Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – John Richardson

John Richardson | 30th December 2009

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

Before Father Christmas made his annual visit the Grim Reaper shadowed in and paid two surprise visits. A favourite uncle, gifted with a great sense of humour, got up in the morning, made himself a cup of tea, sat down to watch the news and never got to drink the tea. This was a man who retreated through Burma, then advanced through Burma. Old soldiers just fade away, suddenly. If that wasn’t enough a very good friend from art school, ex-flatmate and best man at our wedding departed in the same way. Mick was one month younger than I am, a chilling reality check.
Strangely, two days before he died my nephew and I were tidying the garage and rediscovered my boxes of vinyl from the 60’s, when Saturdays meant a trip to Soho to buy imports from the States. There they all were: The Velvet Underground, Blue Cheer, The Jefferson Airplane, The Band, The Doors, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, John Hiseman’s Colisseum, The Byrds, Ars Nova, The Fugs The Pretty Things, Pink Floyd and most of the bands that started the English blues revival.
Mick, Sue and I saw a most of the bands play live, so playing the music again brings a deluge of memories. No prizes for guessing what the rest of the family are being bombarded with. Added to that are the five download CD’s from Jeff, Andrew and Robin. Many thanks to you all.
The trout fishing has been really quite good, with a lot of trout smoked and stored in the freezer for the winter. The sporting hunter gatherer strikes back. All this despite Sue’s anguished cries of ‘how many more to fit in the freezer?’ and still my enthusiasm for fly fishing seems to grow with the bonus being that the trout seem to enjoy my attempts at fly-tying. The flies fish better than they look anyway.
Coarse fishing ‘exploits’ have only just started, having decided to wait until the nights drew in. The Chub got smaller and the Gudgeon have got bigger. No bad thing in my opinion; the trouble is the Roach, Dace, Perch and Pike have yet to make any kind of serious appearance. The company of good friends, mostly called John and occasionally Jeff and Nick on the riverbank more than compensates for the blanks. Too much water, too little water, too much weed, too many leaves. I think fishermen are very close to famers in their attitude to the weather but as I write it really is too cold but an expedition is being planned regardless. I now remember one of last year’s resolutions for 2009, to get out fishing more. Another broken resolution but one I am going to work hard on rectifying for next year.
This time last year I was immersed in the creation and production of the maps used in the book ‘Caught by The River – a Collection of Words on Water’. The launch of the book at Foyles in London was a great evening meeting the writers and drinking Wandle ale. Nothing watery about that brew, I seem to remember just a slight headache the next day but nothing too debilitating.
Bird watching has slowly crept in too inspired by posts on Caught by The River, to date a total of 32 species have been spotted and logged.

Sue and I continue to explore what we like to call ‘lost England’, making the most of our retirement, with the big discovery being what I call ‘Zanderland’, The Fens, a beautiful haunted place with a sky like a Dutch sea painting and pubs where they tap the beer straight from the barrel or offer you a free half if you have never tasted the beer before. Perfect. Oh yes, nearly forgot, lots of water and hardly an angler to be seen. We experienced a plague of ladybirds in Norfolk, so many that they were smothering cars and people like large red dust. Then Scott Country, North of the Tweed, what a landscape! Spring exploring the Valleys of the Tweed, Coquet, Rede, Tyne, Swale and Tees with fabulous rivers and beautiful scenery. If you haven’t been there just go. You won’t be disappointed.
Autumn watching the Swedish Wallander, Generation Kill, The Shield, True Blood and a real treat to come, the complete set of ‘The Wire’ on DVD. Somehow we missed it first time round so a real feast to come. Detective stories and crime procedural novels with James Ellroy and the Harry Bosch stories, both old favourites, with new discoveries, Andrea Camilleri and Stieg Larsson. The trips to the Fens and around England have also unearthed a forgotten treasure; Ordnance Survey maps and hours of happily poring over these maps discovering streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. The best looking ponds and lakes always being in the grounds of big country houses…
2010? Well, it starts with two funerals and a lot of memories. Things can only get better.