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More favourite things.

Some years ago a relative, knowing of my interest in British flora gave me three field guide books from the Readers’ Digest Nature Lover’s Library series, covering British Birds, Wild Flowers and Trees & Shrubs.

They became immediate favourites and I have learned so much from them. In fact I still do.

With that in mind it was odd both that I never came across any other titles, or even considered that more might exist.

Three months ago, out of the blue, I found a copy of Butterflies and Other Insects of Britain, which I had to have even though I have butterflies and moths covered reference book-wise.

And then, during the Christmas hols Little Boots and I found Animals of Britain during a book-wombling expedition around local charity shops.

I was pleased to have what I knew would be a decent reference book and one to add to others in the series. Little Boots, curiously was also pleased with it. I soon learned why. Towards the back it has a section on animal footprints.

And LB reckons to have good tracking skills.

Personally I’m not so sure but, whatever the reality, it’s an unusual ability for a nine-year old to profess to have.

As for me – I’ve some tracking of my own – there’s sixth and final book – Waterlife of Britain – I must have it.

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a favourite things post so I thought I’d do a few.

This is a knife my grandfather gave me. It had been given to him by his father-in-law. before him and had originally belonged to “a sailor who had sailed during the days of wooden ships.” My Grandad did not know who that was – not a relative he thought.

The blade says ENCORE T.TURNER & Co BEST STEEL. It does seem to be that alright as it’s sharp enough to cut paper, even though I‘ve never sharpened it.

Through the wonders of the internet I have discovered that this dates it to the mid-1800s at the earliest.

None of which really matters – it’s now a family heirloom having passed down four generations and will one day go to Little Boots making five.

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It wasn’t all doom and gloom back in first few months of the year, although at times it certainly felt like it, what with an unexpected funeral, and equally surprising family break up, together with a series of frustrating disappointments at work. Plus the trails of illnesses, etc. which I mentioned at the time.

But even in the darkest times there are usually shafts of light and often it is luck that plays a part in creating them.

Whilst working my way through one of the lists of new blogs that regularly appear on The Outdoor Blogger Network, I found an American site that combined fishing and art. A Year on the Fly, by Joel de Jong was at the time having a competition for some of his artwork and also a T shirt.

So I stuck my name down by way of an entry and when the competition closed a few weeks later an email headed “Winner, winner, chicken dinner. ” (not a phrase I had ever come across – but plan to start using) dropped into my Inbox email to announce that I had won second prize. This suited me because as well as some of Joel’s artwork, it included a HexFishing.co T-shirt and I had written in my entry:

“At the risk of sounding like a cheap date, I’d be happy with one of the Tees – which is only part of the 2nd prize.”

The package took a week or two to wend its way over to this side of the Atlantic and when it arrived I was again delighted because as well as the limited edition print of an endangered Apache Trout, and the T-Shirt (I bet I’m the only person in the UK with one!) Joel enclosed another of his prints featuring a pair of racehorses and some HexFishing stickers. What a generous guy!

If you like art of a piscatorial nature then I’d urge you to pop over to a year on the fly, and there’s always something new to see. What I particularly like is that Joel often goes through the stages of creation of a piece of art.

Of recent posts I really like:

and – well I’ll stop there, just go and see for yourself!

Time rattles on ever faster.

Little Boots’ birthday is in a couple of weeks, but the last one seems such a short while ago.

The present list consisted entirely of branded plastic tat and electronarcotica.

To this I added a short  fishing rod and reel, that wasn’t really understood at the time but has since proved its worth.

There was another small gift that I’d forgotten was a birthday present until I saw this blog post last week. A Swiss Army knife.

Some might say that it wasn’t a very appropriate present for a seven year old, certainly the OH thought so, but at bedtime the question “What’s your favourite present?” was answered with “My knife”.

Of course I’m not that stupid to let the munchkin loose with the thing unsupervised. Whilst potentially dangerous it is only a tool, and it’s important that children are taught to use tools correctly, safely and responsibly. So it stays stored in a drawer and is only allowed out for fishing trips and exploring expeditions.

It undoubtedly adds a degree of ‘grown-upness’ and confidence to these events simply by being carried around in a pocket, but even more so when, as has happened a number of times, it proves itself invaluable.

(Thanks to VHD for use of the image)

Whilst it’s nice to win anything, it’s certainly more gratifying when you’ve put some effort in, rather than being the beneficiary of dumb luck.

And so I was delighted to have won a fishing rod (a 12ft Korum feeder rod that retails at a hundred quid, in case you are interested) by entering the crossword computation in Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine.

And I am delighted with the rod itself which looks and feels like a capable piece of kit.

But it is really, really, really, not helping the close-season, cold-turkey, close-harmony jitters I’m having at the moment.

It’s Little Boots’ 7th birthday soon and I’ve bought a fishing rod as a present.

This is something of a gamble. It’s certainly not a gift that features in the comprehensive list of birthday booty that’s been complied, which mostly features games for the Wii and Lego. And Lego games for the Wii. But I think, at least I hope, there is flicker of interest there.

Occasionally I might watch a bit of one of the thousands of fishing programmes that saturate satellite television, but they are dreary and bore me; they are as like to the real thing as a faded, stuffed Victorian pike in a glass box is to a living “river shark”.

But there is one that LB was drawn to – Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters. Undoubtedly this was initially because of the presence of monsters in the title, but after the first programme there was a request for the rest to be series-linked. This may all be something to do with piranhas which hold a special fascination.

Whether the lurid dramas of exotic, toothy, piscine killers presented in bite-sized chunks on TV will translate into the enjoyment of sitting on a river bank steadily drowning a pint of maggots whilst being pointedly ignored by anything other than midges is a difficult question.

The OH has just got back from a trip to France. Part of the ad hoc itinerary was a visit to some kind of Gallic flower show/country fair.

Whilst there, one of the people the OH was staying with, knowing of my burgeoning collection of sempervivums, wanted to buy me one. The OH who was travelling to and from the continent as a foot passenger vetoed this.

I wasn’t hugely impressed with that news. After all is there an easier plant to transplant than a houseleek?

Just take a plastic flowerpot, stuff it with cotton wool, scrunched kitchen roll, or newspaper even, invert over the sempervivum, secure with an elastic band or sellotape. Then slip it in a carrier bag with some holes in and the job’s a good’un.

Simple.

It’d take up next to no space – it’s hardly a Wardian case.

Mind you I do say all that as a person who once took an eight-foot canary palm on a train.

But no. No, that would have been too much effort.

As I say, I was a bit miffed. I mean, why tell anyone about the present they nearly got.

The situation was ameliorated by a bottle of what looks like a French version of port and a jar of what appears to be mustard with samphire.

Interesting and delightful I’m sure, but I’d still have rather have had the Sempervivum.

And to add insult to injury I came home to find the OH slathering “My” mustard with what appears to be samphire, over a sandwich.

Apparently they are “joint” presents.