Caught by the River

Letter From Arcadia

Dexter Petley | 2nd December 2008

Colden Days


tempests fly in northern france, the carp rods buckle down to the long cold wait. on maison-arse pit, where i’ve already notched up my thirty-first blank in a row, it feels like i’m casting at headstones. hard as nails and dead as nails up there, blizzards after dark, the carp hoarding their appetite in the icelandic crash, the sleet of hand for the christmas run up. skies like zebra crossings, one day black, the next white side down, then a purple heart burn or a yellow peril. album cover skies from 1973:

life trailer-side is reduced to buckets of mud and digging up parsnips, spitting lead shot from my butcher’s rabbits, this years sprouts the size of golf balls, and the cabbage which gave barnes wallis an idea for a bouncing bomb. resistence 2008 is horticultural. pisciculture struggles now that happy hour has been cancelled down the isobar, when lingering after sunset for a winter fish is like huddling in a doorway dreaming of a bag chips.

the forest floor is now the axminster of leaves your hampstead ponds are laid on, or the axe-minster of forest stewardship, gnarling stihls between shotgun tuesdays. mushroom hunting is still a bullet dodging game of soldiers looking for buried landmines. the ceps did not invade again. the few we found had strayed onto roadside verges, there to have their heads kicked in by cepist scum. who are these miserable parisians who spend sundays in normandy and kick at every mushroom they encounter? the chanterelles have drifted apart, scattering from their usual serried ranks. it takes all afternoon to pick them off and get them into the basket, a scurmish every time. you’re fighting the black beetles and the slugs for the meagre fungi; and the wild boar are hooligans this year. there are no acorns, none at all. like the corner shop’s run out of juicy fruit, they’re on the rampage after anything that chews. but you remember your last french drop, when we drove in a thick white mist with our carp rods squashed into my old renault 4? we passed through some haunted village with a ruined chateau and an oblong basin of tree-lined water perforated by a dawn carp, like a silver print from a wooden camera. well, it’s there we found the mushrooms this november, the bolets in the revolution’s footprints:

we found them on the stumps of medieval oak trees the peasants cut for firewood in 1789 once they’d sacked the fiefdom. now, for a 6 euro day ticket at the boulangerie, you can quest the sad duc Saint-Simon’s carp within his 14 kilometre wall, staring down the oblong at the ruined chateau left gutted to make the bourgeois tremble at their good fortune. when next your hazel carp rods start a-twitching for the western front, give the melancholy louis de rouvroy duc de saint-simon’s own acid bath a thought.

a barricade of bird tables