thank you for your letter of the 12th and for your kind words in your year of shadows and reflections. my reply is long overdue. whilst you were roasting spuds around the ceasefire and nailing barbel by the tail to every door in laure’s village i have been marooned in a shiplake punt in the lock cut to nowhere. unable to put a long trace and the red richardson bung at the foot of the big door itself – marlow lock gates. every pike from there to seething wells smiling the smile of the devil himself, their snitch wire jaws twitching under the willow roots and the roach shivering on the weir sill. waves slapping against the side of the oarless vessel and an owl hooting under the bridge. monday morning i was due to take to the river with g and wyndham barnes when the bream cough came and got me in the dead of night. i woke in a sweat, the weight of the marble keepnet hovering above the bed. seven days without night it seemed and blessed with a laugh like a thackeray baliff going knocking for debt and my own gills turned blue. i missed the last market of the year and a bellyful of ale in the golden heart which may not keep to the new year. if the moon is right richardson and i will be out before the box is closed. i think it will take a fried jack’s liver to rid me of this throat. til then i wish you a merry christmas and may the trent otter himself be the one to knock on your door come the morning of the 25th.
hallucinations on the birdtable