BANKSY’S WEEK: What an Englishman can do with his flies that a Scotsman can’t…

Och aye, my dear chap! Here’s what a Jones can do that a Jock can’t

SALMON ARE THE SMARTEST FISH: each year Mr and Mrs Atlantic-Grey return from taking the waters up north, make a sharp right turn at Berwick lighthouse and head as hard as they can for the upper reaches of the River Tweed before the wife’s piscatorial waters break.

It is an impressive performance without a satnav, but any number of hazards can delay or prove deadly to this annual spawning pilgrimage: droughts, spates, poachers and otters all take their toll. But it is mostly the Toffs-on-Tweed who provide the greatest threat, lining the banks of their ‘beats’ with fly-fishing tourists and, as a result of charging up to £4,000 per week , lining their plus-four trouser pockets with loot.

But salmon will have to be twice as smart since the (shall we call it ‘London’ rather than UK?) government declared open season on them by defining fly fishing as the sort of solitary sport that’s perfect for keeping one’s social distance. While crucially – and, perhaps, sensibly – Scotland’s government maintained its ban on angling from the Tweed northwards.

Since 1807 and the very first of the River Tweed Acts, fishing the great ‘border burn’ that rises in Scotland and reaches the sea in England has been managed by the River Tweed Commission. The Tweed and its tributaries, from whichever side of the border, were considered Scottish.

But Westminster’s announcement scraps that 213-year agreement. While England eased the lockdown restrictions the Scottish Government – like that of Wales – still insists that fishing, like travelling for anything other than work or essential purposes, is not allowed.

The resulting situation is this: while the stretches of the Tweed which lie in Scotland remain closed to fishing from either bank the short stretch from West Ord to the sea which lies in England might be fished, subject to social distancing measures being observed. An English angler’s paradise? Possibly; restrictions in Scotland mean that Scots are banned from travelling to England to fish.

Which, I feel sure, is as clear as mud to the fishermen but where does it leave the poor fish? Risking a non-stop dash through the (mine)fields of anglers, treating all passing flies as lures with hidden hooks until they reach the shelter of Scottish water?

Banksy’s advice? Hug the northern bank of the river until well past the bridge at Norham where, in the late 15th century, the Scottish King James IV was fished from the swollen Tweed and likely death as he escaped an English army.

‘Twas always a lucky spot for Scots!

There was an old idiot
from Crookham. . .

O, Canada! I’m quite sure our family in Vancouver – two of Gemma’s brothers and sisters-in-law, six nieces and nephews and a couple of grand-nippers have overrun British Columbia – have always thought me a bit of a jerk. Well, now they know for sure.

Invited to contribute a filmed greeting to be edited into a surprise fortieth anniversary showreel for my brother-in-law Tim and wife Jean I scribbled a three-verse limerick for us to read and record then send from my computer.

Email duly sent, I checked the quality of the attachment and . . . horrors! I discovered I’d sent not the perfect, finished version but an earlier dress rehearsal -– a literally ‘dry run‘ ending with a toast to the happy couple using empty wine glasses followed by a hissy fit thrown by the actor/director (Yours Truly, of course) reprimanding his wife over her ‘lacklustre’ delivery.

“We thought it wasn’t like you to have an empty glass in your hand,” my journalist niece Rosie replied to my hurriedly re-sent email. “We’ll replace it with the proper version but we’ll have to run the original on a ‘blooper’ tape!”

Play up and play the game, but
don’t touch your opponent’s balls

My friend Steve the Loaded Londoner was boasting the other day that he plays tennis twice a week with * * * * (here he shamelessly name-dropped a prominent peer, presumably in the hope that I would swell his ego by telling you, dear reader; but I will NOT).

“Great exercise,” I lied. “But perhaps a bit dangerous, given coronavirus and social distancing and all that?”

“Not at all,” he insisted. “Singles is ideal for social distancing. Besides, I wear gloves when I play: apparently tennis is okay as long as you don’t touch your opponent’s balls. . .”

WELL REALLY! Has it taken a deadly pandemic to establish what is deemed polite and appropriate behaviour on a tennis court, I wonder?

Personally, I wouldn’t touch my opponent’s balls with a bargepole!

Just asking. . .
ANYONE else noticed that the word ‘coronavirus’ is an anagram of ‘carnivorous’?

ISN’T blaming delays in getting coronavirus test results to nervous patients just a classic example of ‘the check’s in the post’?

CONSIDERING the number of things the UK government has got wrong regarding the pandemic, isn’t it possible they have “been guided by the séance”?


  1. 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. In this case:
    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/week. Most beats were struggling to cover their costs even before the Covid-19 lockdown.
    Westminster decided that all fishing was socially distanced. What is notable is the number of Scots who disagree with their government and are travelling illegally to England to fish!
    The English relaxation of the rules has not scrapped Tweed Law. Simply the act of fishing is illegal now throughout Scotland but not in England. That will not last very long.
    The interesting bit you did not mention is the 15 miles or so where the water may be fished from the English side but not from the Scots side.
    It is always nice to believe what one reads – so a little more fact checking would be appreciated!


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