Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Pleasures Of...


Bon Iver "For Emma, Forever Ago" (4AD)
Paul Kingsnorth "Real England"
The Encyclopedia Of Wales
Death Cab For Cutie "I Will Possess Your Heart"
Ian Vince & Dan Kieran "Three Men In A Float"
Flight Of The Conchords album on Sub Pop
Portishead "Third" (esp "The Rip" - record of the year or too early to declare?) and live at Brixton Academy - amazing
The Stone Roses "Blood On The Turntable"
Erykah Badu "Part One (4th World War)"
Discovering the wonderful words and pictures of Robert Gibbings
The Year Of Magical Thinking

"Meetings With Remarkable Trees" by Thomas Pakenham
"Napolean At Waterloo" by White Hinterland
"The Orphanage"
the original soundtrack recording for "The Sweet Smell Of Success"
'How To Be Idle' Tom Hodgkinson
'The Deepening Pool' Chris Yates
The Dog & Duck, Soho (for its wonderful rotation of great real ales)
The photography of Martin Parr

The Sea Perch

Hi Jeff,

At last, a piece from my book for CBTR! Hope you approve.(Book - Out of the Blue - to be published early September.)

There was a great sound and music piece on Radio 3 last night by Chris Woods. Listening to the river was a 20 minute description of life on the River Medway. It had some lovely moments. Go to Late Junction's web site; Wed 23rd April. The river piece is about 45 minutes into the 110 minute programme. I've started writing in the Weekend Telegraph again, now I've finished my book. The 1st article should be going in a week on Saturday - I think (in the weekend section). Its about monster brownies on the Lodden. I'd rather write for the weekend Guardian, but they said they weren't sure they had space for fishing related articles - and the Telegraph pay much better!

Hope you're well and enjoying the spring. First swallows arrived a day late here (20th). No cuckoo or nightingale yet. But a red kite and a peregrine flew right over the garden on the day I finished my book. And my old Toyota turned 200000 miles. Good omens, I presume.

All good fishes,




A tidal river introduced me to the bass, and though it was a long time ago, and I was only sixteen, the encounter created a little turn in my path that would inevitably lead me to where I am today. Of all the dozens of Piscean species that have fascinated me over the years, only four had actually taken up residence in my dreams; but now, after half a lifetime, the bass has finally joined them.

As I mentioned before, the Latin name for the European sea bass is Decentrachus labrax, which is almost as impressive as the name of the family of fishes to which it belongs: the Serranidae. The Serranidae sound like like a group of beings, half fish, half elf, who probably inhabit the forests of sea kelp around our more remote shorelines. But with each tide they send in their armies of bass to invade the estuaries, advancing upriver, spying out the land, because, one day, they know it will all be sea again.

Isaak Walton, writing in the 17th Century, referred to bass as the sea perch, and this old English name also appeared in my childhood bible, The Observer’s Book of Freshwater Fish. I used to keep this book in the pocket of my school blazer so I could maintain a connection with my preferred reality, using the sacred images in the colour plates to keep me from despair during lessons. Especially maths lessons. The illustration of ‘the Bass or Sea Perch’ – all spectral blue and silver – shared a double page spread with the freshwater perch – all earthy greens and russets. I was familiar with the latter because of the shoals of small ones in the village pond, but, in my beginning, I knew nothing about the former and wondered what it was doing in a book about freshwater species until I read that it could exist as happily in an estuary as in the sea, and, as a juvenile, would ascend miles upstream to feed. So, when I first cast into what I definitely knew to be a tidal river, I fished for bass.

The river was the Blythe in Suffolk, near the harbour, just half a mile from the sea, where Nick and I insisted we be abandoned for the day while our parents explored the nearby town of Southwold. Upstream of us was a broad reedy lagoon which gradually narrowed into the deep straight channel that ran down past us and beyond the timber pilings and black clapboard harbour buildings towards the Wash. The water in front of us was dark and turbulent, with the tide running strongly and the river rapidly reversing. It seemed we had arrived at a propitious moment for surely, as the bible said; great shoals of bass would be riding in on the tidal current.

I told Nick we were bound to catch something, but he stared into the greyish depths and said he didn’t rate our chances. For a start we didn’t have any proper bass bait – no prawns, sand eels or mackerel strip, only bread, which was probably not a favourite item of diet. However, the bible said that ‘… bass are occasionally caught using a shining bait;’ and we had shining baits. In our tackle bags we had a small collection of metal lures which we’d acquired over the years, not for any specific purpose, but because we liked the look of them. Now Nick tied on something in silver and blue while I chose a gold Kilko spoon with red diagonals; and as the Blythe continued to rise we began to fish.

For a while we worked our lures through the quieter water close in, thinking it too wild in midstream, but after a few minutes I made a long cast across river and, after waiting a moment for the spinner to sink, began a slow retieve. I could feel the faint buzzing sensation along the line as the lure came back through the current – and then something pounced making the rod tip shake. For a second I couldn’t believe it was a fish. Perhaps I’d simply hooked a piece of jetsamming driftwood. But then the rod swooped violently over and the reel began to sing a song that I’d never heard before. Until that moment, no fish had ever taken more than a yard or two of line from me, mainly because I used strong tackle and screwed my reel down tight. But because I was fishing an open river with no visible snags, I was using much lighter gear than normal and had wisely slackened the clutch before I cast.

Hearing the continuous screeching, Nick came running over, looked up at the rod and said: ‘Is it really a fish?’
‘Of course it is!’
Then he ran away again, as if the stuation was just too overwhelming, but we’d covered a few yards since we’d started casting and he was only hurrying back to where we’d left the net.

The fish was going with the flow, away from the sea and towards the distant lagoon. It was pointless standing still, trying to stop it, so, with Nick following, I began to run after it, the three of us in a frantic procession that seemed to go on for miles. Despite my assertion that this had to be a bass, there were, of course, other possibilities. Maybe it was a shark! I presumed it was something gigantic, but then a flounder would have felt huge in the tide race.

The fish eventually slowed, turned and surfaced, thirty yards out. We saw a flash of silver before it plunged away again and made another dash into mid-river. It was only a glimpse, but it was enough to confirm its identity and reveal its surprisingly modest size. Nick stood on the high embankment with the net, yet despite the rising river he could never have reached down to the surface. However, a few yards upstream there was an iron ladder fixed to an empty mooring point and he clambered down to water level and waited while I coaxed my fish towards him.

By now, one or two passers-by had stopped to watch the drama, and another angler, who’d been cycling along with a bundle of rods tied to his crossbar, came to offer advice.

‘Got a mullet there, have you?’ he asked.
‘No, it’s a bass.’
’It’s fighting more like a mullet.’

I didn’t like his derisory, local expert tone, but the fish rose again, much nearer than before, and I didn’t need to say more.
‘Blimey! It is a bass!’

It wallowed round towards Nick who eventually reached out and managed to scoop it into the mesh without falling in. To mumurs of appreciation from the assembly, he passed the net up to me and I laid the shining fish down and carefully unhooked it. I was slightly disappointed that it lacked the luminous blue of the original illustration; it seemed almost uniformly silver, although when I looked more closely there were subtle blushings of mauve, green and blue along the back and flecks of pale gold round the head. It was just over twenty inches long and weighed around three pounds – not the giant it had pretended to be, but still, as far as I was concerned, a great fish.

Had it not been my first bass I would have taken it back to the farmhouse where we were staying, but having given me so much already the least I could do was to give it back its freedom. After climbing down the ladder with the fish still in the net, I slipped it out of the mesh and watched it swirl away again into the tide race.

Chris Yates

Monday, 28 April 2008

Real England & Three Men In A Float

One week and two very different books about the current state of England. Both books, although tonally poles apart, look out over the nation’s landscape and it’s national character to draw conclusions about the state of the country in 2008. The end result, with both Guardian/Ecologist writer Paul Kingsnorth’s ‘Real England’ and ‘Three Men In A Float’ by The Idler magazine’s Dan Kieran & Ian Vince, is a snapshot of 21st century Britain, of it’s people and it’s problems, with just a few ideas for how we can club together to alleviate them thrown in.

‘Real England’ seems at times almost ridiculously bleak in it’s overview. The UK’s small businesses, from pubs to farms to shops, are being steamrollered by multinationals. Our government is in collusion with big business, redrawing the maps of city centres and waterways the length of the country, allowing public access to be compromised in favour of new retail developments or apartment blocks. The book points out how we’ve all ignored the problem for too long, ending up in a perilous state where each city centre can be judged on a scale as to whether it’s a ‘clone town’, a ‘home town’ or a ‘border town’. Walking down most British high streets these days, it doesn’t take a maths genius to do the sums there. Local diversity is out, homogeny is in. Although these points alone aren’t exactly news, Kingsnorth’s exploration of the same changes outside of the cities - in the fields, in rural communities and on the village greens – is what makes the book so riveting. Personally, I’d have thought seeing a few organic British apples in Tescos was tantamount to a victory for the farmer and the consumer – here, it’s blindingly obvious that it’s just another marketing tool for supermarkets and that mass production and uniformity is still the order of the day. ‘Real England’ is the furious, non-conformist sibling of the (also essential) ‘England In Particular’ – whereas the latter celebrates the great things we’ve got left to embrace, Kingsnorth spells out exactly how long we’ll have them for unless something fundamental changes in the way we view our country, how the rapidly changing landscape is a danger much the same as climate change – that England in 50 years time might well be unrecognizable, and maybe not just because of the Mediterranean weather we’re being told to expect. Solutions, as ever, come down to personal choice – we have to want change in order for it to happen – if we want to stop the erosion of our national identity, then it’s still out there, you just have to grasp it before it’s just another piece of history, an irrelevance. A brilliant book.

"Real England: The Battle Against the Bland is a watershed study, a crucially important book; the most significant account of today's England I have read," Nick Groom, The Independent

The premise of ‘Three Men In A Float’ is fantastically simple – three men buy a milk float and attempt to drive ‘end to end’ across England (Lowestoft to Land’s End). Along they way, they must rely on the kindness of strangers in order to get a charge for the float, which runs at 15 mph and manages around 30 miles per 8 hour charge. The idea is to discover the country and the character of the people along the way, to see if there really is such a thing as England out there. The trip, which you could probably do in a day if you put your foot down and munched a load of speed, ends up taking them three weeks. Along the way, you start to see the British people as warm and helpful – their task goes from seemingly impossible to deceptively easy – people genuinely seem to want to help. The concept of slow travel is taken to it’s logical extreme – at one point the float is overtaken by a bee. Whatever they may have lost in speed they gain the enviable position of being able to watch hares or red kites from the luxury of a slow moving, virtually silent milk float, a milkman’s eye view of the countryside as it were.

It’s in watching as the English countryside unfurling itself in slow motion in “Three Men…” that the writers draw much the same conclusions at ‘Real England’ – that the people still care about the uniqueness of the country and that this is a place that we need to work at preserving, one with as delicate an eco-system as any coral reef or polar ice cap, one that we are in danger of altering beyond the point of return.

Me, I’m just waiting for someone to do the same kind of thing with Wales…

Robin Turner

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Fish Tales

The Perch

Chris Yates explores the finer traits of some of Britain's coarse fish.

Radio 4 says, "Writer Tom Fort accompanies Chris to the River Thames and argues that Perch are quintessentially masculine, in spite of what the Victorians wrote".

Listen Here

Caught By The Reaper

Al Wilson, June 19, 1939 - April 21, 2008

thank you Al, for one of the greatest 45's of all time;

but that's not the whole story. Kent recently reissued his "Searching For The Dolphins" album. It's a real class record and has been a secret far too long.

Produced by Johhny Rivers arranged by Gene Page, songs by Fred Neil and Jimmy Webb, James Burton on guitar, Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Knetchel on keys, $16.99 at Dusty Grooves

In The Basement magazine carries a Vinyl Spotlight feature, which look at twenty tracks from LPs not available on CD, and also picks one ‘special’ album to cover in its entirety. Way back in November 1998, in issue #8, the in-depth scrutiny was on all-time top-tenner, SEARCHING FOR THE DOLPHINS by Al Wilson. I summed up by saying “This set deserves like-for-like CD reissue, not least because my vinyl is worn out!” Well, it has taken a little over nine years for my wish to be granted but the wait has been worthwhile. I can wallow in Gene Page’s splendid arrangement of Fred Neil’s The Dolphins, interpreted by the magnificently rich vocals of Al Wilson and lovingly produced by Johnny Rivers for his own Soul City Records in pristine sound quality.

Born in Meridian, MS, in June 1939, Al Wilson settled in California after serving with Uncle Sam, singing in local clubs as a solo performer and working in a line-up of the Jewels, which subsequently became Liberty recording artists, the Rollers. Passing through Johnny “Legs” Harris & the Statesmen and its metamorphosis, the Soul Brothers (as the drummer) Al met up with ex-Motown staffer, Marc Gordon, manager of the Versatiles (who became 5th Dimension). He took that group, along with our man, off to the fledgling Soul City company. Al had to be patient with the label to get his first record released but, after a handful of 45s and chart success with Do What You Gotta Do and The Snake, the stunning “Searching For The Dolphins” album hit the streets.

Do What You Gotta Do, penned by staff-writer, Jim Webb, suited Wilson perfectly, fully demonstrating his qualities as a singer and Webb’s qualities as a songwriter. Many takes on the song have been made, most notably by the Four Tops and Nina Simone, but this version has never been bettered. It closed the first side of the original album, while The Snake opened side two. A remake of an Oscar Brown Jr, number from 1963, it showcases Al’s abilities as a jazzy swinger. The Snake has since achieved surprisingly broad acceptance on the soul scene, been a northern favourite, managed five weeks on the UK pop charts in 1975 where it peaked at #41, and has more recently been used to advertise Lambrini on TV. Elsewhere Al makes By The Time I Get To Phoenix - another Jim Webb composition - his own and delivers a classy Willie Hutch beat-ballad with a strong hook in Who Could Be Lovin’ You (Other Than Me), his first Soul City 45 which has background support from the Blossoms.

The original LP’s eleven titles is augmented by the same number of bonus tracks, which begin with three B-sides, each by Willie Hutch but, with the exception of the stirring ballad, Gettin’ Ready For Tomorrow, probably ill-suited to the overall feel of the LP. We then follow Al’s career from the album’s issue with a further single made for Soul City (topped by a swampy revival of John Fogerty/Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Lodi), before the label closed its doors.

Marc Gordon started the Bell-distributed Carousel imprint, initially as a split-logo but later with ‘stand-alone’ identification. Al’s seven tracks for Carousel from his four singles all feature here, (Billy Page’s Bachelor Man, something of a cabaret-style number, was used for two B-sides.) Despite the appeal of a song like Scott Barnes and Leon Ware’s ballad, You Do The Right Things, Wilson’s Carousel releases marked a fallow period for him (rectified late in 1973 when he hit #10 on the R&B and #1 Pop charts with Jerry Fuller’s song Show And Tell for Rocky Road).

This cd marks the first time the Carousel recordings have been committed to CD and, together with the Soul City bonuses and that long-yearned-for “Searching For The Dolphins” album, Kent have made this old man’s dreams come true.

David Cole

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Antique Tackle Observer

    antique tackle observer

    the national vintage tackle fair

    ladies and gents

    thanks very much to you all for the editorial support which you gave to the national vintage fishing tackle fair which took place at the abbey stadium on sunday. the fair was a great success with a strong public turn-out which included 84 year old lloyd brookes who had fished for redditch angling club in the national and whose father had been a driver and gardener for allcocks. lloyd donated a photograph to the fair of the redditch angling club's dinner in 1934 a sit down do which included all the heads of the big redditch tackle manufacturers and members of the '34 national side. john essex, who himself fished the national for leicester in the 1970's has agreed to write a piece on the photo and those in it which will appear in due course. in the meantime here is a copy of the photo. included in the party are albert smith of the redditch firm of that name and next to him with the jug ears is a courteney williams, of allcocks.

    the next national vintage fishing tackle fair takes place at the abbey stadium on sunday november 16th and bookings for stalls are now being taken on 07980 274 383 or in writing to:

    the national vintage fishing tackle fair
    P.O Box 63554

    best regards

    john andrews

    l-r: john essex, lloyd brookes and keith elliott

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Tuesday, 22 April 2008

    On Fishing

    Man's life is but vain;
    For 'tis subject to pain,
    And sorrow, and short as a bubble;
    'Tis a hodge podge of business
    And money, and care,
    And care, and money and trouble.
    But we'll take no care
    When the weather proves fair
    Nor will we vex now, though it rain;
    We'll banish all sorrow
    And sing till to morrow,
    And Angle and Angle again.

    This is Sir Izaak Walton, reeling against consumerism in 1653, still ringing true today (thanks to Tom Hodgkinson, How To Be Idle)

    Friday, 18 April 2008

    Fish Tales.

    The Trout

    Chris Yates explores the finer traits of some of Britain's coarse fish.

    Casting a fly on a small chalk stream in the west of England, Chris and expert angler Ronnie Butler consider the mysterious ways of the wild brown trout.

    listen here

    Monday, 14 April 2008

    "Behind, Beyond & Beneath The Concrete City" by Ben Myers

    "I find myself increasingly drawn to nature.

    Maybe it is something to do with the aging process, maybe it's something to do with living in the city for over a decade but I find myself seeking out the natural world in the most unlikely places.

    I've taken to getting on my bike to seek out bodies of water in the city. City ponds. Paddling pools. The odd stream or canal. When I get there I just sit there for a while, staring at water.

    And here where I sit at my desk upstairs in a two-bedroom house that I have to move out of in two weeks I get to observe nature at close quarters too as it slowly steals a piece of the city back for itself.

    In the summer and autumn a fox often walks across the roof of the kitchen. Sometimes it passes right by my window - so close I could touch it. But it can't see me, and in this state it is perfectly relaxed, perfectly at ease. Sometimes there are two foxes out there, just mooching about. I love city foxes. I love their tenacity and the fact they adapt their lives around humans. I like the fact they share the same scavenger mentality as I do, where one man's refuse is another's treasure trove.

    On Friday I saw two pigeons fucking out there. Pigeons stay partners for life, so it was actually quite touching to see. In fact, I felt like something of an intruder, even though it is me who pays the rent. Also, they were nice clean, well-maintained pigeons, not like the dirty little skanks with one rotten foot you see uptown. Did you know that pigeon shit and piss is so acidic that it rots their feet away? Well, you do now. That's why you see so many one-footed piegons: because they've haven't learnt to increase the trajectory of the urination arc.

    The overall bird-life is pretty impressive in SE15. I saw one bird one day that made me jump out my seat: "Christ! What is that?" On closer inspection it turned to be a jay, a common sight in English gardens. Shows how little I know about birds. Now I see the much-malligned jay all the time.

    There are a lot of neighbourhood cats out there too. One of them visits me regularly. I let her in the window and she sits on my keyboard, typing with her paws. When she starts drooling I have to eject her. I call her Suzy. She comes and goes and asks for nothing but a bit of attention, far less demanding than most humans.

    The most exciting wild-life are the wilds parakeets that live in Peckham. I'll write more about them another time, but there are dozens of them that live in the trees in the cemetery and in the park. They're a brilliant yellow-green colour and they're noisy as all hell. You hear them screeching playfully as they swoop overheard. Legend has it they are descendants of parakeets that once belonged to Jimi Hendrix when he live din London in the late 60s. I really hope that story is true. I intend to investigate it further.

    I still one day hope to see a grizzly bear in the bushes or maybe a manatee in the pond in the park. Don't rule it out. There are things happening out there, behind, beyond and beneath the concrete city, things that most of us don't even notice. Nature is very slowly reclaiming the land.

    I intend to help it out in any way I can."

    Check out Ben's site here

    Saturday, 12 April 2008

    Wouldn't possibly want to point Caught By The River readers in the direction of nefarious internet folks, but if you happen to be in the direction of The Hype Machine you might want to look up 'The Rip' by Portishead - early contender for Record Of The Year already - sounds like The Green Man Festival being headlined by Neu! - yeah, that good.

    Thursday, 10 April 2008

    Fish Tales.

    listen here

    The Pike

    Chris Yates explores the finer traits of some of Britain's coarse fish.

    The tyrant of the river has traditionally been the subject of much controversy amongst coarse anglers. On the banks of a river in Dorset, Chris and rod maker Edward Barder consider its merits.

    Edward Barder Rod Company

    Angler's Conservation Association

    The ACA has always been proud to have lost only 3 cases in its 60 year history. Sadly, this record is under threat as a court last week ruled in favour of United Utilities in a case we have been fighting on behalf of The Yorkshire Flyfishers Club and Penrith Anglers. For two days in April 2006 raw sewage spilt from a blocked main sewer at the pipe bridge at Penrith, Cumbria, into the river Eamont (a tributary of the Eden), polluting the water and littering the banks with sewage debris. Although the Environment Agency decided at the time that the pollution was a criminal offence under the Water Resources Act 1991, no prosecution was brought against United Utilities. Naturally, we were shocked by the judgement, which, if allowed to stand, effectively means that the utility will have been allowed to pollute the Eamont with no legal consequences whatsoever. We are currently considering, along with the clubs, the grounds on which to lodge an appeal. This is one of four cases we have been fighting against United Utilities in 2008 - one was settled successfully in February.

    Elsewhere, we have settled a claim against a farmer in Powys who polluted the River Camlad, a tributary of The Severn, in June 2005. A release of slurry from his farm caused a fish kill and wiped out invertebrate populations. Acting on behalf of the Pheasant Tail Flyfishers and the Camlad Fly Fishers Club, we secured £2,500 in compensation for loss of amenity, divided between the 2 clubs. Again, the Environment Agency failed to bring a criminal prosecution.

    Given yesterday's announcement that Severn Trent Water is facing a record £35.8m fine for deliberately providing false information to the regulator and the fact that Southern Water was fined £20.3m for similar offences earlier this year, we are amazed that the Environment Agency is pressing ahead with 'Operator Self Monitoring' plans which would put water companies in charge of monitoring their own environmental performance. The ACA is very concerned that this will lead to less - rather than better - regulation and has raised this at a senior level in the Agency. We will keep up the pressure. For full details on this and the above cases, please see: ACA

    The ACA's AGM will this year be held on Friday 20 June in London. More details, including how to vote on any special resolutions, will be included in the ACA annual report, out in late May.

    Finally, last year the ACA raised more than £15,000 in auctions at the ACA Masters, our fundraising dinner and in our Annual Report, thanks to the generosity of many individuals, clubs and companies.
    As you might be aware, 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the ACA, something which we would very much like to celebrate with you and all our members. We will this year be rolling all our auctions into one, within a special edition of our Annual Report and via our website.

    We would be very grateful for any donations to our 2008 auction. It could be a day or two's fishing, some fishing tackle, a stay in a hotel or anything else you feel appropriate. We are looking for a wide range of lots and therefore low value donations are just as welcome as the more expensive items. If you feel you have anything appropriate to donate, please email Seth Johnson-Marshall at seth@a-c-a.org or contact him on 01568 620 447.

    We will announce the start of the bidding in the ACA annual report which will be sent to all members in late May - please keep an eye out for your copy.

    Best wishes from all at the ACA.

    Wednesday, 9 April 2008

    Submerged Timber & Hidden Snags

    Hey Jeff,

    Don't know if you got round to reading 'Another Bloody Love Letter' by Anthony Loyd that I threw your way a while ago so I thought I'd send this extract over.
    It really is an amazing book. I remember Anthony from dark days in Ladbroke Grove in the early nineties. He was one of those people you don't really know very well but are seemingly always around on the periphries of life and I often wondered what had happened to him. He was quite an enigmatic figure, Eton educated and an ex-army officer somewhat disaffected with his experiences in Desert Storm. He also had a nasty taste for very hard drugs, he was handsome and very kind and he always struck me as something of a lost soul. you know, one of those people that seems to have something missing in the middle of themselves that will never be filled by a girl or a career or any of that normal stuff (I reckon you and I may have known a few rock stars with similar personality traits) so I suppose in retrospect it's no surprise where he ended up.

    One day, by chance, I came across a copy of his first book 'My War Gone By, I Miss It So' and was struck dumb. It seemed he had exchanged the pointless and empty opiate soothed days on the Golborne Road for the all too real horrors of the Balkan conflict and finally found a purpose to his life. Maybe it shocked him into finally finding his voice, he obviously feels drawn to the violence and insanity of humanity at it's worst from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, and the The Congo to mention just a few corners of fucking bloody messes on this planet that he has immersed himself in. He seems to find peace among the violence and brutality that blights the worse parts of the world ( and to be just one tenth as honest as Anthony is I also crave these experiences, sort of terrifying but true) But please note, he is no fried rock and roll war junkie in the great 'Dispatches' Vietnam tradition of Tim Page or Sean Flynn, there's no hippie, faux- glamor in his work, just a beautiful and seething honesty and for the reader it can be a little uncomfortable as it's pretty clear that he finds his only peace and sense of self worth in the world of death, blood and fire. He writes with such amazing clarity and beauty that I am often moved to tears. For example, in the introduction to his second book he describes being somewhere near Al- Anbar, Iraq in 2004..

    "Behind him, across the river, a dead young American was soaring up to the sky on the floor of a helicopter fuselage, bloody and dirty inside a bag..

    The angry and emotional U.S Army PR then asks Anthony if he "got what he was looking for".
    I couldn't help but think of my friend Major Jason Ward of the Royal Marines who was also killed in a pointless and unimaginably brutal way chasing ghosts in this ill conceived and messy war of ours and reading this book made me inconsolable in a very theraputic way, it really helped me grieve.
    Anyway, to the point, he also likes to fish. This is from chapter 12 of 'Another Bloody Love Letter'...

    "They had every advantage over me. Though the river was expansive, and in places more than twenty feet deep, it was filled with weed beds, submerged timber and hidden snags, obstacles known in their finest detail to the fish, who had little trouble in repeatedly breaking my line. And they seemed to time the onset of their feeding hours to the moment when I had drunk the first half-bottle of wine, so that the sudden disaperence of my glowing float would catch me oil-necked, dreamy and unawares, the force of my late and extravagant strike spilling the glass and flipping me untidily into the back of the boat, on to the bait box and cigarettes, as line, float and hook shot up from the water to wreath around my head. Untangling myself, ever surprised, I would cast again, often fishing through until dawn, escaping with the night and the water, the prospect of just one victory each evening over those mighty fish enough for me to defy sleep.
    In this place, indulging in the rare, short era of quiet introspection that followed my return from Sierra Leone, the usual build-up of angst that afflicted me in the absence of war assignments was temporarily but totally allayed. Gone too were the heroin cravings...."

    I suppose there are a million reasons why people go fishing and they all make sense.

    Hope to see you soon,



    Tuesday, 8 April 2008

    The Year Of Magical Thinking

    That night the first snow falls, although only a dusting, no avalanching off the roof of St. James', nothing like my birthday a year ago.
    My birthday a year ago when he gave me the last present he would ever give me.
    My birthday a year ago when he had twenty-five nights left to live.
    On the table in front of the fireplace I notice something out of place in the stack of books nearest the chair in which John sat to read when he woke in the middle of the night. I have deliberately left this stack untouched, not from any shrine-building impulse but because I did not believe that I could afford to think about what he read in the middle of the night. Now someone has placed on top of the stack, balanced precariously, a large illlustrated coffee-table book, 'The Agnelli Gardens at Villar Perosa'. Beneath it is a heavily marked copy of of John Lukacs's 'Five Days in London: May 1940' in which there is a laminated bookmark that reads, in a child's handwriting, 'John, happy reading to you - from John, age 7.' I am puzzled by the bookmark, which under the lamination is dusted with festive pink glitter, then remember: the Creative Artists Agency, as a Christmas project every year, 'adopts' a group of Los Angeles schoolchildren, each of whom in turn makes a keepsake for a designated CAA client.
    He would have opened the box from CAA on Christmas night.
    He would have stuck the bookmark in whatever book was on top of the stack.
    He would have had one hundred and twenty hours left to live.
    How would he have chosen to live those one hundred and twenty hours?

    Joan Didion, 2005

    I finally got around to reading Joan Didion's memoir, as urged by several friends, last month on a trip to New York. I made a pilgrimage to Strand Books on Broadway and it was the first book I saw on the table. I spent the next two days reading it, mainly on subways, and had to keep tilting my head back against the seat so the tears wouldn't roll down my face. As an investigation of grief I think the book's power resides in its utter lack of sentimentality. Didion is able to turn an almost dispassionate but exacting eye on the unexpected death of her husband John Gregory Dunne and her personal journey through that loss. Perhaps this skill comes from all her years as a journalist spent turning public spectacle into an intensely private experience for the reader. In this particular book she does the reverse, to stunning effect. Julia and I have tickets to see David Hare's adaptation of The Year of Magical Thinking at the National Theatre later this month, but I am almost more excited about watching Didion talk at the subsequent Theatre Platform. I don't usually get giddy at the thought of seeing writers in the flesh. This time I will be agog.


    kitchen sink dramas

    Letters From Arcadia

  • click here for the latest LETTER FROM ARCADIA, a regular correspondence between angling's two most original contemporary writers...
  • Saturday, 5 April 2008

    Fish Tales.

    Chris Yates and Paul Whitehouse go Carp fishing. Listen here.

    Thursday, 3 April 2008

    Letters From Arcadia

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

    Pike, three inches long, perfect
    Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold.
    Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin.
    They dance on the surface among the flies.

    Or move, stunned by their own grandeur,
    Over a bed of emerald, silhouette
    Of submarine delicacy and horror.
    A hundred feet long in their world.

    In ponds, under the heat-struck lily pads-
    Gloom of their stillness:
    Logged on last year's black leaves, watching upwards.
    Or hung in an amber cavern of weeds

    The jaws' hooked clamp and fangs
    Not to be changed at this date:
    A life subdued to its instrument;
    The gills kneading quietly, and the pectorals.

    Three we kept behind glass,
    Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
    And four and a half: red fry to them-
    Suddenly there were two. Finally one

    With a sag belly and the grin it was born with.
    And indeed they spare nobody.
    Two, six pounds each, over two feet long
    High and dry and dead in the willow-herb-

    One jammed past its gills down the other's gullet:
    The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-
    The same iron in this eye
    Though its film shrank in death.

    A pond I fished, fifty yards across,
    Whose lilies and muscular tench
    Had outlasted every visible stone
    Of the monastery that planted them-

    Stilled legendary depth:
    It was as deep as England. It held
    Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old
    That past nightfall I dared not cast

    But silently cast and fished
    With the hair frozen on my head
    For what might move, for what eye might move.
    The still splashes on the dark pond,

    Owls hushing the floating woods
    Frail on my ear against the dream
    Darkness beneath night's darkness had freed,
    That rose slowly toward me, watching.

    Ted Hughes

    thanks to Rachel

    Wednesday, 2 April 2008

    Record(s) Of The Week.

    no contest (and it's a good week already), this analog africa release is great. Loving the Theme Time Radio Hour comp too.

    This is the most exciting new british music that I've heard in ages - her name is Micachu.
    She's been recording her album with Matthew Herbert and it's just ace.
    Go here for a piece of pure 21st century soul from Erykah Badu. Not heard the rest of the album yet, but love this tribute to the great J Dilla.