Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Ted Kessler

18th December 2008

In which, as the year comes to it’s end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;

Last year, I began my contribution to Shadows and Reflections by describing the year as being of “unspectacular personal vintage.” I wrote too soon. The year ended with an explosion, one that propelled me into 2008 with vengeful force. I longed for the plod of dull routine for months afterwards. Fuck spectacular, frankly.

We’ll forego the finer details as I’m pretty sure the internet is not the place for intimate confession. Yet 2008 has been a year of sheer intensity, and though at times that has been brutal, now, at its end, I recognise that it’s been illuminating too. Some things I had long imagined crucial to a happy existence (for example, a football season ticket) I came to understand were not actually necessary. And, then, there were other things that stood out as being central to my being…

This is a great site. It’s a beautiful idea, executed passionately. But fish, rivers and me standing in rivers looking for fish does not excite me. I’m excited by concrete. I get off on grey buildings set in warrens of streets that fan out out for miles and miles. I love standing in the door of a bar as the grind of one of the great cities sweeps past oblivious: Barcelona, Paris, Glasgow, New York, Milan. That’s me, caught by the metropolis.

But, this year, it is walking alone through the streets I grew up on that has provided the most succour. Those moments of introspection, away from the mundane realities of the every day, that are described eloquently by CBTR contributors writing about fishing or other pastoral pursuits, I get those too. But I get them on the streets of London, at either end of the day, ideally in the sun but not exclusively so.

I love The Embankment. I love Chapel and Walthamstow Markets. I love the residential streets of Hammersmith, Hackney and Islington – although the rapid poncification of Upper Street is testing that. I love Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges. I love Hyde Park. I love walking towards Loftus Road in the spring. I love Tabor Road. I love Great Titchfield Street and the hands-in-pocket, ipod-on stroll from my office off Oxford St up to Regents Park to play football, with, yes, jumpers for goalposts, just as I have done since the dawn of time. I love London Fields. I love the walk through the city from Liverpool Street Station in almost every direction. I love Roupell Street. I love the many mews of Paddington. I love a weekday morning on Portobella Road. I truly, deeply love Soho. And most of all I love Berwick Street, from top to bottom. My favourite street in the heart of my home town.

I was in New York for Obamarama and witnessed the joyful madness that gripped the city on election night, though I returned not with a head full of change I could believe in but instead consumed with a heartbreaking, terrifying Swedish movie about a pubescent vampire, Let The Right One In. I urge you to see it. And I got involved with nature a couple of times too this year. I cycled through rustic Catalonia for a week or so, setting off from a medieval village in lush, arable countryside and dismounting gingerly ten days later on the coast, soaking up the very last warm rays of September as the freezing Med foretold of autumn swiftly approaching. I also marched across Ilkley Moor for a couple of days, staying in a pub surrounded by sheep and high above the bourgeoisie below. Views for miles around. Beautiful. But 2008 was not about leafy mysteries or the audacity of hope, not for me.

To quote Pete Meadon, 2008 was the year of clean living in difficult circumstances. Early in the year, I think that quote even appeared briefly on the Caught By The River masthead. It struck a chord that I’ve been humming along with for 12 months. Before the personal levee broke, I had a suit made which I have worn as a black, urban suit of armour every day since. I’ve walked through Soho daily in it, stretching my limbs as far across the Capital as I can manage whenever possible. Leather on tarmac, soles on concrete, tread worn through. Using London as my compass, I have literally walked myself back to harmony.

And every day I ensure I wind up at some point on Berwick Street. Wandering through the market, stopping for coffee in Flat White, buying fruit I won’t finish, lunch from the Beetroot cafe, sipping a pint outside The Blue Posts. It’s like plugging into the mainframe again. But, somehow, I only noticed a couple of weeks ago the enormous cranes stationed at the the southern end of the market despite walking past them every day. I’ve just started looking up again, I suppose. Yet there they are, in a huge pit of demolition, building offices and condos. The condos will provide the latest in modern urban living, apparently. My motto for next year: Enjoy today, for tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Here’s the trailer for Let The Right One In, which must surely be arriving here soon. Believe in magic. And pre-teen vampire love:

Ted Kessler