Shadows and Reflections: the annual collection of postings where Caught by the River’s contributors and friends take a look back on the events that have shaped the past twelve months. Today it’s the turn of John Andrews:
(Original photograph entitled ‘A Scottish Eleven’ printed by Melven Brothers Booksellers 29 Union Street Inverness; framed by Edwin Wynne: carver; gilder and picture frame maker of 253 Borough Road Birkenhead (opposite Fire Station) and bought some years ago at Spitafields).
The Year of Arcadia 2015 began with the discovery of a postcard originally posted in the Buckinghamshire hamlet of Aston Clinton in the year 1908:
‘Dear Mr & Mrs Willis
Am sending just a card to you so that you will know that we are still alive. Hope you are keeping fit.
It was followed by a letter posted in an embossed envelope on the 28th March 1904 from J.R. Blackett-Ord of Whitfield Hall in Northumberland entitled ‘A Ticket for Mr. Joy’ and reading,
‘I enclose you leave to fish in the Allen. It is the same part as you have had leave to fish in before.’
2015 was to become a year of postcards doing no more than telling people we were still alive such was its intensity. Although I had permission to fish in some of my favourite places yet again I have really only fished in my mind. Much of the year was a tangle of lost afternoons like the one that took us back to 1964 in E. Vincent & Son where antiques were ‘bought and sold’ at the Casket in Yeovil. It was a year where it became hard to tell the difference between the real and the unreal. A place where we took shelter in the company of characters like Captain Kettle whose calling card I found in the market and ‘Whose Remarkable Exploits and Striking Personality have made him the most popular and most talked about HERO of the present day. In Stories of Adventure he will AGAIN make his bow to the British Public in Pearson’s Magazine for January 1902 (Published Wednesday January 1st).’ It was a year when the new Century began to pull away from the old but our currency remained that of bone and rosewood, cork and quill, wicker and cloth, a year of deals done in lumps of Victorian brass stamped and engraved with the legends of closed down shops and fallen empires: Ogden Smith, Army & Navy, Edward Bowness, Carter & Co and Bernard & Son. Where meals were eaten at odd hours and consisted of bygones like Cod Liver Oil and Dog Cakes or Pheasant Eggs from Liphook Game Farm, all the fads of a brave new old world. Where we bid from abroad in 40 degree heat to get our tea cosy back and experienced what might be the last Midsummers Night’s Car Boot Dream at the recently condemned Wimbledon Dog Track. We danced with wolves and our hearts missed a beat at the telling of the ‘Legend of the Karen Jane’. In the garden of St. Germans we experienced the best of times at the worst of times. Cathy and Derek showed us kindness and tenderness. Danny paddled me down to the viaduct and back, Ceri and Ralph made us laugh like no others ever had. Neil Arthur upstaged Arthur Strong and demonstrated how art is really made. On the last night The Arcadia 78RPM Orchestra played on as the tide rose higher than it ever had before. We found a home from home at the Finnygook Inn. We fished with the last of the Feltham Piscators if we fished not at all. The Unknowns: Rupert and Luke, saved us and how good it was to see them in print again. With brilliance Matt Clayton rowed us out to the Silver Pit and Katherine Norbury walked us upstream. We celebrated the 21st National Vintage Fishing Tackle Fair and cheered as the Pirates of Penzance took St. Martins Lane by storm. We swam off the rocks in Tellaro yards from where DH Lawrence had once lived. We bought breakfast at Marco’s and were early for Evensong in the Fishermen’s Chapel. Four generations of family met for drinks and lunch in the RAF Club on Piccadilly. Loki and Nutty put their paws on the stall cloth and got kissed for their pleasure whilst elsewhere life carried on as the Pedlars met the Tudorbethans Uptown.
Come the cruellest month we drove up the A1 Highway to Newark where in the 1889 my great-grandfather Matthew Andrews left his job as a bargee and signed up as a professional soldier. We went to look for his grave and those of the two generations before him without success and in consolation drank and ate well with our favourite saints Dean and Geraldine. And when we left to come south we found we had a terrier puppy in our pocket. He came home with us and in a year when the fire lies still unlit in the grate, in a year when the surgeon and the undertaker came knocking again and gave us no option but to survive by living in our imaginations he has brought a sense of life back. He is as real as the mild midwinter rain, a brindle beauty; the prize of life. As I write this he lies asleep by the door, a shadow with a beating heart. His presence leaves me with only thing to say. At the end of the year 2015 and the beginning of the year 2016 God Bless Him and God Bless All Our Dear Dogs.