Those entries concerned with travelling, which may or may not include fishing...I'm still deciding exactly what to do with this page. Restrict it to travel-only entries? Add in those that are fishing-centric as well as those which are auto-biographical? Put some of the travel entries here, but not in the main diary narrative? Not sure yet. Anyhow; here is a mish-mash of the entries that, broadly speaking, are journeys not specifically for fishing, although fishing and fishing related things may have become involved.
OK, that might make it seem as if entries are bring selected purely on a whim...
The pictures are a mixture of informative and (occasionally) decently composed; for the most part I took pictures of things that appealed to the 'Littleanglers' - I was able to snap'n'email in a trice and the email drop was popular when I was away. So there are some mundane shots amongst. Eh.
Travel though. What a drag, at least while 'on business'. It intrigues me to see jobs advertised with 'occasional travel' listed as a benefit. negIt's surprising how often such advertisements eschew mentioning the remuneration figures, while describing it in glowing terms, e.g., 'salary neg.' (stands for negligible), 'depends on age and experience'. If such ads. were charged by the word, it would save money to say "We don't value people, so will pay as little as we can get away with." Still, it’s yet possible the 1990's will call and ask for their outdated attitudes to be returned. Clearly the writers of such ads. haven't done that much travelling and still get excited by watching the planes take off and land at the airport, something that we did once or twice at Singapore Airport in 1967 or thereabouts, which was exciting. But then I was only 7¼.
I concede the tone of the below suggests travelling is a bad thing and makes fun of the notion that 'going places' is in some way an indication of success. Travel does have its upsides; firstly, once you accept it is generally as glamorous as swamp-water there is time to be quite productive. Secondly, there is the matter of perspective; the more one travels, the wider one's perspective becomes, people are people everywhere. Thirdly, plane-time is a fine time for reading. I generally read work material outbound and a book for myself on the return. I read classics (if I could get through them, some are hard work, 'classic' or no) and good science and science fiction books (all of ‘The Culture’ series) for good measure. Lastly, it can help to get into the habit of seeing hotel rooms as somewhere to get something useful done.
To be fair, I’m not much of a sightseer - and this coupled with the general paucity of time one might otherwise usefully dispose of by looking at stuff - means my turnpike engineering experiences were utilitarian by necessity. Plus, I had a family at home and adding days onto overseas trips to look at piles of old stones or shiny stuff seemed literally beside the point.
|inter...(and back to the top of the page)||...linked||inter...||...linked||inter...||...linked||inter...||...linked||inter...||...linked||inter...||...linked||inter...||...linked|
August 1991. Parrog. We went camping, the budget conscious option, borrowing a big frame tent. After three howling-gale-and-rain days and two mornings in the local Little Chef with 'everyone else', drying out and getting outside a hot meal, we were incentivised into Carmarthen to make our first joint purchase, to wit, a two man, or more correctly 'one man and one woman' tent. This facilitated the survival of a gale at the square-on-to-the-elements Nine Wells campsite, which overlooked a small rocky cove, reached by a winding path that bordered two peaty sinister pools.
We decamped for Parrog, a fine sunny spot, where we waded across the River Nevern at low tide, a fine experience. I snatched a few hours trotting the river/sea as the tide came in, to no avail, then the next day we climbed Mynydd Carningli, wading a sea of purples and yellows, on the next walked over the Feidr Pen-Y-Bont bridge and watched a torrent of silver fish pour upstream on the incoming tide. The holiday's highlight was sitting on the sea-wall with a pizza, swigging from a bottle of rich red, while a huge fireworks display painted the sky over the bay.
On the return leg, we camped on the Gower; we walked half the length of Rhossili Beach, then on the last evening sat on the rocks at the south end of Port-Eynon Bay and talked about the stuff couples talk about, while I touched legered for bites that never came.
The end-customer paid; Virgin's first plane with a bar in business class and a hostess who'd been on 'Blind Date' (yet to be broadcast) who blew the gaff on its heavy scripting; two of the end-customer's employees were on the plane and kept me entertained, but 'let me' drive to Simi, possibly not unconnected to the use of the aforementioned bar. Huh. Most of a week in the Radisson just off 'Innovation Way', spending most evenings in the bar, learning baseball from several affable regulars (c.2020, this is now the appropriately named 'Grand Vista').
|The Grand Vista||The Grand Vista||The Grand Vista||The Grand Vista|
The valley-girl marketing Barbie who’d been part of the set-up met me on the first day, then conspiratorially explained this was a ‘white-flight’ community and then, mistaking me for 'good people', felt obliged to explain what that meant. I lost respect for her right about then, but wore the mask. I hope. My two engineering contacts could barely be bothered, ‘politics’, but luckily the non-college firmware writer and technician were up for a challenge and after a long week, 50+ working hours in four-and-a-half days, thinly veneered resentment neared grudging respect by the end of the week. I assume they took the credit.
|JAFH room, Ca.||JAFH Ca., looking up Innovation Way||JAFH Ca., looking across the car-park, I think my hire car is in there somewhere, I can't really recall.|
I 'saw some sights', but only those shown. The early morning drive down the 'I405' slowed to a desert crawl as the radio played "All I want to do...", the first time of hearing. A few miles later I crossed the Santa Monica Boulevard. What are the odds? Then I got off the '405 freeway one intersection too early, had to U-turn when I hit desert and nodding donkeys, definitely NOT LAX. Foreshadowing...
September 1994. The Burn of Durn. Yes, really. The "Burn of Durn", at Portasoy, Banff, in Scotland. As part of our honeymoon we went on a round trip of Scotland and camped for a couple of nights at the small campsite right on the shore at Portasoy. As it was September we had the place to ourselves. Well it had a chip shop and a pub, what else do you need?
Anyhow, a small stream ran down to the beach only about 50 yards from the tent and it flowed under a small footbridge into a pool before soaking away through the pebble-and-sand beach like small streams often do. Not for them, the grandness of estuaries and tidal waters.
A look in the pool confirmed the presence of trout, so I got my tackle out BoD1According to the terms of the Geneva Comedy Convention of 1887, in any story about honeymooners with fishing involved this remark is mandatory. and with a "worm and one-shot" rig and my rod in my hand BoD2According to the same convention, this is not mandatory, but I couldn't resist. , whipped out a small trout of a couple of ounces first cast. Which was my only success. Despite my best efforts for about an hour, I couldn't persuade another fish to take a bait. I tried no shot, smaller hooks, bits of worms, fishing off and behind the bridge. Not a nibble. Just goes to show, that once they're spooked, they're spooked. Yes, I really did take fishing tackle on my honeymoon. And worms.
I'd kinda forgotten this trip, until pulled to the surface by some random conversation reminder. This was an 'up-and-to-the-right' semi-conductor company’s sales beano, a new experience for me. The hotel, the Trianon Palace1 Boulevard de la Reine, 78000 Versailles, France* in Versailles, was up-market enough to make ‘JAFH’ seem harsh.
|The hotel, or a bit of it||The 'Avenue de Trianon' before breakfast-time.||Yer actual 'Palace of Versailles'...||...and looking the other way...|
I recall my room number, onze-quarante, that we had fine cuisine in the hotel one night, which was completely forgettable and that on the second evening we all trooped out to a regular restaurant for dinner. There I had a poached smoked haddock on a sauerkraut bed followed by créme caramel, both sublime.
When I naively asked the VP of sales if he was at all interested in the product, he curtly told me that it could be peanut brittle as far as he was concerned, sales were sales. Sure. The room’s TV had free seedy porn, sad on many levels. The Palace of Versailles’ gardens were wonderful, I slipped around the near reaches pre-breakfasts, the ornamental ponds held carp and goldfish.
All very enlightening. I recall absolutely nothing about the products or the presentations of them. Zero. It’s an Ozymandias thing. 'Up-and-to-the-right' and over the edge.
|'Bassin de Neptune'||'Bassin du Dragon'||'Bassin de Neptune'|
* ...the hotel has Palace of Versailles views, Michelin-starred dining, and classic luxury meet on the edge of Louis XIV's royal domain. Built in 1907, our hotel is tucked between the Palace of Versailles and the Grand Trianon, amid centuries-old trees and rolling gardens. Spa Guerlain boasts 2,800 square meters of relaxation, with a sunlit Grecian-inspired pool.
January 1997. Lake ArrowheadWhere well-off Americans go for winter Ca. OK, so the lake was frozen around the edges, but really, could have tried harder.
|Lake Arrowhead itself. It's not actually frozen over, but does have a fringe of ice.||An arty shot of one of the pines behind the chalet||Just a snowy shot.|
In LA ‘somewhere’, the first night hotel's breakfast was the most amazing scrambled eggs with finely chopped peppers and a smidgen of chilli. Never had anything as good before or since.
I had thought the Lake Arrowhead spectacular was '96, but it couldn't have been as the applications guy hadn't joined us in '96 and we ribbed him about having to put snow chains on 'as he was the apps guy'. I know. The best thing about this sales meeting? The inter-chalet snowball fights, during which I acquired the name 'lefty'...
20th March 1997. Paignton. Bloody Geraniums. The MD and myself stayed here in passing, some big meeting involving VITO's*. The place was handily near the town centre and the sea, but was a thicket of scented geraniums, not that I mind those per se. However the owner was just ‘too attentive’. My travelling companion was sure at one point he appeared from a wardrobe. Or the cupboard under the stairs. One of those. Rum, very rum.
* "Very Important Top Officer". From a painfully extrovert sales seminar, horrible acronym, surprisingly good strategy, if it was slightly tempered.
January 1998. I recall this day too well. I was on a two-day sales-training course in Bristol, which was execrable even on its own merits. This was my own fault as I asked for sales training. There were two engineers working as technical salesmen amongst 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.
A second stay in the oddest B&B I've ever encountered, right off the seafront and overrun with scented geraniums. The landlord reminded me of the housekeeper in 'Sir Henry at Rawlinson End', and appeared to burst out of cupboards to ask if everything was OK. It was late in the summer, just past 'the season' but the lights were still up. I took the old carp rod, the Cardinal 40, a piece of supermarket mackerel and so spent several wind-swept hours float-fishing off the end of the old harbour wall, by the light of the sodium lamps. It was calm, cool, smelt of old nets, long-gone catches and was as refreshing a good pint of beer after a day's walking. Just because I could. Nothing took the bait...so back to the geraniums. The creeping oddity overtook me by morning and eschewing breakfast, I paid and bolted. I never went back.
|The picture of the Paington lights I took on the evening. Lights on, no-one about, late season then.||The Old Harbour, Paignton, in February 2015. Where, oddly, Mrs AA and I stayed a stone's throw from the old Nortel buildings, a place I must have been a score-and-ten times back in the day.|
At a Santa Clara sales-beano in 2010, I sat with Trevor who also stayed there the first time I did. He still swore the guy hid in cupboards and leapt out to 'check everything was OK' and we laughed about it skIn a "Wouldn't it be funny if he was a serial killer ha-ha?", "Yes, ha-ha", kind of way., but it wasn't really funny. Bloody geraniums.
August 1999. Ottawa, The Westin HotelJAFH in truth. opposite the The Rideau Canal''Black and green bass are as plentiful here as pollywogs in a rain barrel.'' quote from ''The Picturesque Rideau,'' 1898.. Stayed for two days and saw bass, pike and large carp in the weed, took a jog along the path opposite the hotel to see them. This was a mistake. I had a day off as well. Duh.
Good Geoff GGThere was an 'Evil Geoff'. This latter was a devious Machiavellian type who would rather manipulate you into something, even if he could have just asked. Like many of his ilk, he had no idea he was actually the 'bad guy'. It was Mrs. AA who came up with the naming scheme. 'Good Geoff' was a terrific chap and taught me a great deal. It was unjust that when he retired, his wife died less than a year later, breaking him for a time. suggested we take the train from Ottawa to Vancouver. Money was tight at the time and it would have cost several hundred dollars we could have barely afforded, but I still regret not taking that train.
August 1999. Pan Pacific HotelNot JAFH, my house could fit in the front lobby., Vancouver. It's on the seafront. It could not have been closer to the sea. Three days too. Ah well. Not that it mattered, as the jog 'that was a bad idea' was the last straw that broke my inguinal wall. So I got a blue-light tour of Vancouver en route to the nearest hospital (my expenses note '24-Aug-99, Hospital Out Patients Vancouver'). This meant my bags were carried by my colleagues and it is perhaps best I do not mention the manager who suggested I might stay on, rather than go straight home. Hint for all managers: the right thing to do is offer to fly someone home right away, otherwise you are, quite rightly, despised for ever. Some trip. Good Geoff had his credit card cloned and we were at the airport when it became clear the boss had got his dates one day wrong...he found a hotel (in Richmond) while we sat in terse silence and our extra day was spent watching "The Thirteenth Warrior" (so obviously 'Beowulf') and eating Chinese food. Two of did us anyway. Some people would have flat out admitted an error and apologised.
July 2000. Fly me from the Loon. The braying ar*e co-opted me into full-on technical support, so, with a sound notion that I would not be refused too much, I suggested some proper product training. So back to Vancouver BC. Burnaby, strictly speaking.
One evening I opted out of the 'Irish pub' across the way, citing a sniffle. Jim said "I’ve known you six months and you've always been a bit ill." I realised he was right; I'd had full-on 'flu at Christmas, utterly knocked sideways for weeks and the immune system was still half-empty. There was a fine pawn shop down the road and I hoovered up some Bob Seger CD’s and the very underrated 'Coverdale • Page'.
The trip back to the airport was far faster than anticipated and on checking in, was asked if I would like to catch the plane leaving in 35 minutes, some two hours and 35 minutes before my allotted tube. I was escorted at a fast clip to the already warming-up plane, to join the other eleven passengers. I had a row of bulkhead seats to myself, at least two chicken meals and all the choc-ices a man can reasonably eat (three). Doesn't happen every day.
October 2000. Firedance. Munich, the new treadmill. The current team and I circled each other warily until we established I wasn't a threat. Otherwise, same old same old, but much much nicer people. On the last day I found some more Gothard CD's in a German rock shop. At the airport I found out the 3rd and 4th albums were disappointing. Ah well. I did witness one of the greater sociopath humiliations I've ever seen though. Lovely.
November 2000. Edinburgh. Visiting our man in Scotland. This involved forays on both sides of the border and in truth I don't think we ever made a penny north of the border, but this was no reflection on our rep. who was a fine fellow. It seemed to be that we ought to have presence there, even if it made no money at all. Odd idea.
22nd November 2000. Bunratty Castle. A gratuitous entry which gets a nod just for the views from the bridge up the Ralty River and a view of Durty NellysThe Original Durty Nellys, Bunratty, Ireland which you have to vist at least once just because of the name. It's hereIt's here. Still..
|Bunratty Castle itself||Durty Nelly's and the bridge||Durty Nelly's and the bridge again, but with added sunshine|
|Looking upstream of the Ralty River||Looking upstream of the Ralty River|
We drove across Ireland from Dublin, the trip book-ended by nights in Hedigans Guest House (in Dublin); I have no idea why this was better than me flying to Shannon or Cork. We had lunch at a roadside cafe which served regular food, shepherds pie with cabbage and carrots, it was really very good. Then it rained and as night came we drove to the strains of Annie Lennox and it all seemed rather otherworldly. Must have been some customer visits, cannot remember those at all. Probably not important.
February 2001. Some hotel in Philadelphia. I barely recall the hotel, but do recall the pictured water around it, which had fish, not that fishing was allowed. I fancy it was a nature preserve. This was a magnetic component principal's beano and I felt rather shown off, as a shiny new technical toy, so the glory reflected. The boss wanted to go shopping together when he was wearing a bright orange sweater and looked like a space-hopper. I ran for it. Figuratively. Mostly. I bought a variety of bits and bobs, a small multi-tool pliers thingy and a tiny blue LED torch. Still got them. Night-time tour of Philly including the places used in "The Sixth Sense" which I hadn't seen at that time. Then onto Palm Springs...
|Just another feckin' hotel||Might have fish. Might not.||Might have fish. Might not.||Might have fish. Might not.||Might have fish. Might not.|
February 2001. Palm Springs. This was my first try of Corona-and-Lime, nflAs opposed to Corona with 'NFL'... 'No Feckin' Lime'. a taste I have retained. I roomed with the company 'Cheeseman' which very nearly resulted in foul murder. Otherwise the usual round of boorish sales blokes trying to dominate you and then immediately changing to 'toady-mode' when the next rung up came into the room. Yrch. We did some utterly useless 'team building' exercises, repI worked with a rep. in Portugal some 11 years later and we both recalled the event and its stupidity and cupidity, but not each other. then I surprised a few folk by demonstrating the results of a miss-spent youth on cliffs, various, by being quickest up a climbing wall. Half the hotel's rooms were in chalets arranged around a golf course, there were lemon trees everywhere, their evening scent was just the best thing about the trip, except possibly one roof-top breakfast when the air was so clear you would swear the mountains were just over the road. And there were actual live hummingbirds. There were fish in the lake behind the main courtyard though, I fed them breakfast rolls when no-one was looking.
|Breakfast was the best time of the day.||Breakfast was the best time of the day.|
On the first day we were given a traditional 'rain-makers', i.e. a hollow stick with sand in it. As part of the rah-rah session on day one, we all used them dutifully and vigorously, although it is possible that some of us jigged them with a motion suggesting we suspected onanism in the speakers and that we had a low opinion of them as a result. On the last day it rained, we were told it was the first time for twelve years.
|The lake and its slyly fed fish||The lemon tree outside my chalet||I would prefer to be able to forget this flight|
We only just got on the last little plane to LAX, flying through thunder and lightening, shades of gremlins, I swear I saw the wing struck. The 'Cheeseman' was so panicky I really really hoped I was going to have to knock him out to stop him being a danger to the rest of us. Alas not. Our hold-luggage, storm-split, arrived three weeks later, Cheeseman's with a smashed bottle of Crème De Menthe inside. How we smirked.
March 2001. Anaheim. The 2001 OFC was perched on the apogee of the Telecomms bubble. The show was brash, busy, and loaded to the teeth with interesting technology, swim-suited ladies and really rather fine free gifts. Not for the first time I wiled away the second half of the flight watching light-pockets below, imagining towns, homes and lives. It was three long days, started by the taxi driver getting lost (how does anyone taxi in LA and NOT know where Disney World Anaheim is?) and a taxing effort to get on with the boss. Nothing whatsoever to so with the price of fish.
18th April 2001. Dublin. Again. Just Dublin. Four appointments we had necessitating a circular trip around the city. Of these four, exactly 'none' of the appointed turned up. Zero. I still cannot decide whether this was because it was one of those things or that the appointments were never made in the first place. Paid the same either way I guess.
26th June 2001. Arundel. This was on my way home, one of the more thankless return journeys and I saw a sign...so pulled in and paid. I was supposed to be working, but honestly, I thought "Feck it, Steve Waugh is batting at one end". My first ever digital camera (FinePix1400Zoom) did a startling shutter-speed job, in these pictures you can, if you look hard, see the ball. Hot, sunny, phone off, coffee in hand, just great.
|Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting||Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting||Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting|
|Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting||Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting||Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting|
|Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting||Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting||Arundel: MCC vs Australia. Australia batting|
Sure, this is not fishing. Or working. Sue me.
2nd August 2001. Dublin. Again again again. Ah, one I remember. A Dublin telecoms customer had a problem with a Clock and Data Recovery (CDR) IC and I went out and back on the day, reading the data sheet on the plane. It turned out they'd referenced the clock to itself via another IC. This doesn't generally work well. Bristol airport I think, recall landing at almost 45° to the runway, certainly quite a bang when the wheels hit the tarmac.
October 2001. Amsterdam. Some optical components show from memory ('ECOC'?). We took an evening boat tour of the canals which was nice, although the camera struggled to adjust and its self asserted exposure times left twenty other shots with streaks of lights or blurs due to the movement of the boat. Ah well. I have only the vaguest memory of the show itself, a blurry recollection of catching buses to the show from the hotel and no recall of the hotel at all, although Amsterdam Airport is fresh still in my mind, but then I've been through it many times and it makes Heathrow look like the tired old set-up-and-fleece-shop that it really is.
|The boat itself||night lights||night lights||Might have fish. Might not.|
17th March 2002. Anaheim. Again. The LAX taxi driver got lost (again)...the OFC show itself was oddly muted, the free gifts were cheaper and further between, a harbinger of the telecom bubble's near demise, while last September’s events still cast a long shadow. On the 21st we flew from John Wayne airport to San Francisco and for the second time we were pulled out of the boarding passengers for random searches. Soldiers with non-ornamental M16's stood at the end of every check-in point and the smart policy was simply to go right along. Our suitcases were opened and the contents spread out in a public area, perhaps not strictly necessary, but I've never been more pleased to be one of the people who don't strip their hotel rooms of consumables and towels. The Boss, not so much. As we were singled out (twice) I suspect authorities had little faith in UK security at this time.
We saw little of San Francisco, but I at least got out and walked the urban areas by the hotel, spending too long watching for signs of life in a deep gulley with a creek at the bottom (in LA I tried to walk from the hotel to the nearest steakhouse and the highway police pulled up and, after realising I was a Brit, in the nicest possible way told me to take a cab next time). Long trip, pleased to go home.
2nd May 2002. Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hawaii. In the Big Island hotelReally. Hawaii on business., sharing with the Old Mann we had an impromptu 'team bonding', our custom was to fly out cheap duty-free gin and scotch for those expenses that wouldn't sign, then plunder the minibar for cheap mixers. Two speakers and a laptop later, the balcony thrummed to 'Hammer to Fall' et al. and we let our collective hair down, to the extent that the lizards-in-residence scuttled for it and several other balconies joined in...
The principal had booked this from the previous year after Palm Springs, but it turns out that the lines cannot always keep going 'up and towards the right'. The deposit was so large it was cheaper to keep the dates than cancel it. My employer had to pay for the flights though. There's a twelve hour time difference, so I rang my children at 7am to wish them goodnight and sent them pictures of the fish. Breakfasts were tumbling piles of fresh strawberries, melon and pineapple pieces, consumed with dark coffee. There was an inevitable hula-hula display and a fake pig-roast. Meh.
|Big Island, work work work...||This was the 'canal' between the hotel buildings. There were barracuda in it, they make pike look like gudgeon.||Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...|
I would have bought or hired any fishing rod I could get, but there was none to be had. I had an opportunity to catch a barracuda, or more strictly speaking, to hook a barracuda and watch it strip all the line off and disappear. Still.
(A barracuda is what you get when a short-tempered pike is working late in the lab and gets bitten by a radioactive gudgeon. Then it’s strapped to a missile.)
|Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...|
|Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...||Big Island, work work work...|
On the last day at the hotel it rained for the first time in a decade. Again. Some of us were looking sidelong at the Old Mann, suspecting him of being a rain-god. Or something. Anyhoo, we hired a car for the long way around to the airport and stopped in Kapaau, where, shimmering heat and silence but for the insects, the boss and I went into a cool low-lit art gallery full of Victoria's languorous mermaids, kelpies and carp which were wonderful to behold. A lady appeared, as if by magic, herself assumed and standing a shade too close said it was nice to see a man wearing colours, my purple T., some kind of cotton wrap suggested it was the sole garment worn. My limbic brain somersaulted, screamed silently at the boss to find some other conversation to barge into, not for the first time, while I was hypnotised by a languid sensuality which made the silence of the street seem like a bottomless pit.
|So wondrous, so magical, so buy one... ©Victoria Holman||So wondrous, so magical, so buy one... ©Victoria Holman||So wondrous, so magical, so buy one... ©Victoria Holman|
To this day I don't know how I resisted buying a painting. Back out in the heat and street, I grabbed iced tea, too sweet, putting the too-calm gallery out of my mind. This didn't work. I didn't mind.
11th August 2002. More missed fish in Andover. A two week jaunt to learn techy stuff, starting in San Diego which was blisteringly hot, dry and busy. Then a second week in Andover Ma., compounded by the 'save the company $50' madness of a connecting flight across the 'States, which took a whole day of my life, half which was in 'Tiny Rainy Airport, Somemidstate USA'. Nice.
There was a perfectly good pond behind the Holiday Inn, (4 Highwood Dr, Tewksbury, MA.It's strange how that which is so ubiquitous in one place is a valuable thing in another.), with bass in it. I know this because I saw them. Then there was Lake Winnipesaukee, MA. (Meredith BayIt was very very hot and humid) with more bass and other fish and I watch a lad on a tiny jetty try and catch them, while envying him his fishing rod. I was, in the end, there for the whole day due to a git. Said git dropped me and a colleague, promising to be back in a few hours but took the whole day. There was a strong suspicion "that was the plan all along and screw us". My colleague, one of the most affable folk I've ever worked with, blew his top. In the interim, we found the place was pretty much shut on a Sunday and in one of the few open shops the lady serving insisted against all my denials that I was "Australian, as I had an Australian accent and she knew what one sounded like". And she was right, how could I know?. The 'said 'affable colleague' steered me towards the door as I was beginning to get to the "You want to read my feckin' passport?" stage. Small town USA. I took part in this idiocy for money, I wonder why sometimes.
|Lake Winnipesaukee||Lake Winnipesaukee||Lake Winnipesaukee|
|Lake Winnipesaukee||It's a fish honest it is.||Lake Winnipesaukee|
November 2003. Munich. Electronica. Barely recall the show, but do recall the trams, the hotel room, which I might have rewired a bit to get the modem socket working, and confirmed the truth behind the braying a*se situation. That aside, I fancy it was a large waste of time.
The Ythan Hotel, Newburgh, Ellon, later the 'Newburgh Inn'. I shipped myself here via FurryBootToon airport and a lift from a suppler. I know we got there very late, there was nothing to eat except peanuts and McCallan, so I had two packets of the former and two of the latter. My ‘host’ was under duress and considerable dudgeon. Twat. I rose early and followed ‘Beach Road’ to its foreshadowed conclusion, then pondered the three hours of familiar early morning daylight on the sands while watching the grey seas and breathing the North Sea air. If I'd taken a rod, any rod, I could have fished for flatties at the least. I ambled back, bought a paper for the crossword and headed back for the fully-cooked. I’ve stayed in worse hotels, breakfast was OK, the company, less so.
Long trip, made longer by half-way stops. Reached Tampa at midnight then took one turn too early off route 275, took a right onto route 574, knowing it would cut back across to route 4, then onto route 75 and straight up...not that I’d have stopped in the neighbourhood I passed through.
Half-way; a lay-by for the call of nature, opened the door and the hot thick air enveloped my face like a warm flannel and the wild-night-life provided a wall of noises. It’s 100 miles to the hotel and I was counting them down, keeping myself awake, arriving at 1:30am. I went to the wrong hotel, then the right one and collapsed. Technically Monday...
It wasn’t a long commute to the office, but I got used to 98ROCK (“Tampa Bay's ROCK Station") on the way in and on the way back. And sometimes in the car park for a bit. There are definitely days when I prefer to float along to the dulcet tones of 'Camel' or Jethro Tull' but some situations just require more Sturm und Drang. Sadly, I can’t stream 98ROCK from here...I tried, but via VPN...it might work...
I endured the hotel's eggs and ‘breakfast meat’ for two days then took to the en routeStarbucks for a couple of days, then found a quieter one in the other direction and a large Americano and a couple of muffins de jour was my breakfast for the duration.
On my week-end, I ought to have ‘done stuff’, but I was bushed, so opted for movies and a take-out pizza. I looked into doing some fishing, which is well regulated, but it appeared I should have planned further in advance. On Sunday I went to a recommended flea-market, never before seen guns for sale at a flea market. Bought two nice old preserving jars for Mrss. AA, got them both home intact in the hold-luggage. Hah.
I bought cheap Levis and shirts at the Paddock Mall and an embroidered hat for the boy. I tried a few places for evening meals then settled on the Outback Steakhouse, rather enjoying being able to eat steak just with green vegetables. The next best place (the best deal in town according to Charles, who bizarrely knew Blandford Forum well) was the Chinese buffet just before the turn-off, which had everything and roast potatoes, although I eschewed the included soda and stuck with green tea, two pots of.
Halloween came and the office cake situation was quite something. When I went to the mall to return a shirt, the place was in full trick’n’treat with a crocodile of children snaking into and out of every outlet round the whole place. Didn’t know that was a thing. I got a pizza and bottle of wine and headed back to JAFAH. On the last day-but one I bought an industrial sized vat of coffee for all. A state trooper walked across the car-park while I waited, he could have been the model for Robert Patrick’s T-1000.
|Dulles, coffee and walk-about||The late night arrival @JAFAH. Honestly all the rooms are the same everywhere. If I showed one from Finland, you'd be unable to tell the difference.||The office, suitably anonomised|
|The Mall. Any Mall. All of them.||The Mall. Any Mall. All of them.||The Flea-Market. No guns in shot. As it were.||Across the hotel car park I think.|
|The excellent Chinese buffet||The excellent Chinese buffet's roasties||The Mall I think. Not 100% on this one.|
|The en route Starbucks, where one gets a gallon of coffee at 7am.||How to do Halloween properly||How to do Halloween properly|
Back to Tampa in the daylight, seemed a much shorter trip, a trick, but 90 minutes of 98ROCK. Yeah...and that rare thing, pleased to see Heathrow...every time we went around. I hate it when that happens. JAFA.
Thirteen days. Seemed Longer.
28th October 2007. Just Trying to be Quiet. I've noticed a theme amongst angling writers, that for some, angling has been a strong support during 'interesting times'. I'm included. It's funny how things turn out (everyone says that but nobody laughs).
About five years ago I experienced what some call a 'life changing event'. Leaving out the details, it was one of those things that knocks you for six at the time. Then you think you're over it. But you're not. Grim (I'm fond of the word 'grim' - for me it's onomatopoeic). This coincided with a malicious redundancy (have you noticed when folk say "it's just business" it's almost always personal?). I was left with, shall we say, a certain amount of residual anger lashing around in my head. Like a live high voltage cable in a high wind. Not a good thing, especially for those nearby.
Eventually, I did what many have done in troubled circumstances. I got my hibernating rod out of its corner and went fishing. By a quiet Dorset lake on a bitter, grey, near-zero January day, four hours fishing in weak-tea coloured water brought to land a dozen roach, on or around the 1lb mark. Not a big deal, a fish every twenty minutes, but the pleasure it brought me held back the demons. Serendipitously, oddly, the in-parallel change of career allowed me to throw a lot of time into a website for a local cause, more of the current earthed, while achieving something worthwhile. It all helped and I picked up my rod more often and eased back into some sort of normality. With my new web design skills I started scribbling in the anonymity of the virtual world, letting off some steam on how angling had changed since I'd last fished in earnest. More stored charge drained away. It all helped.
When you're stuck on a cliff, there really is only one way to climb and that's up. I say this with some authority, as the younger version of me was winched of a cliff in Cyprus by the regular 'WhirlwindIt's a helicopter from the olden days. This one was bright yellow.' coastal patrol of the base. I received, shall we say, 'a firm lesson' on the perils and consequences of diddling about on cliffs that have long drops onto sharp rocks. I spent the next month in mortal fear of my parents finding out. If they did, they never said. So as I said, upwards is the only option, however painful and slow. Angling has been a firm support for me in the last few years and I've enjoyed Waterlog and its forum and a made a new friend or two, all of which remind me that there is plenty to enjoy and that 'being there' is the point. Eventually the mind quietens. Then, at the end of this fingertip scramble, unbidden, although not entirely unsought, is a return to the work I thought I'd left for good (accepting I have to work at all), with enough of the best aspects of previous employments rolled into one.
All this makes it sound like the fishing rod was my only salvation. Chaucer was not far wrong with: "What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing." (For some reason I thought Izaak Walton said this, but I stand corrected by 'google'.) I bet Izaak knew it though. 'Permission to fish', freely given is worth more than money. Does this mean fishing is now off the menu? I don't think so! I may have a little less time to fish in the next few years, but with a new appreciation, I'll take my opportunities more gratefully. I may even buy that piece of cane. Now, when I say 'may'...
Ocala, Fl. October 28th 2007.
|The lap-top, the 'ribbit' frogs and the Yellowtail Shiraz||'The Alabama Trick Shad' - possibly the best name for a lure ever.||the ribbit frogs|
3rd December 2007. Lisbon. A meet'n'greet, including a posh and late evening fish supper. Rather outshining the caff was the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries). I also took a picture of two nervous lobsters in tanks. I didn't have the lobster.
|Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries)||Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries)||Fishy Restaurant, Lisbon|
Another place where I really would've liked more time to take the scenery.
10th January 2008. Round Pond. It was decidedly odd, that the first customer trip out after the 'life changing event', the next week in fact, was to a 'hopeful', possibly grant-hunting, development idea not 400 yards from my old home in Hazlemere. Very strange. I looped back past Round Pond on the way back, not that it was really, but the pull of the familiar, doncha know? When I lived up the road from the pond there wasn't a "No Fishing" sign, I caught quite a few smallish roach and rudd, stunted tiddlers like most old ponds. This is the natural state of most unmanaged waters, and those were winkled out of winter-dark afternoons in the Christmas break. Pretty though...
|Round Pond, Cobham Heath||Round Pond, Cobham Heath|
|Round Pond, Cobham Heath||Round Pond, Cobham Heath|
Slightly dodgy pictures, it was drizzling and the lens and rangefinder got wet-spotted and I didn't notice that until I'd got home.
5th March 2008. Hanover. Ten relentless days for CEBIT 2008, a welter of driving, booth assembly, booth duty, long days on my feet talking with customers, prospects, suspects and actual, eating too late and too much, beers, food, bed, 7am up again, five times in a row, disassembly, loading, driving home, Sunday 'only just' am arrival...phew. More or less in that order. Plus it was cold (well, it's Hanover in March).
|The digs||The digs||Tram station, yes, cold and windswept||Tram station, yes, cold and windswept|
14th May 2008. East of Omaha. Ten-to-midnight on Wednesday when I pull into the M27 services, as five minutes previously the "Italian for coffee" from Terminal 2 had worn off and I prefer to be wide awake when I get home, rather than the alternative.
The car park is eerie, deserted, but I get my fix and stand in the middle of the park with the soft south west wind blowing in my face and drink half the coffee, relax and put the yellow lamps at the far end out of focus. I'm almost at the end of a welter of six hundred miles of driving, five short-haul flights and half a dozen discussions on workings and fine details of networks, OFDM and communications, all of which started at 3am Monday. Boarding my last flight tonight, I looked down the plane to see a row of dark suits on one side only, like the black pawns on a board. All trying to be the most important, all the same as a result. Not for the first time I'm glad not to wear the pin-stripes.
I draw in a long breath, shut my eyes and fill in the space in front of me with black water, ruffled by the warm wind. The eyelid-filtered flash of headlights, still on their way home, becomes the gentle flicker of a candle lamp, my night fishing guide, placed behind the bag, keeping even that feeble star from the curious fish. I lean back on the chair, rod across my knees and check the bale-arm and line by feel and listen to the foil rustle in time with the wind, waiting for an off-beat scratch or a pull on my fingers.
I drink more coffee, the only thing real in both worlds; listen to the water on the reeds, the wind in the trees and the occasional sucking of the carp. A few shadows ripple across the cane from the flame's light and I sink into the deep calm night. Eventually my heart speeds up again, a caffeine signal flare and I resurface to the grey asphalt and painful pale sodium lights, put the cup in the bin and get back in the car. Thursday.
On the road again. Turn the page.
20th June 2008. L'Etang de La MorinaisMike's perfect French hideaway. So. A long story and a long trip around France which finished with a fish...
Friday: 3:55pm almost an hour of fishing in the wind at the north end of the lake. I'm laying-on in Point Parfait, three-four feet of water a bit under one of the trees to the right. Mike showed me around and I agreed with his assessment, the windward end is the end to be, carp so often wind-herded, especially when the wind and water are warm. If I've had any action though I've missed it. There are fry in the margins with one or two larger fish about and there are very suspicious sucking noises from time to time from my far right. On cue a fish crashes on the opposite corner. I'd put a bit of corn behind the platform always worth a try and a crayfish sidled in about thirty minutes later ad made off with some of it. It's not returned since. More sucking and clooping behind which is good.
The sun and the wind are in my face (OK, I'm half tucked under a tree some shade but it's receding as the sun lowers. A small fish, perhaps ½Kg mMetric units, it's in France... has jumped twice in line with my float perhaps fifteen meters further out. We'll see. I've not got my hopes up, you have to enjoy the waiting as well.
|Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais|
When I got here, via, Caen (a), Le Mans, Orleans (lovely little motel, terrific plat de jour, and a good red, still have the bottle, interesting customer), the 'FuturoscopeJust for the hotel you understand' near customer(b) (don't ask, regular hotel, if I recall, breakfast in a Casino) at Poitiers, then Rennes (and its 'interesting' traffic system), perhaps finally here by 2pm, I stood on Point De Chasse and took in the atmos. The 'small technology' rang. It was 'French Customer (a)', the TD of, who'd assembled his team and put me on speaker-phone to give me a piece of his mind, as I'd advised French customer (b) that their design [designed unknown to me by 'French Customer (a)'] was under par in several respects. Unwise to put me on speaker-phone in front of his minions, it didn't go well for him. Then I turned the STsmall technology off. I went and got the left-over half-a-bottle of red from Poitiers.
Saturday: I've got corn and cockles on and the maize supplied is too hard to side hook, being soaked only. I might rig up a hair later (a 'true' hair not an 'anti-eject') if I fancy trying some. My float dips fast and I pick the rod up. Nothing happens. Huh. A kingfisher flies over me and off to the left bank heading for the boathouse. OK then. I put my hand on the rod and thirty seconds tick by then I strike and there's solid resistance for a moment giving the 2lb t/c and 12lb line something to hope for but it morphs into dogged tinca, 5lb 13oz in the net, so 3½lb. Not bad, never bad. Not the plan, but all tench are good.
|Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais|
So the kingfisher was right, I wait some more, not a blank then. The 1lb carp jumps again ten yards off the float, 4pm and the activity is still here. Something seems about to happen, no reason silly as it sounds. I mark the float's position against a crack in the edge of the platform in case. Another cloop from the far bank, still tense twenty minutes later. What looked like a small perch has just chased into the small fry lurking in the space behind the platform. With more time I'd fish generally at least once. A bigger fish just barrel rolled in front of me, I'll give it to 5:30pm and rig a mussel or two, for thirty minutes. I've quietly made a new trace up, I might not use it yet. Hard to shake off the fish feeling. A very big fish has just jumped to my left fifty yards out. A big double maybe. Aha. I re-bait for the forty-five minutes before tea. Big fish rolls under the trees five yards to my left...
|Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||Fishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais||JAA at L'Etang de La Morinais|
Horrible early drive to the ferry and the new roads on the way didn't appear on the navigation technology, so it thought I was driving through fields...which was interesting.
23rd July 2008. Athens. Three sales leads came in from around Athens... "Better go to Greece then." said the boss. Very very hot. Athens was over 30° in the shade. Blistering and my first appointment, in the middle of the city, was interesting but a bust, let us call it 'networking'. The receptionist, channelling Betty Arvaniti, was wearing clothes that appeared to be two sizes too small but looked cucumber-cool, no mean feat in this heat, walked me to the hotel they'd booked for me, which was kind. Even kinder was the fruit basket she'd arranged - that fruit was ice cold and I ate every piece - the morning gig was a small router company who didn't quite seem to 'get' the technology, although I saw fine views from the top of the tower and the last gig was more promising (although it came to nothing in the end). The owner of the last wouldn't hear of me eating alone in a hotel and insisted on taking me to a small fish restaurant 'somewhere by the sea' where we sat under a vined pergola, dined on red mullet with samphire and drank red wine. It felt to me like a meal of the Cyprus of my youth. Saw some fishing. No really. I yearned for the hand-lined wrasse of my younger self.
|...I can still taste that chilled fruit||If you don't recognise this I can't help you any more||I don't know what this is...|
|The post prandial stroll||The post prandial stroll||The post prandial stroll|
|Told you there was fishing...||..there are many worse ways to spend an evening||Even managed a picture of a float...|
On day one, a casual cast at a patch of bubbles from the Point De Chasse resulted in this grass-carp, 15lb from memory. I'd only taken the Chapman 550 down for an hour and if I'm honest that was more power than this fish needed. Like most such, it ran once and more or less gave up. I snapped it once and dropped it back in.
|The grass carp. Still think they look like mullet.||Just a nice picture||The float in the lake's unique water-colour.|
At L'etang de La Morinais, we were trying for a tench or carp, and I windmilled in some loose feed. "You know Dad," said the BugAngler (aged 9 & 23/24ths), "you could flick bait in with a spoon and it would be much easier." Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings and all that.
|One of the fine roach||One of the fine tench|
You can flick a dozen grains of corn about 40 yards with a spoon, the wooden sort they have on ferries are good, but the plastic baby spoons are much better. You can get a big bit of kibble 50 yards. An ear of giant maize will go 60 yards. Live and learn. I carry a couple of spoons now. Plus, you don't get hemp and corn stuck in your ears when it bounces off the catapult handles.
10th August 2008. La Morinais. The last day. On the last day's dawn I take my tea and wander down to the platform, Point de Chasse, to look at the water one last time, it's a still blue morning with the promise of sun but the air still has a cold streak running through it. I wander on and at the next platform spot a bubbler about 30 feet out to the left. I stand motionless for a bit then sidle backwards off the boards and set off to collect the 'old' carp rod, still made up on the veranda from the previous evening's unsuccessful free-lining.
I collect corn, landing-net and the 'Hatangler', who was up, and we head back to the platform with a brief word of explanation. The ghillie waits with the net tucked by a convenient bush, I slither onto the boards, flick a few free offerings and cast. The bubbles stop. I wait...
The bubbles re-appear on the right of the swim, so I retrieve quietly, briefly consider the monograph on bubblers by the under-appreciated Mr. Sharman and cast to a yard in front of the new line's heading. I silently lay the rod down, sit on the grass next to the ghillie and we wait...and a few minutes later the line twitches, straightens and cuts across the water...
I take a long stride, pick up the rod, snap the bail and lift hard into hope, which responds with a swooshing leap in the shallow water, then runs 50 yards at full steam, pushing a roll of water in front. I request the services of the ghillie while the fish, now on a long line, heads harder right for a patch of lilies, obliging me to wind furiously to stay in touch...with disaster possible if not imminent, I whip the rod over to the right and pull hard and the fish, a good common, immediately changes direction and heads left. Then, more-or-less level with the platform fifteen yards out it capitulates. I loosen the clutch and pump the fish into the net via a few protesting lunges, the ghillie doing a fine job. A glorious common, 18½lb. The way to end a holiday. A snap, then off to re-tell the story and break fast, then the trail to the ferry, via the extraordinary Mont St. Michel.
|Dawn at La Morinais||Dawn at La Morinais|
|the early morning send-off||The quite extraordinary Mont St. Michel|
3rd September 2008. Turku, Finland. Missed opportunity, that's the Aura River. I say that, but anything sharp like a 'fish-hook' wouldn't have got through security. I recall changing flights at Helsinki, then driving up-country through snow, to a customer who seemed to have invited us to visit for the sole reason of telling us they'd used the other people's product. Eh.
|Just Another Fricking Hotel and the ephemera of the turnpike engineer.||I liked this.|
|The view from the JAFH's room||The view from the JAFH's room||The view from the JAFH's room|
17th October 2008. Three Days Not a Million Miles from L'etang de Morinais. I had the good luck (sure 'luck'...) to wangle a road trip to Rennes in October. ‘Work done’, I arrive on Friday evening*, managing a couple of hours in quite wonderful light, although the fish were elsewhere. I don't mind and enjoy tinned cassoulet and soft red wine, nabbed along with other essentials, from a supermarché somewhere near Redon. The last hour is pleasantly extended with bank-side philosophy and good whiskey. Cheers Mike.
18th October 2008. Saturday, I get up with the sun, take bacon-and-Pain-Rustique-sandwiches and some fresh coffee (have coffee pot will travel), noted the bottom by the boathouse had long tracks din the bed casing by fishing in the night ripping up the ground-bait, spook two bubblers, then sit at the lake's south-east corner, the sun rising over my shoulder and watch the island loom out of the mist ahead, a personal Marie Celeste. I bait up a big hemp patch on my left and free-line a big paste bait in front of me. With the Avon, 'light', 6lb, crow quill and fish cockle or corn over the hemp for the roach, carp in absentia and catch one of 8oz.
As the mist clears, I find myself focussed on the crow's orange tip piercing the dark water, which trembles a fraction as the float starts, the ripples frozen for an instant, the point-of-impact pattern on a piece of dark flint, ineptly struck.
|...the sun rising over my shoulder...||...and watch the island loom out of the mist ahead...||As the mist clears...|
I've tried twice to make flint tools and both attempts left me with no more than lacerations and a strong memory of the fire-smell from badly struck stone. The first attempt, in Norfolk, ended with dark shards-cut fingers and is linked in my mind with Wickenpond. These days I'd 'google it', finding out how in a minute or two, or even buy arrowheads on fleabay. Men's oldest tools, traded on men's newest. Ha.
The float, becalmed by sunshine, switches sideways a quarter of an inch causing another nest of ripples in the smooth surface and I get a sudden insight. Space-time ripples are linked to mass but also to magnetism. Simply, if you moved an electromagnet with an alternating current in a coil, the mass is moving, so there must be ripples in space-time. Gravity to you. Aha.
My second coffee is delayed, cold and as I write a big fish swirls at 11 o'clock, 25 meters, close to the hemp patch. The float sinks to the tip, the strike begets a short tearing run of five heart-in-mouth yards, a Morinais monster on the light gear, oh my word, no sooner is the fear crystallised, it melts into a sinuous sandbag eel, which takes a little subduing, somewhere between 2-3lbs, broad wide-mouthed, a predator. I roll it in the folds of the landing net, lay it on its back, tweak out the hook, take a picture and then let it wend back into the water for another ten years. I chuckle to myself in the dappling sunlight and write it all down. Grasshopper mind.
|...focussed on the orange tip||...sinuous sandbag of an eel|
Bubbling over my bait now. At least the coffee is still hot...there's a thinly stretched air of expectancy, I flick out some floaters and soak a few in corn-liquor. You never know. Bubbles show in my bait patch. I wait. A couple more fish rise in the middle, which is good although these are distant, nearer the island. A green woodpecker lands a few feet away, watches me for a while then whirrs away down the path. A floater just went, right under the trees. Good stuff. I pour more coffee, miss a sitter on the float, then nab an 8oz roach, then another, 6oz, about 1pm. Lunch, tinned cassoulet and I eat it while watching free-lined corn by the boathouse. Back to the corner, more bait in, swap the free-lined paste for giant maize and corn, put a cockle on the float-rod.
Thought the hemp would be fizzing by now, a fish rises 45 meters off dead ahead, I watch a sun-lit thread of spider silk being blown across the lake, making a ripple on the water like a dorsal fin tip. The thread vanishes into the sky, wind-bourne, who knows how high? The afternoon orchestra is crows, yaffles field-fares, jays, long-tailed tits. At 4:20pm I put the '550The Chapman 550 up, 10lb mono, size 6, three cockles, one nib of corn for visibility. Might as well carp-fish with both rods. The sun's reflection is harsh in my eyes, even the hat can’t sort that.
I face slightly the other way, a kingfisher scoots past into the left-hand corner, I elect to take this as a good sign. The distant tap-tap-tap of the woodpecker continues...5:15pm. BEGBlack Earl Grey tea tea, paste on both rods. A big rise at 12 o'clock, 10 meters off, promising, another big 12 o'clock rise 50 meters off, kingfisher has gone on. I keep one eye on the float, the other on the foil. Kingfisher is halfway up the lake now, going by the diving noises. If the breeze persists thing may yet work out. The kingfisher, having looped the lake, zips past into the left corner, field-fares are working the hedge behind, the breeze strengthens putting a decent ripple on the water which I prefer. Something barges the float, making me start. L’Etang is not an easy water and is better for it. Two more rises at 11 o'clock, perhaps 50 meters, under the south bank. The float nudges again, and then there's another soft rise directly in front, perhaps 15 meters off...promising...I wait...
|Dead Calm.||...despite waiting and then watching the wonderful sunset.|
...but nothing else stirs the baits, despite waiting and then watching the wonderful sunset.
More cassoulet and soft red wine.
Dawn, 7am, Point De Chasse, mist covers the lake, it's clearing edgily, the island appears piecemeal. One slow bite on corn on the float, not carp-like, no fish resulting. No charge, no sudden thump. Despite yesterday's bait no sign of fish either. There's a growing medley of distant crows, barking dogs and gentle bird-song. After an hour I head back for yesterday's Pain Rustique well soaked in beaten egg then fried in butter, while it cooks I make a pot of Earl Grey tea. Consequently fish feel like a bonus. So I wait, watch the steam rise from my second cup and listen to the condensing mist pattering on furled leaves. Once or twice the foil on the Old Carp rod rattles about making me start, autumn roach chasing bait which is only small enough for their large eyes. There's an almost spectral rise some 50m off, then a cloop under the right hand tree. Four hours left and already I'm planning for next year's visit. There's a large fish rolling on the far side of the lake. Monotonic peals push through the mist and roll across the water, calling the faithful to prayer, I finish the tea, enjoy the autumn sun, there's another rise some 80m out. An egret glides out of the grey and wheels off to the other end, or perhaps another lake. Sunday in Normandy.
|...so park on Point De Chasse||'the hat helps to keep it off'||to next Autumn...|
No carp, three glorious days of tranquillity. I've realised why some anglers wear the hat with the wide brim. I reluctantly head for St. Malo. Here's to next Autumn.
* On Friday, I was stood on the Place des Epines with a glass of said red and a 'customer called'. Yesterday I visited a reseller near Poitiers (overnighting at a hotel in the Futuroscope) and they showed me their design for review. I suggested, as politely as one can, that it would work well, but the SNR might be +10dB better and for any future designs I'd be more than happy to review them. All very reasonable and pleasant. 'It turns out' the design was done by a 'consultancy', who took exception and the technical head rang me on speaker phone at 5:30pm on a Friday, to put me in my place in front of his team. It didn't work out well for him, I let him have his rant, explained that it wasn't their design, it was their clients (now) and although in future they would be welcome to avail themselves of my (free) design reviews. I ended the call then turned off the phone. And that was that.
22nd October 2008. Ziolona Gora Ephiphany. I'm sitting in an odd little hotel-room in the middle of Poland on one of the strangest trips to date, although my second here. The hotel receptionist needs calling to open the hotel, thankfully the 'driver' did the talking. I say 'driver', heavily built, crew-cut, fit looking, 'well cut' jacket and the casual confidence that characterises ex-servicemen. Behind the desk she had a black eye and a snot nosed boy-child clinging, peering fearfully at me from behind an over-thin jean leg. Hmm. I've got six or seven hours to kill with only biscuits and a kettle and half-way though a mountain of email, with runs down the stairs to the only wireless spot in the "dining room". I suddenly realise the club water I've joined is just wrong for me. I'm not sure why I did it, it's been a tough year, but I've been worn down by the impossibility of quiet when every other angler goes past you twice (or on one occasion four times) with barrows of gear. When the angler that cast to within 10 yards of me with at least 2oz of lead for the other bank shrugged and carried on when I said "Do you mind?" The fish that are not wind herded but lured by the sound of boilies fired, that have forgotten there are other foods. Where your rod is judged on the basis of it not having two matched triplets? Sod that.
I met some pleasant folk I should say, the floater fishing guy who always had a chat, the gent in a bivvie that just enjoyed the surroundings and offered me a brew as often as not (I note he was well away from the main thoroughfares) and the man who turned up at sunset one evening with the full pod to be sure, but lightly tackled and softly spoken and was there for the dusk and the bats whatever rig was on the end of his line. The bank-side gun emplacement rows of bivvies. Even if it cost me the yearly fee I resolved right there to never go again. It didn't, generously, grudgingly, but that wouldn't have changed my mind. They even had a carp match. I once chatted with a decamping carper and he'd spent three days in the same spot without a fish. Did he not think to move? The same gent showed me his fly rod, nothing heavy, but with a fluffy imitation dog biscuit. The irony of catching carp conditioned to eat totally unnatural dog biscuits by then using an artificial imitation, makes me smile.
In the morning the hotel didn't take credit cards, or the now seedy male receptionist didn't, despite the booking promise and I have to pay in Euros. I'm sure the driver could have 'sorted it', but I don't mind keeping the cards out of sight. Car hire companies won't let you hire cars in Germany and drive to Poland. So you have your customer hire a car and driver, then you pay them to drive you through miles of dark forests with thin tracks and wooden towers at the end and snatches of moss red brickwork, you imagine grim history, see first hand the grinding poverty of many of the smaller towns and villages, patched roofs, rusting cars and subsistence vegetable plots. It's not all plumbers. I trudge from the hotel to the customers', half a mile, cutting through a pine tree copse to avoid the drizzle, thinking of Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs.
I travelled a lot this Autumn, most weeks flying to Europe, usually failing to get any fishing in, but on one sunny day in early November had a two hour drive, a simple meeting with the benefit of little preparation required which is as close to a relaxing visit as I ever get.
I habitually put aside more time for a journey than I am likely to need, but having a good run up and finding time to spare, I take a spin around the back roads of the younger self and admire the gold of the beech trees around Bradenham which are, clichéd, the colours of a good wild carp. Autumn is an odd time, I like it, but it's beauty reminds one of the passing of time, much like meeting an old friend (unexpectedly, past midnight, in Heathrow Terminal 1; this really happened jl...but you'd have to be an special kind of idiot to give an old friend a lift home at 1am, and I'm never that tired. I went to Park 1 then pottered on home, pondering the odds. ), fair in youth, still fair 20 years on, but the passing of time is interwoven with the beauty of the present, a softening of the edges, pale marble veined with gold, if you like.
Business complete, I find myself in Winchester, en passant a conference call with Germany and the USA. I often visit Winchester on the way past, a place I have a long association with and in autumn there are enough trees to make the paths rustle and gleam. Why I keep returning is hard to say, one of those "simply reflecting changes in the patterns of the sky, or does the weather heed the twinkle in your eye?" things. I am though, very fond of knapped-flint faced walls.
I find a good coffee and take it to one of the many bridges. I can easily think of a dozen and two of my favourites are the Watermill bridge at the end of the High Street and a footbridge in Abbey Gardens (opposite the statue of Alfred the Great), where I was once entranced by thick, dark eel slinking along the bed and vanishing under my feet. I skip both of these in favour of one of the footbridges over the river on Eastgate street and watch for a grayling. Did you know this bit of the river is free fishing? I let the water draw the job away and contemplate the passing of the season. My diary notes many blanks this year, which tells you I spent more time carping than 'just fishing'. Bright highlights are there also, glimpsed through sinuous ripples behind the coffee cup, temporarily at least.
3rd April 2009. Once More unto the Breach. Monday, Santiago de Compostela, A Tafona do Peregrino as usual; Tuesday, Oporto, long hot day, finally through the gate, airside and there is the piano and player leaking classical music into the open plan whiteness, a starving bird cry in an arctic waste. So far so good. Then the call from The French Customer, my bane, my karma for a past life transgression, must be. I wish for curved yew, slender white ash with blue-grey bodkin heads. arrErroneously. The role of the longbow at Agincourt is much exaggerated, as is its ability to pierce plate armour. I walk up to the far end of the soulless space and sip cool water, worn down suddenly and then joy, I have a new Waterlog in the bag. Peace and 90 minutes glide past, with a float tip in the passing current.
I board, JAFAJust Another Fcukin' Aeroplane, stick 'Queen Rocks' on when the seatbelt sign allows and burrow further into Cervantes and the psychotic Don Quixote, the original box of frogs. 'Garage Inc.' then, 'Astronomy', what is that song about? Seatbelts on, Cervantes only.
Gatwick South Terminal, 'Appetite for Destruction' on the headphones, "Welcome to the Jungle" strangely appropriate and a good beat to walk from plane to passport control. Then "It's so Easy"..."I see you standing there, you think you're soo-oo cool, why don't you just F-' "Good evening how are you?" and with my 'I'm as interested in your life story as you are in mine' straight face with a hint of very tired but polite anyway, hardly faked, I hand over my passport. I'm still me. Good.
I get coffee and a toastie snatched en passant like the Night Train's mail bag. 'Evanescence' for the car in the dark, skipping the songs that require a special knowledge of bipolar disorders and at a flat legal speed reach Stockbridge, pull in, past closing time and lean on white railing where a thread of the Test jinks between the road and the path, in daylight haunted by bread bloated rainbow trout. I sip coffee, still warm, watch the streetlamp reflection shimmer in the curving water and its echo in the coffee held in front of me. I breathe in, out, shut my eyes and listen to the water, picking out two beats, the side to side waves of the water caught between two near right angles and then a longer one, maybe a standing wave, the reflection under the road from the first bend and it's return. Then I realise this sound is the stream chuckling at the absurdity of it all and I feel myself smile back in the dark. See, water is good for you.
Wednesday, back in the car, Abacabok, thudding Tuareg music, with the flat sound impedance matched to the still cooling sand around the tented players, an optimum power transfer. Zurich on Friday. Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more.
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
|The long white tea-time of the soul|
|Sandbanks Ferry mullet||Sandbanks Ferry mullet|
Spent a strange and enjoyable few hours padding around damp reed beds to old 'hides' seeing how much data I could get down several hundred yards of mains cable using PLCPower line communication (PLC) is a technology which uses existing electric power lines for data transmission, mostly by a form of magic or as we electronics types call it; 'Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing'. technology. The answer was, surprisingly, 'more than enough'.
10th December 2009. Top Notch. Trips to Portugal make me more weary than usual, that's really only because it's a three hour flight to Lisbon and I've usually got up very early. The flight back is JAFAJust Another Fcuking Aeroplane, but I let the engines press me into the seat and after the seatbelt signs go out, I put on the headphones for a boost and blast through 5 tracks of "Another Perfect Day", after which I do the cryptic crossword in 10 minutes. See, music does make you smarter. Maybe this explains the good feeling you get, the sudden rise in perception turning some of the world's greys to colour and making them shine.
There's no disguising the real fatigue though, this can't be permanently dispelled by Lemmy, fast as he plays. I let the plane engines lull me for a while and am again amazed by the peace in a plane floating in the dark, even if I am 35,498ft over the Bay of Biscay travelling at 510mph. So the GPS in my 'handy' tells me. I'm still impressed by this, but this is not as amazing as this: most people are not amazed. This apparently simple thing is a triumph of science and engineering: that I can sit in a jet, at height of 35,000 feet and check my position with a hand held sat-nav. Too many now are not impressed by science and technology, it's hard, complicated, requires real effort of thought, and those who think themselves smart and well educated are too quick to take the view that: "..it can't be difficult really as I'm clever, so those engineers and scientists are just hiding behind double talk and arcane terms. It must be simple really." Well, here's a tip for all of you hypocritical Luddites. Throw away your phone, turn off your TV, the DAB radios, the MP3, disconnect the broadband, turn off the sat-nav, don't go to the doctor, get on your bike, rely on homeopathy and herbs and live the in the world you deserve. Please.
I put on Ágætis Byrjun and immerse myself in Sigur Rós's do-it-yourself fantasy and create a small flat calm circular pool in the middle of which is a single thin red tip. I focus on it, and feel for anything that might disturb this mirror. I wait. Sometimes things thump the ground, creating ripples that converge on the red line in the centre and then vanish, cancelled. Nothing comes today, but in a real pond it might. Eventually the bump of the lowering undercarriage ruffles the reflection. Oh good, Terminal One.
Last night, sunk in dehydrated sleep, I dreamt of large bronze Leviathans, leaping in tandem, a strange image that puzzled me until at breakfast I strolled between two bronze doppelgangers, for each other and for my dreams' fish. I recalled I'd been here three times already. That explains it. Mostly.
|One of the two bronze Leviathans of my dreams|
This was a trip. It darted about the valleys of Switzerland, with occasional Austria, beautifully scenic, odd companies with odd applications. My guide, quad-lingual, was easy going and we hit it off. On the second day I was picked up early, lunch was sacrificed for appointments, then amidst snow flurries we arrived late at a little hotel in sight of the Alps, gods forgive me I can’t recall exactly where, but somewhere near Sennwald.
|First day, the view from the hotel...||Somewhere we stopped for something...I'm guessing 'for coffee and weapons-grade baked goods'.|
The food in the hotel restaurant was simple, very fine and most welcome. The hostess, clever cat, gifted us raspberry schnapps to start our dessert. We liked that. Clever because after a beer after a long day after this last willpower-weakener, we had a couple more we paid for (‘twice’ as it were). A rare and welcome convivial evening on the road.
|The view from here||Artful shot of a snowy tree||The view from the customer's car-park.|
The following day we crossed the high running snow-melt grey Rhine and visited an electric powertrain company, had a poke round a really fast green electric car, but folk senior to our contact clearly didn’t want our technology. This useful hint I expanded out elsewhere into good intelligence. Plus the slopes were snowy and looked very fine. Damned if I can recall which JAFA I used to fly home. They’re all the same anyway. nopeThat's not true. Heathrow is the pits, almost all regional airports on the continent make the UK’s look shabby and Amsterdam Schiphol is a shining example of how to provide a great passenger experience and makes Heathrow look like what it is. And Gatwick come to that.
Before 8am I sit in a coffee shop (where have all the caff's gone?) with what passes for breakfast, an ersatz fry-up toastie plus coffee (Italian for coffee? Go to Italy, they have the mutt's knuts coffee wise) and look at the décor, a basket of baguette slices and think, "They'd make good floating baits". In some Cambridge industrial estate, from the customer's coffee room, I look into the lake, clear water and leave hooks in my conversation for the other angler's and get a small bite, telling me there's rudd and a few carp, but the other lake in the middle has even more rudd and they're worth a look from the ornamental bridge. Always good to hear about rudd...
...behind the Holiday Inn in Basildon there's a lake and ten minutes into a completely dud meeting, I'm struggling not to watch the right sort of warming wind chopping the water against the far left hand corner, where I know there'll be something to catch...
...on the A34 at Beedon just off the southbound exit, there is small water hole, storage, irrigation, something like that, years old, 20 at least. I'd always wondered about it holding fish and even at 1am, as I pass it in the dark, I wonder still. The Kennet at Newbury then, Stockbridge, with its Test threaded pavements and bread-fed illegal immigrants. Then the Bourne, the Avon, the Ebble, the Stour, nearly home...
...my day's guide and myself leave Santiago de CompostelaStunning, beautiful and atmospheric and its statue of Cervantes. Due to a refuelling detour, we cross the Rio Minho at ValençaValença by the old international bridge and my guide is telling me about how his parents crossed this bridge when he was a child and how there used to be a street market at the bridge-end, I store this for later while looking at the river and wondering about the swirling possibilities below. The fortress with its thick-faced walls and banks though is both extraordinary and imposing, built to withstand and repel, an impassive 'by invitation only' statement for the Spaniards of old...
...at the regular restaurant, well past lunch hour, someone else's phone call meanders, so I lean over the car park dry stone wall and on the other side at the bottom of a cut is a familiar pond, but today earth is being bulldozed towards the water, which ripples as dry soil slides down the new scree-slope. When the dump-truck departs for more infill and the sliding mass skitters to a halt, the reeds still flicker and wave, panicking fish in a shrinking world, buried before the end of the day.
Dropped at Oporto, time to squander in this most sterile of airports, I walk outside, away from the terminal and lean against a concrete bastion, one end of the half arch/half beam that supports the roadway above and let the sun warm my face. It's not quite spring, in the UK at least, but in Portugal it's warm and the roads are green lined and it doesn't need much of a leap to imagine a favourite swim with long grass, a fresh green smell, a slightly metallic scent of budding blackthorn either side and new pads swaying with heavy shapes below them. I'll overtake Jack-o'-the-Green on the flight back though. After a while I go back into the glasshouse, start up the big technology and fill out a holiday form. Warm enough before the close season for a couple of days among the spring shoots and the early risers, after Jack's been around the lake to wake it. Yeah...
...on the metal tube home, the first track out of the small technology is J.J.Cale's "The Old Man and Me". What are the odds? (FAPP'For All Practical Purposes' 1 in 1852).
31st March 2010. Italy. More guided tours of places that seem interested in the technology. I liked my Italian guide, he was good company, but his idea was that we should arrive early-evening at a hotel so we might have a proper dinner, even if this meant a two hour drive au crack sparrow. I prefer the opposite, but still, his call and to be fair we had some terrific evening meals.
This eye-gritting earliness was generally punctuated with a pit-stop at a coffee-and-tab bar. I assume that’s what these were; they seemed to consist of folk sucking gratefully on a gasper or two, while intermittently getting outside industrial espressos. I partook of the latter, usually from a smidgen upwind.
On this short trip's last day we headed into the hills then stopped, pre-meeting, in Modigliana. Today's 'fix' was at the 'La Piazanova', overlooking the small square. The sun was out, the morning fresh and crisp and the atmospherics were warm, so we tarried longer than strictly needed and had a refill. It would have been all to easy to lounge until midday. We were nearly late to the meeting. Eh.
|...we headed into the hills...||Breakfast, kinda.||...overlooking the small square. The sun was out, the morning fresh and crisp...|
Ground squirrels, water to yearn over, 'Stren' fishing line delivered to the (first) hotel (courtesy of 'Basspro') and a long trip for the dullest training.
The 'training' was up the road, it was dull, uninspiring and neither use nor benefit. A waste of all our time and I spent most of it removing camera flare from pictures of basking carp. For lunch, we walked, in the concrete cracking heat, across the Old Mountain View-Alviso Rd., past the Westside Storm station and onto the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail,for a short distance then over a bridge to a restaurant of sorts.
|some kind of storm overflow||...suddenly there was a sign||San Tomas Aquinas Creek, known locally as San Tomas Aquino Creek|
They gave us vouchers - they also tried to get us to share rooms, but we all said "Stuff off we're grown-ups and we only share rooms with our partners." I tired of the IHop breakfast after one day, the rest of the stay, walking from the back of the hotel to a Starbucks in a small cinema complex, past ground squirrels that looked like rats to me and apparently some burrowing owls.
|I spent all but one day in Santa Clara having breakfast at a well known coffee chain, as the coffee was better than the iHop and I could chose a breakfast which didn't make my heart spasm just by looking at it.||...apparently, on the way, there are burrowing owls...||Dusk atop the hills somewhere up Calaveras Road||Dusk atop the hills somewhere up Calaveras Road|
Some of my colleagues opted for extravagant tourism, I hired a car for a the day, went shopping and one evening a new colleague drove us up Calaveras Rd, past the Ed Levin County Park and we watched the most extraordinary sunset. Why I didn't have my proper camera with me I can't tell you, quite the highlight of the trip.
Then we're off to San Francisco, no flowers in my hair, loads of ra-ra and the offer I couldn't refuse. Huh. JAFH.
|San Francisco||San Francisco|
13th August 2010. Zoom-zoom. A week zipping about Germany with the amiable rep., all sorts interesting applications. However, for the passenger the days are long and a hotel is JAFH, although there always seems less 'F' in Germany.
|Zen||The proper stuff...if I recall my guide was running late so I had an extra one.||''Do you expect me to talk Manfred?'' ''No JAA I expect you to die horribly in a deep alpine lake...''|
Edited highlights; the first and last hotel had a nice little pond and served good coffee. I have no memory of two other hotels at all. Some road by a lake, which almost certainly has been in at least one filmed car-chase. And my handy little 'Leatherman Juice' which I carefully packed back into my hold-luggage bag, didn't arrive at the other end. Yes it was. No it didn't. Thieves.
|the best view of Weymouth (some might say)||Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink||Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink||St. Malo, a very pretty town|
20th October 2010. Nipped over to Berlin. I know this because there's a receipt tucked into of my copy of "Unseen Academicals" from the 'Pocket Shop' in the airport, marked at 17:56 local time, so I must have been on the way home.
|The Pocket Shop, Berlin Airport|
This means I was very late getting back in Heathrow, then would have stopped at the M27's uninspiring Rownhams Services in the still watches for a coffee-and-toastieessDouble espresso at 1am? Mad, sure, but better home and wide awake than asleep on the road. Forever. then probably wondered what on earth I was doing, then would eventually have arrived home far past midnight. Again.
Long-haul flying is a plunge into a dark tunnel with distant light at the end. In general I take books for 'long-haul' and there's always films and the plastic trays of cardboard food. Books it is. Taiwan via Hong Kong, long day...when I say 'day'...
Hsinchu city is a great mix of the modern and the less modern and my guide did a sterling job of showing me around - it smells like Singapore did, hot, damp and the smell of rancid standing water.
|Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city|
Sashimi (although Japanese in origin) tells you a lot. You pick the fish, a red mullet in this case, and then eat it raw with wasabi and soy, then miso soup made with head and fins and then grilled, all with noodles and vegetables. There's no escaping the link between the fish and the food and in the western world we've lost that and are poorer for it - I enjoyed it immensely.
Every morning the shuttle bus took me over the mountain and on one day passing through a village there was a lady wearing a pink "Betty Boop" T shirt, and I've no doubt in her heyday it would have worked but let's say now chronologically challenged and in some area gravitationally also, it was incongruous at the very least.
For all of the industry (the 'The Science Park' has 100K people and two universities) the thing which marks out why Taiwan is still such a strong economy was demonstrated in a '7-11'. We went in for a coffee to take to the sea. The girl behind the counter set my coffee running, served a customer, retrieved a meal box from the microwave for another then served cigarettes to a third in a neat and graceful little ballet, before presenting me my coffee. In the UK the server would have stood and watched the coffee trickle out, ignoring the lengthening queue.
|Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city|
There's a gully running in front of the Lakeshore Hotel with rank water in the bottom which varies between wide thin runs and narrow dark channels which swirl on their own. The occupants show complete indifference to bread, stolen from breakfast. I'm guessing some sort of predator but it's hard to say although there are a abundant herons and egrets about in the lower reaches. The Green Grass Lake is more a mud flat today, but the water there twitches beguilingly. An 'official' attraction, but the reservoir overlooked by lunch is far less organised and also teems with life, turtles which ducked before I could focus and long green grasshoppers which chatter away from your feet, never once sitting in shot, a pity, although not as much of a pity as getting spaghetti in Taiwan.
|Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city|
The night market was like all markets everywhere for second rate toot and cheap food, although it's busy, fizzing with people, it's more for show that buying. The warm damp evening air is full of the smell of hot deep fried dough, spices, cooked meat and a vague undercurrent of offal. There are more coloured lights than are really required to keep night at a fuzzy distance the other side of the stalls. I'm fascinated by quail eggs being hard poached in a metal block with holes in the top and then threaded onto bamboo skewers, an egg kebab. We miss the glass museum which is shut, but the lake at the front heaves with carp and cats that cluster by the railing as you walk, doubtless trained to expect food, involuntarily provided or otherwise by market-goers.
|Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city||Hsinchu city|
I'm almost sorry to leave, I quite like it here, the people bustle, there's vitality and people seem happy with life.
While travelling I'm constantly amazed at the stunning indiscretion of some. Getting on the bus morning two Americans got in behind me, one of them cracking his leg and this coupled with the slight slur of a man who knows he's slurring and covering it, tells me he's had a late night...however, they carried on a long and loud conversation about their meeting which, had I been on the opposite side of the table...and I hope one of the thick faces in the back of the minibus was. On my last morning at breakfast ,an American lady did the same with her phone and while this was in part attention seeking, had I been her competition she'd have been in trouble. Then there's the swaggerers, western business suits who walk like they've made it because they're on a business trip in China (or anywhere). Big bar bills, expensive restaurants, expenses a perk to be scarfed, snouts in the trough. Why would you wear your best whistle for breakfast by the way? Anyone can chuck food down their front by mistake.
|Water lilies in glass, Taiwan airport, quite brilliant||JAFH Shanghai - I have no memory at all of the hotel room in Taiwan|
What does all this have to do with the (very low here) price of fish? I'm weary I confess, worn threadbare with the common-room games the grown six-formers play. For many, business is only self promotion, the employer's covenant, to work for their interests, not yours, not even noticed, less often lip-serviced. I'm slightly outside this mind set, working for my employer, often in conflict with the "do as I say" types, which I've never minded per se, in the same way you excuse the brashness of most children. (I hasten to add that my immediate colleagues are not in that category, which has been a rare blessing.)
I've spent some two months way from home in week long blocks this year, something I didn't want to do again after the last time. Two and three day trips are OK in moderation but long blocks in hotel rooms just becoming dull, sapping enthusiasm for anything unless you are on your guard.
This year something changed, mid summer I sat down and set out to break this covenant for own benefit, my employer being swallowed up and in truth the job I liked ebbed away and the new one, non-optional, was not, is not my metier, so I've opted for keeping mum and taking the money until I reach the end of the period I've set for myself. I'm not altogether comfortable with this and that's the other half of the reasoning, that if I've got this far, it's time to move on. I've had enough.
Welcome to Taiwan.
|JAFH's next door coffee shop||Starbucks in the food court||peanut chicken, really very good indeed|
I was mugged in Shanghai airport as I left arrivals by a shorter and more Chinese 'Jacky Brown' who organised me a taxi with an English speaking driver with alarming efficiency and then snatched my suitcase to carry, despite the fact it was easier for me than her...the taxi driver learnt his English from the TV (he said) although we established he has one son who was three and all schools teach English now but not in his day and that he was from an old Shanghai family not 'new Shanghai'. We swapped numbers and arranged the return trip.
Friday was a waste of time, Saturday I skip the hotel bun-bath breakfast, which is like a blood-bath but stickier and slightly less fatal, and sit in the deserted adjoining coffee shop and drink espresso and eat blueberry bread. I debate shopping, but shops are shops and the Chinese food mall in the next block is more fun and I like to eat with chopsticks which raises the odd eyebrow but our Amah showed us in Singapore 'when I were a lad'. The hotel room has little cardboard tubes of Green Jasmine tea and I enjoy the making as much as the drinking, watching the rolled green leaves unfurling in the hot water. This is new China, all shiny clean with nods to tradition. It's rationalised, organised, sterilised and I prefer Tsinchu's jostle of new and old.
|Sunday dinner, peanut chicken, spiced tea and plum juice||JAFH Bamboo grove||Monday lunch, side dishes - real Chinese food|
Striking by anyone for anything is simply illegal here. Did you know that?
All of which brings me to a totally new and unexpected experience.
|Chilli fish, Monday lunch, awesome||'Some Kind of muffins' - breakfast Tuesday, last day, home day||Noodles - Good-bye Shanghai|
I'm actually looking forward to seeing Heathrow.
27th January 2011. Straw Turkey. Four days away, two days of flying, Istanbul and Izmir. In turn, Turkey was wet, cold, hot and dry. A silly trip, cooked up by one who thinks JAFMYou know the sort of thing. People who think customers are there to listen to them talk...often endlessly and pant-grindingly dully. that others are there in case a card trick is needed, a performing monkey mentality which sits poorly in most organisations at the best of times. It's four hours to Istanbul, an early start, a long flight with a rude passenger, finished with a coffee in the airport and a cab to JAFH. The late dinner's highlight - stuffed anchovies the least western thing on the menu, that or the tea, 'çay'. I enjoy both.
So, cab-trips in the rain, a blur, dinner in a mall, ye gods pizza the best we can do? Armed guards present and then 4am to Izmir and a trip up the mountains where snow lay, at odds with what one first imagines of Turkey, then more heat, thankfully a Turkish factory café for lunch, how do they cook egg-plant so well? Turkish coffee, espresso and clay apparently, but I enjoyed it.
Back over the mountain, almost terminally bored, I fantasize worming up the stream that tumbles down the mountains we climb for the second time.
|çay pronounced chai...||unexpected snow||Turkish coffee, speed and clay in one cup...|
My affable Dutch colleague is writing "wake me if I snore" in my notebook, then another dull dinner, the factory café beating the Hilton faux nouvelle by a Turkish mile. I'm tired, my head aches with fatigue, not just the early mornings, wearied by the fast-forward hotels and airports. I wake to the adhãn in Izmir, a feature of Turkey these calls to prayer. I like it, no hardship to be reminded there is a higher calling. I share a taxi with a man who's flying his own Hawker Hunter to the middle east for an air-show and I discover ex-Lightning pilots are called 'WEWOLs' WEWOLWhen We Were On Lightnings... among other interesting things.
In Akrotiri in 1974, the 56 Squadron English Electric Lightnings' scramble take-offs from the end of the runway 1½ miles from our house would shake the ground, walls and internal organs at about 3 on the Richter scale. You've no idea... This odd well-met, a man with probably one of the best hobbies ever, cheers me and the girl on the check-in is nice and moves me to an earlier plane for nothing.
Two hours in one airport is better than one hour in two and I wander off for a coffee at Istanbul and passing a pastiche of the Old Bazaar, get my second big smile of the day. I visited the real Istanbul Old Bazaar in 1974, hashish, guns and looted antiquities alongside spices and stuff, you really had to see it to believe it. Time to pack this in, too much, too far, no more now. Turnpike Engineering becomes something I did somewhere over the Adriatic.
|early adhãn in Izmir|
15th August 2012. That rare thing, three road junctions with barely a pause bring me into the slave-ship ten minutes ahead of median, so I stand outside in the sun with the first dose and breath the tang of the air. Just the same as another outdoor coffee, Starbucks, Ocala, and other in San Jose, the latter with ground squirrels (aka rats) in the reclaimed desert scrub, the former with a State Trooper that could have been the inspiration for the T-1000. And Just Another eFfin Hotel with a gap under the door. I can't decide which I prefer right now. More coffee. Yeah, that'll do it.
4th November 2014. Been a long time...it's been almost three years since I had a plane-ride, Southampton airport is still small, neat and efficient and I get a free shot of 'Talisker Storm', so buy a litre on offer, espresso, sandwich, quiet corner...distantly Sheryl Crow sings "All I want to do is have a little fun before I die", which is a funny thing, in 1994 I flew to LA for a week of 'hardware integration' in Simi Valley, became acquainted with the Elephant Bar and jet-lag. The early morning drive down the 405 was slowed to a desert crawl as the radio played "All I want to do...", my first time of hearing, crossing a few miles later the Santa Monica Boulevard. What are the odds?
En Paris. En guarde.
I'd forgotten the casual thoughtlessness...the folk who board a plane from the wrong end and delay half the passengers getting to their seats...I leave the Metro at Notre Dame the wrong side of the Seine, so get a bit of a walk around unseasonably warm, well-lit Paris, my room has a balcony and a view. Heh. Dealer dinner in a regular Paris restaurant, good food of course, then sitting on the street at 1am sipping 'Red Label', the bar is ours, the day and the night, that bit was nice.
|Evening view from the balcony||Evening view from the balcony||'The' Tower at maximum zoom.|
|An impressionists' view from the balcony||Dawn over Paris||'The' Tower at dawn.|
Trade shows are fairly mind numbing even for one day, especially on four hours sleep and sitting in familiar Orly air-side, ponder whether I miss the travelling life.
Mrs. AA enjoyed her box of macaroons though. What's not to like? 11Answer: 'Pistachio'
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.
|Sea-shore||Big, aren't they?||Sea-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.
16th February 2020. Still JAFAPick one....
One thing clearly worse than short-haul flights is a short-haul flight in two legs. I have a mental image of such journeys, something akin to a deep-dive into a tunnel, an artefact of the shape of the plane and the topology of a road journey, in conjunction with the fugue state of travelling ennui. One sinks, the passing world blurs into passing artificial lights. Like in a tunnel, there are niches and in these pools of shadow lurk the small demons of boredom, cramped legs, dehydration, poor food and too much coffee.
Decanted in Manchester airport; a new experience for me (the place, not the decanting). Not at its best, with holiday flight delays leaving the place full of short tempers and bad fashion. Only a little late landing, but the connecting flight has pushed out an hour. I took on some Earl Grey and a lemon tart, then, under the guise of looking out the window at the planes, I watched the in-reflection semi-chaos. A man on my right drives his spouse off by mocking her smart-phone use. Then he reads his paper, aggressively, as if daring it to have printed anything he didn't agree with, but leaning in close if the pictures involved a swimsuit. I finished my tea, then biffed off to a quiet corner to continue reading the excellent and empirical notes on fishing by the redoubtable Captain L. A. Parker.
Very bumpy touch-down at the other end, FurryBootsToon, not 'top-ten most harrowing', but still. Half-a-mile on shanks' p. to the JAFHJust another Feckin' Hotel, blown breathless by the winds of the airport approach, ten minutes too late to use the bar. Ah well.
|JAFH sunset||...took on some Earl Grey and a lemon tart...||JAFH sunrise|
1st June 2021. Songline. It's a score of years since I last went to this industrial park. The M4 junction on the way always recalls an ATM traffic management IC ('RCMP'?), doubtless reviewing it for some 'important meeting'; the broad sweeping right-hand curve down towards Yate is pleasing and familiar. Coffee-stopped at Yate shopping centre, and if anyone is wondering where the 1970's are, they are holed up in this arcade's concrete brutalism.
Returning; past the 'Toll Gate', the scene of many fine cake-stops, then turned right onto a new road; that is, 'new to me', one never travelled, a small pleasure for a turnpike nomad, a road not so familiar even the potholes are memorised. With 'google streetview' a journey can now be travelled in advance; mimicking my own navigation sense, I pre-view junctions, new tracks instantly familiar.
I recently read a paper that evaluated the efficacy of Aboriginal 'Songlines' 1 as a memorisation technique, a 'method of loci' system more useful than the 'memory palace' - this latter I've found to be of limited use, requiring over-frequent refreshing, the practicality not living up to the hype. Songlines though, are explicit paths to implicit memories, small wonder they work so well. It's possibly an innate navigational skill makes them work so well for me - I've used 'journey-lines' to great effect for exams, but, and it's a big 'but' (I like big buts...), these too are temporary unless regularly re-traced and then, eventually, the data remains and the track fades. Hm.
Anyway, songlines are a fine way of encoding information that dovetails with our pre-historic evolution – it makes sense that we are good at such; to be able to find the place with the good food at the right time would have survival value. That it seems the best also makes sense, but as a colleague of mine said "How do you know there isn't a better method?", which begs the question, "What would that look like?"
I arrive at the Park'n'Ride, find the 'stroll across the field' is sufficiently inclined to need steps and damp enough to cake my shoes with clay...good exercise. Pizza with the grown-up Marmiteangler, top notch evening. Two espresso drive home.
1. Reser D, Simmons M, Johns E, Ghaly A, Quayle M, Dordevic AL, et al. (2021) Australian Aboriginal techniques for memorization: Translation into a medical and allied health education setting.
|How can you not like perch bobbers? ?(and back to the top of the page)||How can you not like perch bobbers...?||How can you not like perch bobbers...?||How can you not like perch bobbers...?||How can you not like perch bobbers...?||How can you not like perch bobbers...?||How can you not like perch bobbers...?||How can you not like perch bobbers...?|
A summary of sorts. So many places...I had travelled a lot even before 2007, but between 2007 and 2011, I more-or-less got on a plane every week, mostly short-haul. I refer to this as my 'Lord Flashheart Tour of Europe' ("Where have I been? Where haven't I been?! Woof!"). This was about as glamorous as the murky stuff that accumulates in the bottom of dustbins and less enjoyable than weeing on an electric cattle fence.
The accumulated experiences of passing planes and hotels blur together in one long stream of sodium-lit mediocrity, hence JAFAJust Another Fecking Airport, JAFAJust Another Fecking Aeroplane, and JAFHJust Another Fecking Hotel. If I never board JAFAJust Another Fecking Aeroplane, I won't be sorry.
I've not been everywhere. I mean, who has? But...
The USA: Anaheim (×3), Palm Springs, San Diego, Lake Arrowhead, San Francisco (×3), Los Angeles (×'many'), Simi Valley, Santa Clara, Florida (×4), Philadelphia (×3), Boston, Andover, Hawaii. Then: Canada (Ottawa, Vancouver×3), Ireland(×8), France(lost count), Germany(lost count), Spain(lost count), Portugal(×12 at least), Italy(×12 at least), Austria(×6), Switzerland(×6), Slovakia, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland(lost count), Greece, Turkey, Cyprus (3 years), Singapore (2 years), Malaya, Taiwan, China. En passant Aden, Bombay, Hong Kong, not that this counts for much. For good luck I've lived in Cyprus, Singapore, North Eastern Scotland, Anglesey, Norfolk among others...
Can I stop now please?
|...coffin...(and back to the top of the page)||...barrel...||...coffin...||...barrel...||...coffin...||...barrel...|