Caught by the River

Letter from Arcadia

Dexter Petley | 31st October 2008


clocks went dark on a squint-eyed moon. garlic and silver onion bulbs purchased at the autumn fair not for a song but an aria, from dordogne dog-track onion sellers, winter onions like white-chocolate pop-ups, russian eyeballs to dib in straw beds next first quarter, betjeman’s cupolas, the purple garlic the colour of a breton wino’s nose. beside me there was gilbert buying his garlic and cauliflowers, he lives across the field from me, drives a rat-battered renault 4, his two hunting dogs steaming up the windows, loaded shotgun propped on the back seat. our chef de commune, mole and magpie trapper, apple tree surgeon, day and night in his blue overalls, gitane lipped and a mustache like a victorian bogbrush. i ask him how the hunting’s going. he shoots in the woods behind my caravan, horns and dogs, locals with smokey land rovers and barrels of maize on the back for groundbaiting the wild boar. gilbert says: “nah, just a rat, did you find it?” sloshing through wet grass at midnight after the first winter blank at maison arse i found it. tripped over the bastard, laying across my path, tigernut the cat circling the thing with his fur on guard duty, mighty mouse at least his own size:

it’s in my freezer, i said. he’d heard i “eat things like that”. that, by the way, is a koypu, water-pig or ragondin. pest no1 who burrows the waterside banks till they collapse, often with the angler on it. the dutch eat them; holland would flood if they didn’t. i’m still waiting for my wild boar off gilbert. last year he shot one but it got away. a month later he found it dead and rotten a mile off. this year the pigs are hungry. there are no acorns and the maize groundbait is scattered twice a week. my butcher said his carp were hungry too, they like their acorn buffet. out mushrooming yesterday, corn pig turds everywhere. the ceps are still underground so i went to the tomb of mushroom-man and left a wreath:

like cep, like carp. the last days of autumn on maison arse, locazade bottle sunsets:

wet mists after dusk, lines dead in the water, pheasants roosting in the trees beside me sound like model T fords hooting in the rush hour the day prohibition was declared. the drive home through ghosts of highwaymen, the ectoplasm of a carp angler:

today the snow fell, bitter sleet, winter-wet, flakes slapping on the bird table