Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Navy Lark


osterley. even the name sounds like catacombs of doomsday pike, bones piled and sifted in their field of honour at the foot of that dam wall. and maybe when the wind snuffs out the parallel world, the sound of the M4 becomes a ghostly perlon whistling through the ceramic rings of bill keal's pike rod, lady osterley herself, half-jack half-gill, gliding through the laurels with the sprat.
down bleak pit the carp were history too. for monday dinnertime, the meteo forecast sun and ten degrees. i ate my baguette and camembert in gloves as a filthy spit glanced in on a wayward south westerly. stephane came over from his swim upwind, bringing a bottle of nouveau apple juice, crushed by village rovers, two real glasses in his pocket. we hunched it down, this fermenting pre-cider thick with the tang of apple mound and barbed wire fences trampled down by cows on heat and we didn't give a sou for our chances of a carp. at 2 a black dog walked between me and the rods. i suggested a dual which was stopped in its tracks by a puff of white spume as a pirate showed on the starboard rod. but stephane's lookout gave first shout. a whaler played him along the plimpsol line. it was bullion at three:

i missed a fidgety run in the dark. the sou we'd bet on a blank was worthless. i should have stayed on but the rain came down like a poll tax riot. truncheons and bricks and waves swept silver by a full moon, orange highlights off a street lamp half a mile away, putting a streak across the whole pit. while packing away i glanced up the streak just in time to see a coaster roll over and go down. stephane heard the lifeboat splash but didn't see it. it was off his bows.
wednesday i went back whistling a wrecker's shanty. swung the lead with a pop up and a pva stocking, a leg of pellet, sat back swatting gnats in a breeze mild as a french curry, hatless and overfleeced. the gravel washer on full blast the other side of a bank of dirty ballast and drying sludge. the townie's were out strolling, dogs and dames, men in hatshop hats and mothball coats. three o'clock came and went like a cancelled train. points failure, wrong kind of pop-up, leaves on the bottom. it turned cold so i took the temperatures and the water was up one degree from monday, a healthy 8°c. the wind blew off the gravel path; everyone got the same perfume for christmas. till the strollers thinned i was pulling the rollneck up over my nose. what is this perfume? old coats. channel number twos. it's what you spray in the toilet after your aunt's had a dump. but at 5 the wind dropped and i could only smell myself. cold and pikey, and orange bung at 20 yards would've looked nice. cold still water, and a carp bobbed instead of a bung. an hour of carp bobbing, like summer, so it had to come, one beep in the dusk, the tip twitching as the blackbirds sang like divas. i hit a mirror which looked white in the water, fought like a brick with fins because it had swallowed a brick.

up anchors as they started shelling the margins. then yesterday, last manouvres before shore leave and stephane sunk the graf spey in a wet north westerly, under the bows at dusk, pride of the fleet battled on his 7ft stalking rod, 37lbs of winter fruit:

boatswain whistling on the bird table


Tuesday, January 22, 2008



while you were digging in the town pit for half scaled medieval relics, fat monks with red fins, me and jeff took the sixties back streets from white city down the A4 towards isleworth. every traffic light scene a sweeney set, every turn off a light industrial dead end with more broken windows than a medway riot. past the last working brewery in london town at chiswick, the rising thames lapping at its doors threatening to take barrels of fullers off to essex creeks and make the ghosts of long gone smugglers merry and rich. to osterley park we went on a winter's morning, a pale sun and an estate lake within spitting distance of london town. you know the scene from memory, a long walk down a flooded gravel track, wild ponies scratching their necks on splintered wooden fences leading to an eighteenth century secret garden. a dam made from london brick its lip cut and broken by centuries of smacks from westerlies turning the ornamental lake into an inland sea. an island in the distance with the big house behind it. in front of us beds of reeds in their pale brown january colours and the drop off beyond them, down to twenty feet. a pit dug by spade and wooden wheelbarrow when the pay was half a pint in a pewter pot and the pike were prison hulks. we put our baits out into the past and waited as the sun crossed the sky and a dampness and cold came out of the walls to whisper the tales of the house into our ears. the screech of an owl and the bark of a fox. the distant roar of traffic on the M4 in a parallel world just over the fence. a blank but we were beguiled by the place and will be back. they say lady osterley walks the lawns at night feeding on sprats.

a haunting on the birdtable


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Last Train Out Before The Lines Were Blown.


your kind words leave a fireside blush. as long as you laughed, and it echoed down the empty corridors of the dead mansions like a shoal of bream-coughs in a kent borstal, you can skip the iodine chapters.
i hear your fishing fixtures are being cancelled one-by-one as the participants drop like 3oz leads in the maynard from thames plague and aldermaston trench-throat. i've been striking out and doing half-monday sessions on the town pit. it takes a lashing all winter, winds piped in from siberia. i'm sticking to the one sector, a deep bowl and bay, 25 foot drops, hoping a regular bait parcel will shift a fish one of these teatimes to come.

as i write, this pictured sky is gathering for the kill the day after. lashings of rain and empty catfood tins rolling round the yard, the dustbin lids like ufos over the fields, a wind sounding like the dambusters coming up the ruhr, stripping feathers off my chickens and punching out the last plastic tatters on my greenhouse. it's still cranking up, storm warning for 100kph, that's a high dose of beaufort, the original barnes wallis wind tunnel, bending trees like a uri geller spoon. each spurt shunts at the caravan and the pots and pans hanging above the stove chime and clash, unsteady in the moorings. sending this before the lines go down. lights flickering, first lancaster in sight.

bird table swaying like a john richardson big quill in the weirpool


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Original Anglo Saxon Chronicle


the apothecary's bottles have been drained and i even thought of raiding the bramble covered house where you and bob discovered that cache of pills back in the eighties. the lingering bream cough was banished with the final spoonful of syrup that was a day in front of a linewinder fire spent reading 'one last void' and being transported to a corner of kent that is now long extinct, the view from an imaginary swim on the medway, the one that boyd tonkin always fishes with a winfield allegro, a pocketful of plastifol maggots and a typewriter with half the keys missing. well done, it's a tours de force, a worthy fourth novel and not many make it that far so put another log on the fire and crack open the pelforth. my only confession is that i marked and skipped the pages where chambers was in hospitals and homes, i can only do empty houses these days. far too many ghosts and smells that catch in the throat even now. most of the time i live out the back of oakfield with an eye on the sky a word for no-one and a wild boar strung up in the barn. are you going to write a third kent novel and complete the trilology? you should. before they cover the garden of england with pylons and starter homes. your pen is filled with the same poisoned ink that sinclair uses. it tastes better than champagne. your mad old butcher will be stocking it soon and selling it in vials to maigret's wife down the cafe.

to see out the old year and ring in the new john richardson went to aldermaston and had a day chasing jacks. as the light went and the smoke crept out of the chimney pots i had a sergeant major on the smallest minnow from the christmas tree.

caravan imaginary like all good things.

burning secondary modern on the bird table



Sunday, January 6, 2008

Blood on the Matchmaker's Apron


i trust the clank is now the distant thud of an empty bottle in the recycling bin, that your apothecary has other brows to wipe, that the bream-cough has been weighed on the reaper's own avons and returned undersized to frank barlow's locker upstream of us, and that your convalescence involves a healthy dose of pike-fever.
my reply too is long overdue, though the all-clear sounded on arcadia's western front the last full moon. me, i'm sound as the euro again, the bream cough a minnow's whisper, but the rods are still bundled, the boilies in kryonic suspension, the wild boar christmas dinner gone full cycle from roast to cold cut, sandwich, curry and finally enveloped by a pastie coffin awaiting the final mouthful in a fishing bag. like all wild pigs, there is a story behind him, though it's mostly obituary, post-execution. he was, i'm afraid to say, shot on my orders. word was passed to my local village butcher whose meat box of a shop is kept at 4 degrees. a man of steel blades and sacrificial chopping blocks of seasoned oak, his medals under glass beside the goose paté, his bravery for the trade well recognised; champion's league tripe and a guiness book of records entry for the worlds longest sausage, 611 metres. he sends the blue ticket, the gloucester blackspot sign of the boar, to his men in the forest at verneuil. in the drizzle of a tuesday mist they shot the traitor, smuggling acorns. so i go pick him up, he's reduced to a gigot. 3 years i've been buying sausages off monsieur prevost this cutfingered butcher, and i never knew he prefered fish. and fishing. an angler with his own backdoor redmire not 2 miles from here. the reason he shuts shop. islands, a sunken tree, bubbles at dawn, pike he puts back, carp who burn the paint off quills. a tough half hour convincing him of my credentials and i got the invite, money changed hands for more sausages and cup winning black puddings i didn't need but sealed good faith. he doesn't fish the winter. we wait till march when they'll be buckets of bullock blood in the margins, my blue bloody butcher at the gates of dawn ushering me under the trees to pork pie corner where the carp are on champagne.
the december freeze up is a distant star:

the swim looked like this last time i saw it and now it's a village team goalmouth quagmire, with temperatures putting the wrinkles of feeding crucians back on my pond, so monday i'm on the town pit for a flask of tea with a couple of pop-ups renewing the long awaited replay.
is that caravan photo real or a dinky covered in moss?

boyd tonkin on the bird table