2 July 2012

The Uncertainty Principle

Boredom is a killer - in fact I'd tend to agree with 'Idler' author Tom Hodgkinson when he argues that if modern science were more subtle and sophisticated it would surely prove boredom to be one of the central killers of our age.

Why are we so bored? Well, industrialisation and the division of labour has helped ensure that most jobs are, to a greater or lesser degree, pretty one dimensional. The remorseless rise of branded foods and the supermarket system means that every tin, packet and bottle we open contains exactly the same factory-produced 'food experience' time after time. We buy standardised clothes in standard sizes from the same few shops which can be found in every high street in the land. And when we get home and turn on the telly, we find ourselves watching not the hundreds of programmes and channels we were promised but myriad variations on a small number of proven programmes formats.

Truly ours is the age of boredom.

Fortunately there is plenty you can do to combat this (aside from the Stoic solution so eloquently expressed by Pink Floyd when they sang: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.") And chief among the way in which we can fight back is by injecting uncertainty back into our lives.

Drive a different route to work this morning. Bake your own bread and brew your own beer (and revel in the randomness, and occasional glory, of the output). Turn off the telly and listen to the radio (Radio 4 is truly the last bastion of randomness in our world, as I came to understand a couple of years ago when I found myself glued to a 3 part series on the joys of granite). And of course, fish a river rather than a stocked lake or pond every now and again...

Because there was certainly nothing boring about Friday evening on the River Leam. For a start, the stick float that had last week refused so obstinately to go under now seemed alive; every trot was greeted by a bob, a dive and (generally) a pretty decent roach.

Ouch - a perfectly punctured perch
When that line of attack slowed down at around 8pm, I switched to a lobworm and feeder attack and again the river seemed full of fish. It was perch that dominated this time - at least, that is, until a jack pike set up camp in front of me. He took a minute or more to let go of the first perch he grabbed, he took the next one from me in moments, but the third was nearly his undoing as the hook transferred itself from perch to pike and I got within a whisker of drawing him over the net.

But it was not to be. With a single flick of his powerful tail he headed back to midwater and finally managed to sever the hook link. No pike then, but exactly the kind of unexpected and enjoyable encounter that commercial fisheries don't often deliver.

And as if to underline these themes of randomness and variation, my attempt to fish the upper Leam the next night was completely stumped by high water levels which made virtually every swim unfishable. Unexpected? Yup. Annoying? You bet. But absolutely part and parcel of the joy of river fishing.


Jeff Hatt said...

I agree with everything apart from the brewing your own beer bit, because its always awful! Far better to let other layabouts brew it for you and supply the best pubs with kegs of their own creations, leaving you without exploding bottles back of your mums wardrobe to deal with...in my experience of brewing!

Home made wine though, there's an art. Just last year I forgot to boil my elderberries, and the result was...

Cyanide poisoning.

Never been so very ill, for such a very short time in my entire life. I never knew my bowels were so deep they could throw up water drank two days before. Then try to throw up themselves.

An hour later, I was right as rain. But never again...

Hornet said...

Wow, that adds a new terror to home brewing. I shall be sure to boil at all times. I'm afraid the key to beer brewing (as far as I have found so far) is a bit 'Idler-Lite' - commercial beer kits. These have improved out of all recognition since my student days, and now almost guarantee a perfectly quaffable result - my personal recommendation is Wherry Best. Cheers!