May 2013

The Clove Hitch.

It sounds like a proper knot doesn’t it? It sounds complicated. You’d think that someone who could tie a clove hitch would be a real expert on knots.

Well none of that is true: a Clove Hitch is a very simple knot. Basically it consists of a rope/string being wrapped round an object twice, the first time over itself and the second time underneath. If you follow the diagrams you’ll see what I mean. If tied to a solid object the Clove Hitch is a strong knot, providing it’s only subject to a straight pull. But if there is movement in either the object or the pull then it can come away.

To demonstrate what I mean tie a piece of string around a pencil with this knot. Then pull on the string, whilst at the same time turning the pencil towards you. The knot will “roll”. It’s still a good knot though, it just has to be used in the right situation.

As you may have noticed in my previous post on learning knots I like ones where they can be slightly changed and you get another knot for another purpose. There are two simple adaptations that can be made to the Clove Hitch.

Firstly by making a loop to tuck under on the second turn creates a Slippery Clove Hitch, so called because it will released by a tug on the loose end. it’s good for guying apparently – will have to see.

The next adaptation is one that Little Boots has designated as “cool”, though I think that that is largely down to its name the Constrictor Knot, rather than its qualities as a very strong knot. It is very simply tied as a Clove Hitch and then the free end is tied over and then under the first turn. When pulled tight this locks it down on itself.

This is, I think, a knot really worth knowing.




Generally If I buy a book I keep it and I also used to have a more specific rule that if I started reading a book, then I would continue reading it till the end.

Lately I have abandoned both these rules. Frankly life’s to short to press on with a book you aren’t enjoying, something that was pressed home by two successive books that I abandoned half way through because they were so tedious. This was driven home by the fact that they were both fishing books, a genre where the standard is generally above average.

So I decided to sell these books and a few other bits and pieces to make a bit more space and to raise it of cash for a new ukulele. I raised the money I needed, but determined to keep on with selling some of the books I was never going to read again. I also said to myself that I should stop buying books for a bit because I have a stack of them that are as yet unread.

However I couldn’t resist buying this the other day because it was in such good condition and marvellously illustrated. With pictures that capture the joy of angling, a Cold War spy from the Ipcress File taking part in some match fishing and an Intrepid reel. Not a Rola, but one of that body-shape, maybe a Diplomat, but more likely a Consort.

Sometimes it’s nice just to own nice things.



uke1 001

uke1 002


uke1 003

Phew! What a week.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in London for work which meant leaving the house at 6.30 and since I rarely go to bed early, very little sleep.

Wednesday I went straight to ukulele band practice, which was extended for some of us who were going to be busy Friday. My usual train home was replaced by a bus service which adds half an hour to the journey, so I arrived home just before eleven. 

Thursday passed in a blur of yawning and then Friday myself and five other members of the band appeared on local BBC radio. We’d expected just to do a short spot and a couple of numbers, but ended up doing four songs and staying for almost an hour.

The weekend started with a buzz of activity and Little Boots going off for an early swimming lesson, rearranged in order to be able to watch my uke band’s appearance at a nearby children’s festival.  The weather stayed dry, if a bit windy and after the performance we spent a few hours with friends wandering around the stalls and attractions, before taking our tired feet home on the train.

Sunday was supposed to be a lazy day, but I didn’t seem to stop, alternating between chopping logs (not something I anticipate doing at the back half of May, but this year is shaping up as rubbishy weatherwise as last year), working on some notes on the folklore of trees and tinkering with a trigger mechanism for a cross-bow LB has challenged me to make. It was nearly ten at night by the time I was happy with my notes which made it seem like a very long day.

The tree folklore notes were for a talk f first thing Monday morning, which went pretty well. I suspect that I blathered a little bit, but the children seemed engaged, they were attentive and  asked good questions. In the end I did twice as long as planned, which I guess means it didn’t go too badly.

Afterwards I hastened into work. A late start was planned, but I would still have to make the time up over the week. It seemed a curious way to start a new week, and I was glad enough to get home, especially when I found that a friend had dropped a disc off containing stills and videos of Saturday’s gig.

It was a good end to 7 days of busy-ness, only slightly spoiled by the refusal of my PC to burn a second copy, but that is when all’s said nd done a small matter.

Knots are not something I used to think about very much, but Little Boots has been asking questions about them recently. These queries made me realise that I don’t know very many. In fact I know four, although I could be a bit shifty and double that as most knots seem to have two names at least.

They are:

1 – the Grinner, or Uni Knot. This is good for tying fishing hooks to line. It’s a compression knot that tightens up on itself and is very strong as long as you don’t cut the tail too short.

2 – the Palomar knot – another strong knot used for tying bigger hooks to line.

3 – the Half-blood knot another fishing knot, but one with a tendency to fail losing the hook and leaving a small corkscrew shaped twist on the end on the line. This can be solved by locking it off by looping the tail back through one or other of the loops – I don‘t know which, but frankly why bother – just use a Uni knot instead.

4 – and this one isn’t even a proper knot it’s a trick for tying plants to stakes – particularly with bamboo stakes which are often too smooth to afford proper purchase. It’s very simple just wrap the string 3 times around the stick ensuring that it overlaps itself and then lock in place with a double overhand knot – or a granny knot as it’s better known. It’ll never move. You will also be unable to untie it.

So I’ve started to try and learn a few knots. Whether, or how long, I’ll remember them remains to be seen. Of course I will pass this knowledge on to LB, one of whose aims is to get a Cub Scout badge, though whether there is (or ever has been) such an award for tying knots, I don’t actually know.

This then is the first new knot I’ve learned. It’s quite easy to tie and is called either the Scaffold Knot or the Gallows Scaffold Knot, though the latter name seems to be used also for a number of other knots.

scaffold knot

As you might guess it’s a slip knot that tightens very well, but is actually not too difficult to loosen provided there is no pressure on it, or it hasn’t been pulled too hard.

Well at least for a human that is. You see this particular knot can be tied with one less turn, whereupon it is called the Strangle knot, the Strangle-snare, or the Poachers knot, all of which tells you that it is a good knot to use to create a snare.


A few weeks back this piece in the Guardian’s travel section led me to Phoebe Smith’s recently published book Extreme Sleeps – Adventures of a Wild Camper. Consequently I bought it a few days ago and polished it off very swiftly.

Whilst it is a quick read in itself, I pretty much galloped through it because I haven’t enjoyed a book as much for a while. Partly this was down to the author’s easy style and, as I say, because it’s not a particularly densely printed book, but largely due to the fact that I liked the idea of doing something both individual and slightly clandestine, set against dollops of nature and getting away from it all.

At times it does feel slightly staged, as if the series of adventures were undertaken largely so that they could be written about, but that is perhaps just my perception.

That aside, I put the book down both wanting more and wondering how I could do something similar.