Friday, September 28, 2007

Who Knows Where The Time Goes


the sun went down on summer isle and drew the north wind down from the pole. put the commons deep in the mud, up to their gills in the passing season's silt. the wicker basket men took off their masks and headed for the one doored pub, fiddles tucked under their elbows, readying themselves for a six month lock in. an excursion on christmas eve for a flounder might be the best they will manage. passing round a plate for frank barlow and his concrete keepnet. your fat forty was the start of autumn proper. the fish that stole the baked beans from the altar at the harvest festival. here the wind blew down lamb street banging the doors at christ church spitalfields like the apsley cherry-garrard's tent flap on his fortieth night at the pole. the thames is running like slate and i'm putting old float winders on the fire. the roach will be on the elder berries before too long. want to get out on the river but sandy denny has stolen my bait box.

glimpse of a wren on the birdtable


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pumpkin Eaters


your carp is the last surviving spitfire from the battle of atlantis. gawain's supper caught on a green knight. mine are just baby-boomers, demobbed galicians whose scales fell from their eyes. mine skulk in boilie-bunkers, fox-holes and nutrabait nuthouses; yours do night-school ballistics, shooting out lights and littering their lake bed with burned out mitchell 300s. and how did you get that photo of marc bolan, david carl forbes and dick walker wearing their emerson, lake & palmers? or are they the mortgage flock queing up to take their feed out of the foot&mouth bank? wicker basket men at the weigh-in, the day 5drams of bleak took the sweepstake. the roach in the rollneck jumper looks familiar. there must have been a hole in frank barlow's keepnet.

they're playing chicken at penelope pit now the wind is a stiff draft. yesterday evening the rain turned a dirty tackle and i stood like a horse under an oak tree waiting for it to stop, waiting for the haybale that never comes. drove home early with a mud flap missing, listening to the slap of manure hitting the chassis (they're ploughing as i scatter). today i dried the kit outside and nearly didn't fish. tossed a coin, the nogent pit opted to bat. it's a weary walk round it now, having to pack extra kilos of english wool for the chilly mist and the cold blade of a machete moon. i needn't have bothered. this 28-a-day hattie jakes broke her asbo and made a run for macdonalds in evening dress as i sat in the late sun editing a novel about drinking guinness.

how did your olympic wildies running on chic pea fuel become these gas guzzlers? didn't yours strip the skin off your knuckles? mine jogged a few yards then threw up on the mat.
night fell hard though, sky like a chav's ford escort windscreen, moon hanging off the rear view, white smoke coming off the water, autumn revs, souped up and glazing the rods in dew which sent a chill down the line. days drawing in tighter than a lynch mob culling wicker men.

phoenix on the bird table

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Wicker Men


i used to think your french carp were zeppelins when you held them by the tail and watched them creep back into the water in the beam of a torch. searchlight phantoms. now i know they're the ghosts of your juggernaut drivers as they cross the country on a cocktail of pastis and pills, with their pinprick speedball eyes, the descendents of maigret's barge boys. feeding on your baits like they were swilling down a five franc dinner at a roadside bar. they are history, down to the last scale. mirror carp, a reflection of france, the miscreant country at the back of europe's line.

while you were hitching your hooks to passing trucks i was down the leg of mutton for what felt like the last of the bushy park trilology. armed with a peter wheat bottle green glass avon, a battered mitchell 300, 8lb all the way through, chick peas and an a pair of efgeeco rod rests. i wasn't through the gates til one o'clock, an early start thwarted by the deer cull. the bracken turning and the leaves beginning to come down. thunderstruck oaks turning white. the walk through the bracken maze took me past sets of antlers that would suddenly move, and disappear into the woods like wicker heads. the feeling of being watched. the end of the summer at sunset. finally my only wild carp of the summer climbed the ladder and took the bait. the fire was lit and out came the wicker heads to celebrate. even rod stewart and britt eckland's bum double. they reckon the original master of the wicker man was buried under the M3 and now i know where, at the hampton court turn off, junction 1. with the bones of a medieval common in the can. the distant cousin of your mirror.

summerisle celebration on the bird table


Friday, September 14, 2007

After The Goldrush


another hair-triggered memory, another johnny's jaunt whistling past my ear: romney marsh, royal military. if constable had owned a camera he'd've taken that photo. i'd cancel my exile if you lived dyke-side. pike-bung mini-breaks with the smuggler rod on the romney hythe&dymchurch shuttle, revenge a wasted childhood, begging on bleeding knees for my old man to let me take the rod on the compulsary sunday drive, me and the ratbag packed like nuns in a morris minnow. just one cast, but the cunt called fishing desire "bellyaching". all because once, to keep me from mischief, he left me there with a float rod and the crust from last week's loaf while he smarmed his way into some posh widow's kitchen with a bag of tools. she must have thrown him out. he came back in half an hour, just as my second cast sent a drunken quill lurching through a tench's haareem. "pack up and get in the car," he said, words which killed so many fisher-boys hearts dead with hatred post-1966. that one glimpse of the other life you never recover from. i dream of it still, my geoff hurst tench 40 years on, my "grand meaulnes", my dr zhivago.

penelope pit has no white horses and was never mentioned in a gazette. women who look as if they were swapped for a horse walk their dogs along the potholes, and men who limp from a tractor accident smash the nettles down with landing net poles to flip their rubber shads into the dead-leg, funny bone, tennis elbow of a river running alongside. the only sense of history is yesterday's rubbish. scruffy horses fart in the paddocks and the lorries gush by, air brakes hissing this side of the roundabout half a mile downwind. last night i could see the blue and red neons of a macdonalds from my swim. a granary town, we're still bucolic pit-side, if the word has half its leg in tuburculosis or plague. i shouldn't be there, i've things to do, but come 5 o'clock the old man within me says "get in the car". where the rods are sunday nuns in permenant supplication. it's a harvest sun and an indian wind baking the smell of harrowed fields now the kids are back at school and the swallows gang up on the late hatches. i fish back of the wind come september, cast on the line where the ripples begin. the wind is irrelevent now. blowing hot and cold and chasing its own tail. yesterday it turned south and i set up with sun in my face and not a carp to be seen. a 30lb amnesia day, rig stiff as a corpse, 3 bait stringer right on the edge of the glare, the left-hander on a bar. you'd think the old man was still on his high horse, checking his albert down the widow's pantry, my 30 minutes was up and he thinks "that boy is up to mallarky"... a single peep and the tip just creaked an inch. i was still in poloroids. after the goldrush, 33lbs of crazy horse which toppled wellington:

it's a game of two halves now. i'm in the winter fleece soon as that sun hits the macdonalds yard arm. almost too dark to see i pull the left-hander off the bar, re-bait, put it back. the tip a silouette, it pulls round, no bleep. it's only been out there 5 minutes. the old man hasn't even got to the widow's front gate. touch & go at 31. old man lying by the side of the road with the lorries rolling by:

neil young on the birdtable


Monday, September 10, 2007

Romney Marsh


lots of pair of wellies with white socks turned over washed up at
dungeness. they walk around by themselves when the moon comes up.
you can see the tilley lamps rocking in the breeze.

didn't come straight home, too many roads to tramp. followed the
line of the old royal military canal, a tree lined, lily padded
noose, the olympic village of the napoleonic wars - redundant by the
time it was dug and finished in 1808. in his 'new and complete
history of the county of kent' published in 1828 william henry
ireland noted that the water 'abounded with large carp, tench, perch,
pike, eels and every other species of freshwater fish'. their
descendents still swimming its length. the ultimate back water, the
end and the beginning of romney marsh, two and a half hours from my
door - i am going back to pike fish it in the winter. talked to a
few old boys watching their floats by the pads, as the wind cut
across the fields. swore i saw wellington crossing the ditch on a
white horse. could have been you landing a double in 1978.

cutting i found from the 1804 kentish gazette on the birdtable:

"last week the wife of one of the men employed in cutting the canal
at shorncliffe was conducted by her husband to the market place at
hythe with a halter around her neck and tied to a post from whence
she was purchased for sixpence"


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Brooke Bond Beach Heads


your seascapes would make even captain cat's eyes get up and walk. dungeness was a legend of my childhood. there were men down my road who went there sundays, leaving me guessing with my breadflake and hooks to nylon. men of dungeness, powerstations in donkey jackets, long green heave-ho rods and twelve snoods of mackeral, white mini vans come back half rusted from an hours high tide, men not born to roach and rudd their lives away. beach-heads, big intrepids, bobble hats and wellies with the tops turned down. i imitated them, even bunked sunday school and collected mackeral feathers but the call never came. they left me sucking split-shot. unto the carp i went. lugs to holland in a dream, or a john buchan novel. you brought it all back, the sunken wreck of kent childhood, a jarmanised chassis. dungeness lighthouse, my photo on a brownie from a school trip, 3rd prize in the brooke bond inter schools....

last night the moon a-tilt, a punctured wembley winner stoved in from a kneeing. i was still beside the nogent pit as it topped, way beyond the whistle, the cold wet dew on its victory lap, my knees pulled up under the fleece. random fish, aimless strollers on the flat orange water after a day of northern bitter ruffled their feathers. i'd put the right hander on a bed of granules first and only cast at 7, 3 hours back, a 1oz lead flattened with a hammer, using up the Hutchinson hollow braid, flurocarbon a thing of the past, it shouldn't be on the market, you wouldn't trust it to hang your granny with a grinner knot. burn the lot and start again. no doubt it's a hooklink breakthrough, but research only got as far as the break. and in the left hand corner 30lb amnesia, looking like a fucking power cable out of dungeness. cold, de-wined, and running on four bits of toast, i decided a piss and a pack-up. it would get me home by 11, early night, plan it again sam. instinct is stubborn. 15 minutes more, then i'd piss and piss off out. the run came on the piss. 29lbs:

got in at midnight, cooked from dry, digging up the garden veg with a dim smack-it-again-sam torch, the moon long back in the brambles by the time i fell asleep. i should've gone again tonight, but the tide is low and the powerstation down. everything is drawing in, from the money pouch to firewood carts, and autumn signals make frantic prompts off-stage.

first pumpkin on the birdtable


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Space Shuttle


back from dungeness, the lost beach, the largest area of shingle in the world along with cape canaveral, a post apocalyptic edward hopper vision in a corner of kent long forgotten by the mapmaker. the first sight of the power station chills the guts - a ticking time bomb, a concrete tumor lost in a forest of pylons. no human life visible, little birdsong. all around it the future post dirty bomb perhaps, a wasteland of gravel, sand and alpine plants, giant sea cabbages, rusting arms of iron poking out of the ground. occasional pilgrims to derek jarman's prospect cottage with its gethsemane garden and john donne's 'the sunne rising' nailed on the side.

a row of clapperboard houses, its occupants the pioneers of the 21st century, their dwellings built from abandoned railway carriages.

expected to see the ghost of roger deakin walking round or swimming in the areas marked DANGER on the map. a place bleak and beautiful beyond the imagination. porpoise in the sea, your sailfish wouldn't have been out of place. left the rods in the car wrapped up in a flag. walked and walked and sat on the beach and watched the fishing boats being winched on and off the shingle, stick men on the horizon hurling their leads and lug at holland. planned our dream of living here. the white cliffs in the distance. collected driftwood for the first proper fire of the autumn and had a pint of spitfire in the britannia - the last pub in england.

the best day of the year on the bird table