Until about twelve months ago my interest in fishing was at best liminal. On the fringes of my mind, it was something I thought I might get back involved in one day.

After finishing my RHS Advanced course last year I was casting around for books to read after a four year (self, but necessarily-enforced) diet of little but hardcore horticultural tomes.

Either a review or an excerpt, maybe both, high-lighted Blood Knots by Luke Jennings. I bought it along with a slew of others.

Straight away I was hooked (I have just realised that there are two too many fishing metaphors in this piece already) and I read it rapidly. For the first time in far too long I had a book that I really enjoyed, couldn’t put down, didn’t want to end and felt lost when it did.

A similar route recently brought me to On Nature, and thence Caught By The River the website which spawned it. About fishing, walking, nature, birds (too many birds), music and other eclectic oddments it really was “an antidote to indifference” – there was even  the odd gardening entry and Tracey Thorn‘s greenhouse.

I consumed the years of web archives from start to finish over a short space of time and again was sorry when they ran out.

But then I picked up on How To Fish and On Fishing at Sea by Chris Yates a CBTR hero. These books are just fantastic. As with Luke Jennings’ writing, angling is both primary and at the same time secondary. Chris Yates writes so well, you almost forget he’s writing about fishing because it ties seamlessly with both memory, the present and the natural world. Yet again I was reading stuff I could not put down.

The spark having been reignited by a book and further kindled by more was glowing bright. It seemed fitting that it should be fed by old, bone-dry tinder and so I asked my mum if there were any of my old fishing books cluttering up cupboard space at her house.

Those I’d had I couldn’t recall properly, but I’m sure that there were a couple of Mr Crabtree books gleaned off a relative. Also a weird cardboard wallet folder thing that had sheets on each of our freshwater fish with a large picture, habits, angling tips and rather unusually for the UK cooking recipes. This was actually pretty weird to my juvenile mind as it was decades before HFW started catching and eating grass carp, or Eastern Europeans started (allegedly) treating our lakes and reservoirs as larders rather than a recreational resource.

After a trawl around (yes I’m doing the fishing metaphor again) she came up with this little sprat. Slim pickings and a book I’d forgotten I’d ever had Although now, turning it in my hands and looking at my childish inscription, I can recall buying it in our local WH Smiths using one of the Christmas gift vouchers we always got from our Grandad Fred.

The main thing I recall about it though, is surreptitiously reading it one the schoolbus. Not because I was ashamed of being interested in fishing, but because the I thought the bloke on the cover looked like a knob.

Still, it’s better than blanking.


You may know of Beverley Nichols, a British 20th century novelist amongst whose output can be found some rather camp and amusing gardening books. Actually, it might be that all of his books are camp and amusing, but I have only read those with a horticultural bent.

In one of them he wrote, “We all know that a garden never stops outside the doors of a real gardener. It comes in. Not only in the shape of mud on the carpet, but of catalogues on the piano, twine round the telephone and seed-packets on the mantelpiece”.

This is very true.

And it’s very true of Boot Hall. The garden seeps into the house. Actually, it’s a more of a torrent.

Since the kitchen door leads to the garden, unsurprisingly it’s the room that’s worst hit. There’s always a pile of stuff by the backdoor that is either going to or from the garden/greenhouse. Elsewhere is a ever-present small red trug of stuff ready to take to the allotment, and a recent addition, a small propagator of pelargonium cuttings from Saturday’s RHS study day, is perched on the window sill.

A bit like the rats in London, by my reckoning, in the kitchen you are never more than 3 feet from a seed packet.

Aside from this a quick scan of the house reveals:

A slick of horticultural books and magazines in the living room

More seed packets on the stairs and landing window sill, where there’s also a knotty ball of fillis

Another tidemark of garden books/mags in our bedroom.

Our smallest bedroom (laughing known as the office) is chock-full of plant related stuff – books, magazines, pictures, paper cuttings, more seed packets and so on. And it has a windowsill full of pots plus the electric propagator and a smaller unheated propagator with gingers in tucked away down by the radiator.

None of this bothers me, but it does drive the OH a bit dotty. Which raises a question.

Where is a good (and covert) place to start some sweet potato slips?

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Being a parent often means the curtailment, or even cessation, of many activities. Some of these are unavoidable, for instance spontaneous afternoons in the pub, others, like going anywhere without milky sick somewhere on your clothing, are perhaps not but seem so.

One that I’ve found has gone is browsing round shops. I never seem to have time, and the thought of needlessly taking Little Boots into shops full of damageable goods makes me wince.

So yesterday, being alone for a spell, I actually did a bit of browsing. Not much that much, because it was a shitty, drizzly day and I wanted to get home, but enough to make me happy. Especially when I found this print by Stanley Spencer entitled The Greenhouse.

Which reminds me, I’ve things to do in mine.


I did so much on Sunday I can barely believe it – normally I just seem to charge around and achieve nothing.

Little Boots didn’t wake up too early for a change. I think Summer Hols are proving a bit exhausting, as the perisher just sat watching TV and reading for most of the morning. Meanwhile I got on with a mountain of washing up, while alternating between that, sorting the recycling, and sawing and treating some wood for a shelf on the greenhouse staging what I built.

At this point Little Boots demanded I make a cannon from the wildly disparate bits and pieces that had been wombled together from around the house. We ended up making crossbow that fired plastic corks out of some pieces of a wooden train track, elastic bands, masking tape and a peg.

After lunch we set off for a garden centre. I only wanted a couple of seed trays (the sort without holes), but ended up also buying some salad seeds, a rather jazzy Phormium, that Little Boots insisted on for the jungle area, and another Sempervivum, for the collection that I’m in denial about

We then dropped off some RHS notes and huge canister of slug pellets, I’d unearthed during “Operation Clear The Greenhouse“, at a friend’s place. Unfortunately my friend wasn’t in, although that’s probably just as well as she’d have had conniptions to see LB, anywhere near her greenhouse with the crossbow.

After stopping on the way home to do some recycling and then shopping we arrived back and whilst I got on with fitting the greenhouse shelf LB got on with lying in ambush and pinging me with corks everytime I appeared in the open.

I also managed later to squeeze in a spell down the allotment and came away with lots of bits and pieces. Not enough for anything other than a stir fry, but at the risk of sounding smug it contained garlic, chilli, red onion, French beans, runner beans, carrots (Little Boot’s own Red Dragons), cabbage, perpetual beet, chard and coriander.

Actually risk be damned – I am smug – even 48 hours later.