Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Charles Rangeley-Wilson

Charles Rangeley-Wilson | 30th December 2008

The New Year 08 chimed in with some good news, delivered to me in a text message that went something like this: “Haven’t been able to stop saying awesome since we got home … amazing man … we have been blessed … fuck the partridge … it can stick the pear tree up its bum … God save the Queen and bless the sweet ass of the fishy gods… and nature … Rejoice … Xxxx Zimbo.” Twenty-first-century text bells were peeling all over the place ringing out that trout were spawning again in the River Wandle in south London – and that only months after a large slice of the river had been nuked by a careless accident in a sewage works. Later that month I got sick of the sight of the film I had been wrestling with for months and threw it in the bin and in February I picked out of the bin a book I’d started the previous year and threw in there about when I got going on the film. I think I’d done this to both twice before. I booked a flight to Tasmania this time and was really committed. The book is about cycles of destruction and regeneration, following the story of the wilderness we exported there in 1864 and woven through a journey from a beleaguered urban river to the remoter corners of the southern Alps in New Zealand. That’s part of what its about anyway. The rest is kind of … happening. I’ve been writing on and off since. My publisher would like to see a pitch, but I’m not sure how to pitch the outline of something you’ve not finished drawing yet. He’s given up now I think. In April in a downturn with the pen I picked the film back out of the bin and defied the fucker to not let me finish it. In May I took it to Bristol where a pal … let’s call him “Grassy Knoll” (as a nod to my favourite comic) … graded it, polished it and tut tutted over some of my more technically baroque time-line sculptures. Grassy also told me that the Queen was related to George Bush and 911 never happened. Then I drove to France to lend some useful words to a couple in Normandy who want to re-build their mile of chalk-stream: a river they had bought inadvertently when they also bought a miniature walled chateau built out of chalk blocks. I was jealous, but they were too nice to lock in their own wine cellar, so I told them to keep on at the trees. They will end up with many tons of firewood and a truly lovely trout stream. I came home. I caught a very big city trout and later that day my book found its ending in a supermarket car park somewhere near Heathrow. In July I had a key-hole hernia operation and discovered a whole new stratosphere of pain whenever I laughed. In August the BBC decided once more that they did want the film about Japan after all: an idea a producer and I had pitched (with TV – as I have learned – you obviously have to outline what you haven’t started to draw yet) to them almost two years earlier and which they had wanted then not wanted twice before. So in September – after checking they really meant it this time – we hastily dusted down the idea and just after my own film arrived back from the printers in early October we left. I spent nearly two months eating things that were either still alive or quite runny and I got home a full sixteen pounds lighter. While I was away Vicky packed and posted DVDs to the – surprisingly many – people who were nice enough to order it. We got past ten, which was a milestone and then a hundred which was a cause for great celebration. It picked up a good review or two as well. In December I got back on the bicycle of THE book which has no name and as the year leaks out I’m still riding it.