Caught by the River

Letter from Arcadia

Dexter Petley | 30th March 2009

Land Army Goalposts


the march waggon rolls out on all four winds, jays on the gate and primroses blink open to raise their yellow hosanahs.

can’t match your river exploits this month. long fishless waits in the cold; late winter tasks which have no words, more living out of buckets than ever till hibernaton break-out, egged on by yellow riots coming from outside; forsythia, daffodils, primroses, lesser celandines, cowslips, all present and correct this year, no untimely ripping, no jumping the sun. time to fence, swat the first house flies crawling from under the planks, sweep the first ants off the food shelf. outside, every footstep has a job; plant more pond iris and block holes where the chickens might escape and scratch up the first sowings; parsley, pick & grow salad leaf, broad beans. it’s been one of those winters, global detox, first glimpse of famine. defence for food; cochet’s beasts got in the other night, hooving up the garden, stog holes punched across the whole plot. cochet’s in his fifties, lives with his mum and dad in a hovel with one of those hovel dogs who spend all day on a chain digging a pit in the dirt where they lie all day, as horney elbowed as madame cochet who stands in the bullock cart as her old man sucks his one last tooth on the tractor they got for their wedding day in 1959. their beasts have trashed my garden before, but this time i flagged down the tractor and it went to verge-side arbitration.

spring is preparation, it’s onward graft you can’t back out of. the restraint of beasts is fragile security when you sow to survive. it tips into warfare when it’s springtime for hitler, seedlings learning their drill under scratch and flack from neighbours’ chickens, dogs, sheep, heifers; friendly fire from jays and blackbirds, sparrows and doves or the careless tank tracks of roofers sent by the landlord to tap on the tiles. disputes with neighbours is the real country code. takes more than dressing like a scarecrow to scare the people off.

last month’s algae bloom is now repulsed to a thin ribbon in the margins pinned in place by half a dozen frogspawn pats. a bale of barley straw tethered in the margins did for the algae. the winds have made a clean sweep and the sun has strength to glint off the stainless steel muck shovel still abandoned after the last downpour.

the fishing front remains on pause as life plays on around it. the bait station is up and rolling supplies for the may offensive:

season tickets purchased, new waters plumbed and recconnoitered at sunset as one scout house-martin dipped with the bats:


next autumn’s faggots already on the drier:


and just to show you’re not forgotton, yesterday’s trundle through the lanes beer can spotting led me to a lost football pitch for your collection of postcards to mates in prison. you can see it’s been mown for sunday’s village cup final, goalposts salvaged off american scrap left on obama beach last d-day:


gone to penalties on the birdtable