Caught by the River

Letters From Arcadia

John Andrews | 3rd August 2009

The Wet Woods Of Home



Whilst you were caught in the teeth of a French car farce-10 the wind
turned to the west over England and brought us much needed rain,
filling every ditch from Dagenham Breach to Dagsville with life. The
tench have stayed elusive at Frensham but the golden rudd have
appeared some of them weighing more than a bag of sovreigns with the
scales to match. As revived as if we had taken our holidays at Sligo
racecourse we took the road west along lanes and drank strong tea in
lay-bys where burger vans flew their flags of St George and it felt
good to be alive, the English summer at its best, a heady brew of the
fragrance of wet woods and hop fields drying in the intermittent sun.
To Port Eliot we went, the oldest inhabited house in the country
having been home to Augustinian monks or Eliots of some kind for over
one thousand years. On arrival in the rain by the Caught by the
River tented village I half expected to see you coming down the
river, Letters From Arcadia in a leather dispatch case under your
arm, standing tall in your rubber blow up like the last French blow
in to come by that way, the Emperor himself, who said when gazing at
the estate from the sea as he sailed into exile that it was the most
beautiful place in England. He was not wrong. There we camped like
lost colonials and drowned rat Wellington troops in sawn off waders
and fifties barbours listening to Hanif Kureshi bringing the Buddha
of Suburbia alive again on the bowling green and becoming bewitched
by ghostly Michael Howells Victorian vignettes in giant mahoghany
cabinets deep in the bowels of the house where the carpets have worn
through their backing and the roof has leaked continually since
1850. I read from Babylon on Sunday having eaten a bar of coal tar
soap as a cure for nerves and consumed two rapid fire pints of Duchy
ale. For a brief moment I invited the tent away from that place and
along the banks of the River Lea in 1851, on a wet afternoon not so
disimilar to the one they were experiencing, where Napoleon was not
such a distant memory and a red topped crow’s quill made its way to
the bend and the sunlight caught on the windows of the White House as
another shower of rain passed away to the east across Hackney Marsh.

Words drying on the birdtable