BANKSY’S WEEK: my Cummings and goings to Bernard’s Castle…and the laird catches me hook, line and stinker!

Mine host! The man from whom I socially-distanced at historic Bernard's Castle

I TOOK A THIRTY-MINUTE DRIVE to Bernard’s Castle to test my eyesight yesterday. With me I took my wife and our ageing hen, the Lone (free) Ranger, on the basis that if my remaining seeing eye took the old jalopy over a cliff then I was going to take my nearest and dearest with me.

Naturally, I chose not to ask the Prime Minister’s opinion of my planned ‘breakout’ as he had a lot of other things on his plate, what with all the Cummings and goings. It was, I believe, the honourable thing to do.

Most importantly, we survived. True, we had to stop in a lay-by so that the Lone (free) Ranger could relieve herself in the woods. Some people in the distance appeared to recognise me and greeted me with that familiar Churchillian victory sign that has been adopted by many of my readers, but we had no interaction with them beyond returning their good wishes with similarly warm gestures.

Frankly, we had little choice other than to make the journey, even though “relying on my instinct and integrity “did mean turning my blinded eye to one or two minor regulations regarding staying home and being alert and that sort of thing. But our hen was sick. I feel sure I know how our Prime Minister would react: he is, after all, a patron of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Protection of Conservative Advisors) and the hen had been off the lay for a week or more.

My wife was at the end of her tether. What if I also became fed up with the loathsome little clucker? Who would look after the hen then? So I made what I still believe to be a very reasonable decision to take the hen to stay with a close friend.

The choice was simple: my fellow columnist, Bernard Trafford, has always urged us to consider his home as our own in case of emergencies. He’s a proper show-off, is Bernard. “My home is my castle,” he has said proudly on many occasions. “Use it as you will.” Typically generous of Bernard; and what greater emergency could there be than a four-year-old fowl who felt unwell?

We arrived at Bernard’s Castle to a welcoming ‘Halloo!’ which the great man boomed down the garden from his back door (over a safe social distance) to the outside lavvy where he generously indicated the three of us were to bed down. Naturally, we had no further contact whatsoever with the Traffords, beyond an eight-hour wine tasting session.
Finally, let me say how disappointed I have been at the suggestion that our mercy dash was no more than a weekend ‘jolly’. Who would choose to spend the night in Bernard’s brick outhouse were it not the direst of emergencies?

Anyway, the trip to Bernard’s Castle was so successful that other such exploratory car outings are not out of the question. Example:

Traffic PC: Have you been drinking, sir?

Me (behind the wheel): Yesh. hoffisher. . . I’m jusht taking a shpin to shee if I am fit to drive!

Has the ‘laird’ caught me
hook, line and . . . stinker?
took me to task this week over my recent column praising the home-loving salmon’s amazing ability to find its way back to the Tweed to breed.

Peter Straker-Smith farms some wonderful land at Carham which includes a mile of river with fishing rights on either side, as well as some highly-praised shooting territory. But he is not pleased with Banksy!

I wrote, “It is mostly the Toffs-on-Tweed who provide the greatest threat [to the salmon], lining the banks of their ‘beats’ with fly-fishing tourists and. . . charging up to £4,000 per week”. You can read the article – followed by Peter’s ‘correction’ – for yourself HERE

My irate reader commented: “The journalist’s greatest problem is the sad fact that some of his readers will know enough about a subject to know that an article, however amusing, is so short of the truth as to count as disinformation.

“All salmon caught by anglers on Tweed before 30th June are returned to the water, so the Toffs-on-Tweed are no threat to them. Nobody is charging £4,000 per week. Most beats were struggling to cover their costs even before the Covid-19 lockdown. . .”

He is correct on one of the three charges he levels: as a non-angler, this journalist was unaware that early summer fish were returned unharmed, and for that I apologise.

But he is wrong to suggest that journalists in general do not welcome the reasonable differences of opinion offered by well-informed readers. This journalist welcomes such correspondence and, with very few exceptions, prints them.

Finally, a journalist can only publish what he is told or what his research produces from reasonable, reliable sources . ‘ Nobody is charging £4,000 per week,’ writes Peter. What, nobody? What follows I found online at 

“The cost of fishing in Scotland is directly related to the 5-year average catch record for that particular part of that river during that week. The cost is usually given as a cost per day and per rod. In this way, the more productive parts of the rivers will cost more to fish than those parts of rivers where fewer salmon are caught. For example, the Junction Pool beat on the River Tweed [where the river bends round the town of Kelso from Ednam House to Broomlands Wood, for those who know the area] can cost about £1,400 per fisher per day to fish during the peak of the season in October. However the same beat can be fished for around £100 in the summer months.”

I rest my case for the defence with the recommendation that readers seek a less expensive but just as enjoyable day’s fishing at Carham with the (hopefully mollified) Peter Straker-Smith.



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