Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Mathew Clayton

Mathew Clayton | 17th December 2009

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

On the second bank holiday in May I met my brother and a group of his friends for a picnic in a Sussex wood. Suspended mid air, hanging from invisible threads, were thousands of bright green caterpillars slowly making their way from the safety of the treetops to a brand new life on the ground. Every few seconds a soft thump announced that a caterpillar had decided to leap the last few feet.

After we finished eating we drove up to the windmills at Clayton and walked to one of my favourite places, the Indian war memorial, the Chattri. Anish Kapoor had chosen this lonely spot for one of his artworks, a spectacular giant curved mirror. Looking back towards Brighton hundreds of people were walking out from the city towards the sculpture. It was one of a number of perfect days I spent on the Downs this year.

I got another dose of the South Coast courtesy of Nick Cave’s brilliant novel the Death of Bunny Munro. He writes beautifully and the whole book was given an extra charge by him describing places familiar to me. If Bunny Munro was my favourite book a close second was Blue Blood, Edward Conlon’s memoir of his time as a New York cop (Ebury are bringing out a UK edition early next year).

My favourite song of 2009 was also about New York, Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind. It reminded me of my first night in the city back in the late eighties. As a wide eyed 18 year old I was amazed when the family I was staying with stopped at a book shop that was still open at midnight. That evening they had taken two friends and me out to Chinatown for a meal. The father, a rich banker, had tried to impress us by talking about On the Road. And whilst I could bluff my way through a conversation about Kerouac I had never eaten in a Chinese restaurant before and was embarrassed not to know what to order. We returned the family’s hospitality by staying up late and watching a pornographic chat show on the living room television. The talk show host ending each interview by having sex with the guest. I had never seen Wogan do that.

My main musical fix has been via Chris Coco’s online radio show Melodica. As soon as it gets cold I start wishing I was in Ibiza sat on one of the beaten up bar stools at the chiringuito on Agua Blancas gazing out over the heads of the leathery naked German couple who have been playing paddleball on the same spot on the beach without interruption since 1973. Chris’s wonderful weekly dose of Balearic beats takes me a step closer to the Mediterranean.

Finally, this year I have laughed at Funny People, The Hangover, Curb Your Enthusiasm and, on a boring afternoon working in the study room of Dulwich Library, an old Irish man who fell asleep whilst reading the newspaper and slipped off his chair landing with a bump on his arse. Sat on the floor with everyone looking at him he tried, with a series of wild hand gestures, to indicate he had done it on purpose. This still brings a smile to my face.