Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Best-laid Plans...

Ah, it's all gone to pot rather...

By far the most frustrating right now is my running, or rather, lack of it. Everything was going so well...and then I picked up a groin injury of some kind. Nothing crippling, but it just won't go away. It isn't painful to run with it, but afterwards there is soreness and limping. Not good. So I've eased right off, with just four outings in the last 6 weeks. The most recent was on Monday, and thus far I am pain-free. We shall see, but it's nevertheless a frustrating set-back.

The wisest course would probably involve going to see a sports injury specialist, but the 'hobbies' budget doesn't really stretch to 'Physiotherapy Fees'. In lieu of that option there is of course the internet, where suggestions for diagnosis and treatment of absolutely everything are legion. Sadly this hasn't helped as much as I hoped it would; groin injuries seem to be tricky customers. Typical. Hopefully a slow and cautious return to action will see me right...

And then there is bike. As we all know, the weather just lately has been perfect for cycling, with snow, ice and hideous wind chill. Even when it is possible to remain upright, the body switches instantly to survival mode, and within moments of setting out every extremity is shrivelled and bloodless. I'm getting too old to flirt with frostbite, and my woeful tally of just three rides in the last 6 weeks bears testament to that reality.

You'd think I'd be getting fat with the lack of exercise, but an interesting experiment with a largely plant-based, whole-food diet since early February has kept the waistline in check. In fact I am the lightest I've been in about 25 years, and only a few pounds heavier than when I got married. The upside of this situation is the fact that there will be less of me to propel uphill come the cycling season proper. I look forward therefore to some Strava glory! The downside, though, is that with less insulation I definitely feel the cold far more than I used to. Roll on shorts-weather...

However, not all is gloomy. For example, I have seen a Wheatear. It even posed for me...

Wheatear rudely interrupts gull-watch, Coronation Corner, March 20th

Yep, that was more than a week ago, and I'll bet there are a few readers who still haven't seen a Wheatear this year. So for once, birding-wise, NQS is there or thereabouts with what's happening right now. Well, not really. I've yet to see another Wheatear. No hirundines either. I kind of got current again today, when I had distant views of what I'm 90% sure was a pair of Garganey disappearing north up the Axe Valley at around 3:00pm this afternoon. They'd been seen by others earlier, so were on my radar, but 90% is a bit too shy of 100 for my liking.

Finally, angling. This too has fallen by the wayside somewhat. Again it's been mostly the weather to blame, but the piking season came to an end without my troubling the creatures further. Rob meanwhile has set his sights on a big perch, and I joined him for an unsuccessful foray to a small, local club lake. We caught plenty of fish - which is always nice - but no perch. And then we learned that a small commercial lake less than a mile away has produced perch well over 4lb. It is called Mangerton Lake, and there are even photos of such beasts on its Facebook page. Rob has been quick to get a couple of short sessions in, and though he's had no perch yet, while he was there a carp angler jammed one out on a pellet, which is most definitely not a standard perch bait. It weighed 4lb 1oz. Perch of this size are far more regular and widespread in recent times, but to me this is still a massive fish. And yet I cannot get excited at the prospect of fishing a murky, over-stocked commercial pond in pursuit of such a specimen. To be honest, angling of this kind is the very antithesis of what appeals to me. Give me a tricky, clear-water venue like the Exeter Canal any day. The mystery of what might swim in such a place is so much more compelling...

I've been picking through some of my old angling photos and came across a couple of monochrome efforts that I printed up in the camera club darkrooms when I worked at Kodak. Photos are so good at bringing it all back aren't they? The scene is Startops Res (one of the Tring reservoirs) some time in the very early '80s I think. I remember it was cold, and windy, and the fishing so dire that I nodded off behind my brolly. That's Ric there on the left, and the woefully underdressed Mark on the right wishing he'd worn some actual winter clothing; in fact I don't think he even had a brolly. Anyway, Ric, if you read this please remind me of the date!

Evidently I didn't worry about a little dust on the negs...

Fibreglass rods, Mitchell reels, the ubiquitous camping bedchair. All very vintage!

Ric modelling a nice, stiff and smelly Barbour jacket. My brolly in the background.


  1. Gav, the answer to all of your spare time what with lack of running and cycling is to embrace the botanist in you - not to much out at the moment to confuse you either. And is the Ric in your pictures the same Ric who is a fellow Hawfinch blood brother?

    1. For some reason plants just don't do it for me, Steve. I don't know why. It's the same with moths, butterflies, odonata. I might learn a few, but the knowledge evaporates overnight. It's as if I have no innate mechanism to stimulate any enthusiasm in those branches of Nat Hist. I think I must have bits missing...

      And yes it is the very same Ric, of Hawfinch fame.

  2. Gav. Wow! it's the first time I've seen those pictures. It was November 1st 1980.
    It was so cold, that Barbour could have stood up by itself if I'd risked taking it off.

    I'll email you about running groin strains, reasons and solutions.

    Hi Steve. As Gav has revealed. It's the same Ric. Looking rather less worn down than he does nowadays.

    1. Nice one Ric, I thought you'd probably have the date to hand. Longer ago than I realised too. Am I right in thinking you were still a teenager?! :)

      And thanks for the offer of injury advice too. Must admit, struggling a bit with this one...

  3. Yes Gav, a teenager for another 23 days. Mark was even younger. He spent quite a bit of time sheltering behind his turned over seat.
    Being as dense as I am. I wandered along to him and asked if he was cold? He looked up, and with a masterful piece of understatement, declared, 'Well, lets say I'm not hot'.
    Such was our enthusiasm, it never occurred to us to pack it in.
    One bite all day. A Roach of 1lb 6oz to me. End rig - size 20 hook to 4lb line. Hardly seemed possible that combination.

    1. I seem to remember Mark wrapping rod bags around his legs in order to add another layer somehow. However, I don't remember being moved by compassion for his plight, more just amazed at such unpreparedness. I guess I was a bit of a heartless young man...