Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections – John Andrews

John Andrews | 31st December 2012

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


Under Dubwood

‘To Begin at the Beginning’

The year known as 2012 brings at its end a flood of memories, too chaotic and too fast to fall as shadows or settle as reflections. A year that burnt as brightly as a giant homemade space rocket, alight and in orbit over a black fen. The fuse lit in the first month by a few dozen comrades who gathered in a room above a public house in North London and drank an antidote to all that the months ahead might bring.

The dead grip of winter held fast and spring was slow to follow, primroses shivered, the scrap merchant came to take away the car, the mercury rose to melt the ice but not until the season had shrunk to a matter of hours rather than days. And just before the clock stopped, a chub was caught from an old swim, its sudden appearance like finding a present left under the roots of a tree by someone who had been there previously, a reward for a last minute dash down a crowded motorway.

Summer came early in a blazing evening on the South Bank with the arrival of the a one night Variety Show, a re-convening of the January room in an auditorium and upon a stage. Words read aloud in disbelief at where we had come and at how far we had travelled. Five Years. A stop on the journey not to be taken in its stride. A halt. A night for reflection, a night of untrammelled joy.

Joy that carried us aloft through the middle of the year over fields overrun by car boot sales and past ponds quietly filling with rain to a white tent under an oak tree at Port Eliot. Six days and nights summed up in one phrase ‘The Great Gatsby meets The Wild Geese Uptown’, twelve square feet of storytelling, readings in the round, under the watchful gaze of a wandering giant made from paper and tweed, recorded in oil, echoed in the theme of lost films shown against canvas as night fell and as phantoms and ghosts took flight the next afternoon. A silent choir given voice.

A week later rains and floods chased us down a mountain through Shropshire villages that had been half swept away to the flatlands of North Norfolk where we walked a borrowed dog over the salt marsh and met a rescued one belonging to old friends, a white rogue of a terrier who scoffed the food off our plates whilst we were looking at the sun and put a smile on our faces. Bass were caught on the turn at Gun Hill and the tides conspired to expose the rusting bones of a rocket that had flown in the skies in a year unknown.

Home for a brief spell to celebrate a 50th birthday with a riot at a long table filled with friends and family. Fed by banquet that arrived in a transit van and was conjured up on a broken cooker, washed down with a gallon drum of cocktails and heartfelt speeches. Another rocket alight in the sky. Over the water we went to a wedding of two of our own, the dress made by the birthday girl and the days made by all who were there. Rome, or something better, built in less than a week, a world where we danced and drove round in an old open top bus, where pubs filled with new friends, as did kitchens at 2am, and where from a lighthouse we looked west across the breakers to the Atlantic Ocean, from an Imaginot Line manned by diehards downing Bloody Mary’s.

To earth we fell like pilots from that same sky, Major Toms’ one and all, via whisky nights on film sets, trips to Philadelphia in hand knitted tanktops and an album launched out of a suitcase, next to six foot market stalls and emptying auction rooms, to the year’s end, a succession of afternoons where the washed up gathered in a wooden room in the West End, a space that became an ark, a rocket of its own complete with an exhibition of all that was found in the year nailed to the wall. A expression of what was left behind just in case passers by did not believe what had happened, or indeed if, upon reflection so unbelievable was it, that for a brief moment we doubted it ourselves.

‘Time passes….Listen…..Time passes’.