Chris McCully


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Unzipping the pheasant (and other poems)

Monday, 27 December 2021 at 12:48

Pheasant breast fillets I've dressed a few pheasants in my time. It can mean a lot of fiddly and even nauseating effort for what is rather little edible meat. I'm learning a new way of dressing the birds, one that doesn't require plucking. This involves making an incision below the bird's breast, 'unzipping' the pheasant (peeling back skin and feathers) up the  breastbone and then carving two breast fillets from the carcase. It's the work of a minute or two at most; a sharp filleting knife helps. Though you might like to save well-marked, long-fibred tail feathers for fly-tying, the rest of the bird is discarded: this is wasteful of the stock-making potential of legs and wings but we have freezer trays full of chicken, turkey and goose stock at this time of year anyway.

  I was impressed by the ease and neatness of this method of dressing the birds. There are excellent illustrated instructions here:

Fur and feather

Sunday, 26 December 2021 at 11:12

Christmas Day 2021

Three dogs in a field

Thursday, 23 December 2021 at 20:51

Three dogs


Sunday, 12 December 2021 at 20:20


Losing the L plates

Sunday, 12 December 2021 at 15:38

Hen pheasant Just about to take off the L plates....

The fire season

Thursday, 18 November 2021 at 08:48

Flames Last week I worked 71 hours; the week before, I worked 73 hours. To this has it come, in the last phase of a professional career: counting the hours, often in sadness, more often in disbelief, as autumn happens outside the windows. I've craved time as if it's oxygen or fresh blood.The weather's been so quiet that the leaves - many still hanging on the boughs in this late autumn - have become frail, almost translucent. When the sun shines they catch fire. Yesterday, craving remission from words and foolishness and computer screens, I fished for pike for three hours. The river flowed slowly and was running clear. I moved one pike to some lurid pink softbait but it didn't take hold properly. The aftershock of its bow-wave disturbed the mallard which were fussing on the far bank. And then nothing - nothing except the low sun and the stillness. I walked back to the car. It has been a difficult and sometimes wretched angling season. I was a man in flames.

And meanwhile...

Sunday, 14 November 2021 at 08:31

The goodbyes cover mock ...Jon sent across an image for what might become the cover of what I'm pretty sure will be my last ever book, The River of All the Goodbyes. It'll take a while for the text to see publication because there's all the proofing of the dictionary, Names of the Fish, to do first, and that will be a fiddly job. Nevertheless, it was grand to begin to think about what The Goodbyes might look like once it sees daylight.

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