Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Clank of the Apothecary's Bottle.


thank you for your letter of the 12th and for your kind words in your year of shadows and reflections. my reply is long overdue. whilst you were roasting spuds around the ceasefire and nailing barbel by the tail to every door in laure's village i have been marooned in a shiplake punt in the lock cut to nowhere. unable to put a long trace and the red richardson bung at the foot of the big door itself - marlow lock gates. every pike from there to seething wells smiling the smile of the devil himself, their snitch wire jaws twitching under the willow roots and the roach shivering on the weir sill. waves slapping against the side of the oarless vessel and an owl hooting under the bridge. monday morning i was due to take to the river with g and wyndham barnes when the bream cough came and got me in the dead of night. i woke in a sweat, the weight of the marble keepnet hovering above the bed. seven days without night it seemed and blessed with a laugh like a thackeray baliff going knocking for debt and my own gills turned blue. i missed the last market of the year and a bellyful of ale in the golden heart which may not keep to the new year. if the moon is right richardson and i will be out before the box is closed. i think it will take a fried jack's liver to rid me of this throat. til then i wish you a merry christmas and may the trent otter himself be the one to knock on your door come the morning of the 25th.

hallucinations on the birdtable


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dead Mans Cove Flows Back Down The Absinthe


dead man's cove came a-knocking here, a swell on the road, conger lobs washed past and set off speed cameras, fish clinging to wrecked trees just to stay in the rivers.

been pretty much clinging to the raft myself the last fortnight, bronchial and broke, pre-publication inertia. have yet to stock-take 07, round-up the beasts and lost sheep, the aldermaston days you might call them. tea and sergeant majors, a barbel in the afternoon - surely the titles of great unwritten books, the future slightly foxed.
as i write, the 30 day rain has ended. this morning an orange sun rose on the frosted mud. my solar torch recharges in the window. the pond is up to its feeder ditch and the crucians have breakfasted on silt and leafmould porridge. the birds are feasting off the land - under every leaf a worm. yesterday i saw the deer wander out of the forest like the all-clear had sounded, snicking the lush green along its edges after a month on the run. the chickens still churn out eggs, muddy eggs all tarred and feathered, but yokes of winter sunset, pike in your eye, real yellow waistcoats for your boiled egg soldiers, the ones crawling from their dug-outs waving wet grey flags. the garlic went in with seconds to spare - the last one popped down as the first drops fell well before the first inflatable santas went up on the slates. i've spinach waving green flags, and leeks still bold if ragged from a random tasting by an escaped cow who left deep rain filled holes all over the garden. another ibook died, but the lost novel came back from the laboratory - 470 euros just for some stainless steel surgeon to run a scalpel round my broken hard disk. all this in just 3 weeks, which makes summing up a year a memoir job. with no views of skid row, no crack-heads, gin swine or teenage pimps within a hundred miles, every minute of my year has wonder. is a wonder. which, think about it, is why i can write the bleakest of fiction. kind of a take on something flaubert said: be regular and ordered in your life so you can be violent and original in your work. even rick wakeman said that. but i will pick out some moments and post them at the years end.
your word-posters for john andrews of arcadia are becoming classics. with a john richardson original design to join bill posters jury, you'd have a collectors piece, one for the archives, it could go on a tin, merchandice, something to put the fishermans friends in.

photo: dead man's cove under laure's kitchen window last sunday

roasting spuds on the ceasefire round the birdtable


Thursday, December 6, 2007

The River Absinthe Flows Into Dead Mans Cove


your photos of the absinthe and letter from behind the lines, from beyond the imaginot line - wonderful stuff. a heady brew, a winter ale for the soul. oh to pass a saturday afternoon after a five franc rabbit lunch by fishing from jane birkin's ducking stool, a sister to the marianne faithful cottage swim on the loddon where the good miss faithful did appear to me once upon the lawn dressed in nothing but swan feathers. maybe i should have read your mushroom gospels before i cast in that day. but i did get a barbel in the afternoon. your winter should be pegged out along zola's canal with maigret mixing the heron blood for the groundbait bucket and the roar from the le theil crowd as the light fades. you'll find me by the lock cut reading the pink 'un and working out where i am on the latest free map of the front.

until then all paths lead to aldermaston mill where jeff and i had tea on the lawn with dave bedford and jakub. i sat on the footbridge in the sun and caught minnows and the occasional perch. lost one in the reeds. jeff had a cracking perch in the back garden mill pool, and i poached his swim in the afternoon and had another sergeant major. and then the frost came down, with the water thick like oil and travellers lighting fires on the horizon. it was a resistance party.

have you put your recollections of the year together yet? since i nailed mine to the bar a few more memories have emerged. standing under a full moon on mount abu drinking beer round the brazier for starters. but for now i am still captive to seatown shingle beach. from the angling times - 1962 i found this cutting of stoker's


'the wind had backed around to the north, and the sea had quietened down to a smooth, bass-producing swell that clawed at the shingle beach, and reflected the cold light of the November full moon. this, i decided, was just the sort of night to try my luck in dead man's cove........... as soon as i laid the sack down, an extra large wave surged up to the foot of the cliff. feeling its natural element again, the conger went frantic. that sack seemed a darned sight more important just then than its contents and hurriedly i untied the cord that kept it shut. the conger shot out like a bolting rabbit; glissaded out of control down the slope of greasy lias and entered the water with a final triumphant flourish of its tail. the rest was comparatively simple, and half an hour later a friend spotted me by the the light which hangs outside the anchor inn. 'any luck tonight?'he called out

'well,' i began'.

the turn off for chideock they all miss on the birdtable