Caught by the River

After The Goldrush

Dexter Petley | 14th September 2007


another hair-triggered memory, another johnny’s jaunt whistling past my ear: romney marsh, royal military. if constable had owned a camera he’d’ve taken that photo. i’d cancel my exile if you lived dyke-side. pike-bung mini-breaks with the smuggler rod on the romney hythe&dymchurch shuttle, revenge a wasted childhood, begging on bleeding knees for my old man to let me take the rod on the compulsary sunday drive, me and the ratbag packed like nuns in a morris minnow. just one cast, but the cunt called fishing desire “bellyaching”. all because once, to keep me from mischief, he left me there with a float rod and the crust from last week’s loaf while he smarmed his way into some posh widow’s kitchen with a bag of tools. she must have thrown him out. he came back in half an hour, just as my second cast sent a drunken quill lurching through a tench’s haareem. “pack up and get in the car,” he said, words which killed so many fisher-boys hearts dead with hatred post-1966. that one glimpse of the other life you never recover from. i dream of it still, my geoff hurst tench 40 years on, my “grand meaulnes”, my dr zhivago.

penelope pit has no white horses and was never mentioned in a gazette. women who look as if they were swapped for a horse walk their dogs along the potholes, and men who limp from a tractor accident smash the nettles down with landing net poles to flip their rubber shads into the dead-leg, funny bone, tennis elbow of a river running alongside. the only sense of history is yesterday’s rubbish. scruffy horses fart in the paddocks and the lorries gush by, air brakes hissing this side of the roundabout half a mile downwind. last night i could see the blue and red neons of a macdonalds from my swim. a granary town, we’re still bucolic pit-side, if the word has half its leg in tuburculosis or plague. i shouldn’t be there, i’ve things to do, but come 5 o’clock the old man within me says “get in the car”. where the rods are sunday nuns in permenant supplication. it’s a harvest sun and an indian wind baking the smell of harrowed fields now the kids are back at school and the swallows gang up on the late hatches. i fish back of the wind come september, cast on the line where the ripples begin. the wind is irrelevent now. blowing hot and cold and chasing its own tail. yesterday it turned south and i set up with sun in my face and not a carp to be seen. a 30lb amnesia day, rig stiff as a corpse, 3 bait stringer right on the edge of the glare, the left-hander on a bar. you’d think the old man was still on his high horse, checking his albert down the widow’s pantry, my 30 minutes was up and he thinks “that boy is up to mallarky”… a single peep and the tip just creaked an inch. i was still in poloroids. after the goldrush, 33lbs of crazy horse which toppled wellington:

it’s a game of two halves now. i’m in the winter fleece soon as that sun hits the macdonalds yard arm. almost too dark to see i pull the left-hander off the bar, re-bait, put it back. the tip a silouette, it pulls round, no bleep. it’s only been out there 5 minutes. the old man hasn’t even got to the widow’s front gate. touch & go at 31. old man lying by the side of the road with the lorries rolling by:

neil young on the birdtable