Caught by the River

Old Mortality.

Dexter Petley | 8th April 2008


relieved you spratt yourself up highgate hill. the lost village tench ponds, blue plaques floating in the margins, lift bites off discarded murder weapons. a stolen handbag under every bush, olde tench silted from the days of the poisoners. you must’ve won the pools mate and pulled the black-out curtains down; was beginning to think you’d snapped your rod and got into the bell jar with jeremy bentham in the interests of science. you haven’t missed much. my last winter fish squirmed like an eel on the mat. nine photos like this:

a dozen rivers flowed under the bridge since; mud in bed, mud on the eggs, mud on my literary future as another novel gathers waterstones moss in the amazon jungle on its way to a good pulping.
spring search parties are out for new waters within an evening’s radius. found a moon crator colonised by life-forms from garbolino 6, or is it a retired railwayman’s miniature model of a highgate pond?:

not the one i found last summer, this one’s in the wells fargo village with the health club pit(see Dynamo Kev). a sign nailed to a tree says “no bivvies” (the french spell it biwwy). you can errect a fucking bungalow and fish six poles while you’re away at work, but no bivvy. photo in local paper once of this place; some grundy in a red ball cap holding a fourty against his wooden railings. his four rods were laying on the kitchen table, lines taught, between bottles of plonk, baguettes and dried sausage. way to fish.
3rd week of sleeting winds, northern raspers no stab vest ever made stops you getting it between the ribs. i’ve hacked the pva out several times against it and done the long spring evening but these winds don’t drop, they just keep coming at you like they’re on something. not having a bungalow handy, i’ve got under the unhooking mat. just survival time till the chopper picks you up.
another ten quid’s worth of sausages off the butcher friday night. the final payment. he called me a bohemian and said i could fish his pond if i ate snails with him. the grey ones that live round his pond. i’ll do anything to fish. even that. next it’ll be his tripe and frogs legs off the ones that live round my own pond. careless talk with corporal jones…
saturday evening after gruelling on the garden, early spuds in nice curved rows, peas, broad beans and onions squarely put to bed, i pulled some worms and took the avon down to the village stream. miles of heartbreak, barbed wire swims and fallen trees and not a minnow’s twitch to the worm:

i found a stump & twig stretch at sunset, the winter wheat rising as far as the house where i’d bought my 5 steres of firewood last october. ash, hazel, the very logs which warmed me this winter came from here:

i’m after significance with this; end of winter, trees cut to the root, sleeted aprils like they were in childhood when we were worming along the village stream; because, as i made these fruitless casts and broke the rod down at sunset, my old lady died, aged 83, behind a screen in the kent & sussex. she who stood at her garden gate to watch cat’s eyes cunningham dog jerry 109s over gravesend. she who wrapped the fruit cake in greaseproof paper when i went tench fishing down all saints pond with a stale crust.

grave’s end on the birdtable