Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections – Sue Brooks

Sue Brooks | 17th 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.


Sue Brooks.

July 5th 2014 Argentina 1 Belgium 0 Walking back from Ty Gwyn, the pub at Rowen in N. Wales after watching quicksilver Messi take his team one step nearer the World Cup. Sitting in the camper van with the door open and the light fading crimson, lilac, indigo behind the trees. Heart full of being alive on my birthday and having seen, for the first time, the Silver Studded Blue butterfly: scores of them in their stronghold on the Great Orme. Absolutely my High Spot of the Year.

Back home a few days later, the date was there again on Caught by the River: July 5th. The Winter Journey, with my name and new identity – WRITER. Can this be true?? Yes. I tell myself. It’s official. By some mysterious ordination you have entered the digital world. A strange feeling, out there in cyberspace, but the WRITER is THRILLED.

The cold months were spent in Antarctica with the Polar Party, wearing their pyjamas, carrying their candles, writing their diaries. The summer months chasing butterflies which, tantalisingly, would never keep still, except for one glorious moment which stretched and stretched to unbelievable intimacy with a female Small Blue ( rhapsody in brown velvet with white fringes).

August – the rise and rise of H is for Hawk. There’s usually one book in every year that becomes an obsession, and this one I recognised before it had been published, before the reviews and the prizes. I just knew somehow, when I saw it advertised in the local bookshop. I thought of nothing else for the whole month; rationing the pages to make them last, rereading T.H.White, looking up the references, even noticing I was writing my diary in Helen Macdonald’s short sentence style. I was consumed by the relationship, the magical one between writer and reader that is like no other, and when it was over I was bereft. A heartfelt grief that felt like a small but very real reflection of the author’s own.

When the cold months return, I have a ticket for Tromso. The Arctic rather than the Antarctic. Amundsen rather than Scott and Wilson. The Polar Museum is a modest affair in a single storey wooden building beside the quay. I’ve taken the virtual tour. The flesh and blood one will be in February. The WRITER is excited about it. The flesh and the blood remind her that it would not be taking place without the encouragement of Caught by the River. We are both exceedingly grateful.

Sue Brooks on Caught by the River