‘I Thought I Saw the Ghost of Pete de Freitas Along the Way’
A Brief History of the Lives of All Those in the Caught by the River Tent at The Good Life Experience 2018
by John Andrews
‘What is it to be Caught by the River?’ asked Tim as the clock struck twelve on the Sunday afternoon. It was to gather and to be spectacular in a small tent in front of The Fernweh, Boy Azooga and audiobooks, to connect as Gwenno took you to her lost kingdom of Le Kov and back again via New Brighton in time for Greg Wilson. It was to wake up with Nina Hervé’s three pamphleteers, James Endeacott, a Frank Worthington for The Falcon generation, to go with him up to Elland pausing in the Gannex Factory to touch the hem of a corgi’s coat and by doing so to bless all our dear dogs. Above them Arthur Russell and Allen Ginsberg climbed a mountain with Richard King whilst in the distance Thomas Morris and his ‘friend in a carrier bag’ put the world to rights with a performance from A Short Story About The British Education System and The Seven Kids Who Tried to Change It.
What was it to be caught by the river? Was it the holy shiver? Was it the sighting of the magic bird? Was it a book stall in the corner of a gin parlour, a Kabbalah for the kids? Yes it was, yes it was, yes it was. It was to witness the unexpected beautiful truths of Lucy Cooke, it was to listen to Albertine and Simpson doing it for all the girls and boys from the patch, it was to be spellbound as Chris Watson evoked Odin on the way to Bardsey Island, ‘as my good friend Lemmy used to say’, before calling in a waterfall of ravens to roost above our heads as darkness fell. As their chatter and clicks slowed to a halt up stepped Erland Cooper, birdman conductor of Anna Phoebe, Jake Downs and Lottie Greenhow, together a Hamnavoe for those of ravaged wing, making before us a safe harbour where upon a boat Will Burns performed ‘Maalie Fragments’. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Halo Maud followed 77:78 within earshot of two generations of family storytellers in the Horse Box Bar before William Edward Ryder-Jones took us back to West Kirby and made a good wind blow in all our hearts. I thought I saw the ghost of Pete de Freitas along the way. Oh, Turquoise Days.
The next morning Jeff Towns uncovered dedications in priceless editions whilst beside him the many voices of Ceri Murphy invited Edward Thomas in. Joe Minihane took us swimming in Roger Deakin’s moat and read for us as a thousand silver tears left over from last year dried in the sun. Joe’s film won first prize and he went off to see it, a lunch ticket in his hand, a life regained indeed. Tim asked again, ‘What is it to be Caught by the River?’ and Will answered this time, as if he didn’t know, before we danced at Knowlton Fete in the company of Darren Hayman and his 54 children each one a village revived, making up an Ordnance Survey for all souls to be navigated on Armistice Day. It was nearing time for one for the long road when before us Stick in the Wheel re-wrote Martin Carthy’s songbook as an original a music for our times as you’ll ever hear. And then it was time. Almost. But remember, Caught by the River is and was all of things, it is a touch on the arm or a kiss on the cheek when you need it most, just as Seamus knew, yes, just as Seamus knew, as he sang the songs of all those on the Holyhead to Dublin, whilst on the steps of Carlow Cathedral an angel sold five pound t-shirts before ushering us in, promising with a smile to wake us next day before second Mass.