and more recently Charles Rangeley-Wilson. They are all noticers. Notice the world around them and most certainly like to smell the herbage along the way.

There is one writer though, one that I got into more recently, that really hits the spot for me and he has a new book coming out in April. The mighty John Gierach. This short piece of footage is a joy - roll on the Spring!

What's the secret? Go ahead and do what you think you want to do!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Tramp on a tricycle

John Bennett, traveller, Dolton, Devon - James Ravilious (1980)
This has to be one of my favourite photographs by James Ravilious. I always enjoy examining the contents of this wayfarers rucksack.......just in case I missed something last time. It sort of fuels my interest in the wayfarer and men of the road and river. I think Francis Francis had the same interest - always yarning with old tramps and bait diggers by the Thames beside an upturned boat.

Many years ago, when we lived up in the Cotswolds, I returned home one evening to find a tricycle parked in our garden out of sight. In the wood next to our cottage was the mirror image of John Bennett sitting by a fire with a long dog that had more ribs on view than anything else. He ate our duck eggs and bacon that night and all I could find out was that he was an ex-dock worker from Glasgow.

He had left in the morning by the time I got up leaving only footprints and a piece of cloth tied to the hedge - I often wonder what the piece of cloth meant, maybe it's safe here?    

Saturday, 1 February 2014

When will it end?

The weather has been atrocious for weeks now - all through Christmas and into this new year. More this weekend too with another batch of high spring tides. I am longing for cold and frosty days and for the rivers to drop so I can actually cast a line for............something, anything! The Avon will be up for weeks as the groundwater has now kicked in - it is as clear as a bell and in places crystal clear to a depth of eight feet or more. The Stour now reacts to the smallest amount of rain and resembles chocolate soup after each downpour.

I missed autumn on the riverbank and also the apple harvest. The family orchard up country resembles a neglected Christmas tree with its baubles covering the carpet of grass. The Fieldfares, Redwings and Song Thrush are happy with that and our Labrador who hoovers them up when our backs are turned and then duly farts like a trooper for days - the joy of it! 

West Bay Esplanade - after the large stones and rocks were removed!

What I have managed to do is collect some superb flotsam and jetsam from our West Dorset beaches - more often than not it has been totally unsafe to venture anywhere near the beach, but on the odd calm day it is amazing what the sea provides. 

West Bay Harbour - One of the calmer days!