Caught by the River


John Andrews | 22nd January 2008


while you were digging in the town pit for half scaled medieval relics, fat monks with red fins, me and jeff took the sixties back streets from white city down the A4 towards isleworth. every traffic light scene a sweeney set, every turn off a light industrial dead end with more broken windows than a medway riot. past the last working brewery in london town at chiswick, the rising thames lapping at its doors threatening to take barrels of fullers off to essex creeks and make the ghosts of long gone smugglers merry and rich. to osterley park we went on a winter’s morning, a pale sun and an estate lake within spitting distance of london town. you know the scene from memory, a long walk down a flooded gravel track, wild ponies scratching their necks on splintered wooden fences leading to an eighteenth century secret garden. a dam made from london brick its lip cut and broken by centuries of smacks from westerlies turning the ornamental lake into an inland sea. an island in the distance with the big house behind it. in front of us beds of reeds in their pale brown january colours and the drop off beyond them, down to twenty feet. a pit dug by spade and wooden wheelbarrow when the pay was half a pint in a pewter pot and the pike were prison hulks. we put our baits out into the past and waited as the sun crossed the sky and a dampness and cold came out of the walls to whisper the tales of the house into our ears. the screech of an owl and the bark of a fox. the distant roar of traffic on the M4 in a parallel world just over the fence. a blank but we were beguiled by the place and will be back. they say lady osterley walks the lawns at night feeding on sprats.

a haunting on the birdtable