Old Bob's Page

He used to refer to himself as "Old Bob" if something was missing or out of place, it was "Old Bob took it I 'spect", but I never found out whether this was an old saw or a private joke.

I can't tell quite how much time we spent, but what I can recall, the events, are below. The point here, is not so much the love of fishing and the outdoors, but that he was the first to treat me as an responsible adult and with trust, for that alone I am eternally grateful. He also spent time and made time to do things; it didn't matter if that was 'going out with the gun' Old Bob, fishing, playing cards Old Bob or dominoes ('fives & threes') Old Bob of an evening (those who have played 'sevens' with me have found me well versed) or just a walk up to the long-garden gate. I am grateful for that as well, a new experience.

'Old Bob' liked to say "Little fish are sweet" (usually as he played his winning card) and he used the phrase "the great and the good" about the well heeled and self-regarding, but he did not mean it as a compliment. He used to say "I've had a bit of luckIt's why I prefer "good luck" to "tight lines"." if he'd caught something and "I didn't get any luck today" if he didn't. I liked that.

Some of the rest of my family don't have such a favourable view of Old Bob, I'm not naive and in younger days he could be hard man to get on with, so perhaps I was lucky. But what happened in the past and to others has no bearing on the basis of my experience.

I know that you can catch game birds with rum soaked raisins on fish-hooks. One can (allegedly) put grain into paper cones in the ground and when the cone sticks over the pheasant's head Old Bob it will not move so you can pick them up...and if you can catch them roosting you can fetch them down with a wire noose on a stick...which is quiet. I know how to set snares for rabbits and more importantly how to work out where to place them. I know how to make fish stunning bombs using calcium carbide. And so on...but more importantly I learnt to be quiet and observe the outdoors and to appreciate what I saw.

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Old Bob in1976  1976. The Partridge. We were sitting on some bales in the shed and 'Old Bob' was smoking a Woodbine (a less apt name for a ciggy I've yet to come across) and I was watching the trees for 'woodies'. A small covey of partridges came up the track from the direction of the golf club. It was a hot day during a warm spell and the track's white dust was scuffed into small clouds by inquisitive feet and bills. They milled around where the track opened into the entrance for our hide, with us drab-dressed, motionless against the dark background, invisible, as good as.

As I watched, 'Old Bob' said, without moving and quite conversationally "Do you think you can hit one of those in the head from here?". It took me a second to realise this was not a rhetorical question. I thought about it, 20+ yards, a Webley Service .22". Possible, but tricky. "Yes" says I, leaning back onto the bale behind me and putting the fore-stock hand on my knee. Clearly as I am sitting here, I can see the picked bird out in front of the field, slightly away from the main flock, so that the shot was hit-or-miss, so missing might give a second chance. The wind-gunThat's what 'Old Bob' called air-guns. No idea why. spring thunked and the bird dropped face down into the dust, one wing flapping aimlessly and 'Old Bob', moving faster that I'd ever seen, (and he was sixty-five or so then) had the bird in his game bag and was back on the hay bale in a moment. "Good shot, duck." he said softly, watching the sky now and finishing the Woodbine.

Old Bob in1976  1976. The Weston Shore. I fished here with 'Old Bob', on-and-off from 1974 or so. The Weston Shore is on the east side of Southampton water and was reached by Morris Traveller via an invariable stop for bait on the way, down some backstreet. 'Old Bob' would dart off, then return with a newspaper-packet of rag-worms. The beach was shingle with some kind of a step, an old stage perhaps, and I had only the seven foot 'Mk.I', but it would cast a 2oz lead quite well - certainly as far as was required. 'OB'Old Bob', do keep up' had made a rod-rest from a five-foot galvanised steel fence-post, into the right angle of which about a foot down, he had pop-riveted a 15oz soup tin, sans soup. This, when driven well down into the shingle, worked quite well for my little rod, with himself's solid glass-fibre beach-caster leaning against a tripod. For bite detection you watched the rod-tip. That was it really. I fished here many times, sometimes with the bother along, and accompanied many other expeditions, growing to like the place, despite the fact I never had a bite, never mind a fish.

Before 1975, 'flatties' and silver eels were often caught and brought home for the pot, the eels spending the night in the bath before becoming fish-cakes. A metallic smell and baleful looks were a feature of 'calls of nature' and it might be fanciful, but I suspected them of being alive as they moved occasionally. The catches dropped off in the mid 1970's, the eels became infrequent, the 'flatties' grew smaller and were often oily tasting. Many when cooked were spat out, replaced with on-the-run fish-fingers. After a few of those, 'Old Bob' stopped bringing them home.

There was always a flask of hot milky coffee, sandwiches and the wind was keen, even if you hunched down, but that did not make it less enjoyable. Beach-combing for lost tackle was always worth a punt and I collected a variety of clip-on bells and any number of weights and brass wire fittings, the former two items donated to 'Old Bob', most of the latter were stored for re-use for myself. The brass wire, annealed on the stove, could be re-formed for, to quote one random example, repairing flounder-spoons that had got bent out of shape by being dragged behind a car for three miles.

I should mention the lead weights. I had probably wondered aloud about the requirement for ledger weights on a day when the weather made outdoor pursuits unfeasible. 'Old Bob' was a great improviser so he found some piece of off-cut hard-wood and carved a line of small coffin-lead shaped holes in it, in a row. He then laid a piece of string through the line of depressions and then melted lead and simply filled the holes. This, although blackening the wood and charring the string, worked quite well and we produded a small number of these little oddly-shaped coffin leads, running some kind of broach though the holes to clean them out. A quantity of 'drilled bullets' were made in the same way. This was fishing tackle for no money - it is hard to describe how pleasing it was to acquire such a quantity of items for free.

We went on to make sea-fishing weights using old tea-spoons and serving-spoons as moulds. The former made a 2oz on the nose and the latter something a little over 11oz. Eyes were made of twisted copper wire and laid in the spoon-bowl and the lead was simply poured into the bowl. We made some 'breakaway' leads, by leaving long tags of wire sticking out of the flat side - the wrong side of course if one thinks on it for a moment. One such held the end of my keep-net down for many years after. 'Old Bob' being mostly a plumber had plenty of lead about. No-one considered the toxicity of lead in the context of fishing then, however, it would have been negligable compared to the black oil-fouled silt the fish lived on.

About 4-5ozAbout 11-12oz or so...I weighed it. About 4-5ozAbout 11-12oz or so...I weighed it.

...and for years I thought it was the 'western shore'. Never clicked it was on the east of the water...it is right hereI have sat right here and blanked many many times.

Old Bob in1976  1976. Fisher's Pond, Colden Common...itself is an artificial lake held back by an earth dam at one end with a fine old red brick sluice gate. The pond was, legend has it, constructed 700 years back to allow the Bishop of Winchester to have fish supplied to his table - this old old stock pond is about three acres and I fished here on-and-off for almost a decade. When first taken by 'Old Bob' the pond was not a 'commercial fishery' in today's parlance, but rather just a lake with some bank access. I only ever caught a few stunted roach, despite several trips and the area fished was inside the 'bathing enclosure' which is on the east bank and has probably long since rusted away or been removed. 'Old Bob' once caught a goose by mistake, to our huge enjoyment. The goose was not so amused, despite being released without any permanent harm.

During the long hot summer of '76 (myself, just two years back from Cyprus thought it 'temperate') we both tired of the heat and gardening in it, so went for a look at Fisher's Pond. This was by now baked mud, so we walked up Hensting Lane (how good a name is that?) as it was shady, then stood and watched two deer pick their way out from the trees behind the 'swimming pool' and make their way across the cracked mud. We watched, stock-still. We walked on, to the bridge at the top of the pond, where the fish had been sequestered in what water there was. A kingfisher peeped across the road. Rarer then than now and worthy of note. We watched the fish jostling for a while. "Always something to see if you're quiet." said 'Old Bob'.

It was that summer, when water levels everywhere were low, we also made our way up the Itchen from one of the two bridges on Kiln Lane and 'Old Bob' showed me several of the old red-brick and grille eel-traps built into brickwork, long disused even then. He knew where they all were...

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Old Bob in1977  1977. Southampton Water and Mr. Bert's Boat; one of 'Old Bob's pals, 'Mr. Bert', (there was a 'Mr. Charlie' as well), had a boat, not a large thing at all, although fine for a bit of inshore dangling and we took at least three trips out in it. On the first occasion, fishing with our short rods, somewhere on the Fawley side of Southampton we all fished ragworm on the deck - I discovered the little bu88ers nip, the laugh was on me - the water wasn't ever so deep, perhaps eight feet and there were no life jackets. It was small boat and the 'facilities' were known, sardonically, as the 'yellow bucket', which was luckily, yellow. One of my duty letters (August 1976) records the first trip, everyone else landing 'schoolie' bass, except myself, who blanked.

On the second occasion, in July 1977, towards the end of the trip I tried my baited spoon and bagged a very decent plaice 'north' of a 1lb or so, to the surprise of all, except, with the blind confidence of youth, the user. On the third trip, I took my nine foot rod, assembled it 'broken' across my knees and fished my big sliding porcupine quill on 6lb line in water that was only eight or nine feet deep. In this way, I ran the float away from the boat on the tide and caught several schoolie bass. Some surprise was expressed by the assembled - in those days sea gear was always thick line, big leads and whopping hooks, whether yer needed them or not; this was 'the way'.

On one of those trips, a squall blew up, so we hot-footed for the landing slip and while at the time it never occurred to me that we were in any danger, despite waves flicking over the sides, I can recall the pale faces and terse manner of 'Old Bob' (who couldn't swim) and 'Mr. Bert' as we docked and packed up. Hm. The following year 'Mr Bert' was no longer on the scene, 'Old Bob' not having heard from him. A nice chap though who put himself out for me and the other one.

Old Bob in1977  1977. The Revolver. I used to collect cartridges as a youth, various sorts with holes bored in one side, the powder shook out, penetrating oil dripped into kill the cap. 'Old Bob' picked out a .32" rim-fire, lead grey against the brass (brasso, shiny brass wonderfully grey lead) and said he had been given a revolver once, so took it to a field with an old metal water tank and fired it at the side. The bullet went straight through both sides, "Christ Alive," he said "That scared me, so I threw it in the river".

Old Bob in1977  1977. Fisher's Pond, Colden Common. A Roach on a Spinner. In the summer of 1977 (I know this as I have a 'duty letter' written to my parents) during a stay with 'Old Bob' I was dropped at Fisher's Pond, in the days before it was as stocked and well looked after as it became. On my first visit I had one tiny roach, as detailed. In those days the fish stocks were mostly small roach and the pitch with the 'swimming pool' was your best bet. This was a large semi-circle of corrugated iron on a frame enclosing an area of water of about 30 yards in diameter. There was one tree on the bank's diameter, about two-thirds of the way along.

On my second visit, still in the future of this letter, I do recall it was a grey and dull, so after the best part of the day 'not even getting a bite', with time getting on to being picked up, I tried, out of sheer boredom a 4g silver 'Droppen'. Second cast I hooked something and moments later, I had a roach of about ½lb on the bank. Fairly hooked in the mouth as well. Now that doesn't happen every day (I did not catch anything else).

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Old Bob in1978  1978. The Salmon . 'Old Bob', probably minding his own business otherwise, once spotted a fine salmon lying just upstream of the Norris's Bridge in Twyford. This kind of opportunity was hard to ignore, so he popped off and got his 'pole with the wire noose' ('technically' a sort of fishing rod) and waded up under the arch from the downstream side not far from near Shawford House. Then the vicar stopped to watch the fish, a rare enough thing...then the village bobby (remember those?), then a couple of other folk stopped by to watch and chat and pretty soon, he thought, based on the conversation and reflections in the river, the whole blasted village (well he didn't say 'blasted' exactly...) were there whilst he stood in the freezing cold stuff up to his nicky-nacky-noos.

By the time the party had dispersed a good couple of hours later, he was frozen in personal places and the salmon of course had bu88ered off up to Winchester.

While we are mentioning Shawford House, when 'Old Bob' retired he did odd jobs one day a week and one of the odder jobs was to check the drains around Shawford House. Built and adapted over many years, they had their own idiosyncrasies and by virtue of long experience 'Old Bob' knew where to check and what to look for. He took me at least once and under the guise of checking the drains showed me right around the place. There were ferrets in cages, rank things, pheasants hung in sheds and we even stole down to the old ice-house by the river. Job done, back in the Morris Traveller, he told me that years ago, after the war but not so long after, he had been asked to come out one evening for some plumbing related problem and a big party was on in the big house.

He decided to slip in and see how the other half was living and poacher-quiet slipped around the house. "There was a pair of them at it in every effing room," he said, "dirty bastards. They aren't no f*cking better than us, that wiped the scales from my eyes, I can tell you." Then he added a few extra words of contempt. He was right of course. They're really not. Remember that.

Old Bob in1978  1978. The Careless Pheasant . This suggests there is some other sort of pheasant. On relection this is, at best, 'not proven'...but there it was in the long-garden cock-strutting down the centre path like it owned the place. I heard it, spotted it and 'Old Bob' came down and slipped into the back of the garage and we inched open the garage door to watch it with ill-intent.

"I could probably get a head-shot from here." I said, helpfully.

"Bu88er that" said 'Old Bob' "hold this and let the door open about a foot." He handed me one end of a piece of baler twine that was stapled into the top of the left-hand door. He poked the 12-bore through the gap in the door and I just about had the time and good sense to put one hand over the nearest ear...as it occurred to me that was what that piece of string was for, which had previously puzzled me...

Old Bob in1978  1978. Maggots. The thing about Fishers' Pond in those days was that the only fishing to be had was in the old swimming pool area and the fish were 'proper', no hordes of obligingly hard-of-caution perch to commit ritual suicide on your size 12. "I really need some maggots to catch" I said to 'Old Bob'in passing "I used to use fish-heads buried in a tin of sand". That was true, a bass-head or unlucky perch was left out for a day then buried in a tin of sand for a few days and then riddled out for a handful of rudd catching gold. 'Old Bob' said that was easy enough, we'll paunch the rabbits hanging in the garage and leave the stuff in a bucket for a day with the door open and we'll get plenty. Oh yes. Proper galvanised metal bucket of course. So we did that...

Now...the bucket got a day in the open, on a nice warm day and then for reasons forgotten and unpredictable, two days passed before we opened the garage door. We were, of course, knocked off our feet. The normal smell of old wood and oil was obliterated by the waft of rotten rabbit entrails. It couldn't get worse...but 'Old Bob' thought it best to open the double doors at the other end to "get some air in". And some light. Then we saw them.

Maggots. Thousands of the little bleeders. Have you ever let rain fall in you maggot box? They are off up the sides and away in a trice. Imagine three day old rotting rabbit entrails...you're not even close...and so they'd 'legged it'. There were maggots crawling down the side of the bucket. There was a bunch on the floor under the bucket and radiating trials of slime emanating from the pile where the early escapees made good. They'd even got up the bucket handle and made trails across the beam the bucket was hung from. They were on the floor, on the walls, on the beams, on the bench.

We swiftly rearranged our priorities vis-à-vis, bait and "getting rid of the little ba$tards". The bucket contents were dispatched into a swiftly dug hole, the bucket washed several time with water from the barrel by the garage door. The doors were left open (for days) and we tracked and removed as many as we could and finally 'Old Bob' emptied two cans of air freshener in there. None of that helped in the slightest.

I swear that even the following summer, the good smells of the garage, the oil, the iron and the slight smell of hanging game were cut with maggot-smell. Never even got to fish with them, I can still smell them, still makes me smile...

Old Bob in1978  1978. Mitchamador. At the end of the Long Garden was a five-bar gate of silvered oak, and in the evening 'Old Bob' would lean on the gate with a Woodbine and alternate between berating pub customers for blocking his drive and watching the world soldier past. There was a pair of pine trees off to the left, bordering the old cricket pitch and as the light fell cockchafers would appear from some hidden place and whirr around the tree tops and then as the sun eased away for the night, the bats would appear, swoop on the beetles and chittering, carry them off. Always worth seeing. Did you know an old name for cockchafers is 'mitchamador'? I miss being able to hear bats, advancing years. Pah.

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Old Bob in1979  1979. Memory Jogging. One summer I had gone down to Old Bob's on my own and had taken to an early morning run down the length of Hocombe Road (some fine mighty sweet-chestnut trees down there), then along the Hursely Road, back down Hiltingbury road, to the Chandler's Ford road and back for breakfast, perhaps a little over four miles. One morning someone was fishing Hiltingbury Lake and I pattered to a stop and padded over to watch a carp being landed. Interesting, enticing, but, sadly some residential restriction made it out of the question for me. I could have walked there. Shame. Never good to pick back up a run after you've cooled off. Ow ow ow.

Old Bob in1979  1979. 'Old Bob's Reels. One day 'Old Bob' came back from work and we were 'bu88ering about' in the garage and he produced three old fly reels. "These any good to you?" said he, "Yes. Please." I replied. Still got 'em.

Old fly Reels#1: This one, 'Ogden Smith, London' Old fly Reels#1: This one, 'Ogden Smith, London' Old fly Reels#2: This one, 'John Forrest, Thames St.'
Old fly Reels#2: This one, 'John Forrest, Thames St.' Old fly Reels#3: This one, no markings... Old fly Reels#3: This one, no markings...

On another day he turned up with a 4½" wooden 'Starback' reel. The brass back had snapped halfway between the centre spigot and the reel seat. A 'project' then, so on a garage-wet day we drilled out the pins on the broken bit of brass and wetting a little of the wood and using new screws to hold it in place, silver soldered the break with a honking great soldering iron. Then, flipped it over and filled the ragged holes and the flaky wood around the spigot with two part epoxy and we left it on a heater to soak and set. The holes on the outside of the wood were filled with plastic wood and it dried paler than it looked like it should, leaving light patches. It was wet'n'dried and varnished anyway. Which worked, a spot of grease and it was a 'user'. It got loaded with some blue mono from 'Old Bob's' tackle box.

Old fly ReelsThe front view of the reel. You can see long gone handle postions and a lighter impression on the right hand side from the handle it came with. If memory serves it was a kind of black bakelite. Old fly ReelsThe back view - with a row of light holes filled with the 'wrong shade' of plastic wood.
Old fly ReelsThe inside, where the metal insert in the spool is visible and a piece of the blue mono that has been on it ever since if was fettled. Old fly ReelsJust the reel stood on its foot.

It never got used and I had forgotten where it went, until I found in the loft, wrapped in a carrier bag, stuffed in a box of books. I bet the single handle it came with will turn up sooner or later. Looking at it now, my engineering antennae are twitching and I want to re-do it, but better. Remove the brass, braze it whole, rub it down and dab the light plastic wood with strong coffee...stop it, stop it now.

'Old Bob' had two reels of his own. A large multiplier with an ivory-plastic side-plates, (which was for beach fishing with a solid glass beach-caster, which had plenty of 'welly' although probably hardly ever stretched) and a outlandishly large 'Galleon' fixed spool, which I cannot recall him ever using. He passed the latter onto me, and I kept it until about 2009 and gave it away, without ever using it. He also owned a five foot solid glass 'boat rod', which was grey, had a wooden handle and no discernible taper...this latter put me in mind of the 'fibre-glass curtain poles, airmens quarters, curtains for the hanging of', that were easily obtained in Cyprus. He told me his biggest ever fish was a 16lb skate, Leviathan to me then, caught boat fishing using that rod.

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Old Bob in1983  August 1983. Fisher's Pond Again. At some point the lake was bought then drained via the sluice at the bottom end and managed, i.e. restocked with a good number of carp and many of the stunted fish removed. Before I fished again 'Old Bob' and I wondered past and popped in to find the water just a muddy thread with netting in progress and were permitted to stand at the sluice and watch as carp and other fish were sorted and put into holding tanks. 'Old Bob' was amazed to see fish of that size in the pond, I was just amazed.

I fished the pond thrice more in the following year. On the first occasion I made a good net of roach on float fished maggots, fishing off the cool moss-lined seat of the red brick platform by the sluice. On the second occasion from the same spot, I expanded my horizons by fishing a 4BB 'Windbeater' next to a patch of lilies, some twenty yards off. Sweet-corn was deployed and after an hour I landed a mirror-carp, something around 6-8lb. Despite the feeble 9' rod, after one long run it was quickly subdued. This was my third ever carp and gave me immense pleasure, as I had set out to fish for one against a feature of my choosing. Chuffed.

The last time; I'd struck up a friendship with 'Pterrydork' and we decided a weekend of fishing and drinking would be a good plan and cajoled 'Old Bob' and his better half into putting us up.

We had a few preliminary drinks on the Friday and Saturday headed off to the pond and hired a punt. Punted out to a large patch of lilies and holing up, fished happily in the sun on a mirror-finished surface for the morning and despite my friend being a newcomer to fishing we caught plenty of roach all morning. I used my old pole and passed my float rod over, on the basis that if anything large was hooked it might be better to deal with it on the rod and line. A sound plan, but not one that was needed in the event.

There are many worse ways of spending a day with the trees on all sides and fishing easily against a lily patch. After a pleasant bag, the internal dinner gong sounded and we punted over to the pub, moored by the wall, partook of a large lunch and some 'light refreshments'. Oh all right then, a couple of halves...possibly even three. We punted back to the lilies and passed away the afternoon in similar fashion with broadly similar results. Perhaps the falling-down water had pickled some brain cells as the details are hazy.

We dined at 'Old Bob's and headed for the 'Coach and Horses' at the bottom of Otterbourne Hill, wiled away the evening playing the 'balloon game' with us lining up pure capitalism (Maggie) against pure socialism. Pterrydork had to endure a breakfast of shame (sausages, home-made white bread and butter on Sundays) due to a certain amount of chucking up, probably down to what was undoubtedly a 'bad packet of crisps'...heh. 'Old Bob' thought that amusing.

Old Bob in1983  1983. Returning the Favour

My first proper job was at a now-defunct R&D Establishment in Buckinghamshire, which by 2016 had dwindled to just the original manor-house, shorn of its light industrial appendages, these latter replaced with 'desirable residences'. Most of the grander trees remained, some which were brought there by some long forgotten adventurer, including two immense redwood trees, one on either side of the drive.

I had a yen for an air-rifle rough shoot, I had a newly acquired 3-9×45 telescopic sight and so enquired of the gardener, who lived in a bungalow on-site. Different times. He was in broad agreement in principle as long as, in return for my removal of woodpigeons, pies for the making of, I would thin the grey-squirrel horde as they were proficient burglars with a fondness for electrical wiring. I was directed to the site-services director, a pompous man in a distant high-status office of the old house where he agreed to the terms. The deal was struck.

I worked out the best places to nab pigeons when they came in to roost and by virtue of sitting quietly, worked out the squirrel highways through the trees. It turned out the best way to shoot them was to ambush them on their normal runs, and if you are unnoticed, they do not move neary as fast as most think. A winter's afternoon would generally provide an hour of two squirrelling, and then a dusk-hour of pigeon shooting and I seldom failed to nab one, they all went for the pot.

I passed my driving test later than some - before that time I used to cycle - I cycled to work in any event, eight miles each way. I would wrap my air-rifle in a thick shapeless cloth bag and strap it across my shoulders, which looked less like a gun than one in a gun-bag. During the summer I would arrive at dawn, an hour early for work, and then pick one or two squirrels off before the site woke. This was mostly around the back of the site, behind what was once a walled garden. I can tell you that the squirrel population never diminished noticeably in the three-odd years I thinned them out. The woodlands and gardens around provided a seemingly inexhaustible population.

It was the case that Old Bob had very much ceased to take his old 12-bore out, being a good judge of his own increasing years. However, when he was visiting, as I had both a car and a second air-rifle, I could take him for a stroll about with the gun as an appostie quid pro quo. The first time we went, barely out of the car he shot a squirrel using my shoulder as a rest and was sufficiently pleased that we made it a regular thing and I got the pleasure of showing him my shoot, the pigeon lies and squirrel runs.

As a bonus the social club, (these kinds of places really don't exist anymore) had a decent, slate-bedded three-quarter size snooker-table and for a modest fee I was allowed the keys. So we would could shoot for an hour or two and then play snooker, another of his great loves, until it was time to go home for tea. It is a rare thing to give back something of a great gift in such a way. I'm more grateful for this than I can express.

Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Carp? What addiction?...a very subtil fish Carp? What addiction?Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Carp? What addiction?if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it.

Old Bob in1998  January 1998. I recall this day far too well. I was on a two-day sales-training course, which was execrable even on its own merits. There were two engineers working as technical salesmen among a group of frozen-chip and stationery sellers. These are noble professions, but the gulf was unfathomable from one side of the divide.

To receive, at the end of that kind of day, the news that 'Old Bob' had gone on was a body-blow. I have, in the normal run of events, to guard against an involuntary echolalia, probably a response to a forces-brat upbringing, but this, its effect, and the South African course leader did for me. After one pint I could feel my vowels shortening and my voice clipping. Not a good thing. I took myself and my second drink off to bed.

A grim and dark day and I was too far away.

Old Bob in1998  February 1998. Cough.

On a February fishing trip, the Pike Pit was mist-shrouded, persisting into late afternoon. The miasma muffled and did odd things to sound. The brother and I were a swim apart at the road end of the lake and I cannot recall whether we were piking or just fishin'.

We had spent some time discussing things of the past and had at length discussed my maternal grandfather,'Old Bob' and the influence he had on us both as fishermen (and myself as a rough shooter). He had, unfortunately died in January.

The thing about 'Old Bob' was he had this cough. It was half a throat clear and half a cough. It had a double note like a return call to a wood pigeons [hoo-hooo(hoo)]. When you consider that he had smoked since he was 14, he had pretty hard life as boy and then continued with the unfiltered fags all his life, Senior Service and latterly Woodbines (a less aptly named cigarette I cannot think of, but amusing was a B&B in Ambleside, "Woodbine B&B. No Smoking"), it's a wonder he lived to 86 - although the young doctor who told me in January that "smoking has killed your Granddad", during his last visit to Winchester hospital, was lucky not to be tossed out of the second-floor window (oddly, the same ward my wife worked on when we were courting, even more odd, the same ward his son laid in, diagnosed with cancer at a premature 65 less than decade later). When you add the time 'Old Bob' spent fighting fires in Pompy and Southampton during the darkest days of the war, 80 plus years was a victory. As he said he had a good knock and no complaints.

Still, 'the cough'. If you had the bad fortune to be stuck in the queue for the loo while Old Bob was having his morning cough you needed a stout bladder. That aside, this half cough would resurface during the day. We got used to it. It was a calling card. A throat clear with a glottal stop on the end.

On that day in the curling mist, after remembering him fondly we clearly heard 'the cough'. I risked a look at himself. I'd like to think I had a wooden face. The sibling started visibly and looked at me. No one spoke. A minute or two passed, during which I suspect, we both pointedly didn't look behind us. Footsteps up the bank passed quickly through nerves to rationality as a normal figure with a slight but altogether wrong cough, materialised out of the white and with an "Alright lads?" moved on. Well that's OK then.

Sly sense of humour Old Bob; he may have caught us that time. If I'd heard a chuckle it'd not have surprised me.

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Old Bob in2010  13th May 2010. Common Ground.

Otterbourne Church is very old school, borderline pre-reformation with its cruciform decoration - I'm early, of course, so pop into the yard, pay my respects to 'Old Bob', then walk up the hill. Halfway up, a jay skips across the road in front of me, so scour the path for forest-sapphires, there are none, although I take the carrier of the riches as a good omen of sorts. Just before the woods proper start, there used to be a resting place and a bench that overlooked a horse-field and in the distance the old churchyard and the Itchen at Brambridge, but the bench has gone and the woods are stealing down the hill, which is not a bad thing in the end. I feel I know every bluebell, fern and the Shute's round pebbles. The Roman road south out of Winchester cuts across here, but not many folk know that. At the top of the Shute on the rabbit-mown grass of the common are three large of the same, who all stop to look at me, forty yards off, not remotely worried by a person without a dog. 'Old Bob' had a soft spot for rabbits in general, despite a realistic attitude to any specific rabbits' worth, which is about half a good pie (two wood pigeons being the other half) and like many real countrymen knew them for what they are, furry locusts. Nevertheless, he once said that he liked to see them about and I'm the same. The common is the same now, at least the half backing onto the oak-woods, as it was 40 years ago, probably more than that. I walk across the springy turf, on which I've variously played cricket, lounged and courted and stand for a while watching the cottages and what used to be the Welstead's Store. And then it's time.

Otterbourne...well I could see rabbits Otterbournestill the same Shute

I descend The Shute, resisting an urge to cut diagonally through the woods down the path which actually comes out nearer Brambridge than Otterbourne and meeting some of the others at the Church, I go in to bid my farewells.

On the way home I sing into Beeches Brook with two four-piece rods, where I plan to clear my head, my Kung Fu is weak. Although catching rudd to 1lb easily enough I miss several carp on the float and despite enticing two surface takes from very decent fish, lose them both, to a leader knot and a hook pull. So in the end, as the dusk settles like a cloud, the day really didn't pick up at all. I choose a play-list on the small technology for the car, getting "Rock Island", apposite, then "She Said she was a Dancer" which makes me smile, then "Mountain Men" which is about right and I coast home in the dark. Sometimes I would drive all night in the dark with just my record collection. But I don't this time.

Old Bob in2010  December 2010. The DIY 'Borrowing Kit'.

I went into an antique shop in Wimborne and behind the counter were two glass-front displays, one of shotgun cartridges (which Mrs AA bought me for my birthday) and one which had a line-drawn pheasant backdrop, a packet of fish-hooks, a box of raisins, an old miniature bottle of rum, a coil of fishing line, a couple of small paper cones and some wire nooses.

I laughed when I saw it and the custodian said something, I don't recall exactly what, but I knew what all of those things were for, Old Bob having used all of them at one time or another. We talked about that and the owner said very few people who came in knew the use of all of those bits. Wish I'd bought it now, some things come by only once.

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Old Bob in2014  15th May 2014. Morning. At my house there's thick mist, at the end of the lane as I turn right, there's a stile, a magpie sitting on it watching me watching him. If it nodded I wouldn't be surprised. "Morning Mr. Magpie" I say automatically (there's 'Old Bob' again). At the top of the hill the road sashays then opens out onto the A35, the sun breaks through making it look inviting and for a moment it's an 'SE5a' day, I miss the noise, precisely recalled, were I to open up the clonky old V6 down this slope and know exactly how it would feel if I nipped the nose out past the queue on the dual carriageway and put my foot on the floor.

Yippee ki-yay MF. And all that.

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Old Bob in2015  26th June 2015. Weston Shore. Well, more Hamble-Le-Rice . A humdrum supplier visit. Although I'd noticed its location was barely a mile down the shingle from the Weston shore, to arrive early (I'm always early) and find I could walk onto the beach and breath sea air, was an unexpected bonus. The shingle seemed familiar, a trick of the mind, and I could see up the shore to the bit I knew better. I crunched up and down for a bit, took a few snaps and did the dull bit.

Weston ShoreSea-shore Weston ShoreBig, aren't they? Weston ShoreSea-shore

On the way home, I drove by the place itself, seemed hardly changed, not sure why I didn't take pictures there. Didn't need to I guess.

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A summary of sorts; there are currently 20 entries about 'Old Bob'. There are more to come, just as soon as I write them down. Or remember them. Or something. I need to mention the Webley Service Air Rifle, the 'Post Office Job' and 'Mr Charlie' among other things.

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Old Bob was my maternal Grandfather who died in January 1998 at the age of 86, while I was away on an interminable sales training course. I learned a great deal from him about country things; fishing and shooting, both the regular sorts and the sorts designed for removing other folks' wildlife without them noticing.

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