Caught by the River

Submerged Timber & Hidden Snags

9th April 2008

Hey Jeff,

Don’t know if you got round to reading ‘Another Bloody Love Letter‘ by Anthony Loyd that I threw your way a while ago so I thought I’d send this extract over.

It really is an amazing book. I remember Anthony from dark days in Ladbroke Grove in the early nineties. He was one of those people you don’t really know very well but are seemingly always around on the periphries of life and I often wondered what had happened to him. He was quite an enigmatic figure, Eton educated and an ex-army officer somewhat disaffected with his experiences in Desert Storm. He also had a nasty taste for very hard drugs, he was handsome and very kind and he always struck me as something of a lost soul. you know, one of those people that seems to have something missing in the middle of themselves that will never be filled by a girl or a career or any of that normal stuff (I reckon you and I may have known a few rock stars with similar personality traits) so I suppose in retrospect it’s no surprise where he ended up.

One day, by chance, I came across a copy of his first book ‘My War Gone By, I Miss It So‘ and was struck dumb. It seemed he had exchanged the pointless and empty opiate soothed days on the Golborne Road for the all too real horrors of the Balkan conflict and finally found a purpose to his life. Maybe it shocked him into finally finding his voice, he obviously feels drawn to the violence and insanity of humanity at it’s worst from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and the The Congo to mention just a few corners of fucking bloody messes on this planet that he has immersed himself in. He seems to find peace among the violence and brutality that blights the worse parts of the world ( and to be just one tenth as honest as Anthony is I also crave these experiences, sort of terrifying but true) But please note, he is no fried rock and roll war junkie in the great ‘Dispatches‘ Vietnam tradition of Tim Page or Sean Flynn, there’s no hippie, faux- glamor in his work, just a beautiful and seething honesty and for the reader it can be a little uncomfortable as it’s pretty clear that he finds his only peace and sense of self worth in the world of death, blood and fire. He writes with such amazing clarity and beauty that I am often moved to tears. For example, in the introduction to his second book he describes being somewhere near Al- Anbar, Iraq in 2004..

“Behind him, across the river, a dead young American was soaring up to the sky on the floor of a helicopter fuselage, bloody and dirty inside a bag..

The angry and emotional U.S Army PR then asks Anthony if he “got what he was looking for”.

I couldn’t help but think of my friend Major Jason Ward of the Royal Marines who was also killed in a pointless and unimaginably brutal way chasing ghosts in this ill conceived and messy war of ours and reading this book made me inconsolable in a very theraputic way, it really helped me grieve.

Anyway, to the point, he also likes to fish. This is from chapter 12 of ‘Another Bloody Love Letter‘…

“They had every advantage over me. Though the river was expansive, and in places more than twenty feet deep, it was filled with weed beds, submerged timber and hidden snags, obstacles known in their finest detail to the fish, who had little trouble in repeatedly breaking my line. And they seemed to time the onset of their feeding hours to the moment when I had drunk the first half-bottle of wine, so that the sudden disaperence of my glowing float would catch me oil-necked, dreamy and unawares, the force of my late and extravagant strike spilling the glass and flipping me untidily into the back of the boat, on to the bait box and cigarettes, as line, float and hook shot up from the water to wreath around my head. Untangling myself, ever surprised, I would cast again, often fishing through until dawn, escaping with the night and the water, the prospect of just one victory each evening over those mighty fish enough for me to defy sleep.

In this place, indulging in the rare, short era of quiet introspection that followed my return from Sierra Leone, the usual build-up of angst that afflicted me in the absence of war assignments was temporarily but totally allayed. Gone too were the heroin cravings….”


I suppose there are a million reasons why people go fishing and they all make sense.

Hope to see you soon,