Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections – Ben McCormick

Ben McCormick | 14th December 2013

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

As the year comes to its end, I’m again asked to look back and share my moments. And once more I’m left wondering where exactly to begin following a year just as eventful and episode-filled as the previous few. Early January brought the funeral of a long-time family friend in the freezing, unforgiving north west of England. Not the start I’d have fashioned for myself given the opportunity.

Then came the outbreak of what I’ve since dubbed the ‘Great Freelance Drought of 2013’, which duly annihilated my savings and brought about the eventual, premature demise of my fledgling small business. More disappointment with the opposite sex followed, which sadly no longer comes as any great surprise to me. There were more deaths to come, too, along with a clichéd pickpocketing in Barcelona, a pathetic and spiteful (not to mention unlawful) threat from the ex-wife, a blow on the head that’s left a permanent scar and finally a fall off the bike due to the wrong amount of dry leaves on the ground. All this and not even the idlest threat of a snog to lighten the load. Enough there to consider bad fortune almost a regular monthly income, then.

Long-suffering readers of my annual outpourings will at this point be forgiven for tuning out and going to do something marginally less depressing, like listening to several Radiohead albums back to back. Yet despite the mishaps and the stuff that just happens, I’m sitting in a comfy armchair gazing out at a colouring winter’s afternoon sky on the south coast and feeling hugely positive. Because in all honesty, I haven’t felt better in years.

All sorts of stuff has contributed to this. Raving one out on the banks of the Elbe in February, uncovering the nascent beer scene in Barcelona and yomping across the South Downs in the pitch black were all life-affirming experiences in one way or another. Cementing a great relationship with my kids despite no longer living with them is also a constant source of comfort. And watching Roddy Frame perform High Land, Hard Rain in full at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane fulfilled a long-standing ambition.

Summer saw some high points too. Finally casting rod and line again in search of hidden monsters (and landing some bream instead), playing guitar with a fantastically talented singer at a housewarming party in Catalonia and attending the annual old friends boozy get-together in York among them.


Then there were the festivals, this time all beer related thanks to Port Eliot’s fallow year. They got better as the year progressed. While Craft Beer Rising was a nice idea, it didn’t come close to Caught by the River’s 10-mile Beer Festival at the Olympic Park – a triumph of an event run by an apparently quite popular fishing website. But the daddy of them all was again the Independent Manchester Beer Convention, which brought some of the most incredible beers together under the roof of a beautifully restored Victorian baths on the edge of town. It’s already in the diary for next year and should be on any beer-lover’s calendar.

Does the good outweigh the bad this year? I’m not really certain. But what seems to have happened over the course of the last 12 months is that I’ve begun to attach much less emotional weight to things. Accepting myself or becoming resigned to it all – call it what you will. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Ben’s Beer Advent Calendar.