Caught by the River

Letter From Arcadia

John Andrews | 31st May 2011

New Angleterre and the Field of Honnor.


french arcadia is lifting its antimacassars. apologies for the months without word or picture. whilst you were drinking winter tea at the dog track sunrise in efgeeco city, i was detained in my own labour camp, serving time on piece-work, funding the war on want. now time thickens around the seasonal pleasures; carp fishing in a lingering twilight after a day at the potager; driving home with the moon squashed on the windscreen, midnight frost under torchlight while cooking on an open fire to the tune of a nightingale.

the quick bitter winter is all but forgotton. life has been outside since april, blurring the lines between decorum and savagery. the months of frozen wood while building the yurt ring and terrace on the edge of the forest; planting more fruit trees and fighting off the deer who come to get drunk on the buds; and all the quotidian haulage of transferring the garden from caravan plot to the field. henceforth french arcadia will be signalling from this dome i made from a first world war flying saucer:

a green top is being sought, mostly in vain. you probably know where all the green canvas goes. in the meantime, camouflage duties to appease the squeamish conformists and collaborators who creep down the lane. a new law to make yurts illegal has been dropped by the senate, so my criminal defence is trompe de l’oeil and the mayor’s one grace: my right to a tent and nothing else. the yurt remains, under french law, a tent. but putting one up is not camping. without navvies, you’re juggling with plates and the walls of jericho. until the tension ropes bite, it’s a house of cards and haul away joe. now steady as she goes, it’s like living in a three master cathedral, the creak of rigging at vespers and the sun glowing behind the canvas at evensong as the birds fly in through the open crown, swing on the ropes and flip out the window.

the garden is where it’s lost and won, as cursed in old testament, lean and dry under hot winds and high pressure. a soil test might have saved watching the spinach and garlic wither yellow for lack of nitrogeon. the drought reaps the rest and the dreaded day of saint glace wiped out the green beans in a night of cold terror as my teeth clacked in the bivvy miles away in enemy country.

it’s this i shall be writing of in future signals, if ever it rains again; sessions on a syndicate water i’ve stumped up a wad of euros to join, not only to escape the beer can tossers but to concentrate intelligence on 60 old, dark hulks laden between 30 & 50lbs apiece. carp who’ve seen everything and heard all the jokes. a small pit, no more than 3 hectares, in enemy country as i said, department 28 eure et loir, a land of bad drivers and ill-bred youth where the millers cheat you of your flour. but the privilage is a padlock and key with the place to myself on weekdays. the boss took some pursuading to let me join. the usual pride and prejudice, all english are carp thieves. i spoke my piece and showed some chequebook. he was soon displaying photos of his helicopter on his iphone, proof of my bona fide established because i had an old land rover and had once parked it next to the range rover of an ex-guitarist with peter frampton, in the bricomarché car park at la ferté macé. this guitarist now breeds koi carp in his french chateau. the boss, who is called mr bollinger, you can’t make this up, purchased one of these koi carp for 10,000 euros, this being the kind of thing that passes between friends with helicopters and chateaux. needing somewhere to put it, he found a local gravel pit was up for rent, 4,000 euros a year. it had a bailiff, and thus the syndicate was born as a payback scheme and a liquid safe for his fool’s goldfish. mr bollinger himself dabbles with rod pod and barbeque some weekends. other members fish seven per swim on saturdays and scare the daylights out of the fish. the four pages of rules and the envoironmental charter we all have to sign means nothing to the twenty-eighters of eure et loir. the french flout the good rules, and stick to bad ones. i should have known, just to lower expectations. but despite doldrums and dead-weather heat waves by day and cold misty nights, a few fish knew the score on my trial run.

elsewhere, last summer’s campaign still pays out in loose change. arse pit fish woke early in a spring which arrived before the tables had been set, and a raw wind 39 suprised me at teatime back in february:

spilling over into march, rising like new moons and foragers in the blue evenings, a portly 38 at last knockings:

until the garden quits rehab and looks well enough to keep me fat through winter, the angling is on standby, by invitation of the weather only. a few showers latterly fallen have eased the temperatures down but air pressure is stubborn above 1015 and the carp remain stately in their quarters. the legendary bob arrives appropriately on june the 6th, this time with his brother alan who has his own place in angling history. there is a chapter in chris yates’s “casting at the sun” where he and alan are fishing llandrindod wells in the sixties. alan last fished when his swim looked like a set-piece for andrews of arcadia. you probably have his bottle tops in your cellar and his low water salmon hooks are keeping up your braces.

as june is nigh, i expect you’re rubbing brasso on your tench tackle, so it looks its best for the glorious. i’ve missed your pikey rambles and your inn-side glimpse of angling’s juke box jury. i look forward to your next dawn chorus as the tench bubbles close in.

new season on the bird table