Saturday, 30 November 2013

Skyfall III - Cry Another Day

Still no relief from Storm St Jude....

The ongoing saga of BT's inability to have the common courtesy or honesty to reconnect our phone and internet after Storm St Jude damaged the line OVER 4 WEEKS AGO!

Despite having been promised that we would be visited on Wednesday 27th November - we weren't. We were then told that Open Reach would be along on the 28th to cut trees and on the 29th to reconnect - Open Reach were distinctly conspicuous by their absence.

The lady from BTwho has stayed in touch by e-mail is now joining us in the renting of clothes, the wearing of sackcloth and hair tugging that has become part of our daily lives. She has no idea what's going on.

On Monday 2nd December it will be FIVE weeks since we lost connection - we live in the country so have no 3G or, often, even any phone signal - we are therefore often un-contactable except by text. BT are still taking Direct Debits, are still beyond the reach of normal conversation and compensation looks like a dream never to be attained - as does reconnection.

Watch this space!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

River Kennet

It's not often one gets a chance to fish a chalk stream to catch as many brown trout as you want. In fact, more brown trout than you want. I once read that a definition of hell would be a fishing venue where you caught fish all day long. 

A beautiful specimen........

The Kennet most certainly is not hell - it's a magical, meandering, pretty little river with miles of inlets, side streams and cascade pools to explore and we turned up to be greeted with bacon rolls and champagne lovingly prepared by our host Phil Sharnock under whose kind auspices we were invited today. 

Sparkling sunlight...

It was crisply autumnal, golden leaves glimmered in the low morning sun which reflected cleanly off the clear chalk stream water in beams of crystal light.  The trees were hanging on to the last of their russet and rufus leaves, the grass sparkled with a light frost and our breathe whisped around our mouthfuls of hot buttie as we swapped our thoughts about the day to come, spitting bread crumbs around us in a champagne spray of enthusiasm. 

We all had different plans; fly fishing for trout and grayling, feeder fishing for chub and roach, but I wanted to have a go at my preferred quarry in the winter - the pike.  I had brought along a couple of deadbait rods with some sprats, mackerel and smelt and I walked with my gear to the back of the estate, towards the old part of the river. 

Magical, meandering, pretty...

There were pike in the system but as the sun began its year end quickened journey to its highest point, they were proving hard to locate, the leaves ceased to crunch beneath my feet, beginning to whisper as the frost melted away before I saw any sign of a striking fish. But then it happened - a fish I thought to be around five pounds or so struck on the surface, scattering fry in its wake. I cast out the float fished sprat into the area and gradually drew it back towards me in short pulls, allowing the sprat to rise and sink enticingly as it moved.


I cast again to the right this time thinking the fish may have turned and suddenly the float bobbed, moved sideways and began to sink away as if it had a life of its own. I leaned into the fish which certainly was not a jack and it powered away with a strong surge. It fought well for a few minutes then gave up completely until the net was seen then it started to fight again, but it was on the bank soon enough. 

My youth came back to me in a flood - Hythe Canal in 1973 - a frosty, foggy day and my first deadbait caught fish on a sprat bought that morning from the fishmongers. They're often overlooked due to their diminutive size, but my wife had bought these recently and they shimmered in the low sun as they were cast across the stream. I've had a couple more on that bait since that day in '73 but not many. It was good to get another, and a nice double too. 

I did catch some trout in the afternoon after a tasty chilli lunch and more wine, ending a wonderfully bright, successful day with a wistful moon and a sudden chill in the air as Winter reminded us of its proximity. 

Another trout....

Many thanks to Phil for the day, to Sue his wonderful wife for the chilli and to John for the lift and good company. Some men love their fishing so much that they can talk about it for hours without it seeming at all boring - John is one such enthusiast and he made the journey both ways seem short. Great company, good fishing and a bright autumn day - now that is heaven. 

Pretty brown trout...

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Skyfall II - No Quantum Of Solace

Our seldom maintained generator

I write this post in a local shop which sells coffee and offers  free Internet access for its customers  – BT have, as yet, failed to reconnect our broken phone line and seem not to have any plans to do so in  the near future. As of today we have been 27 days and 6 hours without phone or internet access. We have called, e-mailed and texted on many, many occasions, we have been visited at least three times by head scratching Open Reach operatives, and told twice that we were back on even as the phone cable flapped disconnectedly in the breeze but as yet we have no hope of being reconnected.

UK Power Networks, having installed a generator in order to provide us with electricity after 85 hours in the dark and cold, then failed to maintain the machine, allowing it to run out of diesel - plunging us in the gloom for a further 5 hours the first time and 4 ½ hours the second time.

In fact, the second time, although we didn't actually run out of fuel, the maintenance Engineer was so late filling it up that in his panic, he accidentally hit the emergency cut off switch, turning off a generator that he was NOT QUALIFIED TO RESTART! 300 dark minutes later another man arrived to press the button!

We are not a third world country, we are not so remote that no one can reach us, no, we live next to a major arterial road to the South Coast – that is our problem.  We are alone in our plight – being the only property affected – that is our second problem. BT, Open Reach and all their engineers are unaccountable, uncontactable and uncaring – that is our third problem.

We shall continue to work in other peoples’ homes, coffee bars, restaurants and hot spots, we shall continue to pull out our hair and rent our clothing – but I can’t see any way out of this dilemma – at all.

Working to restore power - in the dark

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


The van driver blinked in the pre-dawn darkness  and leaned closer to his windscreen as the wild wind blew the roadside trees almost horizontal. He continued cautiously up the hill, vaguely aware of the lights behind him and the slowness of the oncoming traffic as those drivers also myopically peered through windscreens nervous of the flying debris and arboreal detritus that littered the road. On his way from Bexley to Hasting, he was seriously looking forward to his early morning tea - this days journey had been fraught with tension as the long predicted storm hit the south east in a fury of whipped branches and whirling leaves. 

His nose almost touching the windshield now, he flinched backwards sharply as he suddenly saw more movement than even this wind should produce; his foot hit the brake pedal and he hauled the van to the left as the falling tree toppled into his path, hitting the top of the windscreen, sliding down to remove the bumper and number plate. The van crunched and lurched to a halt, as the engine stalled, the vehicle swaying as the wind buffeted the right hand panels.The  Highways Agency Incident Support Unit that had been following the van pulled up behind and the three workmen quickly climbed out to check for injury.

The van driver breathed out in a shuddering sigh and clambered shakily from the cab as the Highways men joined him to survey the damage. As they went over the events in shouted conversation to carry the wind, one of the workmen started to pull the six inch thick tree trunk away from the wreckage and out of the road, another joined him while the third began to direct the traffic, but barely had they begun when a huge rending crashing sound caused them all to jump, spinning around to stare back up the hill as an eighty foot long beech bough was torn from a tree and smashed down through the surrounding smaller trees. Falling heavily onto the road and exploding like a grenade sending debris spinning into the air, the branch sliced through tree limbs, phone lines and the power line which split the power pole like a cheese cutter as it fell to earth. The four men stared in shock at the destruction just a hundred feet in front of them.  

"Bugger," I said as the kitchen was plunged into darkness and the spluttering coffee machine sputtered to a halt. I saw the end of the explosion as I looked out through the window at the aftermath not twenty yards from our cottage. My wife rushed into the kitchen and together we walked out into the wildness of the wind and noise to assess any damage. 

Unbelievably our property had been entirely missed by the destruction but only by a matter of a few feet, however all our utilities, apart from water, had been cut off by the fall. 

We didn't know it then but we would be without power, heating and hot water for almost ninety hours and without telephone and internet access for weeks. Tragically, two people were killed by falling trees, so our plight was minimal, if exceptionally annoying and frustrating. 

In our little incident, no one was hurt, though many were inconvenienced, there was no real damage to property apart from the van and we have some more firewood to season. But the utilities companies proved to be incompetent, unhelpful and uncaring. Happy to take our money and increase prices time after time, both BT and UK Power Net were very slow to show concern, answer phone calls, or provide assistance with any show of speed. 

No surprise there then.  

More firewood...