Thursday, 29 November 2007

Sweet Bitter Love

Aretha Franklin coughs, someone, probably a studio technician, is chatting away and leaves the studio for a cup of coffee. He doesn’t even seem to know that this will end up as something, anything at all, worth keeping. Aretha stops playing. Finally, she starts again. A drummer, no one seems to remember his name, looks at his watch but still, with a yawn he does as he’s told and follows the singers every syllable when she attacks her piano and sings the first few lines from Sweet Bitter Love, a ballad written by Van McCoy.

It’s just before Christmas 41 years ago.

Aretha has just spent the whole day recording the first versions of some of the songs that in just a couple of months will transform her from a way too young has-been jazz singer into the most chersished female voice in soul music.

Everyone else has gone home to their loved ones. To decorate the Christmas tree or gather around the telly for, I don’t know, a Frank Capra film.

Aretha has one more song to sing. A song that no one else is meant to hear. It really is so obvious that we were never supposed to listen to this, I almost feel embarrassed now, like I’ve been eavesdropping, stepping over some kind of line, into her private sphere. I am somewhere I’m not allowed to be.

She is not singing this song for us, she’s just singing it for herself. Everything about it, and this particular performance of a song which she revisisted many times, both in an unremarkable jazzy take in the very early sixties and then one of those billion selling - but still remarkably anonymous – albums she did in the eighties.
Those other versions have nothing to do with this one. In this one I literally find myself trapped in someone else’s broken heart.

Listening to it again and again this last week I do sincereley feel I have never ever heard – or seen or even read - anything as monumentally sad and beautiful as this - these previously unheard five minutes and twelve seconds of Aretha singing Sweet Bitter Love on the new Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul (Rhino)

“Sweet, sweet bitter love, what a joy you taught me.” A cleaner walks into the studio and sweeps under the piano, not really caring there’s a woman sitting in front of it.
“Sweet, sweet bitter love, what pain you brought me, so short a stay”. Aretha doesn’t care, she just has to sing this song. The session player on bass packs up his instrument half way thorugh the recording. The singer doesn’t even seem to notice.

“My magic dreams have lost their spell, where there was hope there’s an empty shell”. Here, during the cold Michigan winter of 1966, she builds her own secret Taj Mahal of deep soul ballads.

No one else, not even those present in the studio it seemed, got to hear it until now.

Andres Lokko

Nara Leao and Bob Le Flambeur. It doesn't get much better than that. If you get a chance check out a book by Ruy Castro called Bossa Nova - it's just about best music book I've read. Got mine cheap off Amazon, and well worth investigating. Check this out from it about the great singer Maysa:

"She'd throw her shoe, glass or microphone at the head of anyone who was talking loudly in the nightclub where she was singing; she would come to blows on stage with the pianist over a simple chord; she had to be tied to the piano to keep her upright during a live performance on TV; she was seen stumbling around barefoot in the street at four in the morning, saying it was in an effort to lose weight ...".

Kevin Pearce

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Andrews of Arcadia

ladies and gentlemen

'andrews of arcadia' has returned to its old pitch inside
spitalfields market opposite where the square pie company used to
be. with the advent of advent there will be barrels of eels, old
game bags, game old bags, split cane, georgian engraved brass
winches, fly boxes, victorian floats, linen bound angling gems,
everything from crooked lane to commercial street and back again.
and from tomorrow for the next four weeks only you will be able to
buy exclusive john richardson hand printed linocut christmas cards as
shown below as well as other designs. but
hurry they will disappear quicker than a float on the morning of
june 16th.

i am opposite the ten bells public house!

andrews of arcadia
antique fishing tackle and books
spitalfields antiques market
commercial street
london E1
thursdays 7.30am - 3.30pm

The Two Terriers Press

New John Richardson cards, for Christmas

Water Like A Stone

Mistletoe Thrush

A Pool, a Pike and then two pints

  • The Two Terriers Press
  • Tuesday, 27 November 2007

    Brasil, Brasil

    BBC Four are running a season of films about Brazilian music. Looks good. This Friday's is Tropicalia. A good excuse to put up some cool record covers then;

  • Brasil, Brasil
  • Thursday, 22 November 2007

    Jim Ford, R.I.P.

    Jim Ford, 66, found dead Sunday 18th November

    Less than a year after Bear Family's highly successful and critically acclaimed Jim Ford CD, 'Sounds Of Our Time', we're faced with the sad and tragic news that the prolific singer/songwriter has left life on Earth behind. Early in the evening of Sunday, November 18th 2007 Jim was found dead in his home by the Fort Bragg Sheriff’s department. The open lid of Ford's beloved Peugeot parked in the rain outside caused neighbours to suspect something had gone wrong. We don't know what caused his death, but an autopsy is being carried out.

    James Henry Ford was the composer of Aretha Franklin's Niky Hoeky and Bobby Womack's Harry Hippie. He was Sly Stone's friend and a big influence on Nick Lowe. In 1969 Jim Ford blended the sounds of gritty R&B with down-home country on the now legendary album, 'Harlan County'. Its music occupies the land where R&B meets country, Memphis and Nashville meet Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta meets Appalachia . Jim Ford had a tremendous impact on everyone who crossed his path. He is featured on Sly & The Family Stone's classic "There's A Riot Going On" and during a short stint in London 1971 he helped ignite what would later be known as the UK pub rock scene. In the ‘80s, Jim Ford disappeared into a haze of drug abuse and erratic behaviour.

    Many tried to find Jim Ford, but no one succeeded until April 2006 when he was tracked down to a trailer park in Mendocino County , California . In the liner notes to 'Sounds Of Our Time', Jim finally told his full and almost incomprehensible story. In his modest mobile home we found master tapes galore spread out over the floor. Bear Family assembled a compilation, 'Sounds Of Our Time', and finally Jim Ford got his long overdue recognition.

    Jim Ford didn't lead a very glamorous life when we first encountered him, but money from the first Bear Family CD helped to improve his financial situation. Just days before his death we advanced Jim money for our upcoming 'Point Of No Return' compilation.

    The success of 'Sounds Of Our Time' also made the idea of recording new material possible. At times there was talk of using Jim Dickinson as producer and James Burton volunteered to play guitar. A charity gig for Jim was to take place in London on 18th May 2008. Nick Lowe was supposed to perform together with Jim Ford in person. Sadly we won't get to see or hear any of this now.

    Jim Ford has been described as otherworldly, and his charisma, humour and musical talents definitely were. Jim Ford's legacy will live on. Many Jim Ford projects are under construction and no devotee will be left disappointed. We aim to preserve his music and recordings for generations to come.

    Jim Ford will be missed by many. Our thoughts are especially with Merrily Pence, who patiently stood at Jim's side for the last fifteen years, and Movita Castenada who lived together with Jim in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Jim Ford was stepfather to Movita and Marlon Brando's two children, Miko & Rebecca.

    L.P. Andersson, compiler of "Sounds of Our Time"

  • Buy the record

  • (thanks to Andres Lokko)

    Film 4, 1.40am

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Wednesday, 21 November 2007

    That's the bag I'm in....

    We fished last Tuesday. Jak, Steve, Dave & myself. The Last of the Summer wine gang. We went to the Kennet again but this time at Kintbury, a little further up river. Three miles of the river cut into channels to make sport for the trout fishers and also home to monster Pike. We didn’t see many fish but it was fun. I looked for Perch and caught two. Both around 1 lb and a quarter. The other guys went for Pike. Steve got one. Just a little ‘un but he said that it nearly took his arm off.
    I’m determined to learn Pike fishing this Winter. It is their season. It also keeps me on the bank at Osterley, allowing me to enjoy the park in its winter colours. I’m collecting tips. Robin up at the tackle shop knows a thing or two. Dave has more than a clue. Andrew has a friend who is a serious Piker. He’s got a boat on Windermere and catches 30s. Andrew is off to spend two days with him. I hope he comes back with both arms.

    John Andrews and I are fishing on Friday. Once again, it will be on The Kennet but this week it’s back to Aldermaston Mill. There has been some rain since my last visit. The river should be running nicely, giving us just enough hope to talk confidently about catching Barbel. Angler’s optimism. Mine’s a double.

    The high & low of my week has been Dexter’s “Mushroom Faking” piece. A couple of weeks ago Dexter told me that it was serious mushroom season over his way and did we want a piece on mushroom hunting. Of course we did. Off he went but we got a whole different piece to what we were expecting. “Green? Go Red. With anger, rage and back in the wood socialism” The guy gives a fuck.

    Last months reading frenzy continues. Still managing to get through some books even though my “dry” spell seems to have dried up. Have been most moved by “River of Time” by Jon Swain. The river being the Mekong. He went to Indo China in ’69 as a young (English) foreign correspondent to the French associated press. He stayed in Cambodia and Vietnam until ’75 and was in Phnom Penh when it fell. He gave up a lot of himself and it’s a sad and soulful story.

    True positivity was witnessed at the Edwyn Collins show on Monday night. Edwyn is on our record label and this place isn’t for self service plugging so I’ll keep it brief; you have to go see him and the band play. Take a loved one.

    Records; two Bill Evans imports arrived from the States, so have been listening to “…Sunday at The Village Vanguard” by Bill Evans Trio, plus, I judged a record by the cover and got a result with this one by Nara (Leao)

    which is bossa nova but really unlike any bossa that I have heard. It can be pretty sophisticated at times but she’s got a bit of an attitude in her (very cool) voice. Made me think of Broadcast, although it doesn’t sound like them…….go figure.


    Saturday, 17 November 2007

    "Mushroom Faking" by Dexter Petley

    There's ecological catastrophe in the woods as I write this.

    This autumn, for the first time since I can remember, the mushrooms have not appeared. If, like me, you talk to wild mushrooms as you pick them, then you've lost your voice. All is mute. Your tongue is tied, shocked into silence. A vital mycomorphic tendency, as vital as the life it aknowledges, talking to mushrooms is nothing less than the exchange of gratitude towards them for appearing at all. So what have we done wrong? Said the wrong word? Not said enough? No, we've destroyed the environment. Global progress for the £2 shirt and mobile phones for the gin generation. Europe, Texas, China, Iran, the whole world has colluded in the massacre. Mushrooms are just the latest casualties. The forest floor brushed under the carpet. I've seen temporary extinctions before, so now I can imagine life without them. I'm living life without them; and I tell you, it's like peering down a long-drop. How pathetic the green gesture seems: brushing your teeth without the tap running; demonizing SUVs; buying a weird lightbulb; talking about plastic bags. It's too late for that. You want your i-pod, not a pea pod. You want to live all lights blazing because you're afraid of the dark. It's time to shut down. To demonize the city. Let the people forage. Green? No, go RED, with anger, rage and good old fashioned back-in-the-woods socialism. This article was meant to be salutary, a homage to the joys of foraging. But that cannot be, when global matters impinge their criminal values on my local forest floor. But I will try...
    I moved to France 14 years back, lured here by deserted carp lakes and cheap wine lakes, but with hindsight I could add the mushrooms. Anglers often talk to the fish they catch, and even the most abusive carp angling thugs F and blind their fish to the net like punters at a pit-bull fight. Emotions finding their own level. It's sweet-talk init. I must confess to calling hosts of chanterelles one Christmas: "oh you wonderful bastards" as I scooped up this fodder of angels, these gudgeons of the forest floor.

    In France at least, mushroom hunting had become as climate-based as fishing ten years back. Seasons have become increasingly meaningless. Weather patterns within very localised habitats are the key to mushroom knowledge, and the resulting forest-craft is no different to water-craft. I learned this one season in The Morvan, for the mushroom is as shy as any dace, refusing to enter the atmoshphere of a sad, imperfect world. A careless environment is like a bad angler, a clumsy litter-lout who spooks his quarry. The shy mushroom demands pre-set conditions, is inflexible and will not adapt to a kinked environment. A mushroom thrives strictly on its own terms, in its unique conditions. It is ultra consistent and truly wild. You can't re-plant mushrooms because they're the result of centuries of autonomous ecology.
    As in fish and fishing, the intimacy with the subject is revelatory, a coming to nature through encounter with its mysteries. Mushrooming sharpens any sense of telepathy you think you may have with nature. There is something of the ectoplasm in a host of mushrooms, a real and fleeting message from the "within", not the "beyond". Mushrooming has no charged energy of the seance though; it is pure anti-stress, teaches you to love the present, step aside from erosive self-consciousness, and makes chestnutting and picking blackberries seem like vulgar shopping. To eat a wild mushroom is to internalise the taste and texture of that sane, settled environment. Non-dreamers will sweep that curtain aside and discover a vivid unconscious world of narrative phantasy. Beans-on-toast regulars will gaze at their plate with new pride and send photos of it to Nigel Slater. Dreams will be transfigured into Jungian slide-shows. Anyone at a loss at how to fill a wet afternoon on a late season French holiday can achieve bliss and instant cultural insight at the same time by driving to the nearest forest pour aller aux champignons. But there is no time to waste; a mushroom's "apparent" life cycle is a short, secretive one. It's hide-and-seek. Its biological existence is less certain, but armchair study is useless, and hunting and gathering feels increasingly like scratching and scavenging. In between the lucky strikes, you're down to the "edible but uninteresting" species just to speckle the omelettes.
    People used to blame les gens du voyage in their white vans for looting the forest floor and shipping it away to Paris. Always good money in scrap-fungus and used horses. Some communes have banned "commercial" mushroom pickers, but the motivation is as political as ecological. Ecology in France has to be subsidised to be considered, and the hunters rule the forests, some of which have become privatized no-go zones. The Sunday afternoon fatalities are from Deer Hunters, co-lateral damage, not Death Caps. Before mushrooming , it's wise to check the hunting days pinned up on the village noticeboard. Gone are the days when a boar charged right up to the hilt of your lance or claimed its right to your mushrooms. Today, the guns produce universal void and the silence of fauna mute with fear. In fact, the hunters constitute a powerful rural militia. In some forests, mushroom hunting has become like a night raid into Theipval Wood. Tuesdays and Thursdays are official war days when civilians with baskets are excluded.

    Always hunt with knife & basket. No plastic bags, and never uproot a stem, cut it.
    The wrong kind of humans are easy scapegoats. Edible mushrooms are disappearing from all habitats: forests, pasture, roadsides, parks and gardens. Or like this year they appeared too early, exhausting the spore stocks. What ceps there were appeared in August. There were chanterelles in July, 3 months too early. This was due entirely to a wet summer, and to whatever was responsible for that meteoric freak. Culprits are sometimes more localised and identifiable. Conflict of interest, chemical management, easy money from developers, parcelling off of forests into auction lots, modern land registry practice, the demand for cheap self-assembly pine furniture and mass clearing of broadleaf for the planting of Christmas trees, for me the most deplorable habit, and one never mentioned by the "greenbacks" who turn the tap off as they brush their teeth with chemical solvents. But a wider picture always exists, a global one in fact, a climate which produces dramatic contradictions always difficult to explain. When I saw boxes of chanterelles du Morvan at 20 euros a kilo in the markets of Bourgogne one July when I knew the forest floors were like concrete, I sank into baffled fret, searched in vain among my favourite sites, explored their ecological opposites in case of freakery, then redefine that 17th c. term for a street umbrella vendor: Mushroom-faker. Where do they go? Where do they come from? They came from the nuclear contaminated forests of Russia and Finland. They came from south America and from Poland. Once more, the supermarkets lead the way.
    Such a sorry state is expressed frequently now that environmental tampering shows up in the natural details. You can find that one year's shoal of violets is the next year's void. The cèpes you relied on being there are absent, and it's always possible that not one day in the whole year will reproduce the essential condition for their existence. The shaggy inkcaps you found five years back on your daily walks have not been seen since, and may never return unless nitrogeon pellets are given a rest. The rivers of Europe have already been through this decline, for much the same reasons. If the roach in the Hampshire Avon can become hermaphrodite, the mushroom can turn erudite. The problem is you can't just clean up a forest and re-stock, "innoculate" it with edible mushrooms. Not in a million years, unless you want the mushroom equivelent of a hungry match fishery.
    In 2002 the "trophy" mushrooms did not appear in their authentic conditions till November. Cèpes, chanterelles en tubes, two months later than 2001. There were no violets (Amethyst Deceivers) at all, and virtually no girolles, (common chanterelles), both abundent the previous season. And for the first time I saw dozens of Devil's Fingers thriving among the field mushrooms in the field below my caravan, a strange species native to Australia/New Zealand, introduced in France by accident during World War 1, the spores in sheeps' wool imported by the military.
    Absurdly, two days before Christmas, I was gathering those kilos of "bastards", chanterelles, from the richest, deepest, luminous green moss I've ever seen, while packs of chainsaws snarled in the valley below. Every 10 seconds the sickening, slow-motion crack of another 300 year old beach tree crushed the once hermetic silence. Then, in the afternoon, the clapped out Lada Nivas and C15s churned up the tracks and armed men patrolled the lane like vigilantes smelling the blood of an escaped slave. What chance for the mushroom, under threat from climatic change, hunting syndicates and destruction of habitat? There is a contradiction here which may upset some purists. The deciduous forest massacre is a scandal, but I have to admit that most of the mushrooms I pick live among the first generation pines. I think because it rots quicker. The Morvan, for instance, at present is mushroom rich due to the "accidental" mixed nature of the forests. But once the balance shifts, the mushroom shifts too.
    Today, survival in remaining habitat may be as critical as relying on de-population of the French countryside. Even sadder, lifestyle changes of remaining populations, like not getting out the car at all except to dump the rubbish sack among the nearest trees, might save the mushroom. I rarely meet other anglers when out fishing, but I never meet another mushroomer, so perhaps there's no real tangible complaint yet, as long as the actual enemy remains unidentified.
    And again, as in angling, you have to stalk if conditions aren't perfect. Opportunism. Cherry picking the mushrooms. My best haul of Boletus edulis, (cèpe ,bolet bronzé, Penny Bun) was well out of season when we'd already decided they weren't coming that year. It was a freak sunny week late November 02 on the north-east bank of a lake beside the road in sight of bungalows and walkers. I was going fishing, and as I passed I saw a big fresh Fly Agaric among the roadside pines, the red toadstall with the white spots. Find those and the ceps are not far away. Within fifteen minutes I had three sackfulls of the best and biggest Penny Buns I've ever seen, all growing between exposed oak-tree roots in sand and gravel.
    All this confusion and unpredictability just as I was beginning to think I understood one or two fundamentals of mycology via a hillock of unsatisfactory guides. Absence always forces you to renegociate an attitude, especially if necessity is involved. For the last 10 years I've depended on regular supplies: 6 months of fresh mushrooms, a staple of 12-20 species; and a winter of dried or frozen. Anyone living on a shoestring should have at least one good mushroom book and a load of bad ones. Anyone looking for authentic wild food higher in protein than vegetables and rich in B and D vitamins should be out there with basket, book and pocket knife.

    It was J.S., a rich London tramp, who lead me to wild mushroom hunting in the first place. He looked like Elias Fries too, that 19th c. father of mushroom classification with his skullcap and nest of white hair, author of a great 1832 Latin bestseller Systema Mycologium. Seems to me they were both more descended from fungorum than homo sapien. JS was untouchable, but half an hour with a mushroom bore is essential to breaking through suspicion of edible fungi, with all the damp-rot-of-tree associations responsible for that suspicion.
    JS was a wild man of north London, a genuine Curiosity Shop miser with the genius's knowledge, amounting to savantism, of the tramp's circuit, where mushrooms had their place of course. On mushroom specifics, his lips were sealed. He was only out to make his stake, and no man was going to steal his claim on all the mushrooms of the world. He claimed to have eaten 120 species of mushroom. I believed him, and still do, especially now I've learned that there are 1.5 million species and only 5 per cent have been identified. Apart from the fact that JS was invincible, he was too cunning to lie, so cunning that even after penetrating his disguise all you found was the same disguise again, layer after layer.
    His knowledge of mushrooms went far beyond that of dabblers and gourmets. You called him fungus face naturally, because his beard was no ordinary scrag, expressing economy and laziness. His knowledge was consistent with his personality; grasping, even greedy, but motivated by absolute parsimony, to fit his model of life: the total milking of state systems and natural ecologies for his own benefit. If it wouldn't kill him he'd eat it. If it was free, he'd take it. But he hoarded his knowledge like he did his money. His motto was find out for yourself. With mushrooms it can be dodgy advice. My impression back then was that mushroom eating was like snake-charming or lion rearing: they killed you in the end. The problem was, the man, the fungus, was too fascinating to put down.
    JS's mushroom path is an interesting one. He was an ex-plumber, mangled in a motorbike accident when relatively young. He discovered invalidity pension and never looked back. From fitting the lead to swinging it. But he had one obsession, one weakness which needed money and fuelled his misery. He was a mad, obsessive collector of antique cameras.
    Money was no object. He'd inherited a house, wangled a whole sheaf of pensions which rolled in like waves; he systematically raided skips for all his material and hardware needs, and for nourishment he lived off soup kitchens and social centre hand-outs and the sympathies of the gullible widows of North London. For such a life he tramped round London stinking of excrement in layers of ragged clothes. In libraries he scoured the photography journals for camera auction announcements. Winter or summer, he'd travel by coach to the auction in his rancid clothes, sleep the night before in bus shelters or doorways, his sandwiches and 2,000 quid in cash in a filthy carrier bag so worn the writing was rubbed away. It was sleeping rough in a forest outside Northampton, before an auction where he bid the 2000 quid for a camera, that lead to his discovery of mushrooms. He took the short-cut to knowledge, book-learned to identify the species that would actually kill him for sure, then simply ate all the others, the suspicious, inedible, or edibility unknown.
    Till I met him I only knew about cultivated buttons, champignons de paris, and field mushrooms. Some farm boy from Kent I turned out to be. Buttons came in punnets from Budgens for a quid, or in my case 25p when the sell by date ran out and they were reduced and blackening. But sometimes, when night fishing, I'd find a few in a field next morning and fry them up with bacon and eggs. This was exciting, but I didn't know it went way beyond this, and we all have curious blind-spots which only clear after that blinding flash of light. A more positive encounter with an enthusiast other than JS might've put me on the mushroom path earlier, because JS was passively dissuasive. If you know a mushroom bore, and they are the selected few, my advice is corner them, put up with the sadness if any, flatter them, badger them and once they start talking, listen. It'll both enhance, and save your life.
    JS didn't particularly like mushrooms. He was lazy and didn't enjoy the hunt. A mushroom was simply free food and the minute knowledge necessary for surviving his 120 edible species satisfied his hoarder's intellect. He wouldn't share his knowledge then. He was scathing and mocked the ignorent. He didn't care if you ate a Death Cap and died. He'd probably help you cook it.
    Eventually I shook off his aura of dissuasion when I found a second- hand Collins Gem Guide to Mushrooms and Toadstalls and counted up the edible species. Seventy-seven, in a book small enough to fit in your trouser pocket. By then I'd moved back to the country, very late in the year. But out I went, and my first real book-led edible wild mushroom was a true blewit, growing through the snow on the Northumberland coast. JS was unimpressed. This was beginners luck. Like self delusion, winning two bob on a one-armed bandit and going straight to Las Vegas; I find a blewit and it's off to France soon as it's June. Beginners pride leads to the stomach pump.
    Me and the ex parked up on a municipal campsite in Normandie beside a man with a second tent full of cardboard grocery cartons, stacked like in a warehouse. He came back late morning, unloading baskets and boxes of field mushrooms from his car. He was a policeman from Argentan on annual mushroom leave. Eventually he cracked under interogation and told us where a field was that we could pan for dinner. It was within walking distance so we took our baskets and set off on our first mushrooming escapade in France.
    There was something surreal about this crop. The hallucination was preceeding the poisoned mushroom. They were everywhere, along the verge, in the entrance, round the outside. Fresh bright white mushrooms like bar stools with velvet upholstery. We filled our baskets, didn't even need to actually enter the field. Cooking them up at midday we marvelled at how well they "took the butter", what a rich yellow they became. To us they tasted delicious. Our idyllic afternoon fishing the river behind the campsite was spent bent double, throwing up the bar stools. Never ask questions later. In the book, clear as day: yellow stainers, poisonous. Easily mistaken by the over-eager for field mushrooms.
    Books are as much a problem as identifying the mushrooms themselves. Accurate portrayal of habitat is more useful than the best painting of a borderline amanita whatever. Good photos beat the best Victorian watercolour tradition. Always smell them. Chuck anything bitter or inky. If in doubt, take one home and trawl through that hillock of useless books. In France you can take your mushroom to any pharmacy. But many authoritative pronouncements on edibility are opinion, not fact. Without doubt my favourite species, the one you can still rely on, the chub which bites in all weathers, the mushroom you can fill a box with, the one which keeps fresh for weeks or dry all year without loss of flavour, the mushroom which blooms in the prettiest forest worlds, the mushroom of which every speciman is unique as ice crystals and snowflakes: the golden chanterelle or Cantharellus xanthopus/infundibuliformis, or Chanterelle jaunissante/Chanterelle en tube. They are in fact two species, but they're brother and sister and occur side by side in teams or even mixed, in their thousands. Well, if I hadn't met a French enthusiast myself, I'd have gone on ignoring them, believing the trouser pocket sermon in the Gem Guide which says, beneath a deliberately sedated watercolour likeness designed to reflect the words: it is really a rather unappealing little object.
    At the other extreme are details, the small print, the spore count. A few years back I found some early autumn birch boletes. I wanted to introduce mushrooming to two hesitant fellow English exiles teetering on the brink of suspicion and willingness. So I took one to their caravan. They were having fish-fingers that evening and we cut the bolete into three vertical mushroom shaped sections and ate one piece each with our fish finger and tin mug of red picrat. Two of us were nourished, but the other spent an agitated night in the field, projectile vomitting down to his socks. The burden of proof was upon me. I gathered every single mushroom book I could and recited the same edibility text over and over again until I found one unassuming detail not mentioned in the other texts: the stems should not be eaten as they can sometimes cause violent reactions in certain people sensitive to other foodstuffs. I have since eaten that same species dozens of times since then without ill effect until a few weeks ago when I woke at dawn with all the symptoms of poisoning; racing heart, stomach like concrete, desire to vomit. At times like that you have to go through the books. I did and found that apert from "sensitivity" this mushroom can react badly with alcohol. I'd drunk four glasses of cheap white wine that evening. I have since eaten the same species again without ill effect or alcohol.
    Mushrooming is always a question of finding that foothold between caution and experiment. At the same time it is made easy by nature. Anyone who takes the simplest afternoon stroll probably passes within a yard of an edible mushroom at some point. This is a better statistic than: everyone in the world lives within two yards of a rat or an inch from a mobile phone. Throw that phone away, piick that mushroom, and when you get in, cross-reference it, then put it on a slice of buttered toast with your cup of tea. Next time out pick the rest and serve with chesnuts, prunes and Tom Archer's Organic Sausages. Don't wash mushrooms, just pick off the moss or pine needles, and always keep the bugs and spiders in a matchbox and re-release them back into the mushroom world.
    I've set myself two targets: find an edible mushroom every month of the year, and catch a carp every month of the year. Only February to go.

    Pied de mouton - Wood hedgehog

    Common easily identifiable target species:
    Cep, Bordeux (Penny Bun, Bolete.) Bay, Birch
    Chanterelle, common
    Chanterelle, trumpet
    Trompette de la mort, Horn of plenty
    Pied bleu, Wood blewit
    Violette, mousseron des bois, Amethyst Deceiver
    Wood, horse, field, pavement mushroom
    Parasol, shaggy parasol
    Shaggy ink-cap (Lawyer's wig)
    Common Oyster
    Pied de mouton, Common Hedgehog fungus, Wood Hedgehog
    Cauliflower Fungus
    Giant Puffball

    Further Reading.
    Collins Gem Guide to Mushrooms and Toadstalls: Buczacki/Wilkinson, 1982
    Mushrooms, Thomas Laessøe, Eyewitness Handbooks, Dorling Kindersley 1998
    Le Mini-Guide des Champignons, Jean-Marie Polese, Losange/Könemann, 2000
    Wild Food, Roger Phillps, Pan, 1983
    Mushrooms, Roger Phillips, Macmillan, reprinted 2006
    How to Make a Forest Garden, Patrick Whitefield, Permenant Publications, 1996
    Mushrooms in the Garden, Hellmut Steineck, Mad River Press, 1984

    Thursday, 15 November 2007

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Fishing in Middle Earth pt 3

    The lady of the river calls. We let sleeping dogs lie and succumb. The Giman River is renowned far beyond the borders of Jamtland , not just for its beauty. In its mercurial glides and rapids, live grayling of mythical renown. In days of conflict and expansion this unique river was abused and violated, but the tide has turned, and it is now cherished and nurtured. Short lines gentlemen, short lines.. look after my ladies, are Lars’s parting words. Waterproof gimp suits are donned, and we wade, anticipation high. Willow wands, fluro spaghetti, and artful creations of fluff are the order of the day. The red tag lands as predetermined, with out fuss or splash, the casting gods smile today. Seconds elapse, the buoyant fluff deceives. Electric jag, the rod tip jars round, the lady writhes’ briefly in the depths and is gone. Senses are gathered and focused, we won’t be fooled again. In the last crease before the pool elapses, she strikes. Action meets reaction- clichés are true, the 6# hoops over, as a sliver bar cartwheels in the sun. A Nordic bronco, she clearly has her pilots’ wings, dancing repeatedly in the air. Steady pressure rewards, she glides towards the toy-like trout net. Just shy of a pound I hold my prize up to be pixilated by the far bank paparazzi. Match the hatch, a brief hour of Indian summer has awakened hordes of grey-fly from their watery slumbers. I too join in the cohesion of summer, and roll out a Grey CDC to the head of the next pool. Everything flows as the sequence of roll cast, feather, mend and drift is met with a savage take. The lady is not for turning, and darts like a mini salmon, line screeching from the spool. Imposing as a heavy-weight acrobat, she too cartwheels, tripping the light fantastic. My face contorts to wear an idiot grin, as I too am instantly converted to the ranks of the dry-fly disciples. The stolen afternoon disappears as a time warp. Summer returns, the weak September sun shines drowsily on the Giman valley, giving a taster of the glory days of June, 24/7 insect frenzy. The grey spinner skates along, deceiving several more grande dames , and a myriad of her smaller brethren. The crèche is safe and secure, future generations will prosper. Autumn is unseasonably dry, the river is gasping for an influx of extra water. The bones of the Giman are showing, the patient is parched, but resilient. Another victim of changing weather patterns, global turmoil edging to the borders of Jamtland.
    The disco fish, the artic charr has yet to grace my net. We make plans with Birger to address this imbalance- close by are small crystal tarns in whose depths harbor dream fish. Slow growing and cautious, with the colors’ of an impressionist’s pallet, their capture is the ultimate alpine prize. Prodigious fly grazers, harvesting the rich summers haul caught on the gossamer surface. Prepared for a delicate war of attrition, we arrive at the Vattenbergstjärn. A chill breeze ruffles the surface; autumn has the upper hand today. At the waters edge, we sink & bounce. Deceptively solid, the whole of the tarns edge is a waterlogged matt of vitreous green sponge. Blessing and curse, the sphagnum is ultra osmosis and larder, providing a rich aquarium. I creep low slung. Flailing ineffectually, my 6# cuts the air like a schoolmaster’s cane. The casting gods are in Cuba today, smiling down on the bonefish flats. No delicate rings grace the waters surface today, the flies sleep in their watery homes. The hours pass fruitlessly- plan b. Compact lumps of metal are rigged, instigators of cannibalism. Where the stomach fails, territorialism prevails- young char are ruthlessly removed from another’s home. Disco lures for Disco fish are launched skywards. Time elapses, the lakes contours are methodically explored. Above the deafening silence, comes the urgent wail of a clutch. Bruce’s lure is mistaken for a young intruder, and the tussle is on. Lean, and flecked with spots of white, fins a blaze with blood red, she lays beaten on the moss. 30 minutes later her larger male companion graces Bruce’s net with his striking colors’, an aquatic cheetah. Still fishless I intensify my efforts. A windward corner of the pool beckons. The fish radar warns of an impending encounter. My lure lands on the space between wind ruffle and polished calm, far from shore. 4 cranks into the retrieve, all is solid and an irresistible force breaks the surface flexing and shaking the hooks thorny danger free. My whoop of joy turns to a curse as I realize my loss. A fish of 1000 km, a worthy display on the wall of Birgers home, quietly slips back to whence she came.. My duffer’s consolation prize comes 4 casts later. The same solid lunging take, followed by fierce runs into the deep. Distaining acrobatics, a peat-stained brown trout shows him self in the margins. Net forgotten, I scoop my prize unceremoniously up onto natures unhooking mat. Dog-toothed and perfectly formed, my largest wild brown is a silver plated wooden spoon. I will be back to claim the solid silver one..

    Robin Adair

    Tuesday, 13 November 2007

    ladies and gentlemen

    the sojourn in the sun is over and this thursday 15th november is the
    last day of the temporary antiques market in lamb street. from the
    22nd november the good ship 'andrews of arcadia' shall be back inside
    spitalfields market with a makeshift floor of victorian duckboards,
    tables of treasure and square pies galore

    so to see the longest street market in the east with the shortest
    life sing its last song, come to lamb street this thursday and in the
    future when robert elms is compiling his list of top ten london
    street markets you can say you were there.

    the flags will be out, there will be sacks of eels, rumours of
    betteridge perch, and coffin leads a plenty.

    john andrews

    antique fishing tackle and books
    lamb street for one week more only
    thereafter the snug bar of the golden heart
    london E1
    thursday 8am-3pm

    Sunday, 11 November 2007

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Searching For Peace & Beauty; Where We At?

    Received some kind and encouraging words from Dexter Petley (see “Letters From Arcadia”) yesterday. Got me thinking about where we are at.
    A little over six months in and I think we are OK. If you look back to the early posts, as to how and why we started this, you see that we had some idea or notion as to what Caught By The River was gonna be, but it was pretty vague. We had spent so long (two years) thinking about it and discussing it, that it got a bit stressful. At that point, it was “fuck it, it’s going up”. We decided that it would surely develop it’s identity as things went along.
    I think it is doing that. Through people, well, friends, giving us such positive feedback, we have seized opportunities and asked for contributions. We are lucky in as much a lot of these friends are writers, or at least, can put pen to paper and express themselves. Luckier still in that they are passionate people who believe in “passing it on”. That we would have to spend several lifetimes convincing them to come fishing only makes their contributions here even more relevant to the sites growth.

    Going fishing, still, never fails to bring inspiration. I’ve had some good days out this year and fished with a lot of folk for the first time. There’s now a small gang of us, always trying for a day off work. Like kids on Christmas Eve for days before the trip. It’s funny. It’s a great way to spend time with people, forging friendships.
    One of my favourite days on the river this year was with my closest friend Martin. He often talked of times, as a kid, on the Thames at Marlow, with his mate Pat. Catching Gudgeon and throwing stones. I caught the whiff of romance and convinced him to come with me one day. We went to the Thames at Wolvercote and it was beautiful. The river there is banked by meadows. That morning (after buying our bait at “The Maggots End” on the Blackbyrd Leys estate, the place the joyriders score their boilies before taking & torching), the meadow was under a thick, deep mist, as the Autumn chill kicked in beneath a clear, blue sky. The spires of Oxford were showing above the mist and the river ran through it. You see, to me, being there, taking that in, that’s “going” fishing. It’s, literally and metaphorically, being Caught By The River. I think Martin picked that up. I’m looking forward to our next trip.

    (Martin's first Perch)

    I’m loving “Letters From Arcadia”. I think that’s fantastic writing. Finding them in my in box each week is a treat. It’s a privilege to share in their friendship and an honour to feature them on the site. John & Dexter have also been incredibly supportive. Being far more experienced anglers and writers than Andrew or I, that has meant a lot. Long may they run.

    We got some great stuff coming too. Please come back. We’re just searching for some peace & beauty and we want to pass it on……


    While we are on the subject.....

    with thanks to Kevin Pearce

  • Shivers Inside
  • Friday, 9 November 2007

    outbreaks of electronica, renaissance float makers, modern first edition angling book dealers, hook packet collectors, redundant maggot breeders, centrepin freaks, tweed purists, terriers, fifty stalls and a one minute's silence:

    Bizzaro World; This Just In....


    Apparently, Mick's reformed the Pale Fountains to play two shows, this from the manager:

    Just thought you might like to know that Mick has decided do reform "The Pale Fountains" for a once in a life time duo of shows to mark over 25years since the bands first release.

     The shows are the 2nd and 3rd February Liverpool Carling Academy and Shepherd's Bush Empire.


    Who'd have thought. Tickets go on sale today from the usual suspects. See you at The Empire...

    The Pale Fountains, caught by the river..

    wanted to use these pics to accompany Teds piece, "The Magical World Of..." but only just found them.

    I guess they are from their first press shoot, from, 1982. They really were a cool band. Early days, musically, it was via Love's take on Bacharach, a bit of Bossa and lyrics from the lineage of the English "kitchen sink" writers. The look, copped straight from a French, existential art film.

    This album of their earliest material is worth a listen;

  • Longshot For Your Love

  • Thursday, 8 November 2007

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • The Son of Friskney


    i loved the photo of trent otter. he is the greatest angler of all time and a writer who puts others in the shade. here's an extract of a piece i wrote about him for midland angler earlier in the year,

    John William Martin, better known as Trent Otter, was born in 1852 in the village of Friskney in Lincolnshire. Friskney was located in what Martin himself later called, ‘the dismal Lincolnshire coast plain known as the flats’. As a boy Martin could ‘remember listening in awed and frightened silence to the tales of the were-wolves, evil spirits and witches that haunted the unwholesome swamps of the flats in the days of long ago’. Martin’s mother was a widow and it is not recorded who his father was. Life was tough and Martin’s education was short, as a boy of ten he was sent out to work in the fields of nearby farms before being employed in a bricklayers yard and then graduating to work as a canal boat-boy. It was working on the canals in a nether world of ‘gipsy horse-dealers, travelling vans, old ramshackle circus tents and showmans’ booths’ that he met the two men who influenced him to take up fishing, Peter Rice and Sammy Leggatt a wooden legged pensioner. They taught Martin the rudiments of snatching roach and perch from the canals and soon he was fishing for himself with a rod made from a willow branch on an old abbey fish pond in Friskney known as Jacksons Pit.

    john william martin's original works can be found in the british library and an afternoon in rare books with the rain drumming on the roof lost on the trent of the 1880's is recommended. a strange thing happened to me on the stall two years ago. i was packing up after a day taking only pennies rather than pounds when a well dressed man stopped and asked, 'do you have books by someone called otter? he was my great grandfather'. i stopped and looked at him. 'is your surname martin?' i asked, 'yes', he said, 'how do you know that?' in the box i was packing at the time i had a copy of martin's fishing ways and days which i passed to the man. 'your great grandfather wrote this and many others - he is a legend'. nick martin took the book and wrote to me on several occasions afterwards. the rod he had fished with as a boy had been built by trent otter's son and came from the shop the family ran on roseberry avenue opposite sadlers wells theatre. i've since met others with otter connections on the stall including a lady whose grandfather was a rod making apprentice to martin. she went by the name of pope. i still keep in touch with nick martin, it was a privilege to meet him.

    i enclose a map from the 19th century showing friskney. if you walked to the west for a couple of days or so you would come to the nottingham suburbs where brailsford and others made wooden reels.


    Wednesday, 7 November 2007

    Out Of The Cool

    Post war New York City, and the sound hurtling from the cellars of Manhattan’s mid-town jazz clubs is the frantic sound of bebop. In this smacky, predominantly black milieu with its own language and code of conduct, one white guy is attracting attention from those in the know. His name is Gil Evans.

    Evans was the guy that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan and any great jazz musician wanted to hang with. Some dropped by just because they could shoot up or store their works in his sparse 55th Street basement apartment, but most came because he was the ultimate music man, turning them on to whatever he was into at the time – Stravinksy, Bartok, Debussy, George Russell, whatever. He was the hipster, the don, the searcher for the “mystical thing” and – as he sat at his desk scrutinising scores that he’d borrowed that day from the New York City Public library - everyone wanted to know what his take on the new thing was.

    Fast forward over a decade to 1960, and Evans’ name had escaped that 55th Street clique. Largely because of his beautiful, symphonic work with Miles Davis (Birth Of The Cool, Miles Ahead, Sketches Of Spain) his uniquely panoramic take on music had penetrated deep into the public realm. Along the way he’d also made a few intriguing records of his own – ‘New Bottle, Out Wine’ in particular - but that November he was finally about to enter the studio to deliver his very own masterpiece – a record called ‘Out Of The Cool’.

    There are a million and one great things about this record. In fact, you can probably listen to it for a lifetime without unravelling all of its subtleties and secrets. That’s because first and foremost, it’s a wonderfully arranged and beautifully executed suite of exceptionally ambitious head music. The players on it are great – drummer Elvin Jones from the classic Coltrane quartet, bassist Ron Carter, Jimmy Knepper on trombone – and the atmosphere right from the outset is one of controlled mod cool (the opener ‘La Nevada’ is a 15 minute epic, all hissing rhythms and protruding horns).

    Still, while ‘Out Of The Cool’ manages to combine some of Evans’ toughest arrangements – the aforementioned ‘La Nevada’, Horace Silver’s ‘Sister Sadie’ – with some of his most devastating ballads – ‘Sunken Treasure’, ‘Bilbao Song’, at its core is one track that just elevates it into another stratosphere altogether. ‘Where Flamingos Fly’ is the album’s centrepiece and one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded. Built around a trombone line so heavily melancholic that once you’ve heard it, you’ll never, ever forget it, it curls its way around you over five magical minutes. 

    When it was released, it was billed under the Gil Evans Orchestra and released on the great jazz label – Impulse! The sleeve features a black-suited Evans looking more academic than ever. Unfortunately for Evans, the record didn’t register in the minds of the public on release, lost in the squawking militancy of the avant-garde and remains a hidden gem to this day. A genius record from a genius man, it’s an album that when you get it, you can’t imagine anyone in the world not wanting to hear it.

    James Oldham

    Caught By The Kennet

    Aldermaston, Berks. 6/11/07

    Sunday, 4 November 2007

    Trent Otter

    J. W. Martin, better known as the ‘Trent Otter’ is one of angling literature's best-loved all-round anglers. Martin wrote about many of the river fisheries in the Trent area and also the Derbyshire Derwent. Perhaps one of the greatest of all anglers, Martin depicts a gentle way of fishing as he pursues pike, perch, trout, barbel, chub and other species. My Fishing Days and Fishing Ways is, in our opinion, his finest work.

    Titles by J. W. Martin include:

    My Fishing Days and Fishing Ways

    Barbel & Chub 1896 (see Barbel)

    Days among the Pike and Perch 1898

    The ‘Trent Otter’s’ Little book of Angling

  • Medlar Press
  • Friday, 2 November 2007

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Fishing in Middle Earth pt 2

    The next day saw me and Bruce cautiously chugging out towards the
    rivers mouth, eyes firmly placed on the waters surface and the echo
    sounder. Meter by meter we glide forward, anxiously waiting for the
    depth to drop away to distant grey and safety.

    Nervously we lower the flimsy excuse for an anchor and survey the mass of rising grayling on
    the waters surface. We had decided for a light tackle spinning
    approach, leaving the esox lucius to their own devices. Target species
    were the large perch and grayling that were happily doing their free
    Willy impressions all round the boat .As I had discovered on previous
    trips to Sweden, large ladies of the stream are rather partial to small
    fluro orange or green spinners in tiny 3 or 4 gram sizes.. Blasphemy
    for the stream keepers of the Test or the Annan. First drop down,
    Bruce releases the spinner into the depths, lets it trundle off
    downstream, the tip flickers, and savagely wrenches round and the first
    fish of the trip is on.. The fish, an obliging perch of around 4 oz is
    promptly kissed and returned, per established customs. Our boat is
    gently swaying in the current as we dance on the crease between the
    waters of the Ammeran and the Indalsalven. As if between worlds. In the
    slate grey morning light, all around grayling French kissing the
    ruffled surface, rings within rings. The lady finally announces her
    arrival, rudely, with a savage pull, instead of a demure knock. After
    a short but spirited tussle, wherein she raises her fan (re:fin) to
    assist her struggle. Briefly gracing our boat with her presence. Not a
    ringside contender, in the weight scales, but welcome never the less.
    The stripy ambassadors increase the frequency of their visits to the
    boat, as does the lady of the stream, all the heavyweights are fighting

    Back at Hansel house number2 , we make plans for the next day, its
    pike time. Serious rods are assembled for our intended, fearsome
    ironmongery unwrapped, knots tested- we are ready. 3.5 % Falcon beer
    completes the evening. The wind blows from our Norwegian neighbors’,
    chill marine damp, and mist wreathed hills greet us in the morning. Our
    first efforts next to summer’s last green gardens in the shallows are
    met with distain. On to the cauldron. Nature and geography have
    conspired to create this pool, where current, granite and erosion meet
    in a seemingly bottomless maelstrom. The Dutch came and conquered
    during Julys halocline days- fish of magical measurements, lean and
    dog-like. Myth-busting, the echo sounder shows pixels in place of
    fantasy, banana shapes, resting hounds in their rocky kennels. Our best
    efforts are rewarded with a zero, so we extract some stripy denizens
    and move to new pastures. Face-saving gummy pike are attached to line,
    and hopefully flung towards a rocky cul-de-sac. This languid backwater
    resting in the space between summer and autumn must surely produce.
    Instinct and judgment gain the upper hand, as the first green hound
    doggedly struggles towards the boat. Sharp of tooth, and keen to feed,
    is bergers maxim – this fish displays little of either- summer still
    holds her grip- the autumn massacre is yet to begin. He is returned and
    politely asked to request his mother’s colossal presence.


    Thursday, 1 November 2007