Caught by the River


19th September 2020

Our latest hand-selected bag of auditory, filmic and written confections from the pic ‘n’ mix counter of the world wide web.

First transmitted in 1955, We Live by the River is an atmospheric journey across London which follows two boys as they leave their homes in the East End to visit famous landmarks.

‘I first met Toots at a home counties school disco. I was a young teenager, he never told me his age, but I guessed he was older as his stories were so full of experience. Never grow old he said.  I was wearing a battle jacket with Hawkwind patches on. Long hair, weird unbranded tennis pumps. Toots was wearing a sharp suit cut just right, smart shoes, cool tie.  I remember sitting awkwardly studying my dirty laces, when a soulful voice burst out of mobile disc jockey’s cabinets.’ On The Social Gathering, Justin Robertson pays tribute to a friend he’d never met.

“From what I could observe, all of everything above us had come out of the sky. I chose not to shut my eyes, for fear of dying.” On his blog, music writer Richard Williams recalls an unforgettable interview with Curtis Mayfield, conducted in 1993.

For The Vinyl Factory, Dorothy Feaver explores the life of Bernie Krause — a one-time Moog sales rep who is now a pivotal figure in the world of field recording.

‘I started paying attention to the ground and noticed human trails intersecting with animal tracks – javelina, coyote, and especially deer. With no rain for weeks, hoofprints remained debossed in the dry earth, like chains of split hearts, or strings of letters. Where clusters of tracks had accumulated, it looked as if the deer had been dancing.’ In a piece originally written and presented as a talk to accompany her Deer Dancer exhibition, Hanna Tuulikki considers the movements of deer, and the various ways in which they are shadowed and imitated by humans.

In the first episode of a new series of Radio Four’s Start the Week, Andrew Marr stops to consider the natural world and the changing seasons with guests James Rebanks, Melissa Harrison and Merlin Sheldrake.

‘There are as many ways to write about the natural world as there are kinds of beetles. But these are the things I really do tell myself when I write about nature, and today I decided I’d confess them all.’ For Lit Hub, Helen Macdonald compiles a not-too-serious and also quite serious list of the things she tells herself when she’s writing about nature.

If that’s not enough Helen Macdonald for your liking, you can also watch her in conversation with Robin Wall Kimmerer about their respective books Vesper Flights and Braiding Sweetgrass — the former of which is our current Book of the Month. That link landed in our inbox courtesy of our good friend Sue Brooks, who also recommends Tim Dee-produced Radio 4 series The Alien Birds Have Landed, in which Alison Steadman examines why and how so many alien bird species have ended up in Britain. Originally aired in 2012, it’s back up on BBC Sounds. Thanks for the tipoffs Sue!

We’ve had lots of personal recommendations this month; this one’s from another good friend of the site, Frances Castle. Not avian aliens this time, but extraterrestrials, in the form of Netflix film John Was Trying to Contact Aliens — a documentary about John Shepherd, who spent 30 years trying to contact extraterrestrial lifeforms by broadcasting music millions of miles into space. Far out, man.

Finally, the whole of BBC Four’s Soul America series is just fantastic. Catch it while you can.