3 July 2010 (Saturday) - Pond Life

A hot night, so we had the window open, and so were woken by the drunks shouting at each other at 3am. Why do they do it? I regularly drink to excess, but never feel the need to roam the streets bellowing my head off at silly o’clock.

I spent a little while over brekkie putting together a presentation on the solar scope for the astro club whilst waiting for “Daddies Little Angel TM to arrive with the “rear admiral”. Regular readers may recall I’ve joined a syndicate which has obtained the fishing rights to a small local pond. The clarion call had gone out for people to help with a general pond tidy-up, and today was the day. The “rear admiral” and I arrived at the pond armed with long-handled secatuers, saws, and an axe. And we waited for everyone else to arrive. Matt & Richard had been dispatched to the Bat-Farm to obtain the Bat-Boat, and once they and everyone else were on deck, we all made a start. The idea was to have various gangs pruning back the brambles to make more fishing spots available, and anyone who was stupid, gullible, and/or dumb enough would be launched onto the high seas in the boat to conduct pruning operations that couldn’t be done on dry land.

Needless to say, “Yours Truly” and the “rear admiral” were afloat within minutes. Our first assignment was to tie a rope to the dead sheep which was floating in the pond. It was a tad ripe, but I tied a noose in a rope which the “rear admiral” successfully looped around a limb of the unfortunate ex-sheep. We then hoiked the rope at the land-lubbers and let them deal with the carcass.

Our next task was to uproot as many bulrushes as we could. We started pulling out the bulrushes, which was easier said than done. With both of us pulling at rushes on the same side of the boat, we came within an inch of death as the boat nearly capsized (we measured it!). Not that we would have drowned; the water was only two feet deep. But had we sunk the Bat-Boat we would be killed to death by the boat’s land-lord.

We soon figured out how to alternately extract rushes and distribute weight to maximum advantage. We pulled out hundreds of the things, and chucked them at Matt who was assigned to put them in a heap at the top of the bank. Chucking the rushes was hard work, and so one of our crew had a genius idea that if we put the extracted bulrushes into the boat we could periodically sail to the shore to unload our cargo. In retrospect I know it’s patently obvious that bulrushes which grow in a pond, and are 90% submerged are going to be somewhat waterlogged, but it seemed a god idea at the time. And so as the boat filled with water we found the fatal flaw in our genius idea. And rush extraction went on hold for five minutes whilst we bailed out rushes and water. Our next idea was to leave all the pulled bulrushes floating and let the land-lubbers bring them ashore using their grappling iron. Yes – grappling iron. We weren’t messing about today – a fact which became painfully obvious as the boat was nearly sunk when it was bombed by the grappling iron.

In the end, the grappling iron proved to be a failure in that it didn’t actually grapple. It just skidded over the top of the floating rushes. So I had this genius idea (we had lots of those today!) to shove the grapple underneath the rushes and tie it in place. Have you ever smelled uprooted bulrushes? If not, then take my advice and don’t try to. Oh, they stink. And I was wrapping my arms all around the things. But my idea worked, to the amazement of all present, and soon we had a pile of rushes which was four feet high.

Talking of stinking, just as we thought we’d finished with the rushes, one of the land-lubbers found another dead sheep floating in the pond. And so, singing “Almighty Father, Strong to Save” those with a nautical bent rowed off up the pond to rope the carcass. And seeing how the “rear admiral” had roped the last dead ‘un, it was now my turn. You may recall I described the first dead sheep as “ripe”. It was quite obnoxious, but as Albert (Einstein) once famously remarked, everything is relative. The first sheep was quite sweet and was in fact a breath of fresh air compared to the second. We had a slight problem trying to decide which end of this animal to work with. Seeing how it’s head had fallen off made orientating the thing problematical. But realising the thing still had two limbs attached, I roped up to one of them, threw the rope at a land-lubber, and set sail before the “rear admiral” blew. After such unpleasantness, towing out an oil drum was a piece of cake.

We then tackled up with saw and secateurs, and sailed around the pond trimming back hedges, trees and assorted pond-going shrubbery, and despite nearly capsizing a couple of times we finally got back to dry land safely, if a tad odorous. With the boat cleaned out (as best we could) we said goodbye to the rest of the workers, and four of us went to the Kings Head in Shadoxhurst. Most of our land-lubbers didn’t want to go to the pub with us smelling of pond scum, which I suppose is understandable. A minor hiccup happened on the way when the lighting board fell off the back of the boat and got dragged for a few hundred yards, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed. And over a pint of Late Red and a cheese ploughmans we congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

And then having done such a good job of tidying the pond, I went back for an hour or two’s fishing. Having caught loads, including quite a few big enough to need the net to be landed, I eventually came home just before 10pm. Oh, I stink….

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