Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections – Ben McCormick

Ben McCormick | 11th December 2014

Shadows and Reflections: the annual collection of postings where Caught by the River’s ever-reliable contributors and friends old and new take a look back on the events that have shaped the past twelve months.

IMG_8935The author, Port Eliot festival, summer 2014

Ben McCormick.

An old Chinese curse goes: may you live in interesting times. Somewhere along the way, I feel I must have at some point or other in my life genuinely irked someone Chinese and their curse is being visited on me almost daily. Because of all the years I’ve been asked to reflect on the past year for this site, none has been more interesting than this one.

In many ways, it was a year of firsts, from having my picture taken behind a BAFTA mask (thanks, Kieran) to brewing my first batch of beer. Work became interesting for the first time in years too and the extra-curricular writing ventured into previously untried book reviewing. I even launched a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Yes, yes, I hear you say. That’s all very well, but where’s the misery? Sadly, I have to report there isn’t really any this year. Not any more. It seems the whole morose package was bundled up and delivered in October, my least favourite month of the year. It didn’t start well and got progressively worse until I called time on it and took the last day of that wretched month off to brew some beer and sit in the garden soaking up the unseasonable sun.

October (and perhaps a lot of September too) aside, it’s been a fantastic year. I’ve met some amazing people, produced some cracking beers, had an absolute blast at Port Eliot, seen some lovely places and smiled more than I have for almost as long as I can remember.

And I snogged someone. Early August saw me finally cast off the burden of self-doubt and tell a genuinely awesome woman that I had a massive crush on her. And to my continuing surprise, it was received well. Things didn’t last anywhere near as long as I’d have liked, which took off a bit of the gloss, but for a good few weeks I felt like I was living in a different world. She is – and I still think this – talented, funny, strong, independent, articulate, intelligent and quite beautiful. That I won’t get to know her better hurts, but I’m used to dealing with things like that and can appreciate the times when it seemed to be going well.

When I at last got the call I’d feared was coming for some time, I was heartbroken. What I didn’t expect was that I’d react as comparatively well as I appear to have done. I plunged headlong into books, writing, music, new interests and new people. I kept my chin up. I focused on the light. I took confidence from the fact it even happened in the first place. And it worked.

At the start of the year, I vowed to stay positive and concentrate on the good things. Now it’s drawing to its close, I feel I can say I’ve been a man of my word. I wrote a different Shadows & Reflections when I sensed things were going awry that would have been what office dullards refer to as ‘on brand’. But reading it now, it paints a distorted picture. If the rest of my years are as interesting as this one has been, I’ll quite happily live under the shadow of that Chinese curse.

Ben McCormick on Caught by the River.