October 2012


Throughout my life I’ve been a fairly voracious reader and also one with catholic tastes. I’m therefore a little bit puzzled that it is only in the last twelve months that I have come to realise that there is such a rich seam of writing about fishing. As an angling obsessed adolescent I read plenty of books on the subject, but they were wholly of the “How to…” instruction manual variety, and I completely missed those books that dealt with the subject on a more intellectual, even spiritual level.

Since taking up the rods again I’ve started to explore this literary vein. Reading back issues of Waterlog magazine has provided a good background to this. But it did make me wonder why Bernard Venables was held in such sainted regard. I just couldn’t see that his writing was that good. However it seems to me now that this was because he was in his twilight years, when writing for the magazine.

Recently I found and read his 1974 “Coming down the Zambezi.”

It opens thus –

“The last few yards were down a steep fall of stony track, out of sun into cavernous shade. Smooth boles soared to the rain forest canopy; sunny dazzle tangled the openings in the canopy and fuzzes of sun hung among the boughs. A host of yellow butterflies drifted like motes. It was still early in the day and it felt cool.”

Really good stuff. Unfortunately, it’s something of a false dawn. The book is purported to be a journey along one of the four great African rivers from the source to the Indian Ocean, but despite this premise just doesn’t feel very linear or complete. And whilst not without interest, the book itself doesn’t really hang together very well. At first it seemed to me like a bigger book badly chopped down, but the more I read the more it seemed like incomplete manuscript elements of a much fuller book, hived up into a smaller piece.

A shame. Love the cover though.

Great little post on VHD including a wonderful clip of angling guru Chris Yates using a Kelly kettle – a piece of kit much beloved of the traditional angling tribe.

Many things catch my fancy, attention, imagination, call it what you will. Some of them I am able to do, others I plan to do and others are just pipe dreams. Mostly circumstances (time, money, commitments etc.) smother any plans before they can achieve any kind of gestation. This in turn creates pangs of yearning that only exacerbate the feelings of unrequited loss.

Then something comes along that really fires my synapses and it’s a million times worse.

Recently I read an article about a remote mountain lake, containing wild fish. It sparked a ridiculously strong urge to go there. Perhaps I have been subconsciously thinking of such places since I recalled Bleabury Tarn a year ago. An adventure to a wild place, with wild fish – difficult to resist.

But what are the chances of making it happen? Pretty slim. I’m not even sure our car’s up to the journey, aside from anything else.

But I guess if I do a bit more dreaming, and a lot more scheming, I might just get it to happen.

Listening to the radio is something I do a lot of. Rarely is it music though these days, but rather it’s comedy, drama or documentary. Mostly I listen while travelling, or whilst in the kitchen, or chopping wood, or some other noodling job. As such it’s nice to synchronise the task with something interesting on the radio.

Although this only needs me to simply look at the schedules, I rarely seem to manage it. Of course you can always catch up via the iPlayer, but that assumes that you know that you’ve missed it in the first place. As I mentioned in a blog a short while ago, sometimes you still miss a programme that you’d really like to have heard.

With that in mind, I’ve done a little bit of a trawl through the listings to create an aide memoire of my scufflings over this week’s radio. If I had more time on my hands I’d put the links in – sorry.

On all week – Radio 3 is something people tend to only associate with classical music, but I have found their occasional spoken word stuff is generally well worth a listen. This week has #6-#10 of their Anglo-Saxon Portraits Essay series. It sounds bit dull, bit I suspect isn’t. Runs to 30 episodes though.

Count Arthur Strong has repeats of two of his series on R4 and R4extra this week. I was giggling like a ninny on the train last week listening to an episode – a rare case of laughter and public transport being linked in a positive way.

R4Extra 4pm (every weekday) – The Four O’Clock show. Primarily aimed at kids (which allows presenter Mel Giedroyc to get away with being annoying. Sorry, more annoying), this magazine programme usually includes a range of subject matters – food, science, history, and always something to do with the natural world, often in Britain. The latter often features the work of Chris Watson and is well worth putting up with the drekkier bits.

Saturday – Slim pickings from my point of view as Saturdays tend to be a lot of twaddle. Though Ramblings on R4 has Clare Baldwin with Simon Evans discussing his work with the Wye & Usk Foundation. Mind you it’s at 6 a.m. And is hosted by Clare Balding. One for the iPlayer. Maybe.

Sunday – Generally a bit better than Saturdays if only because R4’s Pick of the Week (6.15pm) allows you to latch onto any good stuff you’ve missed, or smugly congratulate yourself if the programme features much of your own listening.

At 1.15pm on R4extra is the penultimate episode in Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round The Shipping Forecast. I’ve managed to miss earlier episodes, but enjoyed the book – so I’ll add it to the list.

Immediately after, on R4 is The ‘Arse That Jack Built – a programme about quirks of language and dialect. Normally I love this subject, but it’s hosted by Ian McMillan. File under Arse.

Monday – R4 9.45pm – Book of the Week – Into The Abyss – “The true story of a plane crash in the frozen north of Canada and the four survivors who survived the tragedy in which six passengers died”. First impressions – this sounds interesting. What I’m really thinking – how many did they eat?

R4 11am – Earworms – programme about songs that get stuck in your head. I’m really bad for this – singing “The Grand Old Duke Of York” is normally an antidote, but not always. Maybe I will learn others.

R4 4pm – Monty Python Fliegender Zirkus. The story of how a German producer brought Monty Python to his homeland. To me they are The Beatles of comedy – as in “We really don’t need to hear anymore about them”. Ever. But the German angle intrigues me. I remember being in fits as my brother tried to explain a Vic Reeves sketch to a nonplussed Dutchman – this could be similar. Give it five minutes. OK, ten.

Tuesday – R4 11am – Saving Species. Exploring the issues surrounding a rise in the bird of prey population. I see Red Kites daily and have wondered about this myself.

R4 6.30pm – Rudy’s Rare Records – not a great comedy series this – think My Family rather than Outnumbered – but for some reason I don’t dislike it and this week’s episode is based on the allotment – expect double entendres about carrots, marrows and pumpkins.

R4 11pm – Arthur Smith’s Balham Bash. I’ve listened to some of these in the past and seem to recall they were quite good. tho’ patchy. At least it’s not Just A Minute.

Wednesday – R4 11am – Lives In A Landscape. Second allotment programme in 24 hours. Factual this time, visiting an allotment in Hastings and hearing how people with plots on the site use them in different ways.

R4 11pm – My Teenage Diary – I’ve only ever caught this programme once when Caitlin Moran was the subject, and it was hilarious. I suspect that this week’s guest Arabella Wier will make this episode much less so. I predict that the phrase “does my bum look big in this” will put in an appearance.

Thursday –R4 3pm – Ramblings – more Clare Balding (groan), but it’s redeemed by the presence of Steve Backshall, who is best known for his Deadly 60 wildlife show and the spin-off, which we love here in Boot Hall, Deadly Art.

Friday – R4 3pm – Gardeners’ Question Time. I used to listen to this religiously, now I never do. Witless, joyless and tedious. Like Just A Minute only on the radio because it always has been. Emphasis on has-been.

R4extra 6pm – Of Withered Apples. A Philip K Dick story wherein a beautiful woman picks the last apple from a dying ancient tree determined to survive. Sounds like the sort of brain candy only radio delivers and a fitting end to the week’s listening.

This sometimes gets called extreme knitting, but I think guerrilla knitting is the correct term.

These knits may look a bit odd and doubtless make a few people think WTF?, but I personally think they add interest to a really municipally ghastly bridge that incongruously spans a beautiful stretch of river.

Last Sunday I went sea fishing for the first time in my life.

Five o’clock on a weekend morning is an unwelcome hour this time of year, even without a twenty minute wait on subzero roadside. Despite a satnav we managed to get lost repeatedly en route, but did eventually reach the meeting up point – a McDonalds on the edge of a retail park.

Not really a place I want to be at seven thirty on a Sunday morning, especially as it was chock full of very young girls slathered in thick and inappropriately adult make up, wearing sparkly tracksuits. They were apparently a dance troupe, but actually terrifying apparition at that hour in a small fast food outlet.

I remarked that it was like an outer circle of hell.

Not if you were Jimmy Savile came the reply.

The day went downhill from there.

Back somewhere around June I saw that Jaws was on at a local cinema. Whilst I’ve seen it many times I’ve never watched it on the big screen. When it was originally released I was too young to go, but remember the pangs of envy as older cousins filled us smaller kids in with all the scary details.

Discussing the re-release with a friend over a beer and we enthused about going. Then promptly did nothing about it. An opportunity missed.

Luckily a nearby arts centre shows some movies a while after they’ve done the rounds and so another chance to see it surfaced. This time we actually got organised enough to buy tickets. To be honest this was actually a superior option. Whilst it’s always better to watch a movie on a cinema screen rather than a TV one, not all cinema theatres are equal – sometimes even within the same multiplex.

And the reason that the arts centre was a much betteroption than the local multi-screen, is that it has a modern and marvellous little cinema tucked away in the top of the building. It only seats about 40 and manages to feel both huge and intimate at the same time.

The movie itself has been cleaned up to mark 100 years of Universal Studios, and although there’s still the odd murky scene, as a whole it really did look fresh.

That and watching it on a big screen did make it feel a bit like seeing it for the first time. Whether it was that, or watching it in an environment that allows one to truly concentrate on the film, I don’t know but I can honestly say, I’ve never enjoyed a viewing of that film so much. I even noticed a couple of touches that had never registered before, or perhaps were brought to life by the bigger screen

And yes, I even jumped at the scene where the head appears in the bottom of the boat then laughed at myself for doing so.

“Farewell and adieu to you fair, Spanish Ladies…..”

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