Saturday, April 28, 2018

Nubya Garcia at Ronnie Scott's

London. Saturday 28-April-2018.

One of the (many) good things about Ronnie Scott’s is that we get to discover new musicians that we might otherwise not hear. With the larger venues you know already who you are going to see, that’s why you’ve booked. With Ronnie’s we look at the programme and think “they sound interesting, we’ll go see them”. For the weekend, early shows you get a double dose of discovery as there is a support act as well.

This time the support act was a classical string quartet called String Ting, part of Tomorrow’s Warriors initiative aiming to encourage diversity in jazz. It made for a very interesting and intriguing listen; "St James's Infirmary" given a new twist.

Nubya Garcia fell into the category of new-to-us musicians so we went with an open mind. Mind you, you can’t go far wrong with a quartet led by a saxophonist. Apparently she is winner of The JazzFM Award “Breakthrough Act of the Year”.

I can do no better than quote from Jazz in Europe’s review:

“With an incredible line up, the young saxophonist delivered a sound show.”

“Performing some pieces from her last album [...] Nubya Garcia demonstrated what a major talent she is. The chemistry between her and her fellow musicians was superb.”

“This thing we call jazz is definitely alive and well and Nubya Garcia is one musician we need to thank for this!” Full review... 

Another good thing about Ronnie Scott’s is that the artists usually come out from the green room to have a drink at the bar afterwards so you can mingle and thank them in person for an excellent set. Here we have three members of String Ting chatting to Nubya right next to our table; you don’t get that at the O2 Arena!

Yet another excellent evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Toyah Willcox at the 229 Club

229 Great Portland Street, London. Thursday 26-April-2018.

The "Acoustic, Up Close and Personal" tour.

This is the third time I have seen Toyah. The first was way back in 1983 when she appeared at the Young Vic in the play Trafford Tanzi. The second time was in 2003 in the musical Calamity Jane which got an indifferent review from The Guardian. This time we were here for her own music.

Alerted by SongKick to this gig, we ordered our tickets. When they arrived there were no seat numbers and we were a bit concerned that it was standing room only. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. There was seating it was just unnumbered, first come first served. We were able to get reasonable seats not too far back.

Toyah earlier posted a picture of the dress she was going to wear and indeed that is what she did wear. The static picture does not do her figure nor decolletage justice she is in great shape and looking lovely.

In the lights the outfit was a very sparkly rainbow affair.

The line up was:

  • Toyah Willcox: vocals
  • Chris Wong: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Colin Hinds: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Mike Nichols: double bass

One thing I like about live gigs is when the artist chats a bit about each song and gives you some background about how they came to write it or some context about the time when it was written. Toyah did this with every song which made it a much more interesting concert.

Unsurprisingly she did the well-known hit singles as well as a number of other tracks from her back catalogue which as usual you could just tell that many of the loyal audience members knew off by heart. She also did a couple of surprising covers. The first was “These boots were made for walking” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, one of my dad’s favourite songs. The other was “Echo Beach” better known in the version by Martha and the Muffins which was very pleasant listen.

One thing I noticed about some of audiences, maybe it is the older demographic, is it they are much more respectful of the artist and pay greater attention. There was no sea of iPhones, everybody was actually focused on the music and enjoying the live atmosphere. The one exception was when Toyah invited us to come up to the stage and take selfies with her she came up to the front of the stage and posed for pictures.

An excellent concert from an iconic artiste.

Monday, April 23, 2018

London Marathon 2018

London, England. Sunday 22-April-2018.

The story can now be told...

I entered this year's London Marathon under a cloak of invisibility! I had said to all my friends that the Brighton Marathon 2017 was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to sponsor me. When I did not *run* the entire Brighton Marathon I was so disappointed (extreme British understatement). I *only* ran 22 miles, walked the rest and jogged across the finish line. How can I now go back to my friends and ask them for sponsorship for a second marathon?

This time I took the approach of "under-promise, over-deliver". The plan was that only after I ran over that finish line would I send out that begging email. And, heaven forfend, I failed to run the entire distance or fail to hit the money target I would make up the balance myself. Beforehand I had told no-one other than those who explicitly asked if I would do another marathon - I cannot tell a lie. Unfortunately I did not deliver.

I failed to complete the London Marathon basically because I made the beginners' mistake of starting off too fast. I went with the 5:00 pace runner to prevent this but she set off too fast. I made an error of judgement and kept up with her instead of dropping back and running my own pace. I burned too much energy too soon, went wobbly at the 18 mile mark and was steered to the nearest St John's Ambulance so I could collapse and throw up. Not fit to walk the remainder, I took the sensible option and retired.

I cannot ask for sponsorship for something I didn't do but if people would care to make a donation to Blue Cross that would be very much appreciated. Blue Cross animal hospitals and pet care clinics provide free veterinary treatment to sick and injured pets when their owners can’t afford private veterinary fees.

You can do so via my Virgin Money Giving page.

Thank you to all my friends for their support and encouragement.

The full story:

Before last year’s Brighton marathon I did 35 training runs totalling 259 miles. This time I did 61 training runs totalling 454 miles! Practiced taking in isotonic gels every 5km. Practiced a slower, consistent pace. Best fit time prediction: 4:54:42.

Best fit graph of all 61 training runs

This year I went with the 5:00 pace runner instead of last year's 4:30 pace runner. Still not enough. Again caught out by the heat and the pace at the start (the latter an error of judgement on my part).

My last two experiences of pace runners was that they were metronomic and a great way to keep the right pace. The London Marathon pace runner set off too fast. She did the first 5 km at 6:41min/km, equivalent to a 4:42 marathon time. Eighteen minutes faster than the target. Same again for the second 5 km that included a couple of individual 6:16 minute kilometres which is a 4:25 marathon - way too fast for me and the heat of the day.

The third 5 km she did at 6:49 min/km, equivalent to 4:48 marathon. As I said before, my mistake was keeping up with her. After the first couple of km I should have said to myself, "Sod this for a game of soldiers. It's too fast. I'll drop back and plod at my own pace". Emotionally though, the pace runner was my lifeline, to drop back I felt I would be all on my own, no support.

This is me in the yellow baseball cap just behind the pace runner at 7 miles, near to the Cutty Sark.

People say how great the London Marathon is, what a wonderful day, how much they enjoy running it, a fantastic event. For me it was a horrible day. All I saw was the heels of the pace runner, all I felt was discomfort as I ran too fast. I was mostly oblivious to the crowds, I did a few high fives but mostly didn't have the energy to spare to acknowledge the shouts of encouragement from the crowds.

The organisation of the marathon is fantastic however not so good if you have to drop out. It took ages for Mary to find me and a nightmare to retrieve my bag of belongings.

At the end of the day my sentiment was "If today were a fish I would have thrown it back".

So what are the positives?
  • Money is being raised for a worthy cause.
  • I suppose I must be fitter (but I don't feel any different). 
  • I now know the answer to the question I posed three years ago, "How hard can it be to run a marathon?".

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Catfish and Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion at the Half Moon

Putney, London. Sunday 25-March-2018.

We have wanted to see Catfish again since since we saw them at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival 2017. But their tours dates and our peregrinations never seemed to coincide until now. Quick! Tickets booked and table reserved for pre-gig dining.

I was visiting Mum that afternoon and arriving just in time. The joys of modern technology: Mary texted me a photo of the menu so I could choose while I was still on the train and she could order so that my food was ready as I was walking in the door.

The format was an hour from each band. Catfish were as excellent as last time.

Then Zoe Schwarz and her band on for the second set.

Matt Long, lead guitarist with Catfish, joined Blue Commotion for a couple of songs before the venue's curfew kicked in.

As ever at this venue I am amazed that you can get two hours of excellent live music for a tenner. I tell you I don't get the economics of being a musician. The venue is small and I doubt there were 60 people in the room. Subtract the overheads, room hire, etc. then divided by the number of musicians it can scarcely be a living wage.

Maybe they get a percentage of the bar takings? Unlike New Orleans, not even a tip jar. However they do sell a fair few CD's so that must help. We bought Catfish's CD, we could have bought it online but we prefer to buy direct from up and coming bands like this.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

North Italy Wine and Food at Philglas and Swiggot

Battersea, London. Wednesday 07-March-2018.

A more modest food and wine tasting after the previous night's tasting. The fourth Italian tasting in three weeks. In our rush to get the bus home I left my tasting notes and pen in the shop. When I realised literally a couple of minutes later and ran back the shop it was already shut up and by the next morning both notes and pen were gone! Fortunately Mary still had the list even if not with tasting notes; the stars indicate Mary's rankings.

Presented by Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, a Mistress of Wine, this was an excellent tasting that gave us a chance to try a number of new-to-us grape varieties and wines. Here is what I remember of the wines:

  • The Fratelli Berlucchi was a very pleasant sparkling.
  • Pieropan is an old favourite that we always enjoy, this was no exception.
  • The two nebbiolo based wines showed well.
  • The Tommasi Amarone was nectar in a glass, delicious.

The food was antipasti of salumi and cheeses followed by a pasta with rabbit ragu from Osteria - Antica Bologna next door. A good hearty winter meal.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Fontodi Chianti Classico Wine Dinner at Planet of the Grapes

Bow Lane, London. Tuesday 06-March-2018

Sometime you go to a wine tasting event and lose your notes. That happened twice to me this week; this is the first. So all I am left with is a hazy recollection of a splendid meal present by the suave Signore Manetti himself, all Italian charm and a fund of stories about the estate and his family. Much more interesting than what you read on the back label.

Update 25-April-2018: found my tasting notes. C=colour,  A=aroma, P=Palate. Not worth transcribing. They are really only memory joggers for me and this long after the event not of much use. I would only highlight the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ‘Vigna del Sorbo’ 2014 as the wine of the evening for me. It also does show the prices these wines can command.

Below is the blurb provided by POTG and the menu.

2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the year that the Manetti family purchased the derelict estate in Panzano's Conca d'Oro (or golden shell); a natural amphitheater in the heart of Chianti's original 'Classico' zone. In that time Fontodi has risen to become one of the undisputed stars of the region, and Fontodi's wines are considered benchmarks for all of Tuscany.

Fontodi's owner; the legendary Giovanni Manetti, will be at Planet of the Grapes Bow Lane to talk us through the history and philosophy of his estate, and to guide us through a stunning line-up of his wines; including two vintages of his flagship Flaccianello.


On Arrival
Crispy Clams & Arancini with lemon & chilli
‘Meriggio’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016

1st Course
Pasta fresca, porcini & tartufo nero
Chianti Classico 2014
Chianti Classico ‘Filetta di Lamole’ 2014

2nd Course
Rabbit, fennel salami, lentils & caramelised carrot
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ‘Vigna del Sorbo’ 2014

3rd Course
Char grilled sirloin ‘Fiorentina’, rosemary potatoes & greens
‘Flaccianello della Pieve’ 2013 (from magnum)
'Flaccianello della Pieve’ 2014

Dessert Course
Stef’s world famous Paris Brest
Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2007

Now that is what I called a meal - fantastic food and matching wines. Hic!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wine Wednesday at Unwined - Central Italy

Tooting Market, London. Wednesday 28-February-2018

Like buses. Nothing for ages then two wine tastings come along all at once. After last Wednesday's tasting here we are again back at Unwined in Tooting. This time all Italian wines from central Italy:

Falesco Vitiano : Grechetto : 2016 : Umbria : ITA £13.50
Cantina Orsogna : Pecorino : 2016 : Abruzzo : ITA £16.00
Villa Cialdini : Lambrusco Grasparossa : 2016 : Emilia Romagna : ITA £16.50
Vincola Carassanse : Montepulciano/Sangiovese : 2016 : Marche : ITA £11.50
Isole e Olena : Sangiovese/Canaiolo/Syrah : 2014 : Chianti Classico : ITA £26.00
Antonio Camillo Morellino di Scansano : Sangiovese : 2016 : Maremma : ITA £16.00

For a change Laura decided to play a 2, 1, 1, 2 formation, the inverse of last week:
  • First an A-B comparison of two white grapes, Grechetto vs Pecorino
  • Then a curve ball with the Lambrusco
  • Next the first of three Sangiovese based reds
  • Finally an A-B comparison of two Tuscan reds
The Grechetto very pale yellow with apple on the nose. On the palette it was like unripe cooking apples. Way too tart for me but Mary liked it. Or "crisp" as Laura euphemistically called it in marketing speak. Depends on one's personal taste. Me, I don't like sharp wines; Mary's Sauvignon Blancs are safe from my depredations.

The Pecorino is one of Mary's favourites. Also pale yellow and I got something a bit tropical on the nose. Tastewise an improvement on the Grechetto moving from cookers to Granny Smiths, Mary got white peaches, with a fuller, creamier texture than the first.

Poor old Lambrusco has had a bit of a bad rep. in the past but this is a proper example of the quality end of the style. Purple in colour, frizzante and raspberry, almost bubblegum on the nose. Red fruits on the palate, cherry and strawberry, and some tannins. It went very well with the parmigiano reggiano that Laura supplied to taste with this.

Then on to the reds...

The Vincola Carassanse was a very intense red, you couldn't see your fingers the other side of the glass; there was a hint of brick at the edge. I didn't get much in the nose but it was a bit nippy and the reds were possibly a little too cold to show as well as they could.

Tooting Market may be an indoor market but there are no doors and it was below freezing outside; the space heaters kept off the worst of the chill but we all kept our coats on.

The last pair were not dissimilar to each other. The Isole e Olena was ruby colour, showing some tertiary aromas, a hint of cedar, and some tannins. The Morellino was a murky ruby with tertiary notes of leather and sottobosco, and more pronounced tannins. Both lovely and a show of hands was fairly equally divided. They definitely need to go with food. Some Tuscan wild boar salami would be lovely.

There was some discussion about the Super Tuscans: an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, not recognised within the Italian wine classification system. It reminded me of when Mary and I went to San Gimignano and found some Ornellaia at an unmissable price. We snapped up six bottles and then had to buy a extra wheely case to bring them home. Ever since then it has been known as "The Italian Case"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Dutty Moonshine Big Band at the O2 Academy Islington

London. Saturday 24-February-2018

My nephew Chris play drums with The Dutty Moonshine Big Band. They had their best attended gig in London so far at O2 Academy Islington so we had to go!

Pre-show meal with sister, Jane, and family friend, Ros, was at The Elk in the Woods in the picturesque Camden Passage. Good food and a glass of wine.

Then to the venue early enough to see most of the support act: Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer who Wikipedia describes, accurately, as "a British parodist who performs "chap hop" - hip-hop delivered in a Received Pronunciation accent." One in a long line of great British eccentric musicians to put alongside The Rutles, The Barron Knights and Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Then the main act. High energy stuff indeed although hard to categorise, it takes in a mish-mash of influences "from New Orleans Jazz bands, Noir movies and dirty warehouse raves. Imagine the kind of music Jay Gatsby would play at his parties if he grew up on the bass scenes of London".

Dutty is the guy in the middle with the baseball cap. Dress code was interesting, a female rapper in a cocktail dress and a harpist wearing an elegant evening gown playing hip-hop makes for a twinge of cognitive dissonance.

In the picture below, Chris is on drums at the back just behind the guy wearing the trilby.

An end of show picture from the stage; Chris with the beard to the right of the trilby.

We really enjoyed the show. Well done to the band!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wine Wednesday at Unwined - Pinot Gris and Tempranillo

Tooting Market, London. Wednesday 21-February-2018

First time back for a while to this excellent little venue (Unwined in Tooting). A tasting of two grape varietals (Pinot Gris / Grigio and Tempranillo) presenting three of each, chosen to showcase the differences created by country, climate and cultivation.

Laura decided to play a 1, 2, 2, 1 formation:

  • First the Specogna to introduce the pinot gris / grigio. 
  • Then an A-B comparison of the Ovum and Ca di Alte, done blind for added fun. 
  • For the reds an A-B comparison of Urbina vs Gran Cerdo.
  • Followed by the Picaro for the grand finale.

An interesting and informative way to structure the tasting.

The Specogna was an interesting pale copper / pink gold colour courtesy of the grape's skin - unusually dark for a white grape. Melon, white peach and green apple on both the nose and the palate. This is classic, quality pinot grigio from Friuli, higher altitude and later harvest (cf the Ca di Alte)

The BK Ovum was light in colour with tropical fruits on the nose and unctuous on the palate. An Australian wine done in an Alsace style. Lovely. On the other hand the Ca di Alte was lighter, sharper and appley, very much the early harvested version from the plains of the Veneto produced for the mass market.

Specogna : Pinot Grigio Ramato : 2016 : Friuli Venezia Guila : ITA £21.00
BK 'Ovum' : Pinot Gris : 2016 : Adelaide Hills : AUS £27.00
Ca di Alte : Pinot Grigio : 2016 : Veneto : ITA £12.00

Next up the reds. I learned that it was because of phylloxera that the French vignerons went to Spain in search of grapes and there introduced the Spanish winemakers to the use of barrels for ageing thus changing the traditional style of Rioja to that we know today. Well, well!

The Urbina was a Crianza that had been given more ageing than legally required which gave it a hint of brick colour on the rim and much smoother tannins, strawberry on the palate. The Gran Cerdo was very similar but younger; ruby, slightly greener tannins and similar palate.

The Picaro was lovely. Ruby and purple in colour, some grip on the palate and tasted of morello cherry and (to my tongue) red velvet cake.

Bodegas Urbina Crianza : Tempranillo/Graciano/Mazuelo : 2008: Rioja : ESP £17.00
Gran Cerdo : Tempranillo : 2016 : Rioja : ESP £10.50
Dominio del Aguila 'Picaro' : Tempranillo/Garnacha/Bobal : 2016 : Ribera del Duero : ESP £29.00

Then we finished off with small plate of three cheeses which were delicious with the Picaro. Another excellent and instructive evening.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cleaning the Wandle February 2018

Poulter Park, Sutton, Surrey. Sunday 11-February-2018.

Looking at the weather forecast the dress code was thermal long johns and two pairs of thick walking socks.

Looking back over the calendar, Poulter park seems to be an annual event. The last time I attended a clean-up here was in March 2015 when we pulled around 200 tyres out. So this stretch should be in pretty good shape by now.

In fact the first hour I spent using the litter picker to clean out hundreds of wet-wipes that had snagged on some pilings. Still that was better than those who were working upstream and were picking out sanitary pads and condoms. All this courtesy of the Beddington sewage treatment plant upstream of where we were working. A good day to work with your lips tightly clamped.

It was good to see my old wheelbarrow that we donated when we down-sized in action. The lady in red said it was a smooth little runner.

After the lunch break my fingers were going numb. I went back in the water for half an hour but then decided that loss of sensation was nature's way to telling me to take an early bath so I did.

As always, the first thing I do back home is strip off and put all my clothing straight into the washing machine. Then a nice warm shower and a cup of tea. Good deed done for this month.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Brubecks play Brubeck at Ronnie Scott's

Soho, London. Sunday 14-January-2018.

Another fantastic evening of music at Ronnie Scott's. This time "Brubecks play Brubeck" - three of Dave Brubeck's sons plus Dave O'Higgins on sax. Going on any night but Friday or Saturday means you get a double dose of music. Instead of a support act, one set from the main act and thrown out for the second crowd, you get two sets from the group.

I was impressed how Chris managed to make an electric bass sound like an acoustic double bass. I was even more impressed with Dan whose drum solos were controlled, elegant and precise. Too many drummers seem to think that a solo should either be as fast as possible or as loud as possible. This was how it should be done. I don't understand time signatures but apparently "their father invited listeners to start counting in odd numbers".

Reviews from previous years:

“Darius, Chris and Dan, augmented by British saxist Dave O’Higgins, are rekindling the old magic. The four cantered affectionately through the hit list, but shrewdly didn’t try to clone the original sound.”
John Fordham, The Guardian

“At the end of a joyous second set the pianist Darius Brubeck and his brothers cued in the audience’s handclaps on Unsquare Dance. More than half a century after their father invited listeners to start counting in odd numbers, the music has lost none of its poise.”
Clive Davis, The Times

Friday, January 19, 2018

Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2018

Butlin's, Skegness. Friday 19-Jan-2018 to Monday 22-Jan-2108.

After the memory of last year's chilly conditions had faded, Mary persuaded me to return for this year's Rock and Blues Festival. This time we chose accommodation slightly closer to the central facilities hence less chance of frostbite walking to and fro.

1 °C, Heavy Snow.
This is warmer than last year!

This year, instead of self catering, we went for the inclusive dining package. There were two restaurants with similar quality, pub-like food; part self service, part carvery style buffet and an all-you-can-eat deal. The wine list choice was reasonable. The staff were all really friendly and eager to help, you can tell that is the ethos of the place.

Again there were three venues (Jaks, Reds, Centre Stage) and a stage in the main foyer (Skyline) for up and coming acts. This year they swapped Reds and Centre Stage back to the arrangement used prior to last year with blues acts on Centre Stage.

This is the full list of the acts we got to see, * for acts we liked, ** for acts we really liked, *** for the acts we really, really liked, x for dire acts.

As someone pointed out, guitars and drums don't age but the human voice does. The two dire acts were vocalists whose tonsils unfortunately hadn't stood the test of time: Roger Chapman ex Family and Edgar Broughton ex his eponymous Band. Oh dear.

Friday 19th:
Deep Blue Sea (Skyline)
Tom Walker Trio (Centre Stage) *
Sari Schorr and The Engine Room (Centre Stage) *
Atomic Rooster (Reds) ** (MSM)

Atomic Rooster may be a getting on a bit but they still belt out good ole rock'n'roll. Nothing says "ageing rocker" more than leather trousers and a shiny top over a bit of a paunch.

Atomic Rooster

Alvin Youngblood Hart (Centre Stage) *

Alvin Youngblood Hart

Saturday 20th:
Rebecca Downes (Centre Stage) ***

Rebecca was the first of two female blues singer who really impressed, Connie Lush being the second.

Rebecca Downs

Thorbjorn Risager (Centre Stage) *
Joe Anderton (Skyline)
Storm Warning (Skyline) **

A nice feature of the festival is the Skyline stage where lesser known bands get three quarters of an hour to show what they can do and be voted for. The most popular acts are then invited back the following year to open on one of the main stages. We liked these guys and hope they make it.

Storm Warning

Yoko and The Sugabeets (Skyline)
The Ryk Mead Band (Skyline)
Bernie Marsden (Reds) **
Jo Harman (Centre Stage) *
Roger Chapman (Reds) x
Earl Thomas (Centre Stage) ***

Earl Thomas was a flamboyant performer. A good voice and a real entertainer.

Earl Thomas

Sunday 21st:
Edgar Broughton (Reds) x
Greg Coulson (Centre Stage) **
Rob Tognoni (Centre Stage) *
Connie Lush Band (Centre Stage) **

The second blues songstress to make an impression. She was joined by Rebecca Downes for a duet on one song.

Connie Lush Band

Lucky Peterson (Centre Stage) ***

The rented organ that Lucky Peterson was due to play malfunctioned and, like a true professional, he switched seamlessly to some fine slide guitar while the technicians scurried about fixing the rig. His band were adroit in adapting to the ad-hoc set list picking up as soon as he started to play.

Lucky Peterson

Dr Feelgood (Centre Stage) **

We've seen these guys before and again they bashed out a rocking closing set.

Dr Feelgood

Elles Bailey (Jaks) ** was on late at the Jaks stage. Having seen and enjoyed her act last year we popped in briefly but it was crowded, the acoustics are poor, it was late and we were tired after the full on weekend so didn't stay long however she didn't disappoint.

Monday was another full English breakfast and a four-hour drive home to recover.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cleaning the Wandle January 2018

Earlsfield, London. Sunday 14-January-2018.

Goodness me, over a year since my last Wandle clean up. Most of that was spending seven months in Italy then calendar clashes for the other dates: Royal Parks' Half Marathon, walking in the Lake District, cortisone injection in my foot, Dad's funeral, Valentine's Day in Dublin, Sunday lunch with old friends, the Brighton Marathon, Sunday lunch with new friends; 2017 was a busy year.

So it was good to get back in the water and pull out some rubbish. There is a bad fly-tip at the Trewint Street bridge which I had reported to the council and the Trust. I had hoped that would be included in our stretch for the day. Apparently not. Polly explained that the Trust are in conversation with Wandsworth Council trying to encourage them to take a more pro-active, preventive approach with this popular fly-tipping location. Otherwise they are relying on volunteers to clear up the mess several times a year.

We met in Ravensbury Terrace and, instead, cleared the section starting from the old factory buildings and working upstream (so you don't muddy your own water). The water was low and clear so that helped spotting the rubbish.

We got as far as the railway bridge by lunchtime so after lunch continued up to the fish weir at the Trewint Street bridge.

For me the highlight of the day was finding an eel. They like to hide in containers so you always check cans and old tyres or, in my case, a scaffolding pole. I was emptying it out to make it lighter to carry and out popped the eel. I was able to divert it onto the bank so others could see the slippery little sucker before it slid back into the river.

A good haul from what looked like, to me at least, a relatively clean stretch. No shopping trollies but many of the usual suspects - beer bottles and cans, plastic sheets and carrier bags, bits of car and bike, duvets and mattresses.

As always there some oddities in amongst the usual rubbish. The coconut shells confuse the newbies. Was there a circus? No, Hindus float them down the river as votive offerings so I'd be looking to the Shree Ghanapathy temple here.

Back home for a shower to warm up as the water was v. cold and I was losing sensation and grip in my right hand. Fortunately the thermal long johns and two pairs of walking socks kept the feet warm enough to avoid full on chilblains but the toes still tingled for some time.

That's the halo freshly buffed up ready for next month.