Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Ben Myers

Ben Myers | 10th December 2008

In 2003 I wrote a communiqué outlining a 5 Year Plan for a record label I was launching called Captains Of Industry. I sent it to everyone I knew. Exactly five years later I closed the label having resolutely failed to change – I think ‘destroy’ was actually the word I used at the time – the music industry. We didn’t even dent the rusty hull.

With hindsight, we launched at a terrible time (with a start-up of £500 during the most tumultuous time the business has known), but who needs hindsight when you have enthusiasm, a mission and a great music? Nevertheless Captains Of Industry ended in 2008 as it began, on an upbeat note and in credit. More importantly we made many new friends and left behind some future obscure cult classics from never-to-be-repeated groups such as Gay For Johnny Depp and Marmaduke Duke.

The other highlights of the year have been found in the smaller moments, most of them tethered in some way to nature or literature: staying in a vardo – a traditional gypsy caravan – in the Black Mountains, wandering Offa’s Dyke and visiting Hay-on-Wye (though thankfully not when the festival was on). Sitting in perfect silence next to the obscure mirror-like Birkbeck tarn high upon on the Yorkshire moors at the height of summer watching the travellers coming from all directions to converge on Appleby horse fair. Fishing and swimming in the Swale then sleeping in a caravan without water, heating or a toilet. Ignoring the warning signs and submerging myself in a lake in Kent. The rise of the blood-orange sun over Ullswater in the earliest minutes of 2008.

After numerous near-misses, I also finally reached Iceland and it was every bit as majestic as I had hoped. Gullfoss, the geysers, long walks beneath a multitude of rainbows, lost in the mountains on a gravel track – it didn’t disappoint. A month later the Icelandic banking system collapsed and the UK government flouted some bullshit terrorism laws at this most peaceful and deep-thinking country I have ever visited.

I also had my first collection of poetry published, co-wrote another with The Brutalists, gave up smoking, bought a bike, wrote a novel about fishing in which no fish are caught, started writing another one and have enjoyed reads by Roger Deakin, David Peace, John Niven, Ross Raisin, Chris Yates, Tony O’Neill, Richard Benson, Willy Vlautin, Lee Rourke, Hardeep Phull, Mark E Smith, Joe Ridgwell, Stevie Chick and Sebastian Horsley.

My gig of the year combined two personal passions – British Sea Power and the Lake District – with some max strength codeine tablets. I don’t remember much of it, but I know it was fun.

Then there was night I fell off the wagon and stayed up drinking beer all night, watching as America pulled itself back from the brink of almost certain destruction.

Yes, Axl Rose finally released his new album.

Oh, and a man of integrity, intelligence and good intentions defied the odds, won an election and my faith in humanity was restored.

My head hurt the next day, but it was more than worth it.

A vintage year.