In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments:
2013 opened like the lost entry from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as birds fell from the sky and the new year stayed buried deep in ground that shrank daily and hardened like ancient white iron. Fingers and lips split, engines failed, gin froze in the pantry, foxes calls grew more blood curdling than ever before and overnight the wood pile vanished. Bible John laughed out on the Fen as we stood and shivered in deserted market towns and snow swept into the city.
Spring began with words being read aloud upstairs in The Queens Head off Piccadilly in the company of Billy No-Toes and other adsers as books were launched with bottles of Wandle broken against their spines whilst pamphlets of importance were sold from a suitcase and searing songs of memory emerged from the chalk. Paper bags were printed in ink for Pall Mall stalls at an address where in the basement a pre-war float maker was found as good as alive in the pages of an old shop bible, a refugee from the century before when the Rhine in his native land froze with regularity.
The summer came with the saving of souls by the pint and half-pint in The Lifeboat as dogs were bought, hares jugged and car boot sales carried out on cobbled streets at closing time in Kings Cross. Friends arrived as themselves and left a few drinks later dressed forever as their favourite saints. Seals swam in ponds from Hampstead Heath to Victoria Park, operas opened in abandoned country houses, a doctor fish was caught on the hottest day on the year after a pint in The Spotted Cow, a maggotorium appeared in an Olympic Park and on the very last day of the season a storm enveloped us on a mountain top in North Wales and we read aloud inside a Williams-Ellis palace as the Bernard Kane orchestra made our heart strings sing.
Autumn opened in unfamiliar waiting rooms as Volume 1 of John Richardson’s Jack Russell Terrier was born, a beautiful handsewn crossbreed of lino block and printed letterpress. Firm new friends were made on the stall and in parlour bars, whilst at home the cat slept on our laps in front of the fire, as heavy as a bag of Dylan Thomas coal and twice as vital to life. Sixteen and a half now but still a hunter kitten at 5am. Our constant shadow.
On the edge of an estuary town in a clapperboard pub we drank pints drawn up pipes made of leather as a Magwitch moon grew big over the Thames and chased us down tiny streets to a house with steep stairs where we ate cake and drank tea with milk for the first time in weeks. The next day we bought the beginnings of the winter wood from a man with a limp who lived off the beaten track. On we sped in our leaking van via auction houses and woodyard goldmines on the edge of Cathedral towns with ‘The Lavender Song’ on our lips towards the year’s close and a haunting at the hands of the ghosts of St. Clements in Mile End. When we emerged down broken stairs into a stew of fog winter had arrived again closing its cold arms around us and tracing every breath as certainly as if our lives were being recorded by the quill of the Venerable Bede himself.