Caught by the River

Letter From Arcadia

17th September 2009


your postcard of a back-end tour, a down your way on the pubs and boot sales of old norfolk was a matchbox pickwick papers. my reply should reach out to sterne and the sentimental journey, but france today has fallen into the bad company of carp thieves. my own horseless carriage guzzled the oats of august on a lake crawl in a heatwave where bleached crayfish bones were scattered along evaporated margins. a drought of despond, palls of barbeque smoke drifting over from the enemy’s rodpods, the high pressure anglers, the last of the summer grease.
then came the miracle of september; it clears the banks, sweeps the kids back to school. who said nature abhors a vacuum? nature abhors kids. the drought reveals the fun they had earlier than normal; the coca-cola bottles stuffed into bare bushes, the biscuit packets lying in the withered grass. the council hedgers & ditchers have shredded their childhood memories into an evil mulch. but at least they’ve buggered off and the lakes are grateful and deserted again.


the in-tray blues mean snatched evenings on the wind blasted pits when even saturdays make france the indoor nation it really is after 5 o’clock. september midnights driving home are like victorian peep-shows; a wedding in every chateau, parisian number plates glowing in the dark, village funfairs where the goldfish are 30 years old; a watching fox in every ditch. these are dessicated days, withering winds, leaves burnt off before their fall. the rains have failed. the rivers have ceased to flow and the eure is a waddi of dry stones near its source. it’s like driving through a tumbleweed penny dreadful with blinding flurries of white moths, a blizzard of night flappers swiped off the stubble by perpetual north winds, dashboarded against the windscreen. and in the daytime i’m drinking tea outside when i look down at my feet and a viper, motionless, has flattened its jaws into a hallowean mask, a witch doctor’s hood, to kill the sumer frog which sits in its teeth, swallowed slowly, blinking till its just a pair of eyes. once done, the viper slides across my extruded pond where it finds a nest among the other serpents, there to lay its eggs and hibernate. time to go carp fishing.


a pool where owls test out their latest hoots and screeching, the darkest of pools under a canopy of oaks, a valley pool where the sky is like a dungeon’s hatch. slack lines on the silt gulley, once more i’m drinking tea when the bobbin lifts, slow as a viper’s dinner. i lift the rod into a solid mass, like a weakling arm-wrestling a thug at the billiard hall. he let me win. 27.3:


time for heartbreak pit, last winter’s weeping sleet forgotten in the rush of wind. it doesn’t look good. bleak cold ridges, the poplars thrash and there’s only five feet of water over the rocky plateau, fourteen feet over the silt. i place the third rod on the plateau and clip it tight. two bleep drop back fifty minutes later. usually bream, but with nothing else happening i decide to hit it. a wet handshake up the line. i prepare to reel in the bream. then it’s off. i hold the rod high to skip the lead over the stones. it feels sluggish. perhaps the bream is gliding after all. or i’ve hooked a plastic bag. i’m taken by suprise. the carp, all the time sneaking backwards hoping i wouldn’t notice; it almost catches me out, an ambush on the edge of the plateau as it slams into the deep gulley. we’re on our own now. equals, no more tricks. but i choice of weapon was mine. the rod wins. 34.8:


confetti on the bird table